(2233) Nycticorax nycticorax nycticorax.
The Night Heron.
Ardea nycticorax Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 142 (1758) (Europa australi). Nycticorax griseus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 397.
Vernacular names. Wak, Kwak, Tar Bogla, Kokrai (Hind.); Gadri (Sind.); Kow dauk, Batchka (Beng.) ; Chinta wakha (Tel.); Sannari (Tam., Ceylon); Rae kana koka (Cing.); Lin wet (Burma).
Description. Crown, nape and crest, back and scapulars black glossed with green; above the lores, forehead and supercilium white; two or three very long, narrow pure white feathers from the nape; chin, throat, fore-neck, centre of breast, abdomen and under tail-coverts white; remainder of plumage pale ashy vinous-grey, palest on the neck, darkest on the wing-quills and tail.
Colours of soft parts. Iris blood-red; bill black, greenish-yellow at the base and on most of the lower mandible; naked lores and orbital skin yellowish-green; legs and feet dull green; in the breeding-season the bill is more black and the legs and feet are pale reddish-horny.
Measurements. Wing 265 to 304 mm., exceptionally only under 272 or over 289 mm.; tail 96 to 115 mm.; tarsus about 65 to 75 mm.; culmen 64 to 81 mm. but nearly all between 70 and 80 mm. The sexes do not differ in size.
Young birds have the head blackish, with shaft-streaks of rufous; the upper parts brown, streaked with rufous, the streaks broadening to white patches on the wing-coverts; primaries and secondaries rather more ashy with white spots on the tips; lower parts white or buffy-white, broadly streaked with dark brown.
Distribution. South and Central Europe; Northern Africa and the greater part of Southern and Central Asia. In our limits it is found wherever there is sufficient water.
Nidification. The Night Heron breeds over most of India from June to September, but in Kashmir they lay as early as April and in Ceylon most birds breed in March. They nest in big colonies, sometimes in company with other Herons but more often by themselves, building their nests in trees of considerable size and height and often selecting trees in gardens or in the middle of villages for this purpose. The nests are well made of large and small sticks, often being roughly lined with smaller twigs and leaves. The eggs number four or five and are of the usual Heron green-blue, generally rather pale. Fifty Indian eggs average 49.9 X 35.1 mm.: maxima 54.1 x 35.8 and 51.3 x 37.3 mm.; minima 46.1 X 35.9 and 47.2 x 32.2 mm.
Habits. The Night Heron is truly nocturnal in its Habits. Not until after the sun has set for half an hour or so do the birds leave the trees, where they remain all day in the deepest shade they can get. As the sun sets they begin to get restless, preen themselves and fidget about; then one by one, never all together, they flap off their perches and wend their way to their feeding-grounds, uttering a loud, though not unmusical, squawk every few minutes as they fly. They feed on fish, frogs, crabs, Crustacea and worms. Their flight consists of very deliberate flaps and, in the distance, they look very like the huge flying foxes, with whom they are often seen flying. They are extraordinarily tame birds when they are not harassed and will allow observation from within a few yards without troubling to move.