(2131) Recurvirostra avocetta avocetta.
Recurvirostra avocetta Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 151 (1758) (Europe, Oland): Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 248.
Vernacular names. Kusya Chaha (Behar).
Description. Upper part of head and neck, scapulars and a line over the shoulders in continuation, median wing-coverts and inner secondaries and primaries black; the longest secondaries greyish at the ends ; the inner primaries with white bases ; remaining plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red-brown to red; bill black; legs and feet pale bluish-grey.
Measurements. Wing 220 to 235 mm; tail 86 to 90 mm.; tarsus about 84 to 90 mm.; culmen 84 to 91 mm. (Hartert).
In Winter the tail is greyish, the long secondaries more grey and lets black.
Young birds have the black replaced by brown, the brown scapulars, coverts etc. edged with paler brown, giving a mottled appearance.
Nestling in down. Above pale grey ; a black line through the lores and another down the centre of the crown with other black marks laterally; two broken dorsal lines of black and a well-developed black line down the posterior flanks joining round the tail; a few black blotches between this last and the dorsal lines ; below dull white.
Distribution. Breeding over the greater part of Europe; the Black Sea and Caspian Sea to the Yenesei; Tropical Africa and South to North and Western India and Ceylon in Winter.
Nidification. The Avocet breeds in Europe from the end of April to the end of May in and round marshes in colonies of some size. The eggs are laid either on the bare ground or in depressions roughly lined with vegetable debris. The eggs, four in number, are very like those of the Stilt's but with a rather browner less yellow ground-colour and much bigger. One hundred eggs average 50.5 x 35.0 mm.: maxima 55.6 X 35.6 and 50.4 X 37.5 mm.; minima 46.8 X 34.3 and 48.3 x 31.2 mm. (Jourdain).
Habits. The Stilt is to some extent migratory, the Northern birds moving South in Winter to North Africa, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia and India, It occurs in India in small flocks, commonly in the North-West, rarely as far South as Ceylon and East to Behar. It keeps to marshy land, swamp and lakes, feeding on small Crustacea, water insects etc., obtaining its food by sweeping in the mud and sand with a circular action of its curved bill. It walks slowly and quietly, flies well with outstretched legs and swims well and high in the water. Witherby syllabifies its call as " klweet, klweet " and says that the male also has a low " chuck, chuck, chuck, chawy," which it utters on the ground.