THE Pochards form a large group of Ducks which from their peculiar habits are termed Diving Ducks. Their conformation especially fits them for moving under water, their legs being placed further back than in the ordinary Ducks, and the toes being of great length as compared with the tarsus. The lobe on the hindtoe is also of much larger size than in the surface-swimming Ducks.
The Pochards are widely distributed, but there is no species likely to be found in India in addition to the four species here noticed. The Pochards differ from the Scaup Ducks in having a more slender bill, and in having quite a different pattern of colour on the primaries.
The Pochards occurring in India may be divided into two sections. The first, Netta, containing only the Red-crested Pochard, may be known by the following characters: both sexes have an ample crest; the bill is entirely or largely red, diminishing in width from the base to the tip; and the sexes differ very much in colour. The members of the second section, Nyroca, have no crest; the bill is of a dark colour, without any red, and is of about equal width throughout its length, or rather broader near the tip than at the base; and the sexes, though differing in colour in some degree, retain the same pattern of plumage.
The Pochards have a shorter wing than the ordinary Ducks, and when flying they make a distinct rushing sound, easily recognised. They possess the power of partially submerging the body when an enemy is in view.
I reproduce the following useful remarks by Mr. Abel Chapman on the general habits of the Diving-Ducks :— " From the nature of their avocations, the Diving-Ducks are almost entirely day-feeding fowl, as they require light for their subaqueous investigations. Those which prey on animal food—living Crustacea and other creatures which require catching—are exclusively diurnal in their habits; but one or two species, such as the Pochard, whose food consists of grass and vegetable substances, exhibit nocturnal proclivities. In the main, however, the Diving-Ducks are of diurnal habits, and are met with during the day inside the harbours or estuaries; in short, they occupy by day the situations then vacated by the nocturnal Game-Ducks."