(2249) Rhodonessa caryophyllacea.
The Pink-headed Duck.
Anas caryophyllacea Lath., Index Orn., ii. p. 866 (1790) (India). Rhodonessa caryophyllacea. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 425.
Vernacular names. Lal-sira, Golab Lal-sira (Hind.); Saknal (Beng.) ; Damrar, Dumar (Nepal Terai and Tirhut).
Description. - Male. Whole head and neck a beautiful rose-pink except a line from the chin, gradually broadening on the fore-neck, which is blackish-brown like the upper and lower parts; the upper parts are a deeper chocolate-black than the lower and are more glossy; the mantle, scapulars, breast and flanks are finely vermiculated or speckled with rosy tips, which become abraded and are lost; edge of wing rosy-white; outer secondaries pale fawn with white tips; inner secondaries glossy green ; remainder of wings chocolate-brown.
In the breeding-season there is a tuft of feathers on the crown, rather longer than the rest, which is a deeper pink.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light red or orange-red; bill dull to bright reddish-pink or deep rose-colour, darker on the ridge of the culmen and on the gonys, brighter and purer pink at the base of both mandibles; eyelids flesh-coloured; legs and feet reddish-black.
Measurements. Length about 350 mm.: wing 250 to 282 mm.; tail 10G to 181 mm.; tarsus about 40 mm.; culmen 50 to 56 mm.
Weight 1 lb. 12 oz, to 2 lb. 3 oz. (Shillingford).
Female. Similar to the male but with the pink of the head much less bright and more restricted in extent; brown of back, wings and underparts duller and rather paler; the dark brown line from the chin to the neck is absent or obsolete, the deep pink extending over this portion of the head.
Colours of soft parts. The same but much duller than in the male.
Measurements. Wing about 250 to 260 mm.
Young birds have the head and neck rose-white, the rest of the plumage like the female but paler.
Distribution. From Oude and Nepal to Assam and Manipur in the densest jungles running along the foot-hills of the Himalayas. Elsewhere it has appeared here and there as far West as the Punjab, from which Province there are about seven records from Rupar on the Sutlej, G-urdaspur etc. Its stronghold is probably the Duars and Eastern Bengal, though even from there it has been pushed back by increasing cultivation from places where it was once almost common.
Nidification. Shillingford is almost the only person who has taken the eggs of this lovely Duck. It breeds in dense forest and jungles, making a nest of grass and weeds in tangled undergrowth or grass close to the edge of forest pools or swamps, are unlike any other Duck in shape, being almost spherical, but they have the satin texture and intense gloss of the eggs of this subfamily. One egg in my possession taken by Shillingford measures 47.0 x 44.2 mm. and was taken in June 1878. Six eggs average 45.9 x 42.0 mm.
Habits. Of all our Indian Ducks this is certainly the most shy as well as secretive, so that it is seldom seen except by chance, when a line of elephants are employed to beat through thick grass or forest when hunting for tiger or big game. In former days they were not rare in parts of Eastern Bengal and sometimes half a dozen could be picked up when returning from a tiger shoot in this way. Now, however, cultivation has beaten back the jungle and driven the birds to yet remoter and less trodden jungles, where, if one could locate them, they still probably exist in some numbers. It feeds on both vegetable and animal food, remains of weeds and Crustacea having been found in its stomach. Its flight is powerful and fast and its voice a musical edition of the Mallards.