BEST SEEN AT: Pakhui-Nameri Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Padesh-Assam
STATUS: Schedule I/Endangered
GOOD TO KNOW: The white-winged wood duck is believed to be the world’s rarest duck
THE WHITE-winged wood duck has the dubious distinction of being the most endangered duck in India. Less than 400 of these are hanging on grimly to small patches of swamps and shallow wetlands near evergreen forests on the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border, with an equal number distributed in the neighbouring countries of South-east Asia. This forest duck is in danger of extinction largely because it has a very small and fragmented population that is undergoing a rapid decline as a result of deforestation, upcoming hydro-electric projects, wetland drainage and hunting. Nameri, in Assam, is about the only reliable place where it can be found. This duck usually hangs around in pairs or small groups. It’s active at night, flying out to feed and returning to its jungle refuge at dawn. For about two weeks, usually around September when it moults, it’s flightless. It’s not a noisy bird, the females give a whistling call when in flight. She may lay over 15 eggs, usually in tree hollows, and is a fussy mother till the chicks are ready to fly off at 14 weeks.
Prerna Singh Bindra