The Red-crested Pochard.
Anas rufina Pallas, Reise Buss. Reich., ii, p. 713 (1833) (Caspian Sea). Netta rufina. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 456.
Vernacular names. Lal-chonch, Lal-Sir (Hind.) ; Hero-hans, Chobra-hans (Beng.); Dumar, Sanwa (Nepal); Batsha, Butabo (Sind) ; Deo-hans (Assam).
Description. - Male. "Whole head reddish-bay, richest and darkest on the underparts and sides, paling from the forehead to the crest, where it is reddish-buff; neck blackish-brown ; upper back dark brown, getting more and more pale towards the rump; the bases of the feathers next the scapulars showing in a white band; rump and upper tail-coverts blackish-brown, more or less glossed green; tail silvery grey-brown, coverts bordering the wing and running into the scapulars white ; other coverts greyish-brown; secondaries white, Sometimes tinged grey or creamy, with a subterminal band of brown 60 to 100 mm. wide; inner secondaries like the coverts; outermost primary brown on the outer web and on the inside and tip of the inner web, the remainder white; on each succeeding primary the white increases until the innermost is all white with a broad brown tip; breast blackish-brown, paler on the lower breast and abdomen; under tail-coverts dark brown; flanks, axillaries and under wing-coverts white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris deep or light reddish-brown to bright light red; bill vermilion-red, the nail almost white tinged with pink or yellow; the base, next the forehead, and the gape are dusky on all but the oldest birds ; legs and feet orange, orange-red or dull fleshy-red.
Measurements. Wing, 256 to 282 mm., 241 to 279 mm.; tail about 60 to 75 mm.; tarsus about 40 to 45 mm.; culmen, 48 to 54 mm., 44 to 51 mm.
Weight, 1 3/4 to 3 lbs., 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 lbs.
Males in eclipse plumage are like females but retain the bushy crest and the bright-coloured bill and feet and have more brown on the underparts.
Nestling in down. Upper parts brown or olive-brown with golden-olive tips to the filaments : a buff stripe over the eye and a dark streak running through it and dividing anteriorly; below greyish-white, the chin and throat more yellowish.
Distribution. Breeding in the Mediterranean countries in Europe and Northern Africa ; South Russia, Turkestan, Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, wintering in India and Burma.
In India it is common throughout the North, especially in the North-West; it is almost equally common throughout the Bombay Presidency, Central India and Orissa, but then becomes rare in Southern India and has only been doubtfully recorded from Ceylon. In Northern Burma it is not rare but does not extend far South. In Mysore, Travancore and the Southern Madras Presidency it is practically never seen.
Nidification. The Red-crested Pochard breeds from the middle of May to the middle of June, making its nest of reeds, rushes and grass inside reed-beds or in among thick cover in small islands in swamps and lakes. The nest is never in open swamps, meadows or grass-land. The down lining is very thick and is pale grey in colour with a dull white centre. The eggs number seven to twelve, generally eight or nine and are almost invariably a pale olive-grey, though exceptionally, they may be a buffy-white. Ninety eggs average 57.8 x 42.4 mm,: maxima 62.3 X 45.1 mm. ; minima 53.0 X 41.8 and 53.9 x 39.6 mm.
Habits. This fine Pochard arrives in its thousands in India in the latter part of October, leaving again in March. Inglis records birds seen in Behar on July the 21st, in Bengal they are never seen until October the 1st, though in Assam they may arrive a week or so earlier. This is essentially a diving bird and though it may be sometimes seen " dibbling " for food, like Mallards and Shovellers, in shallow water, it subsists principally on roots and shoots of plants which grow in deep water and must be obtained by diving. These Pochards are almost omnivorous and their own flesh depends in quality on what they have been eating and may be either excellent or almost uneatable. They are active birds on water and have regular games, dashing hither and thither after one another in between dives of anything from thirty to ninety seconds each. They prefer water on which there is ample cover, though they may keep to the more open parts when resting in the heat of the day. Their ordinary note is a deep " kwoi " and they also have a sharp whistle, perhaps made by the male only.