(2021) Amaurornis phoenicurus phoenicurus.
THE WHITE-BREASTED WