(2202) Platalea leucorodia major.
The Indian Spoonbill.
Platalea major Temm. & Schleg., Faun. Japon., p. 119 (1848) (Japan). Platalea leucorodia. Blanf. & Oates, iv. p. 360.
Vernacular names. Chamach Baza (Hind.); Ghinta (Beng.); Gentu muku konga (Tel.); Chapy Chundun (Tam., Ceylon); Khantiya-bog (Assam).
Description. A patch on the fore-neck cinnamon-buff or tawny; remainder of plumage, including long and thick nuchal crest, pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black, the terminal half of the spoon bright yellow ; bare skin of face yellow, sometimes blotched with black on and above the lores; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Wing 350 to 395 mm.; tail 108 to 122 mm.; tarsus 130 to 165 mm.; culmen 180 to 228 mm.
In non-breeding plumage the crest is moulted.
Young birds have the primary wing-coverts tipped with black, much of the first three primaries blotched and mottled with black, all black-shafted and the fourth and fifth with black tips.
Distribution. India and Ceylon to Japan. Afghanistan and Baluchistan. West to Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia.
Nidification. The Spoonbills breed throughout India as far East as Eastern Bengal but not in Assam. In Ceylon they breed in March; in Northern India most birds lay from September to November; in Sind sometimes as early as August, whilst from Satara, in Bombay, I have eggs taken by Betham at the end of January. The birds breed in colonies, often of great size and often in company with colonies of Open-bills, Herons, Ibises etc., though they usually select a cluster of trees slightly apart from the others. As long as the trees are close to water they do not seem to mind where they grow and the trees selected are quite as often standing in villages as away from them. The nests are large, stick structures built near the tops of the trees and are used year after year by the birds. The eggs number three to five and though eight have been found in a nest, these are probably the produce of two birds. The eggs have a pure white groundcolour and are blotched sparingly and principally at the larger end with deep red-brown. Secondary' markings are scarce but occasionally there are a few light reddish subshell blotches. Forty eggs average 65.6 x 44.2 mm.: maxima 72.1 x 45.1 and 70.0 x 47.7 mm.; minima 61.1 x 45.3 and 61.4 x 41.0 mm.
Habits. The Spoonbills are resident throughout India but move locally under the pressure of weather. In serious droughts they will leave Borne districts altogether, simply because no food is obtainable and at certain times, as in Sind, their numbers are greatly increased by visitors from elsewhere. In Sind, Ticehurst found these birds very wild but in most parts of India, as in Sind sometimes, they are extremely tame and confiding. They are very silent birds, a low guttural croak being the only sound they make. They fly well but slowly with regular flapping, can move with some speed on land and are good swimmers. They feed for the most part on small fish, tiny eels, frogs, newts, tadpoles etc. hut will also devour all insects and are said to eat a good deal oil vegetable matter. In the breeding-season they feed early in the mornings and late in the afternoons and they are rather crepuscular in their habits at all times.