Meller’s duck (Anas melleri)

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Meller's duck with green speculum on wing
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Meller’s duck fact file

Meller’s duck description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusAnas (1)

While this duck may not look too remarkable, it is distinguished by its unfortunate reputation as one of the rarest species of wildfowl (3). A large duck with brown plumage, flecked and streaked with pale brown (3), the most striking feature of the Meller’s duck is the patch of dark green, bordered with white, on the wing (4). In flight, the pale underside of the wing can be seen, which contrasts with the dark body. Its bill is bluish-grey, the eyes are dark brown and the webbed feet are orange-brown (4). Male Meller’s ducks are slightly larger than females and can also be identified by the two central tail feathers which are tipped black, in contrast to the slightly shorter, buff-tipped feathers of the female (4).

French
Canard de Meller.
Size
Length: 55 – 68 cm (2)
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Meller’s duck biology

Often seen in pairs or small groups of four to twelve individuals (2), Meller’s ducks only form larger flocks when feeding or roosting during the day (4). They feed on a variety of foods found in their freshwater habitat, including aquatic vegetation, seeds and invertebrates, particularly molluscs (2) (4).

During the nesting season, which extends between September and April, Meller’s ducks are highly territorial and monogamous pairs will aggressively defend a section of the river or stream (2) (3) (4). Females build a nest of plant material and feathers in thick vegetation at the water’s edge, without the assistance of the male (3). Into this nest the female lays one egg each day (3), until a clutch of five to ten smooth, dull white eggs have been laid (2) (4). Once the final egg of the clutch has been laid, the female commences incubation by sitting on the eggs (3), where she will remain for 26 to 28 days (4), only leaving for short periods to quickly forage for food and water (3). While the male does not participate in nest building or incubating, he remains close to the nest throughout this period, protecting his mate, eggs and hatchlings from any potential intruders (3). Sometimes, pairs may come together again for consecutive breeding seasons (4). The hatchlings fledge at 11 weeks of age and begin breeding themselves at one year of age (4). In captivity, Meller’s ducks have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years (3).

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Meller’s duck range

Meller’s duck is endemic to Madagascar (4). It used to occur over all central and eastern parts of the island, but since deforestation of Madagascar’s central plateau it has become increasingly confined to the east (3) (4). Around 1850, Meller’s duck was introduced to Mauritius, but it is now virtually extinct on the island and may only survive through the continual release of captive birds (4) (5).

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Meller’s duck habitat

Meller’s ducks inhabit freshwater lakes, rivers, streams and marshlands, often in forested areas, up to an elevation of 2,000 metres. Lake Alaotra, Madagascar’s largest lake, is believed to be one of the most important sites for this endangered bird (4).

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Meller’s duck status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Meller’s duck threats

The wetland habitats of Madagascar, on which this duck depends, have suffered widespread modification since humans arrived on the island around 1,500 years ago (5). Deforestation of the surrounding lands has increased siltation in the rivers and lakes, which along with drainage, pollution, the conversion of marshes to rice-paddies and the introduction of exotic plants and fishes, has resulted in the reduction of Madagascar’s native wetland inhabitants (5). Introduced large fish, such as largemouth bass and snakehead, are thought to have led to the Meller’s duck deserting some areas (4). The enormous impact these threats could potentially have on Meller’s ducks is illustrated by the plight of two waterbirds that once occurred in Lake Alaotra: the now extinct Delacour's grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus) and the recently re-discovered Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) (5) (6). Compounding the threat of habitat loss and degradation is hunting; around 450 ducks are killed each year from Lake Alaotra for food, which constitutes an incredible 18 percent of the global population (2).

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Meller’s duck conservation

Meller’s duck occurs in at least seven protected areas in Madagascar (2), and there are some laws in place to control hunting of this species. However, these laws are often not enforced and hunting of this endangered bird continues (3). A captive population of Meller’s ducks exists at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey, where over 150 young have been successfully reared. This population not only acts as a safeguard should the species become extinct in the wild, but it also allows extensive research to be undertaken, gaining valuable information which may be used to formulate a conservation plan for the wild population (3). In the wild, improved enforcement of hunting regulations and the development of protected areas that incorporate nesting sites, are considered essential actions to ensure the survival of Meller’s duck (4) (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on Meller’s duck see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (05/09/08) by Dr. H. Glyn Young, Conservation Biologist, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
http://www.durrell.org/

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone.
Molluscs
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
Monogamous
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
Territorial
An animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (May, 2008)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=442&m=0
  3. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. (2006) Meller’s Duck Species Factsheet. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey. Available at:
    http://www.durrell.org/Animals/Birds/Mellers-Duck
  4. Kear, J. (2005) Ducks, Geese and Swans. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Young, H.G. and Rhymer, J.M. (1998) Meller’s duck: a threatened species receives recognition at last. Biodiversity and Conservation, 7: 1313 - 1323.
  6. Young, H.G. (2008) Pers. comm.
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Image credit

Meller's duck with green speculum on wing  
Meller's duck with green speculum on wing

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