Rhodonessa caryophyllaceapink-headed duck

Geographic Range

Pink-headed ducks were one of the rarest species of waterfowl that were found in India. They mainly inhabited the area around the lower areas north of the Ganges and west of the Brahmaputra River.


Pink-headed ducks were usually found on enclosed waters surrounded by dense vegetation. They often inhabited small ponds that were surrounded by bushes and high grass. The surrounding country was usually a plain cut by deep streams. During the colder months they may have moved to rivers.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Head, sides of neck, and hind neck pale rosy pink; tuft of bright pink on head; throat brown; rest of body mainly glossy dark brown (paler beneath). The edges of the wings were whitish, and the speculum was reddish with a white band.

  • Range mass
    793 to 1360 g
    27.95 to 47.93 oz


The breeding season of the Pink-headed duck began in April. The well-rounded nest was built in the center of tufts of high grass close to water. The nests were made of dry grass with a few feathers. The ducks were usually seen on their own or in pairs, and sometimes during the breeding season they aggregated in small flocks of up to ten birds. The eggs were either pure white or pale yellow and were almost perfectly spherical, unlike the eggs of most other ducks. A clutch consisted of as many as nine eggs and was attended by both the male and female.

  • Range eggs per season
    9 (high)


Small groups (usually there were six to eight individuals but up to as many as forty) would sometimes gather, particularly in the winter. During the colder months, the birds were sometimes seen on open rivers, but they were rarely seen moving from one place to another, suggesting that they were fairly sedentary. Pink-headed ducks probably fed in two different manners. The first is called a "tip-up" type of feeding, where they "tip-up" in shallow water. The second is feeding during diving.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Poorly known, a gizzard of a dead bird contained waterweeds and small shells. However, there is also other evidence, such as the anatomy of the windpipe, suggesting that these birds were very able divers as well.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Sportsmen were pursued few pink-headed ducks simply because they were the rarest of waterfowl. Their flesh was considered inferior and they were usually not eaten. They were often sold, however, in Calcutta markets.

Conservation Status

Became extinct as a result of clearing of land for agriculture and hunting.

Other Comments

Many other species of animals, such as the Bengal Tiger, depend on the same wetland habitat that the Pink-headed duck depended upon. The Bengal Tiger is also declining as a result of the destruction of its habitat. The Pink-headed duck was just the first species to disappear as a result of the destruction of the unique wetlands of Bengal, and something must be done in order to save the rest of the species that depend upon this habitat.


Lillian Sze (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


Fuller, Errol. 1987. Extinct Birds. Facts on File Publications. NY.

Greenway, James C. 1967. Extinct and Vanishing Birds of The World. Dover Publications, Inc. NY.

Halliday, Tim. 1978. Vanishing Birds. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. NY.