Winter Duck blog part 1

Pochard and Tufted duck by Steve Keeble

During the winter months at Lackford Lakes nature reserve, visitors will see thousands of ducks on the lakes. They arrive during the autumn from northern Europe to spend the winter. At this time of year ducks look their smartest so it is a great time to see them on the reserve.

In this blog we are going to take a closer look at diving ducks.  These ducks dive underwater to find food in our lakes.

tufted duck.

Dressed up as if off out to a black-tie dinner, the smart males have a purplish sheen to their black head. The females are chocolatey-brown with a paler panel on their sides. The call of the female is a chick-like cheeping and in response the male utters a harsh grating call, a bit like the ‘caw’ of a crow if you can recall these. Tufted ducks, or ‘tufties’ as they are affectionately known, are deep-diving ducks capable of swimming to depths of six metres in search of food! 

Did you know… Tufted ducks usually live for about 4 years, but the oldest bird on record was 24 years, 3 months and 13 days!


tufted duck

Male tufted duck by Mike Andrews

Tufted duck 2

Female tufted duck by Mike Andrews


A distinctive duck of just four colours, in the drake (male)- a red eye, chestnut head, black breast, and grey body. They appear to be very lazy, often sleeping when you find them at Lackford, but they do a lot of feeding at night. They tend to like bigger areas of water, such as Sailing Lake and Long Reach (from Bess's Hide). They dive a lot, usually immediately after a little 'jump' up from the water surface- like a swimmer off a diving board at the local pool. When pochard call to each other they sound a little like they are blowing their nose- a grating rasp- and as we move towards spring you might also hear their whistley popping display call- very impressive to a female pochard!

Did you know... female pochard leave the nesting grounds in the autumn earlier and travel further south than the males- they need to be somewhere milder for the winter as they are smaller!


Male Pochard by Ian Goodall


Hawker Pool and Sailing Lake play host to this stunning black and white visitor every winter, which love these deeper bodies of water for dives of up to six metres. At the bottom of the water they can turn over stones looking for caddis fly larvae and other creepy crawlies. It's a special time to see them at Lackford now- as we move towards spring small groups of males can be seen displaying to the females, especially on milder days. They suddenly stretch their necks impossibly high, throw their heads back as if their neck were broken, then utter a two-tone sneezing sound to show off to watching females. 

Did you know... Goldeneye have noisy wings! When they fly a whistling can be heard as they flap fast past you.


Male Goldeneye by Rick harvey

Goldeneye 2

Female goldeneye by Ian Goodall

Throughout February, visitors can find out all about the ducks that winter at Lackford Lakes by following our winter duck trail around the reserve.  Children can also try our special winter duck spotter sheet.

Next week we will take a closer look at surface feeding ducks like shoveler and teal.