Penelope and the shroud

The Eurasian Wigeon goes by the scientific name of Mareca  penelope. The specific penelope is a reference to Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, Penelope is Ullyses’s (or Odysseus, the legendary Greek King of Ithaca) wife and is supposed to have been rescued by a duck when she was thrown into the sea.

Penelope is considered a symbol of fidelity and sexual loyalty because of her long 20-year wait for the return of her husband from the Trojan War, during which time she apparently devised several strategies to delay marrying the plethora of suitors who were being thrown at her. One of the more well known ones was that she promised to choose one after the completion of a burial shroud she was weaving and would unravel the previous days labour every night – this apparently went on for more than 3 years.

I am not sure if the Wigeons are similarly loyal to their partners, but they breed in the northern most parts of Asia and Europe, are strongly migratory and winter down in Southern Asia and Africa.

I spotted a few of them in Thol Bird Sanctuary, near Ahmedabad. While I have come across the Wigeon before in other places, I had never really managed a decent image of them till I saw these obliging ones in the Thol Lake.

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