This small edition of the white-fronted goose is hardly bigger than the Brahminy duck, and being of a decidedly dark brown colour, is recognizable at a considerable distance. Close at hand, it will be noticed that the eyelids are of a yellow colour, forming a noticeable ring round the eye ; this forms a positive distinction from the large white-fronted goose, and besides, the hill is small even in proportion to the smaller size of the bird, as usual in small geese, while the wings are longer, reaching even beyond the end of the tail. It is not, therefore, surprising to hear that it is more active in flight than the big geese.
These points will distinguish even the young bird before the white on its forehead has developed, though all the Indian specimens I have seen have had it; and this white patch when present is another good distinction, being much longer and extending up on to the crown, instead of developing mostly in a transverse direction. The legs are orange as in the large species, and the bill is said to be orange in the adults and reddish grey in the young, but in those live specimens I have seen, mostly fine adults, the bill has been a very bright rose-pink or cerise red, though one or two, no doubt younger, certainly so in one case, had it flesh-colour. I expect the colour changes after death, or is individually or locally variable, as in the grey goose, which in Europe has often an orange bill.
The dwarf goose is only a winter visitor to India, and if anything rarer than its larger relative ; very few have turned up since the first record in October, 1859, when Irby killed a couple and saw another near Sitapur in Oudh. But it has been got here and there in the north as far east as Lakhimpur. In 1898, four came into the Calcutta Bazaar, and I got them on behalf of the Calcutta Zoo ; three were brought all together on New Year's Day, but they had been sent down from up-country, and had their wings cut. It is worth noting that these birds did not moult at the proper time that year; two died, and I determined to pull the quills of the others to start the moult and save their lives. This I did, not without difficulty, but the result was they moulted all right, and lived and moulted normally for some time after, not seeming to feel the heat at all, though this species is a high northern bird, breeding close to the unmelting ice. It is common in winter in China, and also visits Japan, but not any part of the New World. It is an Eastern species, and as rare at home as in India.