widespread Resident

Little Cormorant

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. Long, snake-like neck, pointed bill and stiff, fan-shaped tail confirm identity. Adult: black above, streaked and mottled with silvery-grey on back  and wings; chocolate-brown head and neck; white stripe down sides of upper neck; white chin and upper throat; entirely black below. Young: brown with  rufous and silvery streaks on mantle. A bird of deep, fresh water; small numbers scattered along with Little Cormorants; highly specialized feeder, the entire structure of the bird is modified for following and capturing fish underwater; swims low in water with only head and neck uncovered; chases prey below water with wings half open, spearing a fish with sudden rapier-like thrusts made possible by bend in neck at 8th and 9th vertebrae, which acts as a spring as it straightens. Tosses fish into air and swallows it head-first. Basks on tree stumps and rocks, cormorant style.

Little Grebe

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.

Crested Serpent Eagle

Sexes alike; female larger. Dark brown plumage; roundish, pied crest, visible when erected; pale brown below, finely spotted white; in overhead flight, the dark body, white bars along the wings and white tail-band confirm identity; characteristic call. Solitary or in pairs, flying over forest, often very high, calling frequently; perches on leafy branches; swoops down on prey, snatching it in its talons; raises crest when alarmed.

Egyptian Vulture

Sexes alike. White plumage; blackish in wings; naked yellow head, neck and throat; yellow bill; thick ruff of feathers around neck; wedge-shaped tail and blackish flight feathers distinctive in overhead flight. The nominate race of NW India is slightly larger and has a dark horny bill. Several usually together, perched atop ruins, earthen mounds or just walking on ground; glides a lot but rarely soars high; sometimes with other vultures.

Black Kite

Sexes alike. Dark brown plumage; forked tail, easily seen in flight; underparts faintly streaked. The Black-eared Kite M. m. lineatus breeds in Himalaya and winters in N and C India, is slightly larger and has a conspicuous white patch on the underwing, visible in overhead flight. Common and gregarious; most  common near humans, thriving on the refuse generated, often amidst most crowded localities; roosts communally.

Black-winged Kite

Sexes alike. Pale greywhite plumage, whiter on head, neck and underbody; short black stripe through eye; black shoulder-patches and wing-tips distinctive at rest and in flight; blood-red eyes. Young: upper body tinged brown, with pale edges to feathers. Usually solitary or in pairs; rests on exposed perch or flies over open scrub and grass country; mostly hunts on wing, regularly hovering like a kestrel to scan ground; drops height to check when hovering, with legs held ready.

Oriental Honey-buzzard

Sexes alike. Slender head and longish neck distinctive; tail rarely fanned. Highly variable phases. Mostly darkish brown above; crest rarely visible; pale brown underbody, with narrow whitish bars; pale underside of wings barred; broad dark subterminal tail-band; two or three more bands on tail; tarsus unfeathered. Solitary or in pairs, perched on forest trees or flying; often enters villages and outskirts of small towns.

Black-winged Stilt

Male: jet-black mantle and pointed wings; rest of plumage glossy white. Female: dark brown where male is black; black wing underside; black spots on head; duller overall in winter. Very long, pink-red legs diagnostic; extends much beyond tail in flight. Gregarious; large numbers, often along with other waders in wetlands; long legs enable it to enter relatively deep water; clumsy walk; submerges head when feeding; characteristic flight silhouette.

Indian Thick-knee

Sexes alike. Sandy-brown plumage, streaked dark; whitish below breast; thickish head, long, bare, yellow legs and large eye-goggles diagnostic; white wing-patch in flight. Solitary or in pairs; strictly a ground bird; crepuscular and nocturnal; rather quiet, sitting for long hours in same patch, where seen regularly; colouration and habitat makes it difficult to spot; squats tight or runs in short steps when located and disturbed, moving suspiciously. The Great Thick-knee Esacus recurvirostris is larger and has an upturned bill.