The Zoologist/4th series, vol 6 (1902)/Issue 738/Birds Collected and Observed in the Darbhanga Districts, Tirhoot, Bengal

Birds Collected and Observed in the Darbhanga Districts, Tirhoot, Bengal
by John Gordon Dalgliesh

part 3 of a series of three articles 'Birds Collected and Observed in the Darbhanga Districts, Tirhoot, Bengal'. This part published in: The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 6, issue 738 (December, 1902), p. 449–454


By Gordon Dalgliesh.

(Concluded from p. 389.)

Inocotis papillosus, Temm. (Black Ibis).—Very common. Generally known to planters as the "planter's friend," as they are useful in destroying insects injurious to the indigo plant. They are excellent birds for the table, but are difficult to shoot on account of their extreme wariness.

Plegadis falcinellus, Linn. (Glossy Ibis).—Not common. A fine male in breeding plumage was snared in March, 1901.

Platalea leucorodia, Linn. (Spoonbill).—I have never come across this species, but have a skin given me by Mr. Inglis, shot at Jainajar in January, 1897.

Ciconia alba, Bechst. (White Stork).—Very common in winter. These birds are caught by native fowlers, who sew the birds' eyelids together; they are then placed on the edge of a piece of water as a decoy for other wildfowl. This cruel practice is common with all big birds, as Herons, Ibises, &c.

C. nigra, Linn. (Black Stork).—I only once saw this bird.

Dissura episcopus (White-necked Stork).—Fairly common, and often seen in large flocks. This bird is known to Europeans in India as "Beef-steak bird." I once found a nest of this species; it was made of sticks, and placed in a lofty simul, or cotton-tree.

Xenorhynchus asiaticus, Lath. (Black-necked Stork).—A not uncommon resident.

Pseudotantalus leucocephalus, Penn. (Painted Stork).—A pair were seen near Darbhanga in May, 1901.

Leptoptilus dubius, Gmel. (Adjutant).—Seen occasionally during the monsoon.

L.javanicus, Horsf. (Lesser Adjutant).—Seen at Narhar by Mr. Inglis in November, 1898.

Anastomus oscitans, Bodd. (Open-Bill).—Fairly common by the sides of large pieces of water, and in rice-lands.

Ardea cinerea, Linn. (Common Heron).—A common winter visitor.

A. manillensis, Sharpe (Purple Heron).—Not so common as A. cinerea, but fairly plentiful in the cold weather.

Herodias alba, Linn. (Great Egret).—Scarce. I shot one in January, 1900, and saw another in February.

H. intermedia (Lesser Egret).—Several snared by fowlers in April, 1901.

H. garzetta, Linn. (Little Egret).—I saw one at Dalsingh Serai in August, 1900. It was in full breeding plumage.

Bubulcus coromandus, Bodd. (Cattle Egret).—Very common. It assumes breeding plumage in April. They breed in August in mango trees. Are very seldom seen fishing like other Egrets, and are often seen perched on the backs of cattle, or feeding near them.

Ardeola grayi, Sykes (Pond Heron).—Extremely common by nearly every piece of water. This bird is known to Europeans in India as "Paddy Bird." They breed in April in mango-groves, usually near water. From four to five is the full complement of eggs.

Butorides javanica, Horsf. (Little Green Heron).—Fairly common. It keeps to dense reed-beds during the day, and feeds chiefly at night. Breeds in colonies in May, June, and July.

Nycticorax griseus, Linn. (Night Heron).—Rare. I have very seldom come across any, and only possess a single specimen.

Ardetta sinensis, Gmel. (Little Yellow Bittern).—Very rare. I procured only one specimen at Dalsingh Serai in December, 1900.

A. cinnamomea, Gmel. (Chestnut Bittern).—Fairly common. I found one nest in August, 1900. The nest was simply a pad of rushes, and placed on the ground near a small pond; it contained five fresh eggs.

Dupetor flavicollis, Lath. (Black Bittern).—I shot one pair at Bunhar Factory, Samastipur, in February, 1899, and Mr. Inglis procured another pair near Darbhanga.

Botaurus stellaris, Linn. (Bittern).—I shot one pair of this species in four years. I do not think they are very common, but may be overlooked on account of their shy skulking habits. One of the birds I shot was only wounded, and made repeated savage thrusts at the man whom I sent to pick it up.

Anser indicus, Lath. (Barred-headed Goose).—Not a very plentiful bird anywhere in the district. It arrives in October, and stays sometimes till June.

Sarcidiornis melanonotus, Penn. (Comb Duck).—A small flock was seen by my brother at Dalsingh Serai in May, 1899, and one (a male) was shot. I happened to be away at the time, and the bird, which had been badly skinned by a native, was sent to me for identification, but arrived in a state of putrefaction.

Rhodonessa caryophyllacea, Lath. (Pink-headed Duck).—Mr. Oates, in his book on the 'Game Birds of India,' mentions Tirhoot as one place where this Duck is to be found. I never came across it myself, but Mr. Inglis writes me: "The man who brought me Duck and Teal described a bird, evidently this species, that was snared."

Casarca rutila, Pall. (Ruddy Sheldrake).—A common cold weather migrant, often staying on well into summer. They are, I have always found, extremely wary birds. Their flesh is not fit for the table, being very fishy in flavour.

