(2292) Podiceps ruficollis capensis.
The Indian Little Grebe,
Podiceps capensis Salvadori, Ann. Mus. Civ. Gen., (2) i, p. 252 (1884) (Shoa, Africa). Podicipes albipennis. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 475.
Vernacular names. Pandub, Pantiri, Dubdubi, Churaka (Hind.); Dubari(Beng.); Munu-gudi-kodi (Tel.); Mukel-pan (Tam.,Ceylon) Tubino (Sind).
Description. - Breeding plumage. Forehead, crown and a narrow line down the hind-neck blackish-brown ; lores, face and chin blacker; upper plumage dark brown, a little lighter than the crown; primaries light brown, the concealed, or nearly concealed, bases white and the inner webs white diagonally on the basal two-thirds ; outer secondaries white, sometimes practically pure white, at other times in varying degree edged with very pale brown; sides of head, the neck and throat chestnut, deepest on the sides of the head, palest on the centre of fore-neck; lower parts silky white, the breast, flanks and round the vent much mottled with brown and sometimes almost wholly of this colour.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red-brown or deep red; bill black, the extreme tip pale and the base and gape yellow to pea-green, generally greenish-yellow; legs and feet greenish-black to almost quite black.
Measurements. Wing 94 to 109 mm.; tarsus 30 to 35 mm.; culmen 18 to 22 mm. In the British Museum collection there are practically no sexed specimens.
In non-breeding plumage the crown and neck are concolorous with the back; the chin is white and the chestnut neck etc. replaced by pale rufous. Birds which breed very late in the year retain their breeding plumage up to and into December.
Young birds are paler, have no chestnut or merely a trace of it on the sides of the head and lower neck; the lower plumage is white with very little brown.
Nestling. A small very dark replica of the nestling of the Crested Grebe; the blackish stripes are broader, the pale stripes narrower and more fulvous or rufous; the chin and throat are much more black, the two pale stripes much less defined; a short white streak behind the eye; centre of abdomen white, the sides of the breast, abdomen and the vent black.
Distribution. A great portion of tropical Africa, from the Gold Coast and Abyssinia to the Cape; Madagascar and the Comoro islands; Palestine, Arabia, Mesopotamia to India, Ceylon and Burma. In. these last three countries it is found practically everywhere and extends to Yunnan, where it was obtained by Anderson, and to Siam, where Herbert obtained several specimens.
Nidification. The Indian Little Grebe breeds in Ceylon during January and December and again in June; in Kashmir it lays in May and in Southern India the usual time seems to be May and June, whilst over Northern India, Assam and Burma the favourite months are August and September. Any piece of weedy water will suffice as a nesting-site and tiny village ponds or even road-side ditches have been selected for the purpose but the most common breeding places are fairly large stretches of weed-covered water in swamps more or less surrounded by reeds. In Cachar and Sylhet they breed in small colonies as well as singly and there are also colonies on the Nilgiris, in the Manchar Lake and one or two other places. For the most part, however, they make their nests singly and each pair of birds has its own domain, though this may be small where the birds are numerous. The nest is very crude; a little pad of weeds, supported by growing weeds, lotus and lily-plants, often half submerged and nearly always soaking wet. The nest is never in quite open water, in which it would either soon sink or be driven ashore with the first wind; on the other hand, it is sometimes, especially in Kashmir, built among the reeds surrounding the lakes. Both birds take part in incubation and often both sit together when the nest is large enough, whilst, always, before leaving their eggs they carefully cover them with more wet weeds. The eggs number three to five, but six and even seven are not uncommon, Betham once finding eight in a nest. In appearance they are miniatures of those of the Crested Grebe and, like them, are pure white when first laid but soon become stained and brown, sometimes to a dark mahogany. Two hundred eggs average 35.4 x 25.2 mm.: maxima 40.0 x 24.0 mm. and 35.5 X 26.5 mm.; minima 29.1 x 23.4 and 35.1 x 23.1 mm. Like other Grebes these do not sit close, diving noiselessly from their nests as soon as they have any idea of danger. On returning they do so by successive dives, after each dive searching round well for danger before once more diving in the direction of their nests.
Habits. The Little Grebe may be found anywhere where there is water. In Eastern Bengal it frequents small village ponds and roadside ditches as well as the huge areas of open swamp and lake. In the former it will only be found singly or in pairs but in the larger waters it generally associates in small flocks of five or six to ten, probably family parties only. Occasionally these families collect in larger flocks, but this is exceptional. Their diet in India undoubtedly consists in great part of small fish and fish-fry, though they also feed on insects, larvae, tadpoles etc. as well as small crustacea and mollusca. One found dead had been choked trying to swallow a freshwater prawn nearly five inches long. They are wonderfully expert swimmers and divers and will clear a small pond out of fish-fry and tadpoles in a very short time. On land they can walk about but are very clumsy and slow and if hurried soon tumble over. Nor can they rise into the air from the land and when rising from the water paddle along the surface for a long distance before they get clear of it. In the smaller ponds they become very tame and confiding but on the bigger pieces of water are wary, wide-awake little birds. Their ordinary note is a low note sounding like the hardly audible creak of a door, but their alarm-note is a sharp "tuit-tuit," whilst they also have the usual rippling courting-note of the smaller Grebes.