(2280) Nyroca rufa rufa.
The White-eyed Pochard.
Nyroca rufa Linn., Faun. Suec, 2nd ed., p. 47 (1761) (Sweden). Nyroca ferruginea. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 460.
Vernacular names. Kurchiya, Burar-mada (Hind.); Lal-bigri, Bhuti-hans (Beng.); Burnu, Burino (Sind); Malac (Nepal Terai) ; Kali-muri (Assam).
Description. - Male. Whole head, neck and breast rich rufous or bay-brown, the nape somewhat darker; a dark collar of brownish-black round the neck, extending on the back of the neck to the back ; a small white spot on the chin 5 whole upper parts dark blackish-brown or dull black, the feathers of the upper back and scapulars more or less vermiculated with rufous, the vermiculations sometimes obsolete; wing-coverts dark brown; the outer secondaries white with a broad subterminal black band ; quills brown, the inner webs of the primaries greyish-brown; the innermost secondaries dark brown; breast rufous-chestnut, that colour merging into the black of the head, but sharply defined from the white of the abdomen and lower tail-coverts; feathers of vent brown at the base; flanks rufous-brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris white, occasionally yellow and even more rarely pale brown; brown in the female; bill dull slaty or bluish-black; legs dull dark slaty, tinged with grey or green and sometimes mottled about the joints.
Measurements. Wing 175 to 192 mm.; tail 81 to 86 mm.; tarsus 29 to 32 mm. ; culmen about 27 to 30 mm. The female is a little smaller; wing 170 to 182 mm.
Female. Similar to the male but with the whole plumage duller, the head and breast more brown than rufous and ill-defined from the white abdomen, which is more sullied, except in old females; the speckling on the back is never present. The iris is grey, brownish-grey or, in very old females, white.
Young males are similar to the female but have the whole head and neck suffused with ochraceous and the centre of the abdomen showing the brown bases to the feathers ; the back also is lighter with the feathers more distinctly edged paler.
Nestling in down dark brown on the upper parts with pale spots on the wings and scapulars ; underparts paler buff, shading into brown on the flanks.
Distribution. Western Palaearctic region as far East as the Valley of the Ob ; the countries on the North-East of the Mediterranean and in Western Asia to Kashmir, Ladak and Tibet. In Winter it migrates as far South as the Canaries, Northern Africa to Abyssinia, India and Burma. In India it occurs South to Khed in Ratnagiri (Vidal), Malgenda, Mysore (Allen) and Madras. In Burma it has been obtained no farther South than Arakan.
Nidification. The White-eyed Pochard breeds in great numbers in all the lakes of Kashmir, during May and June. The nest is made of rushes and differs from the nests of most ducks in having a definite lining of finer strips of grass- and rush-blades between the body of the nest and the dense lining of down. It is generally placed close to the water in among reeds, supported either by the closely-growing stems or by a few of them broken down to form a platform. It is never built in meadow- or grassland or in among short weeds on marshes like the nest of the Mallard. The eggs number six to ten or eleven and are a pale, rather dull buff in colour, varying very little either in tint or depth. One hundred and fifty average 51.7 X 37.9 mm.: maxima 62.8 X 36.0 and 37.0 x 43.0 mm.; minima 48.3 x 37.7 and 49.1 x 35*1 mm. European eggs average much larger than Indian. Jourdain gives the average of one hundred and ten as 52.3 x 38.2 mm., whilst sixty Indian eggs measured by myself average only 50.7 x 37.1 mm. I can, however, see no difference in the size of the birds.
Formerly a large trade was carried on in the eggs of these birds in Kashmir and they were taken in boatloads for sale as food. They are now very rigidly protected, yet are said to be decreasing greatly in numbers.
Habits. This, one of our most common Indian ducks, is certainly one of the most expert on or under the water, wounded birds often escaping capture by diving and holding onto weeds, sometimes until death actually occurs by drowning. On the wing it is fast and strong but on land quite out of its element, walking very badly. It, however, seldom ventures far from water, though it does not seem to mind whether the water is part of a huge lake or a weedy pond in a village. Like all diving ducks it certainly prefers wide stretches of semi-open deep water but I have shot it in rapid hill-streams, muddy stagnant rivers like the Barak or wide sandy ones like the Brahmapootra. Most people consider this Pochard the worst of all duck for the table but it varies greatly and whilst it is sometimes quite good it is often uneatable. Its note is a rather harsh " koor-ker-ker," which it utters both as it rises and when wandering about feeding.