widespread Resident

Woolly-necked Stork

Sexes alike. A large black and white stork with red legs; glossy black crown, back and breast and huge wings, the black parts having a distinct purplish-green sheen; white neck, lower abdomen and under tail-coverts; long, stout bill black, occasionally tinged crimson. In young birds, the glossy black is replaced by dark brown. Solitary or in small scattered parties, feeding along with other storks, ibises and egrets; stalks on dry land too; settles on trees.

Black-headed Ibis

Sexes alike. White plumage; naked black head; long, curved black bill; blood-red patches seen on underwing and flanks in flight. Breeding: long plumes over neck; some slaty-grey in wings. Young: head and neck feathered; only face and patch around eye naked. Gregarious; feeds with storks, spoonbills, egrets and other ibises; moves actively in water, the long, curved bill held partly open and head partly submerged as the bird probes the nutrient-rich mud.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Short, thick-set heron with stout black bill; adult has black crown, mantle, scapulars; short white supercilium and forehead; white to pale grey underparts;  pearl grey wings; two long, white, nape plumes when breeding; large, ruby red eyes; in flight, broad, rounded, grey wings, with dark back and short, thick neck diagnostic; juvenile brown, streaked and spotted buff-white above, buff, streaked with brown below; solitary or in scattered flocks when feeding; communal diurnal rooster and breeder; often near habitation; crepuscular and nocturnal.

Intermediate Egret

Medium-sized white egret variable in size and difficult to tell apart from Great, except for shorter, thicker, less curved neck; shorter, finer bill; shorter, less extensive gape; breeding bird has breast and tail plumes, crest, but no head plumes; black bill, legs, feet; yellow-green facial skin; non-breeding bird has yellow bill; black, rather than yellow feet, yellow bill of nonbreeding bird, and larger size distinguish it from Little; somewhat gregarious; small scattered or mixed  hunting flocks; colonial breeder.

Great Egret

Largest of the region’s white egrets; long-legged and very long-necked; can be told from Intermediate and other egrets by size, leaner, lankier appearance, and distinct bend in the neck; long gape extends beyond eye; breeding adult has short breast plumes, longer, finer plumes on back; black bill, blue facial skin; reddish upper legs; non-breeding bill yellow, no plumes; heavier, slower flight than Intermediate; solitary; not very gregarious; occasionally with other egrets; communal rooster and breeder.

Indian Pond Heron

Sexes alike. A small heron, commonest of family in India; thick-set and earthybrown in colour, with dull green legs; bill bluish at base, yellowish at centre  with black tip; neck and legs shorter than in true egrets. Difficult to sight when settled; suddenly springs to notice with a flash of white wings, tail and rump. Breeding: buffy-brown head and neck; white chin and upper throat, longish crest; rich maroon back; buff-brown breast. Non-breeding: streaked dark brown head and neck; grey-brown back and shoulders; more white in plumage. Found around water, even dirty roadside puddles; ubiquitous in the plains; found in  hills up to 1,200m; remains motionless in mud or up to ankles in water, or slowly stalks prey. Hunts alone; roosts in groups with other pond herons and occasionally crows.

Purple Heron

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.

Cattle Egret

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.

Little Egret

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.

Indian Cormorant

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.