(2260) Dendrocygna javanica.
The Lesser or Common Whistling Teal.
Anas javanica Horsf., Trans. Linn. Soc, xiii, pi. i, p. 200 (1821) (Java). Dendrocycna javanica. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 430.
Vernacular names. Silhi, Silkahi, (Hind.); Saral, Sharail (Beng.); Hansrali (Ooria); Sorali, Horali (Assam); Tingi (Manipur); Bongfang Daophlantu (Cachari); Yerrundi (Mal.); Chemba Tara (Tam., Ceylon); Saaru, Tata-saaru (Cing.); Si-sa-li (Burma).
Description. Forehead and crown brown, paler and reddish on the forehead and darkest on the occiput; remainder of head and neck pale fulvous-grey, paler on the cheeks and almost white on the chin and upper throat; hind-neck reddish-brown changing into brown on the scapulars and back, where the feathers are broadly margined with golden-rufous: rump black; upper tail-coverts chestnut; tail brown, very narrowly margined with pale dingy rufous ; lesser and median wing-coverts chestnut, the latter sometimes mixed with ashy; greater wing-coverts dark ashy, rarely splashed with chestnut next the primaries ; quills black, the inner secondaries more brown and edged with dingy ash-colour; upper breast yellowish-grey or yellowish-fulvous, this changing to chest¬nut on the breast and abdomen and this again into the creamy-white of the lower tail-coverts; flanks chestnut, the feathers sometimes centred paler; axillaries brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill slaty-grey to almost black, the nail still darker; eyelids bright yellow; legs and feet plumbeous-grey or plumbeous-blue, generally patched darker here and there, the webs and claws blackish.
Measurements. Length 306 to 343 mm.; wing 176 to 204 mm.; tail about 63 to 76 mm.; tarsus about 40 to 50 mm.; culmen about 43 to 56 mm.
Weight 1 lb. to 1 lb. 6 oz., the latter weight exceptional.
Young birds are everywhere more dull in colour; the margins to the feathers of the mantle are dingy fulvous instead of golden-rufous and the lower plumage is a pale dull fulvous-brown.
Nestling in down. Black; a white eyebrow and a conspicuous white patch on the back of the head; a white patch on the wings and two other white patches on each side of the lower back and rump (Livesey).
Distribution. Ceylon, all India, Burma, Indo-Chinese countries, the Malay Peninsula, Andamans, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Loochoo Islands and occasionally in China.
Nidification. The Whistling Teal commences to breed as soon as the Rains break, that is to say about the end of June and, even in Ceylon, most eggs are laid in July and August. The nest and its site vary greatly. In Rungpur and other districts of Eastern Bengal a deserted Crow's nest is the favourite receptacle for the eggs, other nests being also used from time to time. Some birds select large hollows in trees: other birds make nests of sorts in trees; others make nests of leaves, rushes and grass on cane-brakes or reed-beds in swamps, whilst yet others make a comfort able grass nest on the ground in grass and vegetation near or in swamps or, else, on the banks which divide the rice-fields from one another. I think the duck only incubates but the drake keeps close to her, sitting on a branch by the nest when this latter is in a tree and whistling softly at intervals to cheer her up. The eggs number six to eight; in the Punjab and Western India larger clutches, ten or twelve are common, whilst in Assam four or five eggs were often incubated. The eggs are very broad obtuse ovals ; the texture fine and smooth, the shells thick with an inner membrane of lemon-yellow. When first laid they are an ivory-white or pure white but soon become very stained. One hundred and fifty eggs average 46.9 x 36.8 mm.: maxima 54.4 x 41.0 mm.; minima 43.7 X 35.9 and 47.3 x 35.0 mm.
Habits. Although neither of the Whistling Teals is truly migratory, both species move about a great deal under the pressure of food-supply, so that many parts of India are avoided during the height of the dry season and only visited when the water-supply assures abundant food. Where swamps and lakes abound all the year round, as in Assam and Bengal, there they are permanent residents. They associate in flocks of all sizes from a dozen to several hundred and over most of their range are extremely tame and confiding little birds but, when shot at, they soon become as wary as any other duck. They fly well but not nearly so fast as Teal or Mallard; swim as well as other ducks and are not bad divers, though they do not remain under water long. Their call is a Rhrill but not unmusical whistle, which they utter when on the wing and also when perching on trees, which they constantly do. Resting during the heat of the day, they usually sleep either in reed-beds or on the open water. They feed both by grazing and on snails, worms, frogs and small fish, whilst the young are fed almost entirely on small fish and reptiles. For the table it is a very doubtful delicacy; some birds are excellent, some are intolerable near the table and their condition probably depends on their diet previous to having been shot.