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| Last Updated:: 23/05/2016

Waterbirds of India


 

photo credit: Ashutosh Singh

Little Egret
 
The little egret (Egrettagarzetta) is a small white heron. The adult little egret is 55–65 cm (22–26 in) long with an 88–106 cm (35–42 in) wingspan, and weighs 350–550 g (12–19 oz). Its plumage is all white. In the breeding season, the adult has two long nape plumes and gauzy plumes on the back and breast, and the bare skin between the bill and eyes becomes red or blue. Juveniles are similar to non-breeding adults but have greenish-black legs and duller yellow feet. Little egrets are mostly silent but make various croaking and bubbling calls at their breeding colonies and produce a harsh alarm call when disturbed.Its breeding distribution is in wetlands in warm temperate to tropical parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Globally, the little egret is not listed as a threatened species.

photo credit: Ashutosh Singh

Osprey
 
The osprey (Pandion haliaetus), sometimes known as the fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, or fish hawk, is a diurnal, fish-eating bird of prey. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts.
The osprey tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location near a body of water providing an adequate food supply. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, although in South America it occurs only as a non-breeding migrant.The osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species, after the peregrine falcon.
The osprey is 0.9–2.1 kg (2.0–4.6 lb) in weight and 50–66 cm (20–26 in) in length with a 127–180 cm (50–71 in) wingspan. The upperparts are a deep, glossy brown, while the breast is white and sometimes streaked with brown, and the underparts are pure white. The head is white with a dark mask across the eyes, reaching to the sides of the neck. A short tail and long, narrow wings with four long, finger-like feathers, and a shorter fifth, give it a very distinctive appearance.
 

photo credit: Ashutosh Singh

Plumbeous water redstart
 
The plumbeous water redstart (Rhyacornisfuliginosa) is found in South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. Males are slate blue in colour, while females are grey. The bird's common name refers to its colour which resembles lead. They tend to live near fast-moving streams and rivers.
The plumbeous water redstart is typically 14 centimetres (5.5 in) long in total,[3] with an averageweight of 22 grams (0.78 oz) for males and 18.8 grams (0.66 oz) for females.The male birds areslate blue in colour with a tail that is rusty red.On the other hand, female birds are pale greyand feature a white rump.
They are typically found at relatively high elevations, with the ones living in the Himalayas seen between 2,000 m and 4,100 m.However, they tend to descend to lower altitudes during the winter.

photo credit: Ashutosh Singh

White-browed wagtail
 
The white-browed wagtail or large pied wagtail (Motacillamaderaspatensis) is a medium-sized bird and is the largest member of thewagtail family. They are conspicuously patterned with black above and white below, a prominent white brow, shoulder stripe and outer tail feathers. They are common in small water bodies and have adapted to urban environments where they often nest on roof tops. Thespecific name is derived from the Indian city of Madras (now Chennai).
The white-browed wagtail is the largest species of wagtail at 21 cm length. It is a slender bird, with the characteristic long, constantly wagging tail of its genus. It has black upperparts, head and breast, with a white superciliumand large white wingbar.
The white-browed wagtail is a resident breeder in India and is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. It is found south of the Himalayas, east of the Indus system and to the west of Bangladesh. It is rare in the higher altitude regions but has been seen in Ladakh on the edge of the Tibetan plateau.In most of India it is found below 1000 m but in southern India it goes up into the hills up to 2200 m.It is a rare winter visitor to Sri Lanka and have possibly extended their range in recent times.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Ruddy shelduck
 
The ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) is a member of the duck, goose and swan family . There are very small resident populations of this species in north west Africa and Ethiopia, but the main breeding area of this species is from southeast Europe across central Asia to Southeast Asia. These birds are mostly migratory, wintering in the Indian Subcontinent. This is a bird of open country, and it will breed on cliffs, in burrows, tree holes or crevices distant from water, laying 6-16 creamy-white eggs, incubated for 30 days. The ruddy shelduck is usually found in pairs or small groups and rarely forms large flocks. However, moulting and wintering gatherings on chosen lakes or slow rivers can be very large.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Purple heron
 
The purple heron is a wading bird , breeding in Africa, central and southern Europe, and southern and eastern Asia. The European populations are migratory, wintering in tropical Africa; the more northerly Asian populations also migrate further south within Asia. It is a rare but regular wanderer north of its breeding range. It is somewhat smaller than the grey heron, from which it can be distinguished by its darker reddish-brown plumage, and, in adults, darker grey back. It has a narrower yellow bill, which is brighter in breeding adults. The most similarly-colored heron is the Goliath heron, which is considerably larger.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Pied kingfisher
 
The pied kingfisher is a water kingfisher and found widely distributed across Africa and Asia. Its black and white plumage, crest and the habit of hovering over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish makes it distinctive. Males have a double band across the breast while females have a single gorget that is often broken in the middle. They are usually found in pairs or small family parties. When perched, they often bob their head and flick up their tail.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Pheasant-tailed jacana
 
The pheasant-tailed jacana is part of jacana group of waders that are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat. The pheasant-tailed jacana is capable of swimming, although it usually walks on the vegetation. The females are more colourful than the males and are polyandrous. The pheasant-tailed jacana breeds in India, southeast Asia, and Indonesia. It is sedentary in much of its range, but northern breeders from south China and the Himalayas migrate into peninsular India and southeast Asia.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Common Merganser
 
