Pink Headed Duck

Distinctive water Bird of the Indian subcontinent, presumed extinct since the 1930s.


Scientific name: Rhodonessa caryophyllacea, given by John Latham in 1790.

Physical description: Length, 2 feet. Male has pink head and bill and a dark-brown body. Female has a grayish-pink head. Pinkish underwing.

Habitat: Wetlands.

Distribution: Northern and northeastern India; Nepal; Bangladesh; northern Myanmar.

Present status: The last official wild specimen may have been an individual spotted in June 1936 near Darbhanga, Bihar State, India. Exported specimens may have survived into the 1940s in a private collection of waterfowl at Foxwarren Park, Surrey, England.

Significant sightings: L. P. Singh shot a Pink-headed duck on January 27, 1947, at Manroopa Lake, Bihar State, India. He saw five to eight ducks there over the next two years.

Game warden K. L. Mehta observed a male Pink-headed duck February 28-29, 1960, in a pond in Haryana State about 40 miles south of Simla, India.

In 1998, the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust sponsored an expedition to Tibet undertaken by Peter Gladstone and Charles Martell from the United Kingdom. Tibetan Forestry Department staff had reported Pink-headed ducks surviving in a remote region to the north of Bhutan, but the expedition did not locate any birds.

Possible explanation: The male Red-crested pochard (Netta rufina) has a rusty-orange, square-shaped head, a black neck, and a whitish underwing. It is about 22 inches long.

Sources: K. L. Mehta, "A Pinkheaded Duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea [Latham]) at Last?" Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 57 (1960): 417; Laliteshwar Prasad Singh, "The Pinkheaded Duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea [Latham]) Again," Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 63 (1966): 440-441; Rory Nugent, The Search for the Pink-Headed Duck (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991); Errol Fuller, Extinct Birds (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 91-95.

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