1517. Rhynchops albicollis.
The Indian Skimmer or Scissors-bill.
(Fig. 68, p. 296.) ; Rhynchops albicollis, Swains. An. in Menag. p. 360 (1838); Blyth, Cat. p. 290; Irby, Ibis, 1861, p. 246; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 847; Hume, S. F. i, p. 286; Ball, S.F. ii, p. 440; iv, p. 237 ; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 32; v, pp. 225, 235; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1877, p. 807; Wardl. Rams. Ibis, 1877, p. 472; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 493; Davids. & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 93; Hume, ibid. p. 99; Ball, ibid. p. 233 ; Cripps, ibid. p. 314; Hume, Cat. no. 995; Butler, S. F. ix, p. 441; Reid, S. F. x, p. 87 ; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 436 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 434 ; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. vi, p. 302 ; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 351; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 316; Saunders, Cat. B. M. xxv, p. 159.
Coloration. Forehead, lores, cheeks, neck all round, and all lower parts white: crown, nape, back, and wings blackish brown ; secondaries broadly tipped white, tertiaries and scapulars narrowly edged with white near the tip ; middle of rump, middle tail-coverts, and inner webs of median rectrices blackish brown ; sides of rump and of upper tail-coverts and remainder of tail white.
Bill deep orange, yellowish at the tip of both mandibles ; irides brown ; legs bright vermilion-red.
Length 16.5 ; tail 4.5; wing 16; tarsus 1.1 ; lower mandible from gape 3.5 to 4, upper mandible half an inch to an inch shorter.
Distribution. The larger rivers of India and Burma. This bird is unknown in Ceylon.
Habits, &c. The Indian Skimmer is usually seen on broad and smooth rivers down to the tideway, not in torrents nor, so far as is known, on the sea, though occasionally a few birds may haunt large open tanks, and even jheels. They are usually found in the morning and evening flying, often in scattered flocks, rather slowly close to the water, now and then dipping their bills in the stream, as shown in the vignette on p. 296. During the day the flocks generally rest on sandbanks. They certainly catch fish at times ; I once found a fish in the stomach of a Skimmer on the Nerbudda, and others have done the same, but as a rule nothing but a yellowish oily fluid is found, and the use of the very peculiar beak that this bird possesses is still unknown. This species breeds on sandbanks in rivers about March and April, and lays four eggs in a small depression in the sand. The eggs vary in tint, pale buff or stone-colour, greenish or greyish white, blotched and streaked with dark brown and pale inky purple, and they measure about 1.63 by 1.18.