Dabbling duck back on the Padma

Rare falcated duck makes sudden appearance on 24 December on the Padma in Rajshahi

Rajshahi's bird lovers were in for a treat. A falcated duck made a sudden appearance on the river Padma in Rajshahi last week. It had appeared in wetlands of Tanguar Haor in 2017 and on the Padma last year. This migratory bird was alone then and alone this time too.

According to an encyclopaedia of Bangladesh Asiatic Society on the country's flora and fauna (Bangladesh: Udbhid O Prani Gyankosh), the falcated duck or falcated teal ('phuluri haansh' in Bangla) is a rare migratory bird in Bangladesh. In fact, it is almost on the verge of extinction globally. It is occasionally seen in the wetlands of Barishal, Chattogram and Dhaka. It is sighted in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Siberia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Iran, Myanmar and Vietnam. Its name 'falcate' refers to the sickle or hook-like markings on its body.

At around 9:30am on the morning of 24 December, Rajshahi University student and bird photographer Imrul Kayes, general secretary of Rajshahi Bird Club ASM Ariful Anam and special member Muhammad Tariq Hasan, set off by boat from the Battala Ghat of Rajshahi Police Lines in search of the falcated teal.

By 11:00am, the motorboat reached the spot where the bird had been spotted previously. Everyone had their camera viewfinders glued to their eyes. But the duck did not appear. Hours passed with no falcated duck in sight and then someone cried out that he had caught sight of it. The motor of the boat was switched off hurriedly.

The boat drifted eastwardly and the duck was going in that direction too. Only its back could be seen and photographs couldn't be taken quite up to satisfaction. Then suddenly the duck turned to face the photographer! A picture was taken successfully. It was a male bird.

The falcated duck has a black beak, a grayish body and dark green collar on its white throat. Its breast is patterned in black and white and its tail is yellow, black and white. During the mating season, the male's head dark green and its tail plumage is like curved sickles.

This duck likes low wetlands and lakes where it can dabble for plant food. It can be alone, in pairs or in flocks. It feeds on water plant life and insects.

During its mating season from May to October, it makes its nest with twigs and feathers on the ground near the water in northeast China and Siberia. Its eggs hatch in around 20 to 25 days.

This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir