Every time I walk around my local lake these charming little ducks delight me as they dive to feed on the roots, seeds and buds of aquatic plants, clams and snails, aquatic insects and sometimes amphibians and small fish. Until 150 years ago, they were only winter visitors but the resident population of the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) expanded rapidly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to the colonisation of British waterways by the small freshwater bivalve, the Zebra Mussel.
I particularly love their floppy little top-knot and it’s easy to see how they got their common name but, like most British birds, they’ve gained a wide variety of other vernacular names: black curre, black poker, black topping duck, black wigeon, doucker, douver, crested diver and magpie diver. Those last two seem particularly appropriate given their tufts and colours. However, though the males may look black and white, when you see them in the sunlight you soon realise their plumage has a range of colours, from brown and green to purple. And, personally, I think there’s something slightly demonic about that bright yellow eye, particularly in the male, where the colour contrast is greater.