(2216) Ardea purpurea manillensis.
The Eastern Purple Heron.
Ardea purpurea var, manillensis Meyen, Acta Acad.-Leop, Carol., Suppl., p. 102 (1832) (Philippines). Ardea manillensis. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 381.
Vernacular names. Nari, Lal-sain, Lal-anjan (Hind.); Khyra (Behar); Lal-hank (Beng.); Pamula-nari-gadu (Tel.); Sannari (Tam.); Karawal-koka (W. Beng.); Khyung byung (Arrakan); Nga-hit (Burma) ; Lal koi (Assam).
Description. Lores and a streak behind the eye rufous ; crown, nape, crest and a line down the hind-neck black; a second line from the gape running up and back to meet the black crest; a third black line down the whole length of the side of the neck; chin and throat white, the rest of the neck and head rufous, with a line of black streaks down the fore-neck: lower hind-neck, back, rump, upper tail-coverts, wings and tail grey, the tail and primaries dark slaty-grey; scapulars with long attenuated tips pale grey with rufous ends ; a few long lanceolate very pale grey feathers on the lower hind-neck in old birds; edge of wing all round pale bright rufous; long narrow feathers of base of neck and upper breast bright buff with black streaks and intermixed with grey feathers; a patch of deep rich chestnut on each side of the breast; flanks, axillaries and longest under wing-coverts grey ; other under wing-coverts rufous; breast and abdomen mixed chestnut and black; thigh-coverts cinnamon; under tail-coverts black with a little white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow; orbital skin dull greenish or yellowish-green; bill dark yellow, the culmen and tip horny-brown ; legs and feet reddish-brown, the soles and hinder edge of the tarsus paler and more yellow.
Measurements. -Wing 327 to 387 mm.; tail 120 to 142 mm.; tarsus 121 to 145 mm.; culmen 115 to 144 mm. Males are much larger than females but there are so few sexed specimens in museums that it is difficult to give the limits of measurements.
Young birds have the crown black, changing to chestnut on the nape; chin and throat white; rest of head and neck rufous with numerous blackish streaks down the fore-neck; upper plumage, wing-coverts, scapulars and innermost secondaries dark slaty-grey, with broad margins of rufous to each feather; tail, primaries and outer secondaries dark grey; flanks and axillaries pale grey; lower plumage rufous-buff, the breast with broad dark brown streaks.
Distribution. India, Ceylon, Burma, Indo-Chinese countries to the Philippines and Celebes.
Nidification. The Purple Heron breeds from January to March in Ceylon, from April to July in Saugur (Blewitt) and from July to September over the rest of its breeding area in India and Burma, a few birds breeding at the end of June or in early October. Wherever there are swamps and lakes with reedy shores there this Heron will be found breeding, sometimes on the broken-down reeds, sometimes on trees close to, or partly submerged by, water. The favourite site is a bed of dense reeds, some of w?hich the birds trample down to form a platform and then make thereon a rather massive nest of sticks, often lined with a little grass or rush-leaves, occasionally quite unlined. They breed in colonies, sometimes, as found by Oates in Pegu, of many hundreds of pairs, at other times consisting of no more than ten or twenty ; again, they may breed all by themselves or in company with many other kinds of birds. The eggs number three to five and are pale sea-green or greenish-blue in colour. One hundred average 54.6 x 39.7 mm.: maxima 66.3 x 41.4 and 61.0 x 46.4 mm.; minima .50.0 x 40.0 and 52.1 x 38.1 mm.
Habits. This Heron is very crepuscular in its habits and feeds principally in the mornings and evenings. It stands quite motionless with head tucked into its shoulders, often on one leg only, watching for a passing fish, which it seizes with a lightning dart of its long neck and bill. Besides fish, frogs, newts, insects and mollusca, all form part of its ordinary fare and any unfortunate young birds which happen to come its way are at once bolted whole. It is not a shy bird as a rule, though it keeps well hidden in the thick reeds and grass but when on trees and quite visible it allows a near approach. It is an intensely curious bird and may be often seen, its long neck stretched up above the reeds, to watch passers-by. Its cry is a loud, harsh croak, uttered as it rises and at night on the wing. It flies with head tucked into its shoulders and long legs sticking out straight behind, progressing at a great pace, though with leisurely flaps of its wings.