This migratory bird is one of the first migrants to arrive in my country, India, every year and I have observed that they are one of the last birds to leave.
The body of the male bird looks like a work of art with four distinct ‘art’ areas. The head and neck are chocolatey brown, the belly is white with black wavey patterns, the wing has white stripes and the vent is spotted. Their broad white eyebrows taper down the neck. These look like beautiful light reflectors contrasting with the darker in-between area. He has a black beak.
The female is mostly brown with small eyebrows. The back is dark with white-edged feathers and she has mottled brown looking undersides. She has a lead grey beak.
What I have seen:
These birds don’t need much takeoff space and are capable of a near vertical takeoff. Also, they are able to do this from the ground or water with equal ease.
They like to spend their time in shallow water swimming around or with their heads underwater searching for food.
I chanced upon a flock last month in a large waterbody. They were swimming but suddenly took to the air and flew away from the area. I then noticed that this was because of the presence of some picnickers. I thought the birds were gone but they returned after sunset when the seeming danger [picnickers] were gone. They landed in water, queued up in a long line and went off to sleep by turning their heads and tucking their beaks in their back feathers.
Four out of five waterbodies I found them in across different states are themselves under threat. One has completely dried up now because of climate change. The other two are facing encroachment by urbanisation. The fourth, which is man-made, has a shrinking water level.
Also, like I described above, they are too scared of us humans possibly because they were considered game birds and were hunted down.
Note: Garganey has been chosen as one the seven ambassador birds for this year’s World Migratory Bird day. More on that here.