(2049) Esacus recurvirostris.
THE GREAT STONE-PLOVER.
Oedicnemus recurvirostris Cuvier, Regne An., i, p. 500 (1829) (no type-locality) (Nepal). Esacus recurvirostris. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 205.
Vernacular names. Barra Karwanak (Hind.); Abi of Falconers; Gang Titai (Beng.); Mien-zein (Burm.).
Description. Lores, feathers round the eye and short supercilium white; above the latter a blackish streak and below the eye another through the ear-coverts down the side of the neck ; remainder of upper parts pale ashy grey-brown; the crown and nape with very fine shaft-streaks of brown and the shafts elsewhere a little darker than the webs ; lateral tail-feathers with broad black tips, white sub-tips, followed by a narrow dark brown line; wing-coverts paler than the back; the innermost lesser coverts and the greater and primary coverts blackish ; primaries blackish -brown with a broad white central splash on the first two, smaller on the third and basal on the fourth and fifth; inner primaries white with broad subterminal bands of blackish-brown ; outer secondaries brownish-black with white bases and tips paling to the colour of the back on the longest and innermost; a short grey-brown moustachial streak; remainder of lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow or greenish-yellow; bill black, greenish-yellow or yellow round the base of both mandibles and the posterior nostril; legs and feet yellowish-green, dull pale olive-greenish or pale bluish-green.
Measurements. Total length about 550 mm.; wing 252 to 273 mm.; tarsus about 80 to 84 mm.; culmen 74 to 87 mm.
Distribution. India, Burma, Ceylon ; Hainan.
Nidification. The Great Stone-Plover breeds from February to the end of March, a few birds laying throughout April and early May. These last eggs often get flooded out forcing the birds to leave the river-beds, their favourite nesting haunt, and then eggs may rarely be found on fields near rivers. The eggs are laid on the ground in a slight depression and the birds prefer shingle, or mixed sand and rock to pure sand, though, in Assam and Eastern Bengal, sand-banks are often selected. The eggs are two in number and are large editions of those of the Indian Stone-Plover though scrolled, rather than blotched eggs, are more common with this species. Forty-four eggs average 54.4 x 40.7 mm.: maxima 57.1 x 43.6 and 55.1 x 43.8 mm.; minima 50.1 X 39.0 and 53.2 x 38.1 mm.
Habits. This bird frequents the beds of rivers or the sandy coasts of the Bay of Bengal and round Ceylon. When the rivers are in high flood they take to the adjacent fields or waste land but never seem to enter jungle or grass of any kind. Like all the Family they are very crepuscular, feeding in the mornings and evenings on crabs, molluscs, insects and worms but principally on the first-named. Their call is a loud harsh croak and they make a hissing sound when disturbed. They are quite good birds to eat, tasting like Gulden Plover.