(2270) Mareca penelope.
Anas penelope Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 126 (1758) (Sweden). Mareca penelope. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 445.
Vernacular names. Peasan, Patari, Pharia, Choto Lalsir (Hind.); Cheyun (Nepal); Pharao (Sind) ; Khaltryia Kunda (Assam).
Description. - Male. Forehead, crown and nape pale buff, sometimes with a few black dots on the nape; remainder of head and neck dull chestnut, much speckled anteriorly with black and the chin and throat more or less black also ; back, sides of neck and upper breast, flanks, scapulars, rump and shorter upper tail-coverts vermiculated blackish-brown and white, the rump and tail-coverts with the white predominating; longer upper tail-coverts black ; central rectrices brownish-black, getting paler on each succeeding pair, the outer pairs being also tipped white; smallest wing-coverts greyish-brown, vermiculated with white; primary coverts vinous-grey; remaining coverts white; the greater secondary coverts tipped black; primaries brown, pale-shafted except at the tips ; outermost secondaries brilliant metallic green, broadly edged and tipped black; outer web of next secondary pure white, edged black; inner secondaries black, edged white and greyish on the inner webs; upper breast and lower neck, as well as the sides of lower breast, vinous-red; under tail-coverts black, rest of under plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or red-brown ; bill grey-blue, livid blue or slate-blue, the tip black ; legs plumbeous tinged with grey or green, the joints and webs darker and the claws blackish.
Measurements. Wing, 254 to 273 mm., 233 to 256 mm.; tail about 95 to 110 mm.; tarsus about 35 to 40 mm.; culmen about 31 to 35 mm.
Weight, 1 lb. 5 oz. to 1 lb. 10 oz., 1 lb. 3 oz. to 1 lb. 10 oz.
Female. Head and neck pale reddish-brown, richer posteriorly and paler below, speckled with very dark brown; rest of plumage above brown with pale edges to each feather, varying from almost white to rufous; the scapulars and interscapulars barred with the same; smaller wing-coverts like the back; median the same but with broader pale edges; greater coverts with still broader paler edges; quills plain brown ; a dull blackish-brown speculum edged by the more or less white tips of the secondaries and the broad white edge of the one adjoining it; innermost secondaries edged with fulvous; lower neck and breast reddish-brown, sometimes speckled darker; lower breast, abdomen and vent vary from white to uniform pale bright rufous-buff; the flanks and axillaries darker bun3 and often more or less spotted with brown, under tail-coverts the same as the abdomen but each feather centred with brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale to dark brown ; bill slaty-blue, the tip and nail black and the base often darker; legs grey or drab marked with dusky.
Male in eclipse plumage. Resembles the female but is always distinguishable by the white wing-coverts ; the sides of the body and flanks are richer cinnamon-brown.
Nestling in down. Above blackish-brown, the down filaments cinnamon ; wing-bar and patches on each side of the back and rump cinnamon-buff, sometimes obsolete; chin and throat creamy-buff, fore-neck darker buff; rest of underparts creamy-buff.
Distribution. Breeding in the Palaearctic region and wintering, in Africa, India, China etc. In India it occurs everywhere except in the extreme South and in Ceylon. It is common in every part of Assam and has been recorded from most parts of Burma.
Nidification. The Wigeon breeds throughout the whole of its Summer habitat South of the Arctic Circle. The nest may be placed close to water or hidden in heather and bracken some distance from it; it is said to be generally better built than the nests of most ducks. The materials, moss, leaves, grass and rushes, are well matted together, whilst the down not only forms a dense bed for the eggs but is much mixed into the body of the nest itself. The eggs number six to ten, sometimes twelve. In colour they vary from a very pale cream to a fairly warm cream or buff.. The texture is fine, close and glossy. One hundred and seventeen eggs (Jorudain) average 54.7 x 38.7 mm.: maxima 59.5 x 38.5 and 58.0 X 41.0 mm.; minima 49.9 X 35.2 mm. The breeding-season is from the second half of May in the South to the middle of June in the North, whilst Sandman has taken eggs in Northern Finland as late as the 2nd of July.
Habits. The Wigeon comes into India in vast numbers to Sind and the North-West, arriving late in October and leaving again at the end of March, South and East it decreases in numbers, though in some years it is very numerous in Manipur, Assam and Eastern Bengal. It is a duck of shallow swamps and marshes rather than of deep lakes and open waters and loves feeding in a few inches of water or in water where the weeds come close to the top. These birds are expert divers but do not feed by diving and prefer whenever possible to stand on their heads like the Mallard. They eat all sorts of mollusca, Crustacea, insects and their larvae, whilst they also graze on young crops and plants and eat many water-berries etc. Their own flesh is excellent and they are among the best ducks for the table. On the wing Wigeons are very swift but their habit of feeding among the reeds and water-plants enables the sportsman to get nearer to them than he can to most ducks. They are quick off the water but rise straight up and are off without twisting like Teal. Their note, constantly uttered, is a low, soft whistle.