106. THE GARGANEY.
Querquedula circia, (LINNAEUS).
Outer web of the primaries blackish ; inner web drab, with a blackish tip. Axillaries pure white. Wing eight inches or less in length. Shafts of primaries white. Bill rather wider near the tip than at the base. Speculum pale metallic greyish green, or brown; a broad white band above and below the speculum.
MALE : Speculum pale metallic greyish green ; a large white eye-band.
FEMALE : Speculum brown, often tinged with green ; no white eye-band.
VERNACULAR NAMES : — Chaitwa, Patari, Khira, Hind. ; Ghang-roib, Giria, Bengal.
THE Garganey, or Blue-winged Teal, is a winter visitor to every portion of the Empire, including Ceylon. It has not yet been actually obtained in the southern portion of Tenasserim, but it will undoubtedly be found to occur there. This species is met with throughout the Shan States, as far as Kengtung at least, where Lieut. J. H. Whitehead informs me that he has shot it.
The Garganey is found over the greater part of Europe and Asia, extending in summer to about the 60th degree of north latitude. In winter it is found over a large part of Northern Africa and Southern Asia, extending to the Philippines, Borneo, Java, and other islands.
This species commences to arrive in India in August, but it is not till October, or even November, that they occur commonly in the southern portions of the Empire. At the end of March, or in the first half of April, a general movement north takes place, but a few birds remain till May.
There are many instances on record of the late, or early, occurrence of the Garganey in various parts of the Empire, and it has been thought that some birds of this species may remain to breed in favourable localities. Moreover, both Colonel Tickell at Moulmein and Colonel Irby in Oudh state that they met with young birds of this species. Both these naturalists, however, may have very pardonably mistaken males in the post-nuptial plumage for young birds. Drakes of many species migrate before they have completely reacquired their normal male plumage, and in this state they look ragged and partially fledged, and might be easily mistaken for young birds.
The Garganey on the whole is perhaps the commonest Duck in many parts of India and Burma. In the latter country it occurs in very large numbers; and out of a large bag of water fowl shot near Mandalay, one Christmas week, fully one-quarter was composed of Garganeys.
The Garganey is chiefly found on large pieces of water containing plenty of floating weeds. I do not remember to have seen it on the banks of rivers nor on clear tanks. They are generally in flocks of considerable size.
Of the habits of this Duck in Europe, Seebohm says :—" The Garganey differs very slightly in its habits from the other fresh-water Ducks, but it has some slight peculiarities of its own. It is one of the species which are more susceptible to cold than others of its congeners ; it does not venture into the high north, and even in Germany it seldom arrives from its winter quarters before April, and dis¬appears again before the November frosts have begun. Though widely distributed, it cannot be regarded as a very common species; and though it is as gregarious as its relatives, it is not seen in such large flocks as many of them are. The Garganey is one of the least shy of the European wild Ducks, and allows itself frequently to be approached within gunshot; but it is partly compensated for its tameness on the water by the wonderful swiftness of its flight in the air, in which it is surpassed by none of its congeners. Although its flight is so rapid, it is almost noiseless ; and in other respects the Garganey is a somewhat silent bird. Its quack is not so loud as that of the Mallard, but is in a slightly higher key; it may be represented by the syllable knake, whence the German name of this Duck, Knak-Ente. It is generally uttered singly, but sometimes repeated twice. The quack is common to both sexes, but in the breeding season the male utters a harsh grating note resembling Kr-r-r. The food of the Garganey is the same as that of its congeners, partly insects and other animal food, partly the buds of water-plants and other vegetable substances."
Of the habits of the Garganey in India Mr. Hume thus writes in the " Game Birds " :—" I have very seldom seen them in the day feeding in fields, but I know that at nights they come in some parts of the country in such crowds into paddy-fields as to destroy acres of crops at one visit. Along the Mekran coast, and in many places along the Sindh and Bombay coasts, you find them in secluded saltwater creeks, where they seem just as much at home as in inland waters.
" They are not very wild or wary; it is generally easy enough to get shots at them with a little precaution; they are easy to work up to in a punt, but they are yet not tame and familiar like the Common Teal, and do not, like this, habitually affect pools where men constantly come and go, and in close proximity to human habitations. Generally they keep in flocks; rarely less than a dozen are found together, and most commonly from fifty to several hundreds are seen in a bunch. Few fowl sit closer or straggle less, few offer more effective big gun shots.
" Their flight is rapid—though less so than that of the Common Teal—direct, and with far fewer sudden turns and twists. They rise rapidly and easily from the water, but not very perpendicularly. I have so seldom seen them on dry land that I can speak with no certainty about this; but once, when emerging from a dense reed-bed, through which I had been carefully creeping in order to get a shot at some Shelldrakes that I knew to be paddling about somewhere near the margin, I surprised a party of Garganeys, all asleep, on a patch of turf some ten yards square, almost entirely surrounded by high reeds ; they seemed to me to rise very clumsily, and I made a tremendous bag with two barrels as they flustered up.
" They swim well, far more rapidly when pressed than the Common Teal, and dive better. They are altogether, I should say, more vigorous and less agile birds."
I cannot quite agree with Mr. Hume that the flight of the Garganey is less rapid than that of the Common Teal. To me it has always seemed that the flight of this species was faster than that of any other Duck I am acquainted with.
