(2110) Haematopus ostralegus ostralegus.
Haematopus ostralegus Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., p. 152 (1758) (Oeland); Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 245.
Vernacular names. Darya gajpaon (Hind.); Yerra-kali-ulanka
Description. Whole head, neck, upper hack, scapulars and inner secondaries black ; lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts white, the last tipped with black; tail black with white base, broadest on the outermost rectrices ; wing-coverts black, the greater with broad white edges, forming with the white outer secondaries a broad wing-bar; primaries black, the first three with long, white streaks on the inner webs; the fourth with a white shaft-patch near the tip, increasing to a broad white patch on the sixth to eighth primaries; remainder of lower parts white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red or orange-red ; bill bright orange-red, paler and duller at extreme tip ; legs and feet dull brownish-purple or purple-red.
Measurements. Wing 240 to 261 mm.; tail 99 to 114 mm.; tarsus about 48 to 54 mm ; culmen 77 to 90 mm.
Young birds are browner and hare the feathers of the mantle narrowly edged with whitish; the centre of the chin and throat are more or less white and there is a broad patch of white on. the fore-neck.
Nestling in down. Upper parts sandy-brown; crown mottled with black, especially in the centre ; a U-shaped black mark on lower back and rump; tail black, stippled with rufous barring ; chin and throat fulvous-brown with black bases, fore-neck with a still blacker patch; rest of underparts white; thighs mottled brown and fulvous.
Distribution. The sea-coasts and islands on: the greater part of Europe and Western Asia. In Winter South to Sind, Cutch and Khatiawar in great numbers, )ess common South but recorded from Ceylon. Records from Eastern India and Burma probably all refer to the nest race.
Nidification. The Oyster-catcher breeds during May and late April in England and rather later farther North. As a rule it keeps to the coast-line, making its nest on sand and shingle beds above high-water mark but often its nest may also be found on fallow and ploughed fields, marshy land and heather far inland. The nests are scratchings in the soil or sand, always neatly lined with scraps of shell, small white stones, bits of glass etc. and, more than once, I have seen nests completely lined with sea-pink flowers. The eggs, three or four in number, vary from pale creamy-stone to a fairly warm buff, whilst the markings consist of small blotches and spots of reddish-brown to blackish-purple. Less often the marks form scrolls or large blotches. Exceptional eggs are quite green when fresh but this colour fades very rapidly. Jourdain gives the average of one hundred and one eggs as 57.0 x 40.0 mm.: maxima 70.1 X 37.4 and 62.1 X 48.9 mm.; minima 51.6 x 40.4 and 62.6 x 35.0 mm.
Habits. The Oyster-catcher is one of the wariest and shyest of our Indian Winter visitors and is, with us, almost entirely a. coastal bird, excepting when migrating to and fro. It is found in small or large parties either hunting along the shores for molluscs and Crustacea or sitting during the heat of the day in closely-packed flocks just above the tide. Its plaintive whistle of two notes is shrill and high-pitched and it has a short, shrill single note of alarm.
* Buturlin separates the Eastern European and West Asiatic form as longipes (Men. Orn. 1910, p. 36: Caspian Sea) but 1 cannot distinguish between this and typical ostralegus.