The garganey is often called the blue-wing teal to distinguish it from the common or green-winged teal; there is, as a matter of fact, no actual bright blue about the wing, but the inner half, in the drake, is of a delicate French grey, very noticeable in flight, and his white eyebrows are also striking points ; while on the water the mottled brown of the fore- and hind-parts, contrasting with the grey of the sides, are characteristic. Except for the wing-bar, which is of a rather subdued green, there is no bright colour about this little duck, but nevertheless lie is a very striking bird.
The female, in her plain mottled-brown plumage, is at first; sight just like the female common teal, but has not the brilliant green wing-patch. The male in undress can be distinguished by the lavender and green on the wings ; on the water with wings folded he is just like his mate, and he bears his undress plumage longer than any other duck, not coming into male colour till the spring. The garganey is a slightly bigger bird than the common teal, weighing generally about thirteen ounces and even reaching
a pound. It has a rather shorter beak, and is generally more shapely and fashioned like a miniature mallard.
No duck visits us in greater numbers than this; in fact, i what one saw in the Calcutta Bazaar in the nineties was any criterion, this bird is in winter the most numerous duck in the country, surpassing even the whistler and the common teal. It habitually associates in flocks of hundreds and even thousands; parties of less than a score are uncommon. The large flocks are mostly to be found in the north-west, though the bird is distributed over India and Burma generally, and is well known in Ceylon. It has less predilection for small and weed-grown bits of water than the common teal, and is quite at home on wide lakes and rivers, where by choice it spends the day. It feeds mostly at night, and in some localities destroys the paddy by the acre, being chiefly a vegetable feeder, though of course, like ducks in general, it does not despise any animal food it comes across. In "tealeries " also, it is found to thrive on the same vegetable regime as the common teal; it is never, however, quite so good a bird on the table.
In disposition and style of flight it is decidedly different; it is, as a general rule, much wilder, and flies much straighter and to a greater distance when alarmed; the flocks pack very close, and as they pass overhead the sound made by their wings— a pattering swish, Mr. B. C. S. Baker calls it— is very characteristic. They swim and walk as well as common teal, and dive much better; Hume sums the matter up by saying they are more vigorous and less agile birds. Garganey are not at all noisy birds ; the duck quacks, but the note of the drake is as different from that of, the common teal as it can well be ; it is a sort, of gurgling rattle, most unmistakable when once heard. It is constantly uttered during courtship, when the bird does not rear up like the common teal, but merely moves his head up and down like the shoveller; in fact, to this bird all the teal with blue or bluish patches on the wings seem to be related. Judging from the note, it is no doubt this bird, not the common teal, that was the original Querquedula of the ancients—the Spanish name Cerceta comes very near this Latin one. Although not nearly so common in Europe as in the East, the garganey is well known there; it breeds in small numbers in England, where, unlike all our other ducks, it is a summer migrant only. It seems never to go into cold waters, though able to bear our English winters in captivity quite well. All across Asia it is to be found in summer, and is a very common species in winter from Egypt on the west to China on the east, and even reaches Java. It comes in nearly or quite as early as the common teal in India; in fact, in the north-west generally earlier, and in two instances has been found breeding in India and Burma, for though, as a rule, only a visitor, it may be found at any time during the year exceptionally. The breeding records, however —one from Oudh and one from Moulmein— only concern the capture of more or less fledged young, and an actual nest has not been found.
The nest in the countries where the bird breeds is made on the ground among grass or other cover near small pieces of water, and is provided with a rather scanty lining of down. About eight is the usual number of eggs laid; they are yellowish-white, like those of the common teal, and of the same size. The ducklings also are much like miniature young mallard.
The Bengali names of the garganey are Gangroib and Girria; in Hindustani it is called Khaira and Patari as well as Chaitwa.