1613. Merganser castor.
Mergus merganser, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 208 (1766); Hume, Cat. no. 972; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 364; Hume & Marsh, Game B. iii, p. 299, pl.; Hume & Cripps, S. F. xi, p. 347; Aitken, Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. ii, p. 56. Mergus castor, Linn, t. c. p, 209 (1766) ; Blyth, Cat. p. 308 ; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 817 ; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 275; Hume & Henders. Lah. to Yark. p. 297 ; Hume, S. F i p 423; Parker S. F. ii, p. 336; Ball, ibid. p. 439; Hume, S. F. vii, p, 149; Ball, ibid. p. 233; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 101. Merganser castor & M. comatus, Salvadori, Cat. B. M. xxvii, pp 472,470.
The Merganser, Jerdon.
Coloration. Male. Head with a slight crest and upper neck black, glossed with dark green except on throat; lower neck all round, lower parts, and sides of body pure white; upper back and scapulars glossy black, a few of the outer scapulars white; middle and lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts ashy grey with dark shaft-stripes, especially on the longer tail-coverts; sides of rump vermiculated grey and white ; tail-feathers ashy brown ; primaries and outer secondaries brownish black, remaining secondaries with the secondary-coverts white, inner coverts near the back and primary-coverts greyish brown, the primary-coverts black-tipped; tertiaries white, with narrow black outer borders. The male moults into the female plumage after breeding,
Female. Head with long crest-feathers (longer than in male) and neck ferruginous red, crown browner, chin and throat white ; upper parts from neck, with tertiaries, scapulars, wing-coverts, and tail ashy grey ; primaries and outer secondaries and their coverts blackish brown, most of the secondaries and their coverts white, greater coverts black at base ; lower parts white, with some grey on the sides of the body.
Bill lighter or darker red, more or less dusky on the ridge and the nail; irides reddish brown ; legs and feet vermilion (Hume).
Length about 25 ; tail 4.25; wing 9.5; tarsus 2 ; bill from gape 2.7: in females the wing measures about 9.
Distribution. The north temperate region, the American race being regarded as distinct by some ornithologists. The Indian bird is distinguished by Salvadori as M. comatus, but although just recognizable as a rule by its slightly shorter bill and rather narrower black borders to the tertiary quills in the male, the differences are scarcely of specific value. The head of the female is duller and browner in the Indian specimens preserved in the Hume collection than in most European skins, but this may be due to almost all the Indian birds having been collected in the cold season. This Indian race breeds throughout the higher Himalayas and in winter migrates to the base of the range, the hills south of Assam, and the country between the Ganges and Godavari. A specimen has recently been obtained by Mr. Oates from Myitkyina in Northern Burma, and a female was shot by Mr. Aitken on the east side of Bombay harbour in December 1886. The last may possibly, however, have belonged to the next species, which has occurred at Karachi, whilst M. castor has not been recorded previously from Western India.
Habits, &c. In winter the Goosander occurs usually in small parties, frequenting rivers and lakes. In summer it is found in pairs on the Himalayas at 10,000 feet and upwards. It rises heavily from the water, but when on the wing flies well and swiftly ; it lives on fish, which it obtains by diving. The eggs have not been as yet obtained within Indian limits; the nest is on the ground or the stump of a tree, and from 7 to 12 buffy-white eggs are laid.