105. THE BAIKAL TEAL.
Nettium formosum, (GEORGI.)
Outer web of the primaries blackish; inner web drab, with a blackish tip. Axillaries white, mottled with brown at the tip. Wing about eight inches in length. Shafts of primaries brown. Greater upper wing-coverts uniformly tipped with cinnamon. Speculum formed by two oblique bands ; the upper, metallic green, sometimes very small in extent; the lower, black.
MALE : Sides of the head buff, with a black band from the eye to the throat.
FEMALE : A well-defined oval buff spot at the side of the base of the upper mandible ; sides of the head streaked with black.
VERNACULAR NAMES :—None known.
THE Baikal, or Clucking, Teal is probably one of those birds which visit India in larger numbers than is generally suspected.
The larger number of individuals of this species which visit the Indian Empire consist of females and young males, and these are almost certain to be passed over as Common Teal.
The history of the few specimens of this Teal that have been met with in India is soon recorded. Blyth found one in the Calcutta bazaar in 1844. Mr. E. James procured another in Sind. A third was obtained by Mr. W. N. Chill at Sultanpur, near Delhi. Colonel McMaster believed that a Teal that he shot in the Upper Circars was referable to this species. Finally Mr. W. N. Chill obtained another specimen of this Teal, alive, also near Delhi. This bird, unlike the first procured by Mr. Chill, did not find its way to the Hume Collection, and is not available for examination.
The Baikal Teal summers in Eastern Siberia, and winters in Japan and China. It has occurred in Europe.
Very little has appeared regarding the habits of this species since the issue of Messrs. Hume and Marshall's work on the Game Birds, and I can only repeat, in a somewhat condensed form, what has been already published.
Colonel Prjevalsky remarks ;—" When migrating these Ducks fly very low, following the plains which abound with lakes ; and as soon as one is perceived that is not frozen, especially in cold and stormy weather, they at once settle down on it. The presence of such a flock is always known at a good distance, as the drakes keep calling even when on the wing."
Dr. Middendorff writes :—" Although the commonest Duck on the Boganida, (700 N. lat.), it did not extend its range as high as the Taimyr river. It was not observed before the 12th June on the Boganida. On the 3rd July seven fresh eggs were found in a nest on the river bank, under a willow bush. . . . The young in down are easily recognised by the spot at the root of the bill and the stripe by the eye, which agree exactly with those of the female, but are yellowish instead of white; the feathers which are shooting out on the breast have broad and rather bright reddish brown edges. The eggs are small, bluish yellow in colour, the smallest 50 ' millims ' long by 35 ' millims' in the widest part.
" When in flocks these Ducks were very shy, but less so when paired. They make a great noise, as they continually utter their loud clucking note."
Mr. F. W. Styan tells us that in the Lower Yangtse Basin this Teal is " abundant in winter. Generally found in vast flocks in wild open marshes and lakes, and not, like the Common Teal, on ponds, creeks, and paddy-fields. Comparatively few, therefore, are shot."
Taczanowski describes the eggs as being somewhat larger than those of the Garganey, and the colour pale greyish green, very like that of the eggs of the Mallard. They vary from about 1.8 to 1.9 in length, and from about 1.3 to 1.4 in breadth.
After the autumn moult the adult male has the forehead, the crown, the lower part of the hindneck, the chin and throat and a broad band from the eye to the lower part of the throat, black, each feather tipped with buff; and these black parts everywhere bordered with whitish. The sides of the head, the sides of the neck, and the foreneck are buff, each feather tipped with black. A broad metallic green band runs from the eye down the side of the neck. This band is separated from the buff of the lower neck by a black band, and from the black of the hindneck by a white band. The middle portion of the mantle is brown; trie lateral portions are beautifully vermi¬ culated with very tine black and ashy lines. Similar lines are to be found on some of the upper scapular feathers. The other feathers of the scapulars are creamy-buff on the inner webs; black, margined with cinnamon-red on the outer webs. All the scapular feathers are long and pointed. The upper wing-coverts are brown, the lower series tipped with cinnamon-red, which forms a band above the speculum. The shafts and the inner webs of the primaries are drab; the outer webs and the tips of the inner, brown. The outer two or three secondaries are brown, tipped with white. The succeeding short secondaries are metallic green or bronze at the base, black at the end, and are tipped with pure white. The amount of metallic green on the feathers increases progressively from the outer to the inner feathers, and the black correspondingly decreases, the speculum thus consisting of two oblique bands, one green and one black. The inner and longer secondaries are brown, with some short, irregular, black and rufous margins. The back is brown, the feathers edged paler. The rump and the upper tail-coverts are ashy brown, the feathers centred darker. The tail-feathers are brown, edged with fulvous,
The breast is vinous grey, brighter at the sides, the whole marked with oval, and partially concealed, black spots. The abdomen is white. The sides of the body are beautifully vermiculated with deep ashy and pale fulvous. A crescentic white band is situated on each side of the lower part of the breast, and is partially hidden by the closed wing. The feathers on each side of the root of the tail, forming a bunch, have the tips truncated and broadly margined with white. The under tail-coverts are black, the longer feathers tipped with whitish, the lateral feathers edged with chestnut. The under wing-coverts are brown with a central patch of white; the axillaries are white, mottled with brown at the tips.
As the winter passes, the buff tips to the feathers of the crown and throat, and the black tips to the feathers of the sides of the head, get worn away, and those parts become respectively, pure black and buff.
The adult female has a large oval buff spot on either side the base of the upper mandible. The crown of the head is black, each feather edged with fulvous. The sides of the head and of the neck are fulvous, streaked with black. The mantle, back and scapulars are dark brown, the feathers margined with fulvous. The rump is dark brown, each feather edged with ashy. The tail and the upper tail-coverts are brown, edged with fulvous. The upper wing-coverts are brown, narrowly edged paler, the lower series, as in the male, tipped with cinnamon-red. The quills and the speculum are the same as in the wing of the male, except that the metallic portion of the speculum is much less in extent and sometimes extremely small and indistinct, but never entirely absent. The breast is fulvous, with large, partially concealed, round, brown spots. The abdomen is dull white; the under tail-coverts white blotched with brown; and the sides of the body rich brown, the feathers broadly margined with bright fulvous. The under wing-coverts are brown with a central white patch, and the axillaries are white, mottled with brown at the tips.
The male, in post-nuptial plumage, resembles the female very closely, and appears to be distinguishable only by the nearly uniform colour of the back, the feathers of which are barely margined paler.
The female is rather smaller than the male, which measures : length about 15 ; wing about 8 ; tail rather more than 3. The bill is deep brown; the irides chestnut-brown; legs and feet bluish grey. The weight has not been recorded.