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A cold pampero blew over the mouth of the La Plata, which looked like a sea bay, throwing the streets of Montevideo with a mixture of dust, sand and large raindrops, and so I sat in my room at the Oriental Hotel, whiling away the time with a book about the country. which I turned out to be by the will of fate. The book was in Spanish: the passage that I read could have been translated as follows: “The population of Uruguay and the Argentine provinces consists of descendants of the Spaniards, from some, not very numerous Indian tribes and from the gaucho, which, although they are in fact business mestizos, nevertheless, are considered white and are proud of it. Usually they marry Indian women, thereby, in their own way, returning the people inhabiting these lands to the appearance of their original inhabitants.
The gaucho combines a kind-hearted determination and an independent spirit. At the same time, the gaucho shows quite decent manners, pride, noble sincerity and dignity, the gallantry of the Spanish caballero. He is prone to nomadic life and adventures, an opponent of any compulsion, despises property, considering it a useless burden, but loves shiny trinkets, however, although he obtains them with considerable zeal, he loses without the slightest regret.
He is ready to bravely, desperately defend his family in case of trouble, but in everyday life he treats her as harshly as he treats himself. Since he was deceived countless times, the gaucho is cunning instinctively, out of caution, he is respectful with a stranger, but he will never love him, he serves a city dweller, but does not respect him, never encroaches on someone else's property, demanding nothing from his employers except daily food , not grieving about the day that has passed, nor about the day to come.
Since the possessing class emerged in the country, the gaucho, bravely fighting for liberation from the Spanish yoke, rests after victory, he never demanded a reward for himself, content with the modest role of defender of someone else's property, asking for nothing in return, seeking only that no one I never forgot that he was a free man and that he carried out his service of his own free will. The gaucho's armament consists of a lasso, a long leather belt with a loop, a bolas and, if it is a warrior, a pike.
The gaucho is renowned for the dexterity with which it throws the lasso. A belt over thirty feet long is attached to the rider's thigh at one end and a sliding loop at the other. She is thrown after the fleeing animal. When the loop hits the neck or legs of the animal, trying to free itself, it only tightens it even tighter. Endurance is required from the horse, it must either give way or resist with all its might. At this time, the rider tries to drag the animal to where it will be possible to knock it down. This way of throwing a lasso is called laceara muerte, it is very dangerous and requires a lot of skill. There are many examples of a rider getting tangled in a belt and breaking his legs. The lasso is permanently suspended from the gaucho saddle. Agile horses, bulls, rams - all of them are pacified and caught with the help of a lasso.
Bolas are three lead balls tied to a belt. When thrown, the balls twine around the legs of the animal and overturn it.
The Gaucho's main passion is the game, the cards are above all for him. Squatting down, he throws all the most valuable that he owns into the grass, and in cold blood puts it on the line, next to him he sticks a knife into the ground in order to immediately punish the dishonest opponent with one blow to the heart.
The gaucho agrees to work for estancia only when he likes it, performs the service with an independent air, he will never tolerate that the owner does not recognize him as a caballero, because he deserves this title for his modesty, his decent, even noble behavior and his calm, respectful demeanor.
If the work entrusted by the owner turns out to be not to his liking, the gaucho declares that he will take it up only at such and such a time under such and such conditions. If the owner shows some displeasure with his work, then the gaucho, without resorting to rudeness, will calmly demand his salary, mount a horse and go to look for another estancia, the owner of which is used to less command. Gaucho, though inclined to laziness, will always find a job, because he is a smart person and knows how to handle livestock - the main wealth of these places.
Such is the gaucho, it should not be confused with the brave but shameless adventurers who are ready to kidnap women, girls, horses, in short, whatever they please, and then live and live carefree. "
This is what was written in the book I was reading. I arrived in Montevideo this morning and therefore knew absolutely nothing about the country and its inhabitants. But still, I risked doubting the veracity of what I read. First, the populations of Uruguay and Argentina are by no means made up of only gauchos, Indians and descendants of the Spaniards. Here, in addition to them, tens of thousands of English, Germans, French and Italians live, not to mention the Swiss, Illyrians and many immigrants from other European countries.
I didn't like the description of how to use the lasso at all. Find me such a rider who, intending to catch, for example, a half-wild bull, will attach a lasso at the hip. Yes, the bull will certainly pull him off the saddle and will drag him along until the poor fellow dies.
At the first opportunity, I intended to inquire about the author of this publication. His name was Adolphe Delacour, in Montevideo he edited the newspaper "Patriot France". Well, objectively speaking, this gentleman would have to understand local customs better than me. I had to wait humbly until chance helped me to make sure which of us was right.
Moreover, the reading could be postponed. The wind blowing from the pampa died down, and the stormy life of a large port city began to boil on the streets again. I wanted to plunge into it.
As soon as I put my hat on, there was a knock on the door. I responded. A stranger entered, dressed in the latest French fashion. He was wearing black trousers, a tailcoat of the same color, a white waistcoat, a white tie, patent leather shoes, in his hand he held a black top hat with a white silk ribbon on the crown. Looking at this ribbon, from which two wide bows were hanging, I, a person not particularly versed in fashion, came to the amusing idea that, most likely, I see in front of me a certain petitioner begging me to attend a christening or a wedding celebration. The stranger made a low, perhaps overly respectful bow and exclaimed:
- I bow to you, Mr. Colonel!
And twice more, with demonstrative servility, he repeated his low bow. Why did he suddenly awarded me a military title? Perhaps here, in Uruguay, the same customs as in dear Austria,
External signs of a comb duck
The comb duck has a body size of 64 - 79 cm, weight: 1750 - 2610 grams.
