Sexes alike. A slendernecked, lanky bird. Slaty-purple above; black crown with long, drooping crest; rufous neck with prominent black stripe along its length; white chin and throat; deep slaty and chestnut below breast; almost black on wings and tail; crest and breast plumes less developed in female. Solitary; crepuscular; extremely shy but master of patience; freezes and hides amidst marsh reeds; when flushed, flies with neck outstretched. Active in early mornings.
Sexes alike. A snow-white egret seen on and around cattle and refuse heaps. Breeding: buffy-orange plumes on head, neck and back. Non-breeding: distinguished from Little Egret by yellow beak; from other egrets by size. Widespread; equally abundant around water and away from it; routinely attends to grazing cattle, feeding on insects disturbed by the animals; follows tractors; scavenges at refuse dumps and slaughter houses. Often seen on the backs of buffaloes.
Sexes alike. A slender, snow-white waterbird. White plumage; black legs, yellow feet and black bill diagnostic. Breeding: nuchal crest of two long plumes; feathers on back and breast lengthen into ornamental filamentous feathers. The Intermediate Egret Mesophoyx intermedia is larger with black feet. The Great Egret Casmerodius albus is the largest with a noticeable kink in its neck. Small flocks feed at edge of water, sometimes wading into the shallower areas; stalks prey like typical heron, waiting patiently at edge of water.
Medium-sized cormorant, smaller and slighter than Great, with thinner head, neck and bill; told from Little by larger size, longer, thinner neck, bill, and shape of head – oval rather than angular; no crest; breeding plumage black with bronze-green sheen, white ear-tuft, white flecked-feathers on neck, blackish gular pouch; non-breeding shows browner plumage, no ear-tuft or white plumes, yellower gular pouch; immature whiter below; gregarious; often in flocks; will fish together with Little; colonial nester.
Sexes alike. Breeding adult: black plumage with metallic blue-green sheen; white facial skin and throat; bright yellow gular pouch and white thigh patches; silky white plumes on head and neck. Non-breeding adult: no white thigh patches; gular pouch less bright. First year young: dull brown above, white below. Aquatic. Not a gregarious species outside breeding season; usually one or two birds feeding close by; dives underwater in search of fish.
Sexes alike. India’s smallest and most common cormorant; short, thick neck and head distinctive; lacks gular patch. The Indian Cormorant P. fuscicollis is larger with a more oval-shaped head. Breeding adult: black plumage has blue-green sheen; silky white feathers on fore-crown and sides of head; silvery-grey wash on upper back and wing-coverts, speckled with black. Nonbreeding adult: white chin and upper throat. Gregarious; flocks in large jheels; swims with only head and short neck exposed; dives often; the hunt can become a noisy, jostling scene; frequently perches on poles, trees and rocks, basks with wings spread open.
Sexes alike. India’s smallest waterbird, squat and tailless. Plumage silky and compact; dark brown above; white in-flight feathers; white abdomen. Breeding: chestnut sides of head, neck and throat; black chin; blackish-brown crown and hind-neck. Winter: white chin; brown crown and hind-neck; rufous neck. Purely aquatic; seen singly or in small, scattered groups, often diving and swimming beneath the surface.
Fairly large, strong falcon, with wings broader at base; dark hood, broad moustache, white throat and cheek patches; dark grey above, barred below; many racial variations; resident Shaheen peregrinator is darker above, rufous below; migrant calidus lighter grey above, white below, with barring; babylonicus breeds sparsely in Ladakh; solitary, or in pairs; generally rather crepuscular; renowned as skilled aerial hunter; hunts by scanning from air, or from lookout post, then striking with great force from above.
Male: black-streaked, ash-grey crown, sides of neck and nape; rufous mantle, black-spotted; cheek-stripe; grey tail has white tip and black subterminal band; streaked and spotted buffy underbody. Female: pale rufous above; streaked head and narrowly barred back; paler buff below, densely streaked. Young: like female; thickly streaked below. Solitary or in pairs; on exposed perches overlooking open country; circles in air and pounces into grass and scrub; often hovers when hunting.
Sexes alike. Ashy-brown above; distinct throat, white with two dark cheek-stripes and a third stripe from chin; white nape-patch, white eyes and orangeyellow cere visible from close quarters; in flight, a pale shoulder-patch from above; from below, the pale underside of roundish wings against a darkish body distinctive. Solitary or scattered pairs; seen on exposed perches, trees, poles or telegraph wires; seems to prefer certain sites; soars high and does aerial displays when breeding.