120. THE TUFTED SCAUP DUCK.
Fuligula fuligula, (LINNAEUS).
Outer primaries with the outer web much darker than the inner; inner primaries with the outer web white, or much paler than the inner.
Axillaries white, or white mottled with brown at the tips.
With a pointed crest of narrow feathers, varying from one to two and a half inches in length.
Tip of the upper mandible, as well as the nail, black.
MALE :—Head glossy black; sides of the body white.
FEMALE :—Head brown, with a whitish patch on either side of the base of the upper mandible, and with indications of similar patches on the forehead and chin; sides of the body brown.
VERNACULAR NAMES-.—Dubaru, Ablac, Rahwara, Hind. ; Turando, Sind; Malac, Nepal Terai; Nella chilluwa, Telugu; Neer-bathoo, Tamil; Neer-Kolee, Canarese.
THE Tufted Scaup Duck is found as a winter visitor; in greater or less abundance, over the peninsula of India from Sind to Bengal, and from the Himalayas down to about the nth degree of north latitude. It must undoubtedly occur in Assam and the country to the south, but we have no definite information on this point till we come to Manipur, where Mr. Hume observed it to be very abundant not only on the Logtak lake but elsewhere. It may, I think, without doubt be said to be common over almost every part of Upper Burma. It is so abundant near Mandalay that in the large bag of Ducks and Geese made by Capt. T. S. Johnson and his party, and to which I have so often made reference, there were 122 Tufted Ducks out of a total of 562 birds. Major G. Rippon informs me that this Duck is found all over the Southern Shan States. I did not meet with it in any part of Lower Burma.
The Tufted Duck occurs over the whole of Europe and Asia, being found in summer up to about the 70th degree of north latitude. In winter it occurs over a considerable portion of Northern Africa, and Southern Asia, from the Red Sea to China. It occurs as far south as the Philippines and Borneo, and has even been observed in some of the islands of the Western Pacific Ocean.
The Tufted Scaup Duck arrives in India as early as the middle of October, but they ate not generally distributed till the beginning or middle of November. Most of the birds leave again by the end of March, but a few linger till nearly the middle of April. Dr. Jerdon once shot a specimen of this Duck in the Deccan in June, but there is no reason to think that the Tufted Duck ever remains to breed in India, even in Kashmir.
The Tufted Duck is more of a fresh¬water Duck than the Scaup, being found on the sea-coast in winter only, and at other times inland on lakes and ponds. They occur in very large numbers in many parts of the Empire. Mr. Hume says :—" At the Manchar lake, I saw two enormous flocks. I have repeatedly seen similar flocks in old times at the Najjafgarh and other vast jhils in the Punjab, the North-west Provinces and Oudh; and I should guess that at the Kunkrowli lake in Oodeypore there must have been nearly ten thousand, covering the whole centre of the lake."
This species is seldom seen on rivers. Its usual haunts are pieces of open water with plenty of submerged weeds and surrounded by reeds. These Ducks feed by day, constantly diving in search of shells and all the minute forms of animal life found in water; they also bring up branches and roots of weeds and eat them, on the surface, at leisure. They generally keep in the centre of ponds as far from the banks as possible, and when pursued they prefer very often to dive rather than to fly away. Their powers of diving are unrivalled, as may be judged from the following incident, narrated by Mr. Stevenson:—"They are very expert divers, and the late Mr. Thomas Edwards states that, having occasion to remove some pinioned birds from a pond at Thickthorn, he had the greatest difficulty in capturing them by means of nets, with which he succeeded in surrounding them. One Tufted Duck he could see in the clear water dive and swim round and round to find an opening to avoid the net, and attempt to go down into the mud at the bottom of the lake, and grub its way under the net like a rat. This was done some eight or ten times by the same bird, and the time it remained under water was quite extraordinary." Of the general habits of this Duck Mr. Hume remarks :—" This species has, I think, an easier, smoother, and more rapid flight than most of the other Pochards, and rises much more rapidly and with less fluster than these ; but still, like these, it strikes the water once or twice with its feet, and makes a loud splashing sound when rising in numbers. It swims rather deep in the water and very rapidly, and dives constantly, keeping under water for a surprising time. When you try to get near them in any slow native boat, the fresh fowl seldom think of rising, but swim and dive away from you quite as quickly as the boat can go. Even when a gun is fired they do not always fly; indeed I have seen a large flock of several hundred birds disappear as if by magic—all having dived as if by one consent. ... At other times they will rise before you are within a hundred yards, and taking short flights, plump down again suddenly into the water, stern first, as if shot. . . . Though noisy enough as they splash up in a crowd out of the water, and recognisable at any time by the sharp whistling of their wings as they pass overhead, they are, in winter at any rate, singularly silent birds when let alone. When alarmed and flushed, they occasionally emit the regular grating Pochard call, kurr, kurr, but not so loudly, I think, as some of the other species.