The species got its name due to the presence of a leaf-shaped formation that covers 2/3 of the black beak. This structure is so conspicuous that it is visible even during flight. The color of the plumage of the male and female is almost the same. In adult birds, the head and upper part of the neck are in white dotted lines on a black background; these marks are especially densely located in the middle of the crown and neck. Head-flanks and neck are dirty yellowish.
Comb duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos) - male
The lower parts of the neck, chest and middle of the belly are beautiful pure white in color. A vertical black line runs along each side of the chest, and also along the lower abdomen near the anal area. The flanks are whitish, tinted with a pale gray tint, while the undertail is whitish, often tinged with yellow. The sacrum is gray. The rest of the body, including the tail, top and underwings, is black with a strong blue, green or bronze sheen.
The color of the plumage is less iridescent, the line is less distinct. Frequent brownish spots on a white background. There is no yellowish tinge on the head and undertail. The color of the plumage of young birds is very different from the color of the feathers of adults. The top and cap are dark brown in color, contrasting with the yellowish brown tint of feathers on the head, neck and lower body. Below there is a scaly pattern and a dark line across the eye area. The legs of the comb duck are dark gray.
Comb duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos) - female
Habitats of the comb duck
Crested ducks inhabit the plains in tropical regions. They prefer savannas with sparse trees, wetlands, rivers, lakes and freshwater swamps, in places where there is little forest cover, avoid arid and very wooded areas. They live in floodplains and river deltas, in flooded forests, pastures and rice fields, sometimes on muddy shoals. This bird species is limited to lowlands, comb ducks can be found at an altitude of 3500 meters or less.
Crested ducks inhabit the plains in tropical regions.
Spreading comb duck
Comb ducks are distributed over three continents: Africa, Asia, America. It is a sedentary species in Africa and is found south of the Sahara. On this continent, its movements are associated with the drying up of water bodies during the dry season. Therefore, ducks migrate a huge distance, which exceeds 3000 kilometers. In Asia, crested ducks live in the plains of India, Pakistan and Nepal, a rather rare species in Sri Lanka. Present in Burma, northern Thailand and southern China, in Yunnan province.
In these regions, crested ducks partially migrate during the rainy season. In South America, the species is represented by the subspecies sylvicola, a smaller one, whose males have black and shiny sides of the body. It spreads from Panama to the plains of Bolivia, located at the foot of the Andes.
Crested ducks live in small groups
Features of the behavior of the comb duck
Comb ducks live in small groups of 30 to 40 individuals. However, during the dry season on water bodies, they keep in constant flocks. Most birds are in a group of the same sex, pairs form at the beginning of the rainy season when the nesting period begins. With the onset of the dry season, birds flock and wander in search of reservoirs with favorable living conditions. When foraging, comb ducks swim, sitting deep in the water. They spend the night in the trees.
Comb ducks forage in the water
Breeding comb duck
The breeding period for crested ducks varies with the rainy season. In Africa, birds breed in July-September, in the northern and western region in February-March, in December-April in Zimbabwe. In India - during the monsoons last from July to September, in Venezuela - in July. If there is not enough rainfall, then the beginning of the nesting season is greatly delayed.
The breeding period for crested ducks varies with the rainy season.
Crested ducks are monogamous in places with poor food resources, while polygamy occurs in areas with the most favorable habitat conditions. Males acquire harems and mate with several females, the number of which varies from 2 to 4. Two forms of polygamy can be distinguished:
- the male simultaneously attracts several females to the harem, but does not mate with all birds, this relationship is called polygamy.
- polygamy of inheritance, which means that the male mates sequentially with several females.
At this time of the year, males show quite aggressive behavior towards non-breeding females who are temporarily admitted to the harem, thanks to the tacit consent of the dominant duck, but these individuals have the lowest rating in the group hierarchy.
Females usually nest in hollows of large trees at a height of 6 to 9 meters. However, they also use the old nests of birds of prey, eagles or falcons. Sometimes nests are made on the ground under the cover of tall grass or in the stump of a tree, in the cracks of old buildings. They use the same nests from year to year. Nesting sites are hidden by dense vegetation near watercourses.
The nest is built from twigs and weeds mixed with feathers and leaves.
It is never lined with fluff. Determining the size of the clutch is not an easy task, as several ducks lay eggs in the nest. Their number is usually 6 - 11 eggs. A dozen eggs can be considered - the result of the joint efforts of several females. Some nests contain up to 50 eggs. Chicks hatch after 28 to 30 days. The dominant female is probably incubating alone. But all the females in the group are engaged in raising young ducks until the chicks shed.
All the females in the group are engaged in raising young ducks
Eating the comb duck
Crested ducks graze on grassy shores or swim in shallow waters. They feed mainly on aquatic plants and their seeds, small invertebrates (mainly locusts and larvae of aquatic insects). Plant-based diets include cereal and sedge seeds, soft parts of aquatic plants (such as water lilies), and agricultural grains (rice, corn, oats, wheat, and peanuts). From time to time, ducks consume small fish. In some regions, comb ducks are considered pest birds that destroy rice crops.
Comb ducks are threatened by uncontrolled hunting.
Conservation status of the comb duck
Comb ducks are threatened by uncontrolled hunting. In some areas, such as Madagascar, habitat is being destroyed due to deforestation and overuse of pesticides in rice paddies. The species declined in the Senegal Delta following the construction of a dam on the Senegal River, resulting in habitat degradation and loss of feeding grounds from overgrowth of vegetation, desertification and agricultural land conversion.
The comb duck is also susceptible to avian influenza, as this factor is a potential threat to the species during outbreaks of an infectious disease.
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