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Pink-headed Duck

The Pink-headed Duck (Netta caryophyllacea), was a large diving duck. It formerly occurred in eastern India, Bangladesh and northern Myanmar. Its breeding habitat was lowland marshes and pools in tall-grass jungle. The last confirmed sighting of this duck was in 1935, although unconfirmed reports from India persisted until the early 1960s. It was reportedly viewed in 1988 and 2003 as well, but both sightings are unconfirmed and believed to have been a different species altogether.

The reason for its disappearance was most likely habitat destruction. It is not known why it was always considered rare, but the rarity is believed to be genuine as its erstwhile habitat was frequently scoured by hunters in Colonial times. The Pink-headed Duck was much sought after by hunters and later as an ornamental bird, mainly because of its unusual plumage. Like most diving ducks, it was not considered good eating, which should facilitate the survival of any remnant birds.

The 23.5 inch long Pink-headed Duck is unique. It is long-bodied and long-necked, with a slightly tufted head in the male, and a peculiar, stiff-necked posture. The adult male has a chocolate-colored body and a deep pink head and hind neck. The female and juvenile are duller, appearing much like a dark female Red-crested Pochard with a pinkish tinge to the head. Confusion with male Red-crested Pochards stems mainly from observations of swimming birds, as the latter species also has a conspicuous red head (although the color is actually very different from the Pink-headed Duck). Spot-billed Ducks, on the other hand, look similar to female Pink-headed Ducks when in flight and seen from a distance, and if seen from behind, they could be mistaken for males too. The upper side of the wing is distinguishing, with dark green secondaries (speculum) and prominent white tertiaries in the Spot-billed Duck and a pinkish-beige speculum, much lighter than its surroundings, in the Pink-headed Duck. If the upper part of the wings cannot be reliably seen, they are all but indistinguishable except for expert observers in good visibility conditions.

Pink-headed Duck


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