This odd bird owes its name to the colour of its head which stands out against the uniformly dark plumage. Another typical feature is the bright blue bill of the male. The White-headed Duck is a rare winter visitor in Bulgaria. It was recorded only along the Black Sea coast; the Burgas Lakes are its preferred destination. Small groups of the species can be observed along our northern Black Sea coast too.
The perfect conditions for the species during the cold months of the year can be found in Burgasko Lake, also known as Vaya Lake; every year between December and March about 140 – 250 White-headed Ducks are registered there. The highest numbers for the species in recent years were recorded in the end of the last century; in March that year more than 2 000 individuals were observed in the Burgas Lakes. At present the total number of White-headed Ducks globally amounts to about 10 000 individuals but its numbers decline faster than expected. Therefore the species is considered globally endangered.
The most serious threat for the White-headed Duck is the destruction of its natural habitats – nesting, resting and wintering sites. In Bulgaria poaching is a problem too, as the mysterious beautiful bird is quite incautious and can easily fall victim to illegal hunters. In 2010 the BSPB launched the Life for the Burgas Lakes EU LIFE+ Programme project. One of the main objectives of the project is the reduction of illegal actions against protected species and habitats. Therefore the BSPB took part in the establishment of an Association of Nature Conservation Organizations, Hunters’ and Fishermen’s Companies and Sport Fishing Clubs in Burgas that contributes to the efforts of the institutions in charge of the implementation and execution of the conservation legislation, the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act in particular.
Another asset of the project is the publishing of a Hunters’ Guide. The pocket-sized field book describes all protected and endangered species of waterfowl and highlights their distinctive features in comparison with the game species.
In order to preserve the quality of the resting and feeding sites of the White-headed Duck the BSPB organized the excavation of three new ponds in Poda Protected Area and one in Atanassovsko Ezero Managed Reserve. The excavation opened four new water bodies; a number of species of insects, mammals and birds moved in just two months after they filled with water.
Another measure is reedbed management. The activity consists of mowing the reed and removing the old dry biomass, thus improving the quality of the water bodies. In 2013 the BSPB was licensed by the Ministry of Environment and Waters to carry out a controlled burning of a small area of reed.
We hope that the National Action Plan for the conservation of the White-headed Duck developed by the experts will contribute to the survival of this beautiful bird in the future.
Learn more about the White-headed Duck