(2179) Pelecanus philippensis.
THE SPOTTED-BILLED PELICAN.
Pelecanus philippensis Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p. 571 (1789) (Philippines) ; Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 335,
Vernacular names. Deo-hans, Bhera (Assam); Bhela (Kamroop); Sekawet, Woonbak (Burma); other provinces the same as for the preceding species.
Description in breeding-season. A ridge of elongated feathers down the back of the neck, lengthening to a small crest on the nape, brownish; remaining feathers of head and neck white with brown bases; primaries and primary coverts blackish with pale tips; secondaries and long scapulars brown with white bases and silvered over on the exposed outer webs; tail brown with the same silvering overlay; upper tail-coverts paler brown, strongly suffused with pink; remaining plumage white, the lower back, flanks, vent and under tail-coverts are suffused with vinous-pink; feathers of mantle black-shafted.
Colours of soft parts. Iris white to pale yellow, clouded with brown; bill pinkish-flesh or yellowish-flesh with a row of bluish-"black spots on each side near the edge ; the nail and terminal half of both mandibles orange, the lower mandible with bluish blotches near the centre; pouch dull purple blotched with bluish-black; naked skin orange-yellow, livid in front of the eye; legs and feet very dark brown or blackish.
Measurements. Wing, 530 to 607 mm., 525 to 550 mm.; tail 168 to 196 mm.; tarsus, 86 to 98 mm., 75 to 86 mm.; culmen, 324 to 355 mm., 285 to 308 mm.
Adults in non-breeding plumage have the head, neck and back white; the rump, lower back, upper tail-coverts and flanks white with black shafts; wings and tail brown; lower plumage pale brown.
Young birds are pale brown throughout, the wing-coverts pale-edged and the breast and abdomen almost or quite white.
Distribution. The whole Oriental Region. Common in Burma and Eastern India South to Ceylon, less common in Western India.
Nidification. There are breeding-places of the Spotted-billed Pelican in the Carnatic, Ceylon and on the Godavery. In all these places they breed in the Cold Weather from December to March. There was formerly a breeding-place in Svlhet, possibly still existing, where they did not begin to lay until July, when the floods had commenced to rise. Their great breeding-haunts, however, are in the forest areas of Burma, where many years ago Oates found them breeding near Shwe-gyen in countless numbers during November. Civilization and cultivation have driven the birds back bub they have merely retreated with the forest and still breed in their hundreds of thousands in company with the Adjutants as they did then in 1877. They make enormous stick-nests, often a hundred feet from the ground, high up in lofty trees, which are branchless for fifty feet or more from the ground. In some trees there may be ten to twenty nests, in others but one, whilst the breeding-area covers a belt of forest at least thirty miles long by three to ten miles wide. Fifty eggs average 78.8 X 53.4 mm.: maxima 83.0 x 54.2 and 81.5 x 57.8 mm.; minima 71.4 x 47.7 mm.
Habits. Except that these birds are very common over a very great area, the habits do not differ from those of the other Pelicans. In the non-breeding season the birds separate and spread out all over Burma and Indo-China and much of India, wherever there is enough water, swamp, lake or rivers in which they can fish. There are extraordinarily greedy birds and must destroy an immense weight of fish. They seem to prefer those which are up to about half a pound but will take much bigger ones, whilst they also take any unfortunate frogs, lizards or harmless snakes which may come their way. Their only note seems to be a deep guttural croak, which rises to a harsh screech when the birds are angry or frightened.