(2264) Anas platyrhyncha.
Anas platyrhynchos Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 125 (1758V (Sweden). Anas boscas. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 435.
Vernacular names. Nilsir, Nir-rugi(Hind.); Lilg ,Lilgahi (Nepal); Amrolia Hans, Bonaria Pati Hans (Assam); Nearge Nirage , Nirajiani (Sind).
Description. - Male. Head and upper neck bright and very glossy dark green, a ring round neck, interrupted on the nape, pure white; upper back and scapulars brownish-grey changing into dark brown on the lower neck; upper back vermiculated with dark brown; rump, upper tail-coverts and four central rectrices deep black ; outer rectrices light grey edged with white; wing-coverts dark grey or grey-brown, the greater coverts tipped black and sub-tipped white, forming two distinct wing-bars; speculum glossy bluish-purple or violet; above the speculum two bars formed by the black tips and white sub-tips of the outer secondaries; exposed inner secondaries and primaries dark brown; upper breast chestnut; lower breast, flanks and abdomen greyish-white, very finely barred with dark brown; under tail-coverts velvety-black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill dull olive-yellow, olive or dingy green, the nail black and the base and gape generally more yellow or even orange; legs and feet orange-yellow to coral-red ; claws black.
Measurements. Wing, 266 to 292 mm., 232 to 276 mm.; tail 80 to 97 mm.; tarsus about 40 to 45 mm.; culmen, 50 to 57 mm., 44 to 55 mm.
Female. Chin and throat pale buff; remainder of upper and lower parts dark brown with buff edges; on the breast and abdomen the dark centres are reduced to streaks; tail-feathers brown edged with pale buff; wings as in the male.
The depth of the brown and its tint vary much, as does the boldness of the edging; in some birds the centre and edges blend-together, whilst in others they contrast sharply.
Male in eclipse plumage resembles female but has the head much darker and the upper plumage back to tail much the same as in breeding plumage. The curly tail-feathers are moulted.
Nestling in down. Upper parts dark brown; whitish or pale buff patches on the wings and sides of the back and rump; a short buff supercilium and a dark streak through the eye; a dark spot behind the ear; throat buffy-white, lower parts pale brown.
Distribution. Europe, Azores, North Africa and North and Central Asia to Japan, breeding as far South as the Himalayas. In Winter it migrates South to the Canaries, Central Africa, India, South China etc. It breeds also in North America and winters as far South as Mexico and Panama.
In India the Mallard is very common in Kashmir, Sind, Punjab and the North-West, thence becoming less common Southwards but extending to Rajputana, Central Provinces and Bombay. Towards the East it is met with frequently in the United Provinces and Assam, less commonly in Eastern Bengal and Orissa and is rare in Burma.
Nidification. The Mallard breeds in great numbers in the Himalayas from 5,000 feet upwards and is extremely common on the Kashmir Lakes. The nest is a well-made affair of grass, reeds and water-weeds lined with down, sometimes in masses, sometimes quite sparse. It is invariably placed in cover and well concealed but the cover may be dense reeds in a swamp, long grass beside some ditch or pond, or even rank meadow-grass in damp fields some distance from water. The eggs number eight to fourteen and in colour range from pale greyish-green or yellowish-buff to creamy cafe au lait, the grey-green tint being much the most common. One hundred eggs taken in India average 56.6 x 40.3 mm.: maxima 60.1 x 42.3 and 59.9 X 43.0 mm.; minima 50.1 x 38.7 and 52.1 x 37.0 mm.
Mallards are early breeders, some birds in temperate Europe laying in the last week in February, though most birds lay in April. The duck sits close and generally flounders off the nest at the last moment only, if the eggs are at all incubated.
Habits. Mallards are usually found in India in small flocks of a dozen to twenty, though in Sind and Kashmir flocks of over a hundred may be seen. They frequent not only large lakes and swamps but also tiny rivulets, ponds and ditches but they possibly prefer large open pieces of water surrounded by reeds and other cover. They are fine fliers and grand sporting birds but, though they swim strongly, they are not good divers and seldom, if ever, feed by diving. On the other hand, like certain other non-diving ducks, they often feed by standing on their heads in shallow water with only the tail halves of their bodies sticking out. They are largely vegetarians in their diet but also eat mollusca, Crustacea, frogs, worms, larvae etc, whilst for the table they are among the best of their tribe. The voice of the drake is a guttural murmur but when startled he quacks also, though never so loudly as the female.