Driving down to my home town from Mangalore, I saw these Lesser Whistling Ducks in a nearby paddy field. They were wading in the shallow rainwater filled paddy field far off from the main road. I chose my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM fitted with Canon EF 2X II Extender on my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV body. As the ground was soggy with rain I was not able to place the mono-pod on the ground. So leaving the mono-pod on the car I tried to hand hold the heavy rig and waded towards these ducks. Despite being shy I was able to get quite a few photos. Despite not using a good support, I was able to get few satisfactory photos due to higher shutter speed I used. At around 5kilo weight, the rig is quite heavy to handhold for very long time. What I usually do is to rest it on my folded elbow till I need to photograph and then lift and get the photo. This gives enough rest for your wrist to cope up with the heavy camera.
The Lesser Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna javanica), also known as Indian Whistling Duck, is a small sized whistling duck which breeds in south and south-east Asia. It was called the Lesser Whistling Teal in the past. Called whistling ducks because of their call, they are also sometimes called tree ducks because they are seen often perching on trees near water bodies. Some nest in Tree holes too.
Lesser Whistling Ducks eat aquatic vegetation by dabbling on the water surface in shallow water. Like other waterfowl, they have a highly sensitive, fleshy tongue which has a spiny surface. To efficiently sift for edible titbits, the tongue is worked against rows of horny lamellae that line the mandibles. This produces the typical chattering sound of feeding waterfowl. They also dive frequently for underwater titbits. Lesser Whistling Ducks feed mostly at night, in small family groups.
Their call is described as a three-note whistle, the last note highest pitched and prolonged. The call is a wheezy, whistling “seasick, seasick”, call, uttered in flight. Shy and nervous, they fly off at the slightest hint of danger. A flock will fly quickly, and in a direct manner, usually in chevron formation. This duck flies like a goose with its long neck sticking out and drooping below the body, and wings beating rapidly. Lesser Whistling Ducks are different from other ducks in having longer legs, a squarish head and an erect goose-like posture when alert. Their wings are also rounder and broader. Unlike other ducks, males and females look similar, and there is no special breeding plumage.
Lesser Whistling Ducks prefer a nest site near freshwater with dense vegetation nearby where their chicks can immediately reach the water after hatching. Usually in a bed of tall reeds, sometimes in a hollow log, or even an abandoned heron’s nest. They build a shallow cup of grass, on or close to the ground. They may rearrange surrounding vegetation to form a roof with a side-entrance. Sometimes they nest in trees. 10-12 creamy white eggs are laid. If the nest is closer to the ground, parents will distract predators by faking a broken wing and moving away from the nest.