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Rhodonessa caryophyllacea - Pink-headed Duck (RMNH 110.082)
RMNH 110.082

Anatidae (Swans, Geese and Ducks)

Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea (Latham, 1790)

  • RMNH 110.082: adult, male. India.

Rare species
The Pink-headed Duck once lived in the inaccessible swamps of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in northern India. It has always been considered to be rare, but this may have been due to the inaccessibility of its haunts. As the swamps became cultivated, this handsome duck was initially seen more frequently. However, reclamation of the swamps inevitably led to the decline of the species in the beginning of the 20th century. Its remarkable appearance made it a favoured hunting trophy, though this probably is not the main cause of extinction. The British, who governed the area, found its meat far from tasty. The fast-growing local population may have had a different opinion.

As to the exact date of extinction, opinions vary from 1936 to 1949. Most likely, the last Pink-headed Duck died far from its native swamps, in a British aviary. During the 1960s its presence was claimed near the Myanmar-Tibetan border and as recently as 2004 an expedition claimed to have seen one flying over a swamp in northern Myanmar, but unfortunately no proof exists.

Museum specimens
Naturalis possesses a male from India, the collector and collecting date of which are not known. Museum specimens of this duck are not extremely rare. Over 70 skins are preserved worldwide.

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