1563. Lepterodius asha.
The Indian Reef-Heron.
Ardea asha, Sykes, L. Z. S. 1832, p. 157; Blyth, Ibis, 1865, p. 38. Herodias asha, Blyth, Cat. p. 280. Demi-egretta asha, Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 747; Hayes Lloyd, Ibis, 1873, p. 418. Demigretta sacra, apud Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xii, pt. 2, p. 254, nec Gmel. Ardea gularis, apud Hume, N. & E. p. 617; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 1136 ; nec Bosc. Demiegretta gularis, apud Hume, S. F. i, p. 254; iv, pp. 23, 465 ? ?Fairbank, S.F. iv, p. 263; Butler, S. F. v, p. 224; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 453; id. Cat. no. 928; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 89 ; Butler, ibid, p. 434; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 380; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 244. Lepterodius asha, Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxvi, p. 116.
The Ashy Egret, Jerdon ; Kala bagla, H.
Coloration. As a rule, bluish slaty ; the chin, throat, and lower cheeks, almost to. the gape, white; the long lanceolate plumes of the scapulars, interscapulars, and upper breast, and the two long narrow feathers of the crest ashy grey.
Many birds, however, both old and young, are pure white throughout. Birds of the year (if not white) are ashy grey, and have no ornamental plumes. Young birds are often particoloured, and a few instances have been observed of slaty-blue adults with some of the quills and wing-coverts white. The African L. gularis, with which the present species was for a long time supposed to be identical, is quite distinct, being darker coloured, with a very different crest of several comparatively short plumes.
Bill brownish yellow, yellowish at the tip, culmen between nostrils dark brown, gape greenish; irides golden yellow; tibia and just below the knee brown ; tarsus green, paling to greenish yellow at the tips of the toes (Legge). Coloration, especially of legs, very variable.
Length of male about 26; tail 3.75 ; wing 10.5 ; tarsus 4; bill from gape 4.5. Females rather less.
Distribution. Shores of the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf (Muscat, Fao) to Ceylon and the Laccadives. Individual birds may occasionally occur inland, but as a rule this species does not leave the sea-coast or the tidal estuaries and backwaters at any time.
Habits, &c. This Beef-Heron breeds generally in May, making the usual nest of sticks on mangrove or other trees near the shore, but nests, made on the ground, have been found on barren uninhabited islands. The eggs are pale sea-green, 3 to 5 in number, and measure about 1.85 by 1.35.