(2279) Nyroca ferina ferina.
The Pochard or Dun-bird.
Anas ferina Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 126 (1758) (Sweden). Nyroca ferina. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 458.
Vernacular names. Burar~nar, Lal-sir (Hind.); Lal muriya (Beng.); Cheun (Nepal); Ranga-muriya (Assam); Thordingnam (Manipur).
Description. - Male. Whole head and neck rich deep chestnut, changing rather abruptly into the black of the upper back and breast; rump and upper tail-coverts dull black; remainder of upper plumage extremely pale clear grey, very finely vermiculated with black bars; wing-coverts dark grey, more or less vermiculated with white; primaries dark grey, edged outwardly and tipped with black; secondaries forming a dull grey speculum, the feathers narrowly tipped with whitish, and divided from the inner secondaries by the narrow black borders of two or three of these feathers; lower breast blackish, the feathers more or less fringed with white ; remainder of lower plumage white or very pale grey, sparsely stippled with black, the stipplings more numerous towards the vent and flanks; under tail-coverts dull black ; tail dull greyish-brown, tipped paler. Occasionally there is a pure white spot on the apex of the chin.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow or reddish-yellow ; base and tip of bill black, the intermediate portion varying from clear pale plumbeous-blue to rather dark slaty-blue; legs the same slaty-blue and varying in the same degree ; webs and joints darker and blackish.
Measurements. Wing, 210 to 225 mm., 200 to 213 mm.; tail about 54 to 76 mm.; tarsus about 35 to 39 mm.; culmen 43 to 50 mm.
Weight, 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 lbs., 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 lbs.
Female. Forehead and crown dark brown, fading to dull fulvous-brown on the hind-neck and the sides of the head and neck; thence paling to pale fulvous-grey, or greyish-white, on the chin, throat and fore-neck; back and scapulars greyish-brown, with grey and black vermiculations, these varying much in extent and being sometimes completely wanting; lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts blackish, the external feathers of the rump marked with a few fine bars of white; tail and rump as in the male, but the latter much duller and less vermiculated; whole lower parts dull grey, tinged with rufous-brown on the breast and sides, the vent and under tail-coverts still more darkly tinged with brown.
Young males are like the female but have the head more reddish and paler, whilst the underparts are browner.
Males in eclipse plumage have the head paler and duller and the black of the back and breast replaced by brown.
Nestling in down. Dark brown above, the head and neck paler and more rusty ; underparts dull yellowish-white; a bar across the wing and a spot on each side of the rump yellowish-olive ; a brown streak from below the eye to the nape.
Distribution. Palaearctic region from Iceland to Japan. It winters throughout Southern Europe, Northern Africa and India. In the latter country it is very common throughout the North and gradually becomes less common towards the South, but has been recorded from Bellary and again from Bangalore (King) and Mysore (Stewart). It is common in Eastern Bengal, Manipur and Northern Burma hut in the last-named country also does not go far South, though it has been recorded from Rangoon and Mandalay.
Nidification. The Pochard makes its nest almost invariably in among high reeds, rushes or similar cover and not in short grass and weeds in meadows. Often it is placed low down in reeds actually standing in water, supported partly by the growing reeds and partly by portions which are broken down and tangled. It is well made and, until the down is added, very like a Coot's nest to look at, a cup of flags, rush-blades and reeds. The eggs number eight to ten, sometimes six only, at other times up to fourteen. In colour the eggs are very dull greyish-drab or olive-drab but with no bright green tint ever present. One hundred and sixty eggs average 60.6 x 42.9 mm.: maxima 68.0 x 45.5 and 64.0 x 46.5 mm.; minima 54.1 X 37.2 mm. Pochards commence breeding in the South in the last week of April or early in May but in the North not until June, whilst Meiklejohn has taken fresh eggs as late as the 12th of July in Esthonia.
Habits. The Pochard arrives in India in the North in the middle of October, leaving again in the third week of March or early in April. In the South it arrives a fortnight later and leaves a week earlier. It may be found on almost any kind or size of water but prefers large open lakes and swamps which yet have plenty of reeds and cover round about, with deep parts in which the vegetation does not reach the surface of the water. These duck are fine swimmers and divers, getting most of their food by diving, whilst they also often chase and dive after one another in play. They feed on a most varied diet, often fish, frogs, mollusca and Crustacea; at other times almost entirely on young crops, water-weeds etc. Upon the food they eat depends their value for the table and they may be either quite rank, fishy and unpalatable or tender and well-flavoured like their first cousins, the Canvas backs of America. They fly well and, like all the true Pochards, en masse instead of in a V-shape or line. On land they are slow and awkward and, if hurried, tumble forward on to their breasts.