99. THE LARGE WHISTLING DUCK.
Dendrocycna fulva, (GMELIN).
Primaries uniformly black. Axillaries and under wing-coverts black. Upper wing-coverts largely maroon. Upper tail-coverts yellowish white. A black band down the hindneck.
VERNACULAR NAMES :—The same probably as those given to the Small Whistling Teal.
THE Large Whistling Duck is altogether a less common bird than its ally, the Small Whistling Duck, but, like it, is found over nearly the whole of the Indian Empire.
On the north-west it extends to Sind, where it has been found breeding, and to Bhawulpur in the Punjab. Its northern limit appears to be the Himalayas. Thence it ranges south throughout the peninsula in a somewhat irregular manner, fairly common in some parts, absent in others, to the extreme southern point of India, and Mr. H. Parker many years ago recorded this species from Ceylon.
This Duck is perhaps more frequently met with, and in larger numbers, in Bengal than elsewhere. It extends through Assam. Mr. Eden procured it in Sylhet. Captain T. S. Johnson obtained it near Mandalay. I observed this Duck in many parts of Lower Burma, notably on the Engrnah swamp, south of Prome. Colonel Wardlaw Ramsay got it at Toungoo. Finally, Major G. Rippon informs me that it occurs on the large lake at Fort Stedman, in the Southern Shan States. It may be concluded that this large Whistling Duck occurs over the whole tract of country extending from Assam to the sea-coast line of Pegu. It has not yet been observed in Tenasserim.
Outside our limits this species is found over a large portion of Africa, in Madagascar, and in Central and South America.
When I used to meet with this bird, many years ago, I could not detect any point of difference between its habits and those of its smaller relative. The larger bird was perhaps a trifle less easy to shoot, being more wary and getting away quicker. Mr. Stuart Baker is better acquainted, however, with these Ducks than I am, and I will therefore quote what he says about them :—" They are wilder birds than their smaller cousins, and also stronger and quicker on the wing; in¬deed, when once well started they are no mean fliers, and require a straight gun to knock them over. One cannot well describe the difference in the voice of the two ' Whistling Teals'; but it is recog¬nisable, and I think consists in the bigger bird having a shriller whistle than the other, though it is not such a noisy bird. I doubt if they perch asmuchas D.javanica does; the latter bird often takes to trees in the day-time without any apparent purpose except to rest, but D.fulva does not seem to do this. Of course both birds, when perching, choose large boughs and branches, as they have no great grasp¬ing power and could not retain their hold on small ones, especially if there was any wind to sway them about. As Hume remarks, this ' Whistling Teal' is far more often seen on land than is the smaller species, and he also notes their goose-like gait. Their legs are, as we all know, set forward much as are those of geese, and in consequence they naturally walk freely and well as do those birds. I have noticed them resting during the heat of the day on the spits of grass-covered land which run far out into the larger bheels. One or two observers have said they are more river and clear-water frequenters than are others of the genus, but this I have not myself confirmed. Every large bheel and expanse of water which had cover on it contained more or less of these birds, and many a tiny tank or rush- and weed-covered backwater held its flock; but I have never yet met with them on the open rivers of the Ganges and Brahmapootra, though I have visited them often, and though these run through their favourite, haunts."
The Large Whistling Duck apparently always constructs its nest on trees, most frequently on a branch, but sometimes in a hollow. The nest is described by Mr. Stuart Baker as being about eighteen inches across and constructed of twigs, sticks, and grass, and sometimes lined with weeds. He tells us :—" The normal shape of the egg is a very broad regular oval, but little smaller at one end than the other. Abnormal eggs are generally longer in shape, but I have seen none at all pointed. They are fine and smooth in texture, but inclined to be chalky and not very close grained."
The eggs measure from 1.85 to 2.4 in length, and from 1.6 to 2 in breadth.
The adult male and female have the forehead and the crown of the head ferruginous brown. The sides of the head and neck and the throat are fulvous, streaked with pale brown. The chin is plain fulvous. A broad black band occu¬pies the hindneck. A portion of the foreneck is covered with short pointed black feathers with white tips. The back and scapulars are black, each feather with a broad rufous margin. The rump is black; the upper tail-coverts yellowish white; the tail dark brown. The quills of the wing and the coverts are black, except the lesser and the middle series of coverts, which are dull maroon. The breast, the abdomen, and sides of the body are pale chestnut. The under tail-coverts are yellowish white. The under wing-coverts and the axillaries are black. The longer feathers of the flanks are a mixture of pale buff, chestnut and black, disposed longitudinally.
The sexes are of much the same size. Length about 20; wing 9 ; tail 2 1/2. The bill, legs and feet are more or less dark plumbeous; the irides are brown. Weight up to about 2 lb.