(2252) Anser anser.
The Grey Lag Goose.
Anas anser Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 123 (1758) (Sweden). Anser ferus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 416.
Vernacular names. Sona, Karria sona, Hans, Raj-hans (Hind.); Kallauk, Khar-hans (Bhagalpur); Mogala, Mogala-buttak (Nepal Terai) ; Kangnai (Manipur); Ngan (Burma); Raj-hans, Dhitraj (Assam).
Description. Lower back and rump French grey; upper tail-coverts white; remainder of upper plumage, head, and neck ash-brown, the scapulars edged lighter; a very narrow white rim of feathers at the base of the bill; lower neck in front, breast and abdomen pale greyish-brown; the abdomen with more or less broad blackish spots, sometimes almost confluent, at others almost absent; remainder of lower plumage white ; flanks brown, tipped pale French grey; darker grey at the bases of the feathers; shoulder of wing and smaller coverts next to it, winglet, primaries at the base and primary coverts French grey; remainder of wings brown, the secondary coverts edged whitish ; under wing-coverts and axillaries French grey; two outer pairs of tail-feathers white, the central ones brown, tipped white and the others brownish at the base, changing to white at the tip.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill fleshy-white, pink to a livid purplish-red, the nail paler and whiter; legs and feet fleshy-pink to the same livid purplish-red ; legs and bill are not necessarily of the same tinge of red or pink.
Measurements. wing 443 to 487 mm.; tail 126 to 146 mm.; tarsus about 72 to 82 mm.; culmen 55 to 70 mm.; wing 408 to 468 ram.; culmen 53 to 70 mm.
The young are far less marked underneath and the majority of birds shot in India will be found nearly white on these parts.
The Indian bird is said to differ from Anser anser (the Common Wild Goose) in being rather larger and with proportionately larger bill and feet, whilst the adult bird is also said to be more marked with black on the underparts. This last distinction does not hold good with most Indian specimens and a careful examination of considerable material does not substantiate the supposed differences.
Distribution. Northern Europe and Northern Asia, migrating South in Winter to India, Burma and China and on the West to Northern Africa. In India it is very common in the North-West, South to Bombay. Working East it occurs in smaller numbers but is found in very large flocks on the Chilka Lake in some Winters; in Assam and Eastern Bengal it occurs regularly but in smaller flocks, whilst in Burma it is found in fluctuating numbers on all the bigger rivers and the large swamps near them.
Nidification. The Grey Lag breeds in Northern Europe, the Northern countries of the Mediterranean, through Transcaspia and Transcaucasia to Lake Baikal. It breeds in Mesopotamia, Persia, Eastern and Northern Afghanistan but has not yet been known to breed anywhere in the Himalayas. The site of the nest varies greatly. Sometimes an open marsh or tundra near lake or pond is selected, more often mossy swamp covered with small pine and birch forest and at other times, again, the interior of dense pine forest. Occasionally, in places where they are exceptionally numerous, several nests may be found close together but often there are miles of swamp between the nests. These may be fine masses of moss, bracken and rubbish with a dense lining of down, or they may be just a little moss scraped into a dry hollow with down added as the eggs are laid. The eggs number four to six or, less often, eight. Twelve and fourteen have been recorded but these must be very exceptional and probably laid by two birds. The eggs are, of course, white with an ivory tint, whilst 130 average 87.1 X 58.5 mm.: maxima 1000 x 61.0 mm.; minima 75.0 x 55.2 and 80.0 x 54.8 mm. In the South the birds commence to lay at the end of April but in the North not until the middle and end of May, though even then the nests are sometimes surrounded by snow.
Habits. In the North-West of India, Geese begin to arrive in early October, leaving again in March, though small flocks arrive and depart much sooner and later than the main body of birds. Geese are about the most wary and hard to circumvent of all our Game-birds and it does not seem to matter whether they are shot by day or by night, by stalking or by driving, a sportsman's ingenuity is taxed to the full before he can oblain a good bag. They keep during the heat of the day to large sand-banks, where they have a far view all round and here they doze and sleep whilst a few keep on sentry duty. They feed in the evenings and often far into the night and, again, early in the mornings. Their diet is almost exclusively vegetarian and a large flock can do much damage to a growing crop of young rice or wheat. Geese walk well and fly faster than they appear to do, whilst in the water they are powerful swimmers, though poor divers. They fly in a drawn-out V-shape, one wing of which is generally much longer than the other. Their conversational note is simply " gag-gag-gag " but they call loudly on the wing with a sonorous " honk," which can be heard at a great distance.