1529. Plotus melanogaster.
The Indian Barter or Snake-bird.
(Kg. 78, p. 339.) Anhinga melanogaster, Pennant, Indian Zool. p. 13, pl. xiii (1769). Plotus melanogaster, Gmel. Syst, Nat. i, p. 580 (1788) ; Blyth, Cat, p. 299 ; Jerdon, B, ,I. iii, p. 865 ; Hume, N. & E. p. 601 ; id. S. P. i. p. 289; Adam,-ibid. p. 403; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 34 ; Fairbank, ibid. p. 264: Oates, S. F. v, p. 170 ; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 496 ; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 98; Butler, ibid, pp.178, 189; Ball, ibid. p. 234; Cripps, ibid, p. 315 ; Hume, Cat. no. 1008 ; Sciilly, S. P. viii, p. 304; Doig, ibid. p. 372 ; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 1194 ; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 90; Butler, ibid, p. 442; Reid, S. F. x. p. 88 ; Davidson, ibid. p. 327 ; Davison, ibid. p. 419 : Oates, B. B. ii, p. 235 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 440; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 353 ; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 274; Barnes, Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. vi, p. 300; Sinclair, op. cit. viii, p. 434.
Banwa, Pan Dubbi, H.; Sili, Sind; Goyar, Beng.; Kallaki-pitta, Tel.; Chakuri, Southern Gonds ; Pambuttara, Tam. (Ceylon); Diya Kawa, Belli Kawa, Cing.
Coloration. Crown and neck brown, all the feathers with pale edges, back of neck blackish ; chin, throat, and a line commencing above the gape, and continued about halfway down each side of the neck, white ; a minute white streak also above the eye ; upper back black, the feathers with brown edges; lower back, rump, tail-coverts, tail-feathers, primary and secondary quills, and lower parts from the neck glossy black; scapulars, wing-coverts, and tertiaries black, with conspicuous silvery-white shaft-stripes ; last tertiary in each wing and two noddle pairs of tail-feathers with the outer web ribbed. Sexes alike.
In immature birds the neck is pale brown, whitish beneath, with the lateral stripes indistinct. The black on the lower back, rump, breast, and abdomen is sooty or brownish, and the silvery stripes on the upper plumage tinged with yellow.
Bill with the upper mandible brown or blackish, the lower yellowish; irides yellow ; legs black (Oates). Iris pearly white, with an inner and outer ring of yellow (Legge).
Length 36; tail 9; wing 14; tarsus 1.7 ; bill from gape 3.8.
Distribution. Throughout the Oriental Region in suitable localities. In India, Ceylon, and Burma this bird is found wherever there are extensive pieces of fresh water or large rivers with a slow current.
Habits, &c. The Snake-bird haunts fresh water, not the sea, but it may be found on tidal estuaries and creeks. It swims with only its snake-like head and neck out of water, and dives very rapidly, either from the surface of the water or from a perch above it. Its food consists of fish, and it captures them when diving either by impaling them with one of its mandibles or securing them between the two; it then emerges from the water, throws up the captured fish, catches it again, and swallows it head foremost. After feeding, the Darter perches on a branch or stump of a tree, and sits cormorant-like with extended wings. The voice of this Darter, according to Legge, is a harsh dissyllabic croak. The nest, and eggs are like those of Cormorants: the breeding-season is July and August in Northern India and Burma, January and February in Madras and Ceylon. The birds breed in colonies, and generally in company with Cormorants and Herons, on trees in or near water, and the eggs are three or four in number and measure about 2.13 by 1.37.