(2218) Ardea cinerea rectirostris.
The Eastern Grey Heron
Ardea rectirostris Gould, P. Z. S., p. 22 (1843) (New South Wales). Ardea leucophaea Gould, P. Z. S., 1848, p. 58 (India and China). Ardea cinerea. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 382 (part.).
Vernacular names. As for the preceding bird. Sardo-koi (Assam).
Description. Differs from the typical form in being much paler at all seasons of the year.
It is true that Gould differentiated this race on characters that are hardly discernible but he gives a very full description and his name therefore antedates Clark's jouyi of China, which consequently becomes a synonym.
Colours of soft parts as in A. c. cinerea.
Measurements. Wing (Indian) 422 to 466 mm., (Chinese) 428 to 475 (once 481 mm.); tail 165 to 180 mm.; tarsus 140 to 162 mm.; culmen 109 to 135 mm. The very large series measured show that there is no definite difference in size between the two races.
Nestlings like those of A. c. cinerea. These uncouth little things always look as if they had just had a fright, their hair standing on end and their eyes starting out of their heads.
Distribution. Mesopotamia, Persia, all India, Burma and Ceylon. East it extends to China, Hainan, Philippines etc.
Nidification, The Eastern Grey Heron breeds over the greater part of its range in July, August and September but in Ceylon it breeds from December to March, whilst eggs have been taken occasionally in Central India in April, May and June. Unlike the Purple Heron this bird prefers to breed on trees, especially such as Tamarisk, Babool and other trees standing partly in water. These Herons do not nest close together, though several pairs may breed in the same area, for their nests may be found dotted about here and there among colonies of nests of other Herons, Cormorants, Storks etc The eggs number three or four and are like those of the preceding race. One hundred average 58.6 x 43.5 mm.-, maxima 68.4 x 43.1 and 63.1 x 46.8 mm.; minima 54.3 x 41.6 and 56.4 x 39.7 mm.
Habits. The Eastern Grey Heron is not nearly so sociable a bird as either the Purple Heron or its European grey cousin and, as a rule, it will be seen alone or in pairs. It has a habit of sitting absolutely motionless on a tree, on some bare exposed branch, with its beak and neck stretched straight up so that in spite of its size it looks very much like a bulgy, distorted branch. If, however, any one passes close by, curiosity eventually compels it to lower its head to look round. Plight, food, voice etc. are all indistinguishable from those of the European bird.