(2241) Phoenicopterus ruber antiquorum.
Phoenicopterus antiquorum Temm., Man. d'Orn., 2nd ed., ii, p. 527 (Europe). Phoenicopterus roseus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 408.
Vernacular names. Bog-hans, Raj-hans (Hind.); Kan-thunti (Beng.); Pu-konga, Samdrapa-chilluka (Tel.); Punari (Tam.); Urian (Tam., Ceylon).
Description. - Male. Whole plumage with the exceptions noted a beautiful rosy-white ; the rose-colour much deeper on the tail and rather deeper on the head and neck; primary coverts nearly or quite white; other coverts and innermost secondaries light rose-red; primaries and outer secondaries black; under wing-coverts and axillaries scarlet, under median and primary coverts black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris lemon-yellow, pale yellow or golden-yellow ; orbital skin fleshy-pink to bright red; bill bright flesh-coloured; edge of upper mandible and terminal third black ; legs and feet pinkish-red, claws black.
Measurements. Length 1,000 to 1,300 mm.; wing 393 to 444 mm.; tail 152 to 189 mm.; tarsus about 311 to 327 mm.; culmen about 139 to 164 mm.; the bare part of the tibia is about 220 to 250 mm.
Female similar to the male but the rose-colour generally less pronounced. It is also smaller, wing about 375 to 405 mm.; culmen about 120 to 143 mm.
Young birds. Head, neck and lower plumage white, tinged with rosy-buff; back and wing-coverts ashy-buff with dark shaft-stripes; the greater coverts more brown but with paler tips soon wearing off; under wing-coverts and axillaries pale pink; bill more dull than in adults; legs dark plumbeous.
Nestling. Down white, more or less tinged with grey, especially on the upper parts; down in texture like that on a nestling Swan. At this stage the bill is perfectly straight but soon assumes the adult shape.
Distribution. Southern Europe, more or less confined to the coast-line ; practically the whole of Africa and Asia as far East as Lake Baikal and India.
In India it is found here and there over the whole continent. South in Ceylon, East to Assam, where it was obtained by McLelland, Eastern Bengal, where I have seen it. but not in Burma.
Nidification. It possibly breeds in Ceylon, though this has never been definitely proved, whilst there was no record of the Flamingo breeding in India until the Rao of Cutch discovered a breeding place eight miles North-East of the Pachham in the Rann. His description of the nests agrees well with descriptions of those in European colonies. The nests are inverted cones of wet mud, which become very hard when dry, placed sometimes in groups, sometimes much scattered, on ground which is slightly raised above the surrounding needed country, although their bases may be actually in the water. In the Rann His Highness found the eggs were laid in August but in the Persian Gulf, where the birds breed on the islands in great numbers, they are laid in April. The eggs are generally two in each nest but occasionally one only. In colour they are a skim-milk blue but the hard inner shell is incrusted with a dense layer of calcium, which soon becomes stained, though pure white when fresh. One hundred eggs (Jourdain) average 88.8 X 54.5 mm.: maxima 103.5 x 56.5 and 93.7 X 61.0 mm.; minima 77.0 X 48.4 and 94.5 x 47.7 mm.
The Flamingo has a curious habit of dropping eggs at odd times before and after the usual breeding-season and such eggs have been picked up by Barnes, Hume and others in India.
Habits. Although so ungainly in shape when viewed in¬dividually, the Flamingo when seen in the vast herds in which they so often collect is one of the most beautiful of Avian sights. In the distance they look like a field of snow with a rosy sunset glow upon it, then, as one approaches, the snow suddenly melts into a flaming scarlet as the birds unfold their wings and sail away. When just moving from one feeding-ground to another they adopt no particular formation but when in full flight form into either a wide V or a long waving ribbon. They spend most of their time either wading or standing on the shores of lakes,, sea-coasts etc. Their food is obtained entirely in the water; much of it is of a vegetable nature but they also eat tiny water insects, Crustacea and mollusca, whilst in the South of France and Spain they feed almost exclusively on a tiny brine shrimp (Artemia salina). Their method of feeding is curious; their long heads are bent down between their equally long necks and their bills, thus inverted, are moved slowly backwards and for¬wards, gently stirring up the mud so that their bills trap the sought for food which the lamellae enable them to retain.
They have a rather Goose-like call but are, on the whole, very silent birds.