(2180) Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis.
THE INDIAN LARGE CORMORANT.
Pelecanus sinensis Shaw & Nod., Nat. Misc., xiii, p. 529 (1801) (China). Phalacrocorax carbo. Blanf. & Oates, iv. p. 340.
Vernacular names. Ghogur, Pan-kowa, Jal-kowa (Hind.) Tin-gyi (Burm.); Wadda Silli (Sind.) ; Bonta-Kaki (Tel.); Di dao-kwa (Cachari).
Description. - Breeding plumage. Head, crest, neck, whole lower plumage, lower back, rump and tail black with deep blue, green or purple gloss according to the light; a broad patch on the posterior flanks white ; lores, anterior sides of face, skin and throat white; over the whole head and neck are pure white silky plumes almost hiding the black; mantle and the whole wing, excluding the black primaries, bronze-brown, each feather edged boldly with black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris green; bill dark horny-brown, the lower mandible except the tip pinkish or yellowish-white; skin of pouch black and yellow, patched in varying degree, occasionally all yellow ; eyelids dusky yellow ; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Wing 315 to 336 mm.; tail 136 to 149 mm.; tarsus 65 to 76 mm.; culmen 63 to 74 mm., generally 67 to 71 mm.
In Winter the white filaments of the head are shed and the white patch on the flanks also disappears. Young birds are dull brown above, the feathers of the mantle with pale edges, soon abraded, and dark sub-edges ; the chin, throat, centre of neck, the breast and middle of the abdomen white, the sides mottled with brown. At a later stage the back attains the bronze-brown plumage with black margins; the lower part assumes a darker tint and the tail is black; by the fourth moult in Spring the fully adult breeding plumage is attained. Nestling in down all dark sooty-brown. When first born they are naked with a black skin.
Distribution. Japan, China, the Indo-Chinese countries, Malay Peninsula and Archipelago, Burma, India and Ceylon.
Nidification. The Large Cormorant breeds in Burma and India during the Cold Weather months, mostly from November to the end of January. They make their nests in colonies, either on low trees in swamps, or on rocks by the sides of rivers. There is one colony in Assam on the Sabansiri River, where this bird breeds in many thousands during December, on the great rocks and precipitous cliffs which line the long and narrow gorge where this river debouches from the Himalayas. Everywhere the cliffs are whitened to a height of some thirty feet by the droppings of centuries, for the natives say that these birds have bred there " since the world began." In some places the nests jostle one another on convenient ledges of rocks, in others they are scattered about some feet away from one another but for over half a mile on each side of the river there are but few spots from which one is not able to see some forty or fifty nests. They are of some size, well made of sticks and lined with grass and water-weeds. Here the eggs number from three to six ; in other colonies seven are sometimes laid but four and five are normal. They are, like all Cormorants' eggs, a pale clear sea-blue, but the whole surface is covered with a dense chalky covering of white. This calcium deposit, however, often breaks away in flakes, showing the blue below. One hundred eggs average 60.6 x 39.2 mm.: maxima 63.7 x 40.1 and 62.4 x 41.6 mm.; minima 56.2 x 37.0 and 59.8 x 36.9 mm.
The birds sit very close and when disturbed utter a very loud croaking bay, almost a roar. The young when first hatched are hideous little things, more like nightmares than birds.
Habits. Our Indian Cormorants are birds of fresh water rather than of sea-coasts like their European cousins and may be found in the non-breeding season on most large rivers and swamps. They live almost entirely on fish but any small reptile is also snapped up. They fish either singly, chasing their prey under water with extraordinary speed, or they fish in company. In the River Sabansiri I have seen companies of three or four hundred birds forcing the fish up backwaters and into the shallows by forming into a compact semicircular phalanx of swimming and diving birds. They gorge enormous numbers of small fish and many of some size, though anything over about half a pound is exceptional. If frightened and hustled they disgorge these before flighting but if undisturbed they eventually leave the water and sit, full up to their necks, on any convenient bough or rock, their wings distended and plumage ruffled as they bask in the sun. When breeding the birds have sometimes to wander considerable distances to obtain food for their voracious young. In these cases they may be seen, morning and evening, flying to and from their fishing in long horizontal lines of birds, their wings flapping steadily and quickly and making fair progress. On land they progress with difficulty but are capable of little spurts, running upright, just as Mergansers do, much in the manner of Penguins. Their note is a harsh croak and they have many unpleasant guttural conversational notes as well.