The status of waterbirds breeding in protected areas in North Africa needs constant monitoring because of a naturally fluctuating environment and permissive attitudes towards illegal activities likely to negatively affect population dynamics of threatened species. We present the results of a study conducted at a protected site, Lake Tonga, north-eastern Algeria, on a breeding population of Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, a Near-Threatened duck subjected to considerable pressure from egg-pilfering and illegal hunting. Two distinct habitats within the lake were used by Ferruginous Duck: an Alder carr (Alnus glutinosa) and floating islets across the lake. The mean clutch size was 9.51 ± 1.84 eggs (N = 51 clutches) with hatching rate of 80.7% for successful clutches. Breeding success was low (37%) with predation (33%) and clutch desertion (17%) accounting for the majority of failed nests. The probabilities of nest failure and nest desertion increased with a delayed onset of egg laying. Predation was not significantly associated with egg laying date and vegetation cover, but late breeders nesting in dense vegetation seemed to suffer less predation. Conspecific brood parasitism was positively associated with nest size, whereas interspecific brood parasitism was marginally associated with water depth. We discuss different hypotheses concerning nest desertion, and argue that illegal hunting and disturbance may best explain why birds desert their nests.
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