(2186) Sula dactylatra melanops.
THE RED SEA MASKED BOOBY or GANNET.
Sula melanops Heugl., Isis, 1859, p. 351, pi. x, fig. 2 (Red Sea). Sula cyanops. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 347.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Tail, primaries, secondaries, longest scapulars and greater wing-coverts dark chocolate-brown; remainder of plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow, reddish or greenish-yellow : hill greenish-yellow : naked skin of face dark bluish-slate colour; legs and feet dark slaty-blue to black. Tail-feathers fourteen.
Measurements. Wing 414 to 430 mm.; tail 168 to 182 mm.; tarsus about 52 to 58 mm.; culmen 95 to 106 mm., generally under 102 mm.
Young in first plumage. Brown all over, darker and browner above, paler and more grey below.
Young in second plumage. Whole head and neck chocolate-brown ; back, rump, upper tail-coverts and wing-coverts brown with white edges to each feather.
Between this stage and the adult every form is to be met with, the final before the complete white plumage is attained, showing only a few brown spots on the scapulars, lesser wing-coverts, rump and upper tail-coverts.
Nestling in down. Pure white.
Distribution. Red Sea and Persian Gulf as far South down the East African coast as Madagascar and on the Indian coast occurring casually from the Mekran coast to the Laccadives. It was obtained by Murray at Karachi and by Sinclair in the Bombay Harbour.
Nidification. Ticehurst thinks this species may breed on the Haski, one of the islands off the Oman coast but, so far, its breeding-haunts have not been discovered.
Habits. This is a not uncommon bird but keeps so entirely to the sea that, though it must constantly occur along the North¬west coast, it is but seldom seen. Murray obtained one from fishermen which was said to have been killed off the Karachi coast. Butler saw two or three off the Sind Coast and it was observed by Sinclair close to Bombay and by Ticehurst off the Mekran coast at Omara.
In all respects its habits are those of the genus but it seems nowhere to associate in very large flocks, though it may do so in its breeding-haunts.