The division of this family into subfamilies is by no means a simple problem, there are almost as many systems as there are writers on the subject. Salvadori, in the British Museum Catalogue, from which many of the details here given are copied, admits eleven subfamilies, four of which are not Indian; other writers adopt smaller numbers. The characters on which these subfamilies are divided are often of small importance, and appear to me insufficient in some cases. One subfamily containing the Swans is well distinguished by the great number of cervical vertebrae, exceeding those in any other vertebrates. The true Geese appear also fairly separated by their plumage and by the structure of the trachea in the male. Lastly, the Smew and the Merganser may be easily recognized by their subcorneal or compressed bills, even if, for the want of other well-marked structural distinctions, their claim to separation as a subfamily is somewhat weak. Four subfamilies are consequently here admitted, thus distinguished :—

a. Cervical vertebrae 23 to 25 ; neck as long as body or longer……………………Cygninae, p. 413.
b. Cervical vertebras less than 20 ; neck shorter than body.
a1. Bill depressed and flattened towards the tip.
a2. Trachea of male not inflated into a bulba ossea ; legs adapted to walking ; sexes generally alike; plumage as a rule grey or brown……………………Anserinae, p. 415.
b2. Trachea of male inflated at base into a bulba ossea (see p. 421) ; legs modified
for swimming : sexes as a rule dissimilar……………………Anatinae, p. 420.
b1. Bill not depressed, slender, hooked at end……………………Merginae, p. 467.

The brief account of the habits are chiefly taken from Hume's descriptions in ' The Game Birds of India, Burma, and Ceylon. I can in many cases testify to the accuracy of Hume's account from my own observations.

The Fauna Of British India, Including Ceylon And Burma-birds
Blanford, William Thomas, ed. The Fauna of British India: Including Ceylon and Burma. Vol. 4. 1898.
Title in Book: 
Book Author: 
William Thomas Blanford
Page No: 
Vol. 4
Term name: 

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