Diving ducks encompass several tribes, pochards, sea ducks (including the subtribe of eiders) and stiff-tails. With their legs set further back on their body, closer to the tail than dabbling ducks, they are all ideally formed to be efficient divers but less well adapted for land.
Diving ducks dive and feed at the bottom, often many feet below the water surface. A pond should be at least 1 metre (3') deep to accommodate diving ducks. It is also important that it has sloped sides to enable easy access and egress. Since some diving ducks do not like to leave the water, it is necessary to place food dishes at the water's edge or place food on the water itself.
Pochards are a group of 15 diving duck species. They are omnivorous, therefore wheat and pellets are suitable to supplement their diet. European Pochard and Tufted Duck are a good choice of starter species as they are both hardy, with a good lifespan and will breed well given the right conditions.
Sea ducks are well adapted to sea life but the majority do nest inland. The tribe includes species such as mergansers and goldeneye and the subtribe eiders. These waterfowl do need a diet high in protein such as shrimp, pieces of fish and ground meat. In addition they can be fed wheat, pellets and finely chopped greens. Eiders in particular are almost exclusively carnivorous.
Stiff-tail ducks are a tribe distinctive in their appearance and behaviour, characterised by their long pointed tail. The majority are southern hemisphere ducks although Ruddy Duck and White-headed range far north and are more often seen in collections. The most aquatic of all waterfowl, it is important to supply grains on the water.
EUROPEAN EIDER Somateria mollissima mollissima
European Eiders (also known as Common Eider) are not often kept in starter wildfowl collections due to their special dietary requirements. They are however easy to tame and very ornamental. European Eiders have a distinctive black crown, pale green nape and black and white body plumage. The drake has a dove-like cooing call whereas the duck has a repetitive and hoarse call rather like grunting.
The European Eider is a sea duck that mostly keeps close to shore. During breeding time their preferred habitat is sheltered shallow coves and bays or islets.
In its natural environment the European Eider is a colonial nester. They nest on the ground filling their nest with a large amount of feather down. Eiders tend to lay 4-6 eggs which they incubate for 26-27 days. Ducklings often congregate in small crèches once they have left the nest.
TUFTED DUCK Aythya fuligula
Tufted Duck are popular in wildfowl collections but should only be kept where ponds are suitable for diving. Tufted Duck are the only pochard with a long crest at the back of their neck, very pronounced on drakes, less so on females. The drake is particularly attractive with green and purple hues of the head contrasting with a bright yellow eye.
Tufted Duck are easily tamed in a collection. The drake has a soft repeated whistle whilst the female has a slightly harsher call. Their preferred habitat is fresh slow moving water with good surrounding cover, preferably reedbed. They often frequent ponds, lakes and reservoirs in flocks.
In their natural environment, Tufted Ducks nest near or actually over the water, usually in reeds. In captivity they can also be persuaded to use nest boxes. They nest late and with varied breeding success. Tufted Ducks lay a clutch of 8-10 eggs which hatch at 23-25 days. The young are very independent at an early stage and not easy to rear as they have special dietary requirements.