Sexes alike. Very light grey above; jet-black cap and nape, when breeding; white below; narrow, pointed wings; deeply-forked tail; bright yellow, pointed beak and red legs diagnostic. In winter, black on crown and nape reduced to flecks. Solitary or small flocks, flying about erratically; keeps to riversides, calm waters, large tanks; scans over water, plunging if possible prey is sighted; rests on river banks, noisy and aggressive, especially at nesting colonies (March to mid-June).
inland water bodies, rivers, tanks; almost completely absent on the sea coast.
fish, aquatic insects; also crabs, other crustaceans and molluscs.
most of India; most common in N and C India.
an occasional harsh, screeching note.