" On land I have never once seen them, but I should expect them to be clumsy walkers like most of the other Pochards."
The drakes of this species, when swimming, often appear to have the greater part of the wing white, whereas there is in reality no white on the closed wing except the small speculum. This effect is due to the wing being nestled in, and partially hidden by, the long and loose white feathers of the sides of the body. Sometimes the bird shakes its wings and readjusts them outside these white feathers, and then the wings appear, as they really are, black. This procedure can be easily watched with birds of this species in captivity. These Ducks do not appear to have the power to raise their crest.
Of the breeding of the Tufted Scaup Duck, Seebohm writes :—" The nest is sometimes placed under a bush by the side of a pond, sometimes amongst the rushes, and often in the centre of the tufts, tussocks or hassocks of sedge, which grow to a height of two or three feet above the water. It is a mere hollow, lined with dry sedge or grass, and after the full complement of eggs is laid, and the duck has begun to sit, with down. The number of eggs is usually ten or twelve, but sometimes only eight are laid, and occasionally as many as thirteen."
The eggs of this species resemble those of the Pochard and Scaup, but are rather smaller. They measure from 2.15 to 2.4 in length and from 1.55 to 1.65 in breadth.
The adult male has the whole head, the crest, and the upper part of the neck deep black, with a green or purple gloss, according to the light in which the bird is viewed. The lower part of the body, the mantle, and the upper part of the breast are black, with a smaller amount of gloss; the feathers of the breast margined with white. The lower part of the breast, the abdomen, the sides of the body, the axillaries and the greater part of the under wing-coverts are white; the extreme lower portion of the abdomen, the thighs, and the under tail-coverts, black. The back and the scapulars are black, very minutely speckled with white. The upper wing-coverts are plain brown. The rump and the upper tail-coverts are deep black; the tail, dark brown. The outer primaries have the inner web drab with a blackish tip; the outer web blackish. The inner primaries have the inner web drab, the outer white or very pale grey, both webs tipped with blackish. The outer secondaries are pure white, with broad black tips; the inner, black; the innermost, very slightly speckled with white.
The adult female has the whole head, crest and neck, the entire upper plumage and the tail dark brown, almost black in parts, the feathers of the back and scapulars with broad rufous margins, very conspicuous just after the autumn moult, but becoming narrower, or altogether disappearing, as the winter passes. On either side of the base of the upper mandible there is a white patch, streaked with brown. The feathers on the forehead and chin have light-coloured bases, which form more or less distinct patches on those parts. The chest is brown with paler margins. The breast is dull white, much mottled with brown, and gradually passing into the purer white of the upper part of the abdomen. The lower part of the abdomen, the thighs, and the under tail-coverts are brown, each feather with a pale margin. The feathers on the sides of the body are rich hair-brown, margined with pale rufous. The wings are precisely similar to those of the male, except that the dark parts are not of such a deep black.
Of the post-nuptial plumage of the male, Mr. Dresser writes :—" The summer plumage of the male, which, as in other Ducks, is retained for a very short time, differs from the winter dress in being browner on the head and neck ; the back and lower neck are as if powdered with greyish white, but this powdering is indistinct ; the nuchal tuft is much shorter than in the winter."
Ducklings in down, of both sexes, change into a first plumage which resembles that of the adult female, but is of a paler brown. Young males soon begin to assume some of the black feathers of the adult male, especially on the head; and the pale patches at the base of the upper mandible completely' disappear before the head is entirely black.
Male : length about 17 ; wing 8 ; tail 2 1/2. Female: length about 15 1/2; wing 7 1/2; tail 2. The bill is bluish, with the tip black; the irides yellow; the legs and feet vary from leaden to light greyish blue, with the webs black. In young birds, the irides appear to be brownish white. Weight up to a little more than 2 lb.