Rhodonessa caryophyllacea 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Anseriformes Anatidae

Scientific Name: Rhodonessa caryophyllacea (Latham, 1790)
Common Name(s):
English Pink-headed Duck
Spanish Pato Cabecirrosa
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 60 cm. Graceful, long-necked duck. Males have deep pink head and neck, blackish-brown centre of throat, foreneck and most of remaining plumage. Rosy-pinkish bill. In flight, pale brownish-buff secondaries, narrow, whitish leading edge to wing-coverts and pale pink underwing. Females have duller and browner body, pale greyish-pink head and upper neck with brownish wash on crown and hindneck and duller bill. Juvenile has duller brown body than female, with fine, whitish feather fringes. Voice Males utter weak whistle, females a low quack. Hints Search remote, overgrown wetlands in north-east India and northern Myanmar.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Eames, J.C. & Thorns, R.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Davidson, P., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Tobias, J. & Ashpole, J
This species has not been conclusively seen in the wild since 1949; it was always considered rare, and is likely to have declined severely through a combination of hunting and habitat loss. However, further surveys are needed of remote wetlands in northern Myanmar where there has been a possible recent sighting and credible local reports were received in 2006. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Rhodonessa caryophyllacea was locally distributed in the wetlands of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and occurred rarely in Nepal, with most records from north-east India and adjacent Bangladesh. It was always considered uncommon or rare and was last definitely seen in the wild in 1949, surviving until around the same time in captivity. Recent "sightings" and positive leads from a series of questionnaires about its possible continued existence in north-east India were the result of confusion with Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina. Five searches in Kachin State, Myanmar, between April 2003 and December 2006 gained a possible sighting (in 2004), two credible reports from local fishermen and during the 2006 survey focused at Nawng Kwin and the grasslands and oxbow lakes along the Indawgyi River the team gathered the most convincing reports to date from a local fisherman that the species still occurs in the area (Tordoff et al. 2008). Further searches took place in January 2008 in northern Kachin State, focusing on the three sites from which there had been recent reports or claims, but the team failed to find convincing evidence of the species's continued existence there (Eames 2008). In January 2014 a small team conducted a search around Khamti in north-west Myanmar following a possible sighting of the species by a farmer in 2011 (R. Thorns in litt. 2013). The search did not find evidence of the species in this area (Thorns 2014).

Countries occurrence:
Possibly extinct:
Bangladesh; India; Myanmar
Regionally extinct:
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Any remaining population is assumed to be tiny (numbering fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals) based on a lack of records and failure of surveys to find it.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1-49Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is shy and secretive, inhabiting secluded and overgrown still-water pools, marshes and swamps in lowland forest and tall grasslands, particularly areas subject to seasonal inundation and, in winter, also lagoons adjoining large rivers. Outside the breeding season it was usually encountered in small groups and occasionally flocks of 30-40. Some, and possibly all, populations undertook local seasonal movements, resulting in scattered historical records as far afield as Punjab, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in India. Conjecture from researchers conducting surveys for the species has suggested that it may be nocturnal, explaining the difficulty in locating it, and the reason behind its unique colouration (J. Eames in litt. 2006).

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Its decline likely resulted from habitat loss. Clearance of forest and conversion of wetlands for agricultural land has destroyed much of its habitat. Furthermore, it suffered year-round persecution during a period (the late 19th and early 20th centuries) when hunting levels in India were high. A number of other waterbird species have declined in South and South-East Asia as a consequence of human disturbance and/or hunting pressure and egg collection. However, these species, e.g. White-winged Duck Cairinia scutulata, do persist in parts of South and South-East Asia, suggesting that hunting pressure alone is unlikely to have caused the species's extirpation (Tordoff et al. 2008). While the species was hunted historically, the role that this has played in its decline remains uncertain (J. Eames in litt. 2007, Tordoff et al. 2008). The invasive alien species water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes may have contributed to its decline by altering wetland habitats to the detriment of this species (J. Eames in litt. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. CMS Appendix II. Throughout the 1950s there were attempts to clarify its status, culminating in a literature and museum specimen review. It was subsequently searched for in some key areas. Since 1956, it has been legally protected. Since 2003, BirdLife International in Indochina and the Biodiversity and National Conservation Association (BANCA) have conducted a number of searches in Kachin State, Myanmar, the most recent taking place in January 2008 (Eames 2008). A search was conducted around Khamti in north-west Myanmar in January 2014 but was unsuccessful (Thorns 2014).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Locate (provisionally using satellite imagery) and systematically survey any remaining remote and large tracts of suitable habitat within its former range, particularly north Bihar, Assam, India, and Kachin, Rakhine and possibly Chin States, Myanmar, and interview local hunters. Attempt night-time surveys given the species's potential nocturnal habits (Tordoff et al. 2008). Should it be rediscovered, stringent protection measures should be implemented to ensure the survival of any populations. Where possible introduce formal protected area status or non-formal management by local stakeholders for key wetland sites that may support this species (and which are known to support other Globally Threatened waterbirds) (Tordoff et al. 2008).

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.5. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.7. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
  Occur in at least one PA:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:No
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive and other problematic species, genes & diseases -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species/diseases -> 8.1.2. Named species [ Eichhornia crassipes ]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends

Bibliography [top]

Anon. 2003. Pink-headed Duck survey in the Hukaung Valley, Myanmar. Babbler 8: 6-7.

Anon. 2006. Pink-headed Duck eludes latest BirdLife/BANCA survey. The Babbler: BirdLife in Indochina: 28.

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Eames, J. C. 2008. Latest survey fails to find Pink-headed Duck. The Babbler: BirdLife in Indochina: 31-32.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Thorns, R. 2014. Khamti town and the restricted wetlands further down the Chindwin river. January 2014. Available at: (Accessed: 27/05/2015).

Tordoff, A. W.; Appleton, T.; Eames, J. C.; Eberhardt, K.; Htin Hla; Khin Ma Ma Thwin; Sao Myo Zaw; Saw Moses; Sein Myo Aung. 2008. The historical and current status of Pink-headed Duck Rhodonessa caryophyllacea in Myanmar. Bird Conservation International 18(1): 38-52.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Rhodonessa caryophyllacea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22680344A92856694. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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