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Endemic to Madagascar, the Madagascar pochard, scientifically known as Aythya innotata, was once officially declared Extinct. Before that, they were found in large numbers in the Alaotra Lake in the northern central plateau region of Madagascar. Once commonly found in this region, there was a noticeable decline in their population since the 1940s and '50s. The species live on water and feed on underwater aquatic invertebrates and submerged plants. The sustenance of wetlands plays an important role in their existence. According to surveys, when these wetlands were subjected to widespread deforestation and overfishing, combined with the introduction of exotic plants and fish species, it posed serious threats to these pochards. Gradually their numbers started declining due to a lack of food and the destruction of their habitat. It was only in 2006, that for the first time in years, a few Madagascar pochards were spotted in Lake Matsaborimena, a few feet away from Lake Alaotra. They were barely surviving in unsuitable conditions and for many years no ducklings were born. However, since then several surveys have been conducted by WWT (Wildfowl Wetlands Trust) to find out the actual reasons behind their disappearance, and measures were taken for their conservation. For some time they were bred in captivity to restore their number and after a lot of efforts, twenty-one adults were released onto Lake Sofia, which was thought to be the next best alternative habitat.
Aythya innotata is the world's rarest diving duck.
This pochard species belong to the class Aves of the animal kingdom.
The species were known to have become extinct before they were re-discovered between the years 2006 and 2008. Their population has drastically declined and very few of these birds can now be found. The total number of them, currently living on this planet, can be estimated to be fewer than 50!
This pochard species is native to Madagascar. In the 1930s, a large number of these birds were found in Lake Alaotra situated in the northern part of the central plateau region. After a considerable period, the ducks were spotted again near a volcanic crater lake called Lake Matsaborimena. Owing to less human interference, the ducks were able to survive in that remote location. Since then, several attempts have been made to find any other trace of these ducks in and around that area. In the year 2018, 21 captively bred adult Madagascar pochards were released into Lake Sofia.
The pochard species are found in marshy areas and shallow freshwater lakes. The marshes with open water and dense vegetation are preferred by the pochards. They find suitable nesting habitats along the edge of the lake, where the vegetation grows. The nesting sites are generally 7.87-15.74 in (20-40 cm) above the water.
The Madagascar pochards are mostly inactive and remain in one particular area. These sedentary species are generally spotted alone. Occasionally they can be spotted in pairs.
The Madagascar pochard (duck) was officially reported to be extinct around the 1990s. It was only between 2006-2008 that thirteen of these birds, including adults and ducklings, were spotted in a crater lake. Since this species has been newly rediscovered, not much information is available on how long they can survive in the wild.
The world's rarest diving duck is known to mate and reproduce between July and February. Not much research has been done on how these birds reproduce. However, since they are ducks, it can be assumed that they reproduce the same way as most ducks do. The males try to establish a bond with the females before breeding season. The breeding process takes place when there is a transmission of sperm from the male ducks to their chosen females. These birds do not mate for life. They choose a different partner during every breeding season and attempt to produce young ones. The females lay up to 10 eggs in thick aquatic vegetation. However, once the chicks or ducklings are born, the males do not participate in raising the offspring. For this endangered species, a lot of captive breeding attempts have been made for their conservation and to increase their world population.
The Madagascar pochard was thought to have become extinct for almost 15 years before 13 of these ducks, including nine adults and four ducklings were re-discovered near a volcanic lake between the years 2006 and 2008. They have been listed as Critically Endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, Red List. Several breeding attempts have been made to ensure an increase in their population. Besides that, captive breeding is practiced and several other efforts are being made for their conservation.
Madagascar pochards are the rarest ducks found on the planet. They are medium-sized and native to Madagascar. The males of the species are dark brown and have white under-tail details and white wing-bar, which are situated at the base of flight feathers. These male birds have distinct white eyes. The females, on the other hand, are pale brown with brown eyes. They also have pale brown bills.
These birds are cute due to being covered in brown feathers and have small bills and large wings.
Hardly any research is available on how the Madagascar pochard communicates. However, since they are ducks, it can be assumed that they communicate in the same way as most ducks do. The distinct 'quack' sound is noticed in the female mallard duck. This sound or call is mostly used to communicate with young ones as well as other family members. Besides quacking, they are also known to communicate through grunts, coos, and whistles. The bird species can also perform visual communications while they are at, or close to, the land or water surface.
The bird is 17.72-22.05 in (45-56 cm) in length.
The adult pochards are about three times smaller than mute swans or whooper swans which can grow up to 59 in (149.86 cm).
The Madagascar pochard is a sedentary bird and hence, does not fly often. They have large and heavy wings which allow them to fly small distances not too far from the water or land surface.
Since the Madagascar pochard has been rediscovered not too long ago, not much information is available on the exact weight of these birds.
The male pochard is called a drake, while the female of the species is called a hen.
A baby Madagascar pochard would be called a chick or a duckling.
The major food sources for these pochards are aquatic invertebrates. They spend a major portion of their day in the water. They are also known as diving birds, referring to their ability to dive and pluck food from the underwater surface. They are also sometimes known to eat small portions of submerged plants.
The Madagascar pochard is generally not seen in large flocks. They roam alone on the surface of the water and are rarely even seen in pairs. They do not communicate with other waterfowl species either.
Many people have kept these ducks as pets, mainly for conservation purposes. Efforts are being made to save them from the several threats they are facing in the wildlife and also practice captive breeding to restore their global population. The pochards have not been known to cause any problems in captivity as long as they are fed properly. So yes, they would make good pets.
When they are alerted or feel threatened, these pochards stretch their necks and fluff up their feathers.
In Malagasy, the language of Madagascar, they are known as Fotsy maso, Onjo.
There was a drastic decline in the global population of the Madagascar pochard in the 1940s and '50s due to widescale wetland degradation. Before this, large numbers of them were noticed in the Lake Alaotra region. The wetlands across Madagascar were subject to deforestation, overfishing, and pollution combined with poor agricultural methods adopted by the local people. All these contributed to the decline in their population. The introduction of exotic plants and fish species also clogged the waterways and disturbed their ecosystem, ending up endangering the species.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Madagascar Pochard coloring pages.
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