A very small black-and-white goose, with a breast nearly as red as a robin's, is such a remarkable bird that it can hardly be overlooked anywhere, and so the fact that it has been recognized in India is not surprising, though the paucity of even visual records, and the absence of any actually obtained specimen, bear eloquent witness to its rarity.
Like the dwarf goose, it is hardly larger than the Brahminy duck, and has very long wings and a particularly small bill; its colours also, curiously enough, are practically those of the Brahminy, though very differently distributed. The general hue is black, with white stern and broad white band along the flanks; as this comes just above the water-line, the bird would not look nearly so dark on the water as ashore or on the wing. The rich reddish-brown of the fore-neck and breast is also bordered with white, as is a patch of the same red on the cheek ; before the eye there is a white stripe.
One would expect the female of so richly coloured a bird to be at least a little duller than her mate; but this is not the case, the rule among the true geese of the similarity of the male and female being strictly observed, and the sooty-brown specimens with dull brownish tints where the red ought to be being the young of both sexes. Even these, however, are quite unmis¬takable. The bill and legs are black, the former being remark¬ably delicate and small, only about an inch long.
The best record of the occurrence of this lovely bird in India is that furnished by Mr. E. C. S. Baker, in his book on the Indian ducks and their allies; he says there that he " was fortunate enough to see five specimens on a chur in the Brahmapootra, just below Gowhatty; they arose a long way off as the steamer drove up stream towards them, but turned and flew past us within sixty to a hundred yards, and there could have been no possible chance of mistaking them." His friend, Mr. Mundy, had previously communicated to him a good description of some he had seen on the same river in Dibrugarh. As to the record of 1836 in the Oriental Sporting Magazine, I have looked this up, and quite agree with Blanford that the author of this did not know what he was talking about; so that these modern ones, in my opinion, remain unique. The red-breasted goose occurs in Europe, including England occasionally, but always as a rarity; it is, however, not really a very rare bird, being common enough in Western Siberia, where it breeds, and coming as near to us in winter as Persia and Turkestan. It does well in captivity, and while this book was being written I had the pleasure of inspecting a lovely pair which were deposited at the Zoo en route from Germany to the Duke of Bedford's estate at Woburn, where, I heard, there was already another. These birds showed the tame disposition with which this species is credited ; and I must say that if I got hold of a netted or wing-tipped bird in India, I should not dream of killing it, but keep it to send to Europe, since a photograph, if only of the head, would be amply sufficient for the record.