Dendrocycna javanica, Horsf. (Whistling Teal).—A very common resident, often seen in flocks of many hundreds. They nest in trees during July and August.

Nettopus coromandelianus, Gmel. (Cotton Teal).—Very common on nearly all marshes. It breeds in July in the holes of trees.

Anas boscas, Linn. (Mallard).—Rare. A pair were shot out of two pairs on Hattowrie Lake, Darbhanga, in December, 1897, and I saw a solitary female at Dalsingh Serai in January, 1900, flying in company with some Gadwall.

A. pœcilorhyncha, Forst. (Spotted-billed Duck).—Mr. Inglis procured a specimen in June, 1900, and I saw a pair at Dalsingh Serai in June, 1901.

Eunetta falcata, Georgi (Bronze-capped Teal).—Mr. Inglis was fortunate enough to secure seven of this rare species in the Mudubuni district, Darbhanga, in January, 1900—two males and five females. He very kindly gave me the skin of one of the females.

Chaulelasmus streperus, Linn. (Gadwall).—This is one of the commonest Duck found here in the cold weather. They begin to arrive very early, as in the year 1900 I saw a big flock on August 20th at Dalsingh Serai. I have never found this species shy unless they have been shot over a good deal. They seem to have no favourite haunts, and are found alike in both deep and shallow water. They are good divers when wounded, and I have always found the female better at concealing herself than the male.

Nettium crecca, Linn. (Common Teal).—Extremely common from November to March.

Mareca penelope, Linn. (Wigeon).—Scarce. I have very seldom seen this species, and possess very few specimens.

Dafila acuta, Linn. (Pintail).—Very common, arriving towards the end of October and leaving in February. During the cold weather of 1897 this Duck came in such enormous numbers to feed in the rice-fields as to do considerable damage to the crop.

Querquedula circia, Linn. (Garganey or Blue-winged Teal).-—This is about the commonest Duck here in the cold weather, and one of the earliest to arrive, as I have seen several in August. It is possible that some remain to breed in the plains, as has been suggested by some ornithologists, but there is no authentic record of its having done so as yet.

Spatula clypeata, Linn. (Shoveler).—Fairly common. They begin to arrive in November, and stay sometimes to the end of April. This species is very wary and difficult to approach, and is the first Duck on the water to take alarm. It does not dive when wounded (at least, this is my experience), as most Ducks do, but tries to reach cover if there be any near.

Netta rufina, Pall. (Red-crested Pochard).—Extremely common, arriving in October and leaving in March.

Nyroca ferina, Linn. (Pochard).—Scarce. A small flock was seen at Dalsingh Serai in January, 1900. I bought off a native fowler a fine male in November, 1900, and shot another at Dalsingh Serai in January, 1901, out of a small flock. Mr. F. Finn, in his book, 'How to know the Indian Ducks,' says: "A male's eyes have been observed to change colour from red to yellow when it was handled." This was the case with the first specimen I procured. On July 9th, 1901. a native fowler brought me in a Pochard in female garb, which on being dissected turned out to be a male. Was this a late stayer or an early arrival? The bird was in good condition, and the testes were enlarged, so it is just possible it may have bred somewhere near at hand.

N. ferruginea, Gmel. (White-eyed Duck).—Exceedingly common, though in the season 1901 I did not notice them so common as in previous years. They begin to arrive in September, and leave in April.

N.fuligula, Linn. (Tufted Duck).—A very irregular migrant. During 1899-900 I only got two specimens, but in the season 1900-01 ten were brought in by native fowlers, and I saw several when out shooting. Once when I was Duck-shooting I saw a small flock of these birds, and, on firing at them whilst they were sitting, I was surprised to see them all disappear under water, instead of flying away, as I expected.

Podicipes cristatus, Linn. (Great Crested Grebe).—Not at all common, and I only procured one specimen myself, and saw two or three others.

P. albipennis, Sharpe (Little Grebe or Dabchick).—Very common on almost every piece of water. It commences breeding in July. In the year 1900 I had a good opportunity of watching a pair nesting on a small pond. Both birds during this time kept up a curious "rattling" cry, though they are quite silent at other times of the year. The nest was made of rotting waterplants, and the eggs were always kept covered up. Both birds seemed to trust more to the heat of the sun for the hatching of the eggs than to the usual mode of incubation, and I never saw either bird sitting during the day. They appeared to be very restless, and kept on taking short flights across the pond, making a good deal of noise. The male bird was most attentive to the female during the period of incubation, always keeping close to her, and feeding her with small fish and aquatic insects. The young, when first hatched, are pretty little creatures, covered with greyish down striped with black. I once surprised a party of these birds, consisting of one old one and five young. The young at once tried to conceal themselves by hiding among the weeds, while the old one tried to draw my attention from them by fluttering, as if wounded, in front of my boat. The usual number of eggs varies from two to five in number.

P. nigricollis, Brehm? (Eared Grebe).—In December, 1897, whilst out shooting Duck on a big broad, I saw a Grebe, which I am nearly certain was this species; but not collecting birds at the time, and knowing very little about Indian birds, and also not wishing to frighten the Duck by firing, I did not shoot it. Since then I have examined specimens of the Eared Grebe, and they exactly resemble the bird I saw. This Grebe has been procured in Calcutta, and will almost certainly be found here.

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