(2203) Threskiornis melanocephalus.
The White Ibis.
Tantalus melanocephalus Lath., Ind. Orn., ii, p. 709 (1790) (India), Ibis melanocephalus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 361.
Vernacular names. Munda, Safed Baza, Didhar (Hind.); Kacha-tor (Purnea); Sabut Baza, Do-chora (Beng.); Tatu-koka (Oing.) ; Kayusoti (Burm.); Boga-akoki-bog (Assam).
Description. - Breeding plumage. The ends of the inner secondaries and sometimes a few of the longest scapulars silvery slaty-grey with black shafts; all but the first primary with black shafts ; remainder of plumage white; the feathers round the base of the neck are long and plume-like and the inner secondaries very long and much disintegrated.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red-brown or red ; bill black; naked skin of whole head and neck bluish-black; bare skin of flanks and under-wing blood-red; legs and feet glossy black.
Measurements. Wing 343 to 370 mm.; tail 133 to 145 mm.; tarsus about 99 to 115 mm.; culmen 139 to 170 mm.
In non-breeding plumage the long inner secondaries and neck-plumes are shed for ordinary ones.
Young birds have the upper part and sides of the head and nape covered with brown feathers; the face and round the eye are bare, and the rest of the chin, throat and whole neck are covered with short disintegrated white feathers.
Distribution. India, Ceylon, Burma and China to South Japan.
Nidification. In Ceylon the White Ibises breed in March, whilst in the rest of India they do not commence to nest until the Rains break, most eggs being laid in August and September. They build their nests in colonies on trees, generally half a dozen to a dozen pairs but sometimes ten times this number. The nests are rather small in diameter, some IS to 24 inches but are deep in proportion and are remarkable for the manner in which the birds build them in little groups, half a dozen nests touching, or almost touching, one another. The trees selected are always near, and often in, water but the birds do not seem to mind whether they are alongside villages or far from civilization. The eggs number two to four, most often three, and in colour are a pale, rather dull bluish-white, occasionally with a few flecks or smears of dull pale reddish. One hundred and fifty eggs average 63.5 x 43.1 mm.: maxima 70.3 x 49.2 mm.; minima 56.8 X 37.6 mm.
Habits. This Ibis may be found all over India wherever there are large rivers, lakes and swamps, though, like the preceding and many other birds, it moves locally according to its food-supply. This consists principally of small fish, but also of frogs, worms, insects, small mollusca and small Crustacea. According to Doig it has a remarkably loud booming call during the breeding-season but it is a very silent bird and few people seem ever to have heard its note.