1196. Pseudogyps bengalensis.
The Indian White-backed Vulture.
Vultur bengalensis, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 245 (1788). Vultur leuconota, J. E. Gray in Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool. i, pl. 14 (1830-32). Gyps bengalensis, Blyth, Cat. p. 33; Horsf. & M. Cat. i,p. 4; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 10; Blyth, Ibis, 1866, p. 233; King, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 210; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 26; Jerdon, Ibis, 1871, p. 235 ; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1871, p. 676; 1875, p. 17; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xii, pt. 2, p. 230; Hume, N. & E. p. 7 ; Adam, S. F. i, p. 367; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 65; Butler, S. F. iii, p. 442; v, p. 322; vii, p. 179; Blanford, S. F. v, p. 245 ; Davids. & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 72; Cripps, ibid. p. 240; Marshall, Ibis, 1884, p. 406. Pseudogyps bengalensis, Sharpe, A. M. N. H. (4) xi, p. 133; id. Cat. B. M. i, p. 11; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 1; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 196; Hume, Cat. no. 5; Bingham, S. F. viii, p. 190; Scully, ibid. p. 219 ; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 29 ; Reid, S. F. x, p. 2 ; Davidson, ibid. p. 286; Davison, ibid. p. 332; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 1; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 170; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 205; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 6; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 38; iii, p. 207 ; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 149.
Gidh, H. & Mahr.; Sagun, Changoun, Beng.; Guligadu, Matu pudum gudu, Tel.; Walhorya, Yerkli; Karru, Tam.; Lin-tah, Burmese.
Coloration. Adult. Head and fore-neck with sparse brownish hairs, thicker on the nape; back of neck with white downy tufts ; ruff of short pure white down ; wings, interscapulary region, upper tail-coverts, and tail black or brownish black; secondaries brownish grey; lower back, rump, upper part of flanks, lower wing-coverts except near the edge of the wing, axillaries, and thigh-coverts white; crop-patch black, bordered on each side by white down; breast and abdomen brownish black, with narrow whitish shaft-stripes.
Young. Head and neck much covered with down, whitish above, brownish and thinner below; ruff of whitish lanceolate feathers with brown edges; plumage generally dark brown, primaries and tail-feathers blackish; wing-coverts with narrow, breast and abdomen with broad whitish shaft-stripes; no white on back, flanks, or wing-lining; a white down border to the brown crop-patch.
Bill dark plumbeous, except the upper part of the upper mandible, which in adults is greyish white; cere horny black, polished; irides brown; naked skin of head and neck dusky plumbeous : legs and feet nearly black (Hume).
Length about 35; tail 10; wing 23; tarsus 3.75; mid-toe without claw 3-5 ; bill from gape to point 2.75.
At all ages this is a darker as well as a smaller bird than Gyps indicus, and may be at once recognized by its dark lower parts with narrow whitish shaft-stripes.
Distribution. The commonest Vulture throughout India and Burma, but not found in Ceylon nor above moderate elevations in the Himalayas. Rarer in the Punjab and Sind, and in the desert parts of Rajputana. According to St. John, large numbers accompanied the army engaged in S. Afghanistan in 1878-9, and fed on the dead camels.
Habits, &c. Very similar to those of other true Vultures. This bird and Gyps indicus are commonly found about towns and villages, and they assemble in large numbers to feed on carcases of all kinds. The nest is an irregular platform of sticks, always on a large tree, often banyan or pipal, sometimes on palms, not unfrequently tamarind, nim (Melia azadirachta), or Terminalia, and there are often several nests on one tree. The middle of the platform is lined with green leaves, and a single egg is laid, generally dull white, sometimes speckled or blotched with reddish brown, and measuring on an average 3.20 by 2.42. This bird breeds from October till March, the majority about December or January, rather earlier, as is usual, to the southward than in Northern India. "When pairing these Vultures, like Gyps fulvus, make an extra¬ordinary roaring.