The Search for the Pink-headed Duck by Rory Nugent. First published 1991. As reviewed and pictured: softcover, 223 pages.
The Search for the Pink-headed Duck is Rory Nugent's memoir of his travels in eastern India and his search for a duck believed to be extinct and which was last seen in the 1950's.
Nugent hopes to search for the Pink-headed Duck in certain parts of India where it happens to be difficult to obtain a tourist visa. This leads to him spending a great deal of time in and out of bureaucratic offices in Delhi, with a lot of downtime between official visits. Eventually he does get moving, first to places like the poultry markets of Calcutta, and then to hiding in the back of a jeep to travel outside the boundary of his visa, to the outskirts of Sikkim and Darjeeling and Assam, and finally down the Brahmaputra in a hand-made skiff with an Indian friend met only weeks earlier.
Nugent spends a lot of time with interesting characters, including a "gentleman outlaw" smuggler, Gurkha freedom fighters, Tibetan lamas, and a Tantrika (one who follows the Trantric Way). Between the outlandish Indian characters, Nugent befriends many more locals in all of his travels, certainly adding a richness to his own experience and to the book.
The book is a great travel adventure yarn, which is a genre I love. However, the search for the rare, possibly extinct Pink-headed Duck feels like an afterthought sometimes, and I did wish for more background on the bird itself, and possibly more time (or pages) devoted to the search for the duck and other birds (Nugent claims to be a birdwatcher, after all). I give The Search for the Pink-headed Duck 3.5 Goldfinches out of 5.