(2096) Sterna fuscata infuscata.
THE INDIAN SOOTY TERN.
Sterna infuscata Lichten., Verz. doubl. Mus. Berlin, p. 81 (1823) (East Indies). Sterna fuliginosa. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 324.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead, running back in an angle over the eye, white; a line from the gape to the eye, crown and nape black; hind-neck mixed black and white; upper plumage deep chocolate-brown; outermost tail-feathers greyish-white, darker at the tip and at the end of the inner web; primaries with the inner webs paler on the outer halves; lower plumage, axillaries and under wing-coverts white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill and feet black.
Measurements. Wing 278 to 297 mm.; tail 145 to 162 mm.; tarsus about 23 to 24 mm.; culmen 35 to 42 mm.
In non-breeding plumage the crown and lores are streaked with white.
Young birds are paler above than the adult and are pale sooty-brown below; the feathers of the head and to a less extent the back are margined with paler rufous-white; scapulars and inner¬most secondaries with broader, whiter tips.
Nestling in down. Upper parts greyish-white; lower surface white.
Distribution. Coasts of India and Burma, Andamans, Ceylon,. Laccadives, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. I obtained a specimen of this Tern in Cachar, some hundreds of miles from the sea, after a series of heavy storms.
Nidification. Owston found this bird breeding in great numbers in the Riu-kiu Islands in April 1898, laying one, two or three eggs on the bare rocks with no pretence at a nest or attempt at concealment. The colony was a large one of some hundreds of pairs and the nests were very close together. In the Seychelles they usually lay but one egg and this seems to be the normal number with the other races but in the Laccadives Hume found two or three eggs or young in nearly all the nests. The eggs vary from pure white, or white tinged with yellow, pink, olive or brown to deep salmon or reddish-buff, sparingly blotched with dark brown or reddish-brown. Thirty eggs average 52.3 x 36.0 mm.: maxima 58.0 x 37.0 and 54.3 x 38.1 mm.; minima 47.5 x 35.1 and 51.1 x 34.7 mm.
In the Laccadives Hume found that many young were nearly fledged by February and in these reefs the birds must begin to lay about Christmas,
Habits. The Sooty Tern is essentially an oceanic bird, often being found at great distances from any land. They feed on small fish and Crustacea and during the breeding-season feed their young almost entirely with small cephalapods of the genus Sepida. They swim well and frequently alight and rest on the water.