Common or Green-winged Teal.
Lohya Kerr a, Hindustani.
The common teal, the smallest, and one of the' handsomest and most sporting of our migratory ducks, can be at once distinguished from all the rest by the brilliant patch of metallic emerald green on the wing, whence the name green-winged teal often applied to it to distinguish it from the blue-winged teal or garganey. Except for this wing-mark, there is nothing distinctive about the mottled-brown plumage of the female, but the drake is a most handsomely coloured little bird, with his chestnut head widely banded with green, the cream and black stripes on his pencilled-grey back, and the thrush-like spotting on the breast. This teal, though with a proportionately long narrow bill, is a thick-set, plump little bird, weighing from 7.7 to 12 ounces, with no noticeable distinction in this respect between the sexes.
In the drake's summer undress, which he loses later than is usually the case, so that specimens bearing more or less of it are usually seen even in their winter quarters here for a month or two, he is generally like the female, but has the breast plain brown without speckling, and the markings of the body less well defined. The drake's note is a whistle, the duck's is a tiny quack ; he shows off to her like the mallard, but with a quick, jerky action.
Common teal are just as familiar in the East during the cold weather as they are in Europe, in fact more so ; they are some of the commonest of our migratory ducks, and are certainly the most widely diffused, being found practically all over the Empire, even penetrating to the Andamans and Nicobars, though apparently not to Southern Tenasserim. They come in early, many arriving in September, and some occasionally even before August is out; but October is, as usual with our migrants, the month for the main body to arrive in.
In the north-west, where they are most abundant, flocks of thousands may be seen, but two or three dozen is a usual figure for the flocks commonly met with, and even single birds as well as pairs often turn up. Any sort of water may hold them, as they are content with a very small area, but they like plenty of cover, and lie fairly close, so that they afford frequent shots. They swim and walk fairly well, but do not come on land much for a surface-feeding duck; their diving powers are nothing extraordinary, but they are adepts at taking cover under water when wounded, so that where there are plenty of weeds, &c., they are hard enough to get hold of.
Their flight is exceedingly fast, but like most small creatures, furred as well as feathered, they are probably credited with more speed than they actually possess, owing to the quickness of their movements, which has a deceptive effect ; at any rate, the shoveller and even the spot-bill, can give a flock of teal a lead. Their really strong point on the wing is their power of wheeling suddenly, which often proves too much both for the peregrine falcon and for the human enemy with his gun. Their feeding-time is mostly at night, and the food itself vegetable for the most part, though small live things are not despised ; but Hume argues reasonably that they must be mainly vegetarians, because in the " tealeries " so common in upper India in his day the birds throve on paddy and lucerne only, and kept their condition, if well looked after, all through the hot weather and rains, when they were much valued as food when butcher's meat was unattainable. Hume indeed considered that a well-kept captive teal was even better than a wild one, and the wild bird is universally praised for its excellent qualities ; I do not know any bird I like better myself, as there is something about it one does not get tired of. In disposition the teal is very sociable and fond of its mate; it is also excessively "cheeky" with larger ducks; I have several times seen a full-winged one which had been bred at the London "Zoo " and used to return to visit its pinioned comrades, in the thick of a light with an Andaman teal or Chilian wigeon (Mareca sibilatrir), both of thorn fat bigger and redoubtable fighters in their way, and I once saw another in St. James's Park chasing a female mallard, to her great indignation and the surprise of her mate. These teal may now and then be found in India in any month of the year, but there is no reason to believe they breed there. They are found all across the Old "World. Some Hindustani names are Ghota Murghabi, Putari, and Souchuruka ; Baigilagairi is used in Nepal and Kardo in Sind; while the Canarese name, is Sorlai-haki, the Tamil Killowai, and the Bengali ones Nuroib or Tulsia-bigri.