93. THE BARRED-HEADED GOOSE.
Anser indicus, (LATHAM).
Outer primaries grey, tipped with blackish; inner primaries and outer secondaries uniformly blackish; all with white shafts.
Upper tail-coverts white.
Axillaries bluish grey.
Bill entirely of a pale colour, with the nail of both mandibles black.
Rump bluish grey.
VERNACULAR NAMES :—Hans, Kureyee-hans, Raj-hans, Birwa, Hind.; Paria, Nepal Terai; Nangpa, Ladak ; Neer-bathoo, Coimbatore ; Bonooria - hans, Assam ; Badi-hans, Chittagong; Kang-nai, Manipur; Tau-ngan, Burmese.
THE Barred-headed Goose visits the plains of India in the cold weather, arriving in October and leaving in March, or even April, but these periods vary, of course, according to locality and climate.
This species may be considered a common bird in Northern India from the Punjab to Assam. On the western side, it appears to occur as far south as Sind and but rarely in the Bombay Presidency ; it is common in the Central Provinces; and on the east coast it extends down to the Chilka lake.
In Southern India, this Goose is by no means so rare as it is generally deemed. Major McInroy, as recorded by Messrs. Hume and Marshall, found it in large numbers in Mysore. Mr. W. N. Fleming tells us that it is a regular cold-weather visitor to the Tinnevelly District, that he once saw a flock of about fifty, and that in 1897 it stayed from November to the end of February. Jerdon, on one occasion, observed this species in the extreme south of India. It is not known in Ceylon.
South of Assam, this Goose has been observed by Mr. Eden in Sylhet, and by Mr. Hume in Manipur. It occurs, as I am informed by Captain F. T. Williams, in the Chindwin river, and I know from personal knowledge that it is common enough in the Irrawaddy river and adjacent tanks and backwaters, down to Myingyan at the least.
Messrs. Hume and Marshall inform us that this species is found in the Himalayas up to 7000 feet, and also in the lakes of Kashmir. From the fact that the late Mr. Mandelli procured this species in the interior of Native Sikhim in May, it may be inferred that some of these Geese breed in the Himalayas. We know that they breed in Ladak in very large numbers. It is therefore not improbable that many Barred-headed Geese are constant residents in portions of Kashmir and the Himalayas. The bulk of the Indian visitors probably come to us from Central Asia.
The summer range of this Goose extends up to about the 50th or 55th degree of north latitude. Laterally it seems to be confined to the area which lies due north of India and Burma. It is not known to occur in China.
Messrs. Hume and Marshall say of this Goose :—" Their habits are similar to those of the Grey-Lags. Where frequently disturbed, they feed inland only at night; where rarely molested, they will be found feeding up to eight or nine in the morning, and again long before sunset. The day, or at all events the warmer hours of this, they pass by the water's side. They feed in fields, pre ferentially in those in the immediate neighbourhood of the larger rivers, browsing on the young wheat or waddling awkwardly amongst the heavy clods, amidst which the grain grows, to devour the young shoots, or later, the ripening pods of this vetch. All vetches, lentils, grain, tender grasses and herbs, seem equally to suit their taste, and so long as these are available they eat nothing else; and by the end of December (thin and poor as they usually are when they first arrive), they are generally in fine condition."
As before remarked, these Geese breed on the lakes of Ladak and the numerous lakes of Tibet, indifferently whether the water be fresh or salt. They appear to select islands in these lakes for nesting purposes. The nest is described as being a slight hollow in the ground, lined first of all with a few bits of a soft herb, then with feathers. The eggs are laid in April and May. In the British Museum there are three eggs of this Goose, taken on the Tsomourari lake in Ladak. They are nearly elliptical in shape, slightly rough and glossless. In colour they are a pale yellowish white. They measure from 3.1 to 3.3 in length, and from 2 to 2.2 in breadth.
In the adult bird, the whole head and a broad band down each side of the neck are white; a black curved band across the crown, and a shorter band behind it. The foreneck, immediately below the white throat, is brownish ashy, becoming paler and merging into the grey of the breast, the feathers of which are indistinctly barred with whitish. The whole abdomen and the under tail-coverts are white. The feathers of the sides of the body are brown, passing into rufous and tipped with whitish. The under wing-coverts and axillaries are bluish-grey. The hindneck is brownish ashy, paling on the mantle. The sides of the breast, the lower part of the mantle, the back and the scapulars are grey, each feather passing into ashy brown and tipped paler. The rump is bluish-grey, and the upper tail-coverts are white. The tail-feathers are grey with white margins and broad white tips. The upper wing-coverts are pale, clear, bluish grey. The outer primaries are grey with blackish tips ; the inner primaries and the outer secondaries are entirely blackish, the latter with fine, narrow, pale margins. The inner secondaries are ashy brown.
A young bird has the forehead, the sides of the head and of the neck, the chin, the throat, and the upper part of the foreneck white. The crown of the head and the hindneck are dark brown. The lower part of the foreneck is ashy. The sides of the body are plain grey. In all other respects this bird resembles the adult, but the upper and lower plumages are more uniform with few or no traces of bars or paler tips to the feathers.
The sexes vary in size according to age. Length about 30; wing 17 to 18; tail about 6. The bill varies between yellow and orange, the nail black at all ages; the legs and feet also vary from yellow to orange, the claws black; the irides are deep brown. Weight up to about 7 lb.