Lal-chonch, Hindustani .
The big red bill and bushy chestnut head of the big red-crested pochard distinguish him from afar, to say nothing of his strongly contrasted body-colouring, black at breast and stern, and brown and white amidships; the black runs all down the under-surface, though on the water only the white flanks are seen.
The female, although with no bright colours, being merely brown, with cheeks and under-parts dirty white, is easily distinguished from other ducks ; she also has a bushy-looking head and in particular a black bill tipped with red.
The drake in undress plumage hardly differs from her but in having more red on the bill—in fact, in some specimens this remains as completely red as in the full plumage.
The red-crested pochard is the biggest of all our diving ducks except the goosander, drakes weighing about two and a half pounds and ducks only about half a pound less.
The flight is less heavy and whizzing than that of pochards in general, but the wing-rustle is usually distinguishable from that of the common pochard, being louder and harsher.
These birds are very abundant in many places in India, flocks even of thousands occurring, which look, from the bright-coloured heads of the drakes, like beds of aquatic flowers ; they come in in October and November and leave about April. The big flocks tend to split up into parties of a few dozen where there are not very large pieces of water, but stray specimens may turn up almost anywhere. What they chiefly like, however, are expanses of deep, still water with plenty of weed on the bottom, and so they are chiefly birds of broad sluggish reaches of rivers and extensive lakes and jheels. They are found all through Northern India east to Manipur, but do not commonly go south of the Central Provinces, though said even to reach Ceylon occasionally. They swim fast and dive well, getting much, if not most of their food in this way during their stay in India; but they also frequently feed in shallow water by turning end up, and generally behaving like surface-feeding ducks, even coming ashore to feed; and it is a curious thing that in captivity, even on a large piece of water, they very seldom dive, although other pochards constantly do so. They are less clumsy in shape than these, and do not walk so awkwardly.
The food is very varied, but more vegetable than animal; water-plants, grass, insects, frogs, and even small fish, all enter into their menu. They are generally fat, and are sometimes as good as any duck, but may also have what Hume calls a " rank, marshy, froggy flavour." They are among the best sporting birds in India, being wary and shy ; in fact, Hume considered them the hardest to get at of all the ordinary quarry of the wild fowler in the East.
They are generally day-feeders, but also feed at night, and are commonly shot at flighting time, though then only in small parties. The flocks usually contain both sexes, but occasionally males only may constitute a flock. The sexes differ considerably in their voice, the drake's note being a whistle —not the same, however, as the wigeon drake's; the duck's call is the usual kurr of the females of the pochard group.
The great distinctness of. the sexes causes this bird to be one of the few with different sex-names in the vernaculars ; in Bengali the male is Hero, the female Chobra-hans ; in Nepalese the words are different, Dumar for the male and Samoa for the female; the Sindhi Ratoha applies to both sexes.
The red-crested pochard is nowhere a duck of the high north; it breeds as near us as Turkestan, and extends west through Southern Europe to North Africa. India seems to be its chief winter resort. In Britain it is rare as a wild bird, but well known in captivity, in which state it often breeds. The nest is on the ground in rushes, and the eggs, when fresh, are remarkable for the brightness of their green colour, about eight being the usual clutch.