Birds – Crocodile Bird

We may turn again to the Old World and mention briefly a number of other Lapwings, first among them the far-famed Crocodile Bird, or more properly the Egyptian Spur-winged Lapwing (Hoplopterus spinosus). It is a three-toed bird about thirteen inches in length, the general color above being chrome with a slight purplish gloss, while the greater wing-coverts, parts of the median coverts, sides of the face and neck, as well as a collar around the latter, are white, and the crown, throat, fore neck, breast, and legs black; the wings are provided with a very long, sharp, jet-black spur. This species is widely distributed from southern Europe through West Africa and East Africa as far as Albert Edward Nyanza, being especially abundant in Egypt and Nubia. It frequents the banks of rivers and lakes, as well as marshes and swamps, and is often rather shy and difficult of approach, although living on terms of amiable partnership with the crocodiles that now or once formed so conspicuous a feature of the great rivers. It appears to be the bird mentioned by Herodotus as entering the mouth of this great saurian for the purpose of feeding on leeches and particles of food that remain about the teeth, the animal obligingly opening its mouth for the purpose. It also apparently removes from the interstices of the skin bugs, leeches, and other small animals that find a lodging place, and in return for this hospitality warns the crocodile of approaching danger. Since the time of this ancient account many other competent and undoubtedly truthful observers have observed the phenomenon, among them Mr. J. M. Cook, whose very circumstantial account lack of space forbids our quoting. Of the two other species of this genus the one inhabiting Southeast and East Africa is known as the Blacksmith Plover (II. speciosus) from the peculiarly metallic, ringing sound of its notes, which are uttered constantly while it is on the wing. The other species is the Indian Spur-winged Lapwing (H. ventralis) of the Indian peninsula and the Indo-Chinese countries. It is a noisy bird, frequenting the banks of the larger rivers.