(2132) Ibidorhyncha struthersii.
Ibidorhyncha struthersii Gould, Century Birds, pl. 19 (1831) (Himalayas). Ibidorhyncha strut her si. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 249.
Vernacular names. Puggah (Hill Miri).
Description. Pace as far back as the middle of the eye, throat and crown black bordered by white ; the forehead and lores more or less speckled and streaked with white ; neck, sides of head and upper breast bluish-grey, above merging into the ashy grey-brown of the upper plumage: rump-feathers with dark brown bases showing plainly; tail ashy-grey with narrow, wavy dark cross-bars, the outer feathers with broad blackish subapical bars ; primaries rather darker brown, the inner webs marked with white, indefinite broad margins to the first three or four, becoming well-defined white spots and bases on the innermost; a narrow white band below the blue upper breast followed by a broad black gorget; axillaries, under wing-coverts and rest of lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris crimson; bill deep crimson-red to scarlet-red ; legs and feet pinkish-grey (non-breeding and young) to blood-red (breeding adults).
Measurements. "Wing 230 to 245 mm.; tail 113 to 120 mm. tarsus about 47 to 49 mm.: culmen 68 to 80 mm.
Young birds have no black and white on the head; the black breast-band is wanting or only just shows; the upper plumage has each feather narrowly margined paler.
Nestling in down. Above grey formed by the most minute stipplings of blackish and white, here and there a tinge of fulvous; a darker line round the back of the head; a well-defined black and rufous line down the posterior flanks and round the tail; below greyish-white.
Distribution. The Pamirs and Gilgit to North-West China in Winter moving down to the foot-hills all along the Himalayas. In Assam it is common in the hill-streams where they debouch from the hills but never wanders any distance into the plains. In the Himalayas it occurs principally between 9,000 and 15,000 ft.
Nidification. Whymper first discovered the Ibis-Bill breeding in the Garhwal Hills between 8,000 and 9,000 feet in April 1906 ; since then it has been found breeding by Osmaston, Ludlow and others in Ladak and Tibet up to an elevation of at least 13,000 feet. La Touche also obtained several nests on the Shin-ho River in North-East Chihli in April and May. In the Himalayas the favourite nesting-sites are the islands in the hill rivers where these run through wide valleys, often having several branches. Hollows are scratched out by the birds for their eggs on the ridges of the shingle-banks and are quite in the open, no concealment being attempted. They are neatly lined with small smooth pebbles collected for the purpose, those which are black being most often selected. Four eggs form the normal clutch but three only are sometimes incubated. In general appearance they are rather like pale weakly-coloured eggs of the Wood-cock; the ground-colour is very pale grey, tinted greenish, yellowish or buff and the marks consist of small blotches and spots of light to dark reddish with secondary markings of pale lavender. Both types of blotches are fairly numerous at the larger end and scant elsewhere. In shape they are broad ovals, rather pointed at the smaller end. Fifty-two eggs average 51.0 X 36.9 mm.: maxima 53.0 x 36.0 and 50.3 x 38.0 mm.; minima 46.0 X 34.0 mm.
Habits. The Ibis-Bill keeps entirely to the banks and beds of rivers, in Summer between 8,000 and 15,000 feet or perhaps higher still and in Winter between the edge of the plains and 10.000 feet and in Tibet up to 12,000 feet, as it seems to remain on the Gyantse Plateau all the year round. Its flight is like that of the Sandpiper but not so fast, whilst during the breeding-season its contortions in the air and behaviour near the nest are said to resemble those of the Lapwing. Walking about it is a very graceful bird and it is not shy, allowing a close approach and showing no fear of being watched. It feeds on insects, mollusca and sand-hoppers and one I shot had been feeding entirely on small grasshoppers. The only note 1 have heard is a musical "klew klew" but it is said to have also a loud harsh call of fear.