The Madagascar Pochard (Aythya innotata) is an extremely rare diving duck native to the island nation of Madagascar. Never especially common, the species’ population on Lake Alaotra, Madagascar’s largest lake, dropped dramatically in the late 1940s and early 1950s in conjunction with increased human activity and especially the introduction of non-native fish species that preyed on young ducklings. Last seen in the wild in 1991, the Madagascar Pochard was rated “Possibly Extinct” on the 2006 edition of the IUCN Red List.
(image via: Frank Vassen)
Though the Madagascar Pochard has vanished from lake Alaotra, in 2008 the chance discovery of a small flock of ducks at isolated Lake Matsaborimena reestablished the species as viable, though just barely. In 2009 and 2012, conservationists were able to collect several dozen eggs and hatch them in an incubator for later release into the wild: as of April 2013, the total population of the Madagascar Pochard stood at around 80 individuals. Kudos to Flickr user Frank Vassen of the Madagascar Pochard Captive Breeding Program for these outstanding images of a duck saved from the brink of extinction.
The Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) is one of the strangest looking ducks and if you’ve read this far, you know that’s saying something! The fact that IUCN rates this species as being of Least Concern, its highest rating, has a lot to do with this duck’s natural habitat on the frigid arctic seacoasts of Alaska and northeastern Siberia.
(image via: Audubon Magazine)
Although female Spectacled Eider ducks are mainly medium brown in color, the males are much more visually interesting: only they sport the large circular white eye patches that give this species its common name. The rest of the male’s plumage is black over the lower body complemented by a bright white back. Their heads are a pale yellow-green head and the bill is orange. Enthusiastic Duck Dynasty types and the Palin family had best be advised, however, that in 1993 authorities in the United States listed Spectacled Eider ducks as a Federally Threatened species and as such, hunting them is prohibited.