  The common merganser is a large duck, of rivers and lakes of forested areas of Europe, northern and central Asia, and North America. It eats fish and nests in holes in trees. Like the other mergansers, these fish-feeding ducks have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey; they are therefore often known as "sawbills". In addition to fish, they take a wide range of other aquatic prey, such as molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, and amphibians; more rarely, small mammals and birds may be taken.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Great crested Grebe
 
The great crested grebe is the largest member of the grebe family found in the Old World, with some larger species residing in the Americas. It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and pursues its fish prey underwater. The adults are unmistakable in summer with head and neck decorations. In winter, this is whiter than most grebes, with white above the eye, and a pink bill. The young are distinctive because their heads are striped black and white. They lose these markings when they become adults.The Great crested grebe breeds in vegetated areas of freshwater lakes, found across Europe and Asia. It winters on freshwater lakes and reservoirs or the coast. The crested grebe feeds mainly on fish, but also small crustaceans, insects and small frogs.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Bar-headed Goose
 
The bar-headed goosebreeds in Central Asia in colonies of thousands near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia, as far south as peninsular India. It lays three to eight eggs at a time in a ground nest. The summer habitat is high-altitude lakes where the bird grazes on short grass. The species has been reported as migrating south from Tibet, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia before crossing the Himalaya. The bar-headed goose is one of the world's highest-flying birds, having been heard flying across Mount Makalu – the fifth highest mountain on earth at 8,481 m (27,825 ft) – and apparently seen over Mount Everest – 8,848 m (29,029 ft).

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

 Black Headed Ibis
 
The black-headed ibis or Oriental white ibis is a species of wading bird which breeds in the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia from northern India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka east up to Japan. It builds a stick nest in a tree and lays 2–4 eggs. It occurs in marshy wetlands inland and on the coast, where it feeds on various fish, frogs and other water creatures, as well as on insects.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Cattle Egret
 
 The cattle egretis a cosmopolitan species of heron found in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate zones. Originally native to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, it has undergone a rapid expansion in its distribution and successfully colonised much of the rest of the world.

It is a white bird adorned with buff plumes in the breeding season. It nests in colonies, usually near bodies of water and often with otherwading birds. The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs. Cattle egrets exploit drier and open habitats more than other heron species. Their feeding habitats include seasonally inundated grasslands, pastures, farmlands, wetlands and rice paddies. They often accompany cattle or other large mammals, catching insect and small vertebrate prey disturbed by these animals.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Common Kingfisher
 
The common kingfisher also known as Eurasian kingfisher, or river kingfisher, is a small kingfisher with seven subspecies recognized within its wide distribution across Eurasia and North Africa. It is resident in much of its range, but migrates from areas where rivers freeze in winter.

This sparrow-sized bird has the typical short-tailed, large-headed kingfisher profile; it has blue upperparts, orange underparts and a long bill. It feeds mainly on fish, caught by diving, and has special visual adaptions to enable it to see prey under water. The glossy white eggs are laid in a nest at the end of a burrow in a riverbank.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Green Sandpiper
 
The green sandpiper is a small wader which breeds across subarctic Europe and Asia and is a migratory bird, wintering in southern Europe, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and tropical Africa.
 
Food is small invertebrate items picked off the mud as this species works steadily around the edges of its chosen pond. This is not a gregarious species, although sometimes small numbers congregate in suitable feeding areas.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Lesser Adjutant
 
The lesser adjutantis a large wading bird in the stork family. Like other members of its genus, it has a bare neck and head. It is however more closely associated with wetland habitats where it is solitary and is less likely to scavenge than the related greater adjutant.
 
It is a widespread species found from India through Southeast Asia to Java.The lesser adjutant tends to be widely dispersed and is very local. It is often found in large rivers and lakes inside well wooded regions. It is found in India, Nepal,Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore,Indonesia and Cambodia. The largest population is in India in the eastern states of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Night Heron
 
The night herons are medium-sized herons which are short-necked, short-legged, and stout herons with a primarily brown or grey plumage, and, in most, a black crown. Young birds are brown, flecked with white.
 
Night herons nest alone or in colonies, on platforms of sticks in a group of trees, or on the ground in protected locations such as islands or reedbeds. 3-8 eggs are laid.Night herons stand still at the water's edge, and wait to ambush prey, mainly at night. They primarily eat small fish, crustaceans, frogs, aquatic insects, and small mammals. During the day, they rest in trees or bushes.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Purple Swamphen
 
The purple swamphen is a chicken-sized bird, with its large feet, bright plumage and red bill and frontal shield is easily recognisable in its native range. The purple swamphen prefers wet areas with high rainfall, swamps, lake edges and damp pastures.
 
The birds often live in pairs and larger communities. It clambers through the reeds, eating the tender shoots and vegetable-like matter. They have been known to eat eggs, ducklings, small fish and invertebrates such as snails.

Photo credit: Nilanjan Chatterjee, WII

Wood Sandpiper
 
The wood sandpiper is a small wader. The wood sandpiper breeds in subarctic wetlands from the Scottish Highlands acrossEurope and Asia. They migrate to Africa, Southern Asia, particularly India, and Australia.Vagrant birds have been seen as far into the Pacific as the Hawaiian Islands. This bird is usually found on freshwater during migration and wintering.
 
They forage by probing in shallow water or on wet mud, and mainly eat insects and similar small prey. It nests on the ground or uses an abandoned old tree nest of another bird. Four pale green eggs are laid between March and May.