The Garganey nests in . Southern Europe, but a few breed in England. Mr. E. T. Booth tells us, in his " Rough Notes":—"My own experience with regard to the situation chosen by this species for its nest differs considerably from the statement in the last edition of Yarrell, that ''in the Broad district in Norfolk, the densest reed-beds are preferred.' About Hickling Broad, where I have had ample opportunities of observing them during the summer, I remarked that the eggs were usually laid in the patches of rushes in the unreclaimed marshes, at some little distance from the water, not a single nest having, to the best of my knowledge, ever been detected in a reed-bed. Now and then the birds were known to have bred among the long coarse grass and tufts of rushes on the dryer portion of the hills surrounding the broads, but, as a rule, they go further from their usual haunts."
I again quote from Seebohm :— " Like most other Ducks, the adult Garganeys pair in mid-winter, but the young not until spring. The first eggs are seldom laid before May. The nest is placed in a variety of positions—hidden under a bush or in thick grass or sedge; far away. from water in the forest or among the corn : anywhere and everywhere where a hidden retreat can be found. . . . The nest is made very deep, and is lined with dead grass and leaves, to which is afterwards added plenty of down. The number of eggs varies from eight to twelve, or sometimes fourteen. . . .
" Like the Teal, the Garganey does not sit so long upon its eggs as most Ducks do, incubation only lasting from twenty-one to twenty-two days. As is the case with most Ducks, the male is very attentive to the female until his first moult begins, which is usually before the eggs are hatched. The entire charge of the young falls upon the mother, who is deserted by her mate until he has passed through his second moult and acquired his nuptial plumes, late in autumn."
The eggs of the Garganey resemble very closely, and, in fact, are undistinguishable from those of the Common Teal. They are huffish white or cream-coloured, and measure from 1.7 to 1.9 in length, and from 1.3 to 1.4 in breadth.
The down found in the nests of the two Teal differ, however, in a very remarkable manner. In both cases it is dark brown with pale centres, but whereas in the down of the Common Teal the filaments are entirely brown, in that of the Garganey the tips of the filaments are all very conspicuously white.
The adult male has the whole forehead and crown blackish, with some pale shaft-streaks on the former. A broad band of white commences in front of the eye, passes over it and skirts the black of the crown. The chin is black. The sides of the head, the throat and the whole neck are chocolate-brown streaked with white. The upper part of the mantle and the whole breast are barred with fulvous and brown, the bars on the mantle and upper breast being concentric with the margins of the feathers, and those on the lower breast more or less transverse and straight. The upper part of the abdomen is white; the lower part white with narrow, indistinct, undulating lines of brown. The sides of the body are white, barred with narrow undulating black lines. The longer flank-feathers are terminated by a broad white bar, followed by a broad tip of bluish grey. The under tail-coverts are pale buff, blotched with brown. The axillaries are pure white, and the under wing-coverts bluish grey, with the middle portion white. The lower part of the mantle and the back are dark brown, the feathers margined with pale fulvous. The rump is dark brown, the feathers margined with ashy. The upper tail-coverts and the tail-feathers are dark brown, margined with pale fulvous. The upper wing-coverts are bluish grey, the lower series very broadly tipped with white, forming a conspicuous wing-bar. The outer scapulars are bluish grey; the inner, which are long and pointed, are chiefly bluish black with a conspicuous white line along the shaft. . The outer webs of the primaries and the tips of the inner are brown margined with grey ; the remainder of the inner webs are drab ; the shafts are white. The outer secondaries are brown on the inner web, pale metallic greyish green on the outer, both webs very broadly tipped with white. The next long secondary is grey margined with white; and the remaining quills are brown with paler shafts and very narrow grey margins.
The adult female has the forehead and crown glossy brown, the feathers with minute fulvous tips and margins. The hindneck is similar, but of a lighter brown. The sides of the head and of the neck and the foreneck are greyish white, mottled and streaked with brown, with a faint indication of a band over the eye. The chin and throat are greyish white. The mantle, the back, the rump, the scapulars and the upper tail-coverts are dark brown, each feather margined with fulvous ashy. The tail-feathers are brown, with narrow pale margins. The feathers of the sides of the breast are brown, with fulvous margins ; those of the middle breast dull fulvous with indistinct brown centres. The greater part of the abdomen is pale fulvous white, obscurely mottled with a darker shade of the same. The lower part of the abdomen and the under tail-coverts are fulvous white, the former faintly mottled with brown, the latter with large brown spots. The feathers of the sides of the body are brown, with fulvous margins. The axillaries are pure white ; the under wing-coverts are brown, edged with grey, and with the central portion pure white. The upper wing-coverts are light brown washed with ashy-grey, the lower series tipped with white. The primaries have the outer web and tip of the inner, dark brown; the remainder of the inner webs pale drab; the shafts white. The outer secondaries are entirely brown, with broad white tips, and the outer webs frequently glossed with greyish green. The inner, long secondaries are brown with a narrow, whitish margin on the outer web.
The young duckling assumes the plu¬mage of the adult female, and young males soon show indications of the mature male plumage.
In post-nuptial plumage, the male resem¬bles the females, but may be recognised by the brighter speculum, which is always of a pale metallic greyish green, whereas in the female it is brown with a pale greenish gloss, or simply plain brown.
Male: length about 16; wing about 7 3/4 ; tail nearly 3. Female : length about 15 ; wing about 7 1/4; tail nearly 3. The bill is blackish brown, paler on the lower mandible; irides brown; legs and feet plumbeous to greenish. Weight up to 1 lb.