(2225) Egretta garzetta garzetta.
The Little Egret
Ardea garzetta Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed.,i, p. 237 (1766) (in Oriente). Herodias garzetta. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 387.
Vernacular names. Kilchia or Karchia bogla (Hind.); Nella nucha konga (Tel.); Suda-koka (Cing.); Tetur-bog (Assam); Vellei-koka (Tam, in Ceylon).
Description. - Breeding plumage. Pure white; there is a crest composed of two very long attenuated but not decomposed feathers and other similar feathers from the base of the fore-neck overhang the breast; a thick bunch of decomposed dorsal plumes extends beyond the tail.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow ; facial skin greenish-yellow; bill black, the gape and base of lower mandible yellowish ; tarsus and tibia black ; toes mixed yellow and black, the soles almost all yellow.
Measurements. Wing 257 to 289 mm.; tail 92 to 108 mm.; tarsus 99 to 110 mm.; culmen 79 to 91 mm.
In non-breeding plumage the ornamental plumes are dropped, though occasionally some of the pectoral plumes are retained.
Colours of soft parts as in Summer.
Distribution. Breeding in South Europe from Spain to South Russia ; Africa from Algeria to South Africa and Madagascar and throughout Asia to China and Japan. It is common throughout Ceylon, India and Burma.
Nidification. The Little Egret breeds all over India and Burma in the months July to September, except in the extreme South and in Ceylon, where most birds lay from March to May or earlier. As with other Herons, so these birds also breed in mixed colonies on semi-submerged trees or on those beside lakes and ponds, often in the very centre of a village, showing not the slightest fear of the people and animals all round them. The nests are collections of sticks very badly matted together and, generally, with no special lining. They are used year after year and, I think, as a rule, the same pair of birds occupy the same nest, though this is not always the case, as I have found Pond-Herons occupying old nests of Little Egrets and vice versa. The nests, which are roughly repaired and added to, in time become very large and untidy, very dirty and extremely verminous. The Little Egrets seem very partial to breeding on trees round tanks in villages and have a decidedly unsanitary effect on the water, in spite of which the villagers protect them very zealously. The birds lay three to five eggs of the usual rather deep sea-green colour, sixty of which average 44.4 x 31.7 mm.: maxima 49.0 x 32.0 and 44.0 x 34.1 mm,; minima 40.3 x 31.9 and 43.7 x 30.8 mm.
Habits. This familiar little Egret is very common all over India, having the habits of the genus and constantly frequenting village ponds, small lakes and the greater swamps and jheels. It feeds more on insects than the larger species but small reptiles - frogs etc. - form its staple diet.