(1821) Machaeramphus alcinus.
THE SLENDER-BILLED PERN,
Machaeramphus alcinus Western. in lac. cit. (1848) (Malacca). Machaeramphus alcinus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 408.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Feathers round the eye white; throat and foreneck pure white, the chin and a mesial line black; upper breast with a certain amount of white; remainder of plumage black, the bases of the feathers browner and showing through in some places;, in very freshly-moulted birds the black has a. distinct gloss but in .bleached specimens the black turns very brown.
Colours of soft parts; Iris bright yellow; bill and cere black legs and feet pale plumbeous (Davison).
Measurements. Wing 371 to 412 mm ; tail 171 to 177 mm.; tarsus 58 to 62 mm.; culmen 21 to 24 mm. The material available does not show, to what extent the sexes differ in size.
Young birds are possibly barred or mottled on the inner bases of the tail-feathers, as some specimens in the British Museum show signs of this mottling and these same individuals show more white on the breast.
Distribution. South Tenasserim, Malay Peninsula, Malay Archipelago to New Guinea.
Nidification, Robinson informs me that he saw a pair of these birds with their nest on an immense oil-tree, standing in comparatively open ground on the outskirts of heavy forest and close to the limestone-cliffs.
Habits. This curious bird is essentially crepuscular and Robinson says that one never sees anything of it until about 6 in the evening, when it may be seen hunting bats which form its staple food. As might be expected it haunts forest or open, but well-wooded,, country in the vicinity of the limestone-cliffs, in the numerous caves of which the bats harbour in vast numbers.
Nidification. Nothing recorded.
Habits. Very little known. Robinson and Kloss say that it is not uncommon in the Malay Peninsula but that owing to its crepuscular habits and powerful flight it is but seldom observed.