(2145) Tringa hypoleucos.
THE COMMON SANDPIPER.
Tringa hypoleucos Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 149 (1758) (Sweden ). Totanus hypoleucus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 260.
Vernacular names. Polte ulanka (Tel.) ; Kotan (Tam.).
Description. White upper parts and tail brown faintly tinged with olive ; the feathers from the forehead to the lower back with fine dark central streaks, broadest on the back and scapulars; feathers from lower back to upper tail-coverts, scapulars, inner secondaries and wing-coverts with narrow pale rufous edges and sub-edges of black, most conspicuous on the wing-coverts ; central tail-feathers like the back, outer tail-feathers barred black and white, intermediate tail-feathers intermediate in colour ; primaries brown, the first white-shafted, the third and following primaries with a patch of white on the inner web; outer secondaries white,, the outermost with broad subterminal blackish bands, disappearing on the central feathers ; inner secondaries like the back ; greater coverts dark brown, tipped with white and the outer edged with white also; chin and throat white; fore-neck and upper breast white with dark streaks and some brown on the sides of the breast; axillaries and remainder of lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill horny-brown or grey-brown, darker at the tip ; legs and feet pale dull green.
Measurements. Wing 99 to 119 mm.; tail 50 to 58 mm.; tarsus about 22 to 25 mm.; culmen 23 to 26 mm. Extreme Western birds have a wing 99 to 112 mm.; extreme Eastern 102 to 111 mm.
In Winter the upper surface is more uniform, the head and hind-neck often immaculate ; the general tint is also rather more olive.
Nestling in down. Upper parts darkish cinnamon-buff; a line from the upper mandible and the crown blackish and a black line through the eyes meeting behind the crown; centre of nape blackish owing to the black bases of the down showing through the buff tips ; a black dorsal line from nape to uropygium; two fainter lateral bands on the sides of the back and black bands on the wings ; lower plumage white, the breast suffused with buff.
Distribution. Breeding throughout the greater part of Europe to Western Siberia and thence East to Japan and South to Kashmir and Tibet. Mathews accepts T. h. aurita * as a good race on the grounds that it is smaller and paler. I can find no difference in the size in any special geographical area, nor can I see that Eastern birds are any paler than Western and I therefore consider aurita to be merely a synonym of hypoleucos.
Nidification. The Common Sandpiper breeds in some numbers in Kashmir, Garhwal and Kumaon from early May to the end of June. The site selected is generally among boulders and rocks on, or close to, some hill-stream but, at other times, they build in grass and weeds and at others again on shingle- or sand-beds in the stream. Sometimes the nest is well made, a good pad of grass, roots etc. and very carefully concealed, at other times there is nothing but a hollow scratched among the pebbles, no lining and no attempt at concealment. It is said to lay its eggs occasionally in the deserted nests of other birds but no such occurrence has been recorded in India. The eggs are normally four in number but one year, when perhaps food was exceptionally abundant, Col. K. Buchanan took several nests containing five and six eggs. One hundred Indian eggs average 38.9 x 26.2 mm. as against 36.4 x 25.9 mm. in one hundred European eggs (Jourdain): maxima 40.0 x 26.9 and 39.0 x 27.7 mm.; minima 32.1 x 26.3 and 32.2 x 24.1 mm. In colour the eggs are pale yellowish-stone or buff, occasionally a fairly warm buff, marked with reddish-brown, generally in blotches, sometimes in small specks, with underlying marks of lavender and pinkish-grey.
Habits. Both in Europe and Asia this bird haunts moors and marshes or the borders of mountain-streams and rivers. In the plains it is very common in the rice-fields, whilst in the Andamans it haunts the sea-shores and is equally common. It is a most active little bird on the wing and on foot, constantly moving about, except in the hottest hours of the day. Its call is a shrill but not unpleasant " twit, twit," generally uttered as it rises and it has a very pretty trilling love-song which it warbles in the air. It feeds on all sorts of insects, freshwater mollusca, worms, grubs, beetles etc.
* Tringa aurita Latham, Ind. Orn., Suppl., p. lxvi (180)) (Java).