Grey or Grey-lag Goose.
Sona hans, Hindustani.
Everyone who has seen a grey domestic goose at home knows what this bird is like ; only the wild race is smaller, its form is slighter and more elegant, and the beak and feet, generally orange in tame geese, are pink or flesh-coloured. In spring the bill becomes very rich in tint in Indian specimens, a bright rose or light carnation red.
Old birds are heavily marked with black on the belly, and these should be avoided when selecting geese from one's bag for one's own consumption, according to Hume's sage advice, as apt to be tough and hard. Such birds may weigh as much as eight and a half pounds. On the wing this goose can be discriminated from all the other dark-grey or brown species by the pale French-grey tint of the inner half of the wing, which shows up very conspicuously in flight, appearing nearly white. The gaggling note is like that of the tame goose at home, but not so shrill and high as that of Indian tame geese, which are of the Chinese species (Cygnopsis cygnoides) so well known as ornamental birds in our parks. This black-billed brown goose is found wild in Eastern Asia, and may hereafter he found to occur in the east of our Empire in that condition.
The grey goose is the only common goose in India besides the bar-headed, and, like that bird, is only a winter visitor ; all along the northern Indian and Burmese provinces it is common, but its numbers bear no comparison to those of the bar-head except in Sind ; in Gujarat, however, it is the only kind found. Like the bar-head, it visits Kashmir and parts of the Himalayas at a moderate altitude. Its southern limit for the most part is that of the Gangetic plain.
It is, if anything, more gregarious than the bar-headed goose, flocks of upwards of a thousand being seen on the west, where it is most abundant; these flocks in flight observe the usual V formation and travel with a rapid but stately flight. They get under way slowly, and Mr. E. C. S. Baker advises that when stalking them one should put in one's first barrel at them on the ground, and give them the second as they rise. Although wild geese are often much less wary in India than they proverbially are in Europe, they will be found to need careful stalking where natives have guns, and in such places it is of no use getting one's self up as a native in a blanket disguise, a bullock used as a stalking-horse being much better.
They may also be shot when by the side of rivers by gliding down on them in a boat, as mentioned in the case of bar-headed geese, but there must be some arrangement to conceal the shooter's head. They keep more on the shore than in the water, and walk well, if not so gracefully as the bar-heads; they are also fast swimmers, and dive freely in play or when wounded, but cannot keep under long. Having the same vegetarian habits as geese in general, and being often so numerous, they are only second as crop ravagers to bar-headed geese, and like them, do much of their mischief at night. The younger birds, when well fed, are good eating j actual yearlings may be distinguished by having the feathers of the usual rounded shape, the square-tipped feathers being a peculiarity of geese after they have got their adult plumage, and particularly noticeable in the darker species owing to the light tippings showing up in transverse bars on the back and flanks.
Even with big birds like this goose, however, eagles, and in tidal waters crocodiles, prove a great nuisance by making off with wounded birds, astonishing as it may seem that a comparatively slight-built eagle like the common ring-tailed river eagle of India (Haliaetus leucoryphus) should be able to lift and carry such a weight, which must much exceed its own. Grey geese come in and depart at about the same time as the commoner species ; their breeding-grounds are in Northern and Central Asia and in Europe, including a few localities in Britain. They also visit Europe in winter, but at home are the least numerous, of the regular visitants among the geese. It is just possible they may be found breeding in Kashmir; the nest is a mass, of reeds, &c, piled upon the ground near water, and the eggs white, and about half a dozen in number. The goslings have black legs at first. In Hindustani this species is sometimes called Raj-hans as well as the bar-headed, and similarly Kangnai is used in Manipur. The Nepalese name Mogula is, however, quite distinct.