(2130) Himantopus himantopus himantopus.
THE BLACK-WINGED STILT.
Charadrius himantopus Linn,, Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 151 (1758) (Europe). Himantopus candidus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 247.
Vernacular names. Gaj-paun, Tinghur (Hind.) ; Lal-Gon, Lal-thengi, Lam-gora (Beng.) ; Gusling (Sind.).
Description. - Adult male. Mantle and wings, above and below, black, glossed with metallic green; upper tail-coverts tinged with brownish grey; tail delicate pale grey-brown; remainder of plumage white, a few black spots often showing on the head.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright red; bill black; legs and feet crimson-red, the claws black.
Measurements. Wing, 240 to 253 mm.; tail 80 to 86 mm.; tarsus about 115 to 145 mm.; culmen 60 to 69 mm.; wing, 227 to 236 mm.; culmen 54 to 68 mm.
Females have the back, scapulars and inner secondaries brown instead of black; the white head is nearly always sullied with some grey, whilst the hind-neck often also shows some grey.
Young males have the anterior crown, upper ear-coverts and a line down the back of the neck black.
Nestling. Upper plumage pale fulvous, mottled with black, this forming very indefinite lateral and a distinct median coronal line; there is a fairly distinct dorsal line with an arrow-head cross-line on the shoulders and extreme rump.
Distribution. Southern Europe, Africa, Central and Southern Asia to Ceylon, Malay Straits etc.
Nidification. The Stilt breeds wherever it is found, making its nest in swamps and marshes, either in or close to the water. In India a favourite breeding-place used to be the salt-works at Sultanpur, where many hundreds nested in April and May Now the works are abandoned and the birds have left. There are also other breeding-places in Oude, Sind, Ceylon, the Sunderbands in Eastern Bengal, Burma etc. but in none of these are the birds so numerous as they were in the Delhi district. The nests vary greatly; in some oases they are substantial conical mounds of vegetable rubbish as much as two feet high, in others they are mere scrapes in the soil, lined with grass, weeds or small pebbles, or unlined altogether. The Stilt also breeds in great numbers in Iraq, where Pitman found some hundreds of nests in the Euphrates Valley in June. In Ceylon they breed during April and May in the South, during June, July and August in the North. The full clutch of eggs is four, very rarely three or five. The groundcolour varies from a pale yellow or yellow-grey stone-colour to a warm brown, the markings consisting of large and small black blotches, generally more numerous at the larger end. Jourdain gives the average of 100 European eggs as 44.0 x 31.0 mm.: maxima 48.2 X 33.0 mm.; minima 38.0 x 28.0 mm.
Habits. The Stilt is a resident bird but moves locally according to food-supply and water. It is very sociable, nearly always being found in large flocks, is not shy and is very noisy. Its night is easy and fairly fast but its very long, thin legs trailing out behind give it a rather grotesque appearance, It walks slowly and sedately but can run at some speed and it swims well. Its food consists chiefly of aquatic and other insects, small mollusca and tadpoles, fish-fry, frog-spawn and, occasionally, small frogs and lizards.