1409. Grus antigone.
Ardea antigone, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 235 (1766). Grus collaris, Bodd. Tabl. Pl. Enl. p. 52 (1783); Tegelmeier, Ed. Blyth's Cranes, p. 45. Grus antigone, Jerdon, Madr. Jour. L. S. xii, p. 193 ; Blyth, Cat. p. 274; Irby, Ibis, 1861, p. 242 ; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 662 ; stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xli, pt. 2, p. 252; Hayes Lloyd, Ibis, 1873, p. 416; Hume, N. & E. p. 584 ; id. S. F. i, p. 234; Adam, ibid. p. 395 ; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 14 ; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 227 ; Hume, Cat. no. 863; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 352; Hume & Marsh. Game B. iii, p. 1, pl., p. 435, pl. iv (egg) ; Tegetmeier, Ed. Blyth's Cranes, p. 47; Reid, S. F. x, p. 67 ; Davidson, ibid. p. 319; Simson, Ibis, 1882, p. 93; Swinh. & Barnes, Ibis, 1885, p. 133; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 340; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 59 ; ii, p. 149 ; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 372; Bulkley, Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. viii, p. 148. Antigone collaris, Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 202.
Saras, Sirhans, H.; Khur-sang, Assam.
Coloration. Head and upper neck without feathers, except a grey patch of ear-coverts on each side, the throat and a ring round the nape rather thickly covered with black hairs. Neck pure white, passing at the base into the bluish ashy grey of the plumage generally ; the primaries, greater primary-coverts, and winglet are black or blackish brown; secondaries towards their tips and the whole tertiaries varying from grey to white.
Young birds have the head and upper neck clad with short rusty-buff feathers. The nestling is covered with down, rich deep brown above, rufous on the sides and head, whitish beneath.
Bill pale greenish horny with dark tip ; skin of crown pale ashy green; papillose skin of head and neck orange-red; iris orange ; legs reddish or flesh-colour (Tickell). The red of the face and neck becomes brighter about April, and the white neck-collar more defined and conspicuous.
Length of male about 58 ; tail 10; wing to end of primaries 25 ; tarsus 12; bill from gape 6.5. Females are slightly smaller; wing 24 ; tarsus 11.
Distribution. Resident throughout the plains of Northern India in suitable places, from the base of the Himalayas to the Tapti or perhaps a little farther in Western India, and to the Godavari near the east coast. This Crane ranges west to the Indus and eastward as far as Lakhimpur in Assam (unless the Assam bird turns out to be the next species). Jerdon says the Sarus is. common in Khandesh, but Davidson and Major Probyn found it very rare there ; and it is unknown in the Bombay Deccan. The statement in some works that G. antigone is found around the Caspian Sea is probably due to error, caused by Pallas having used the name for a different species.
Habits, &c. The Sarus is usually seen in pairs, each pair often accompanied by a young bird, or occasionally by two, in open marshy ground, on the borders of swamps or large tanks. Sometimes small flocks are met with. Though not regarded as sacred, except in a few localities, these birds are very rarely molested in India, and they are consequently tame and unwary. They have a loud trumpet-like call, uttered when they are disturbed, and especially on the wing. When they fly they only rise a few yards from the ground. The food of this Crane is varied ; vegetables, reptiles, insects, and mollusca contributing. The Sarus pairs for life, and if one of a pair is killed, the survivor is said not unfrequently to pine and die. The breeding-season is in July, August, and September, though nests and eggs have been found in February and March. A huge nest is built of rushes, grass, &c, several feet in diameter at the base, and frequently 3 or 4 feet high; it is usually either in shallow water or surrounded by flooded ground, and in it two eggs are laid (three very rarely). The eggs are white or nearly white, blotched and clouded, thinly as a rule, with pale yellowish brown and purplish grey, and they measure on an average 3.96 by 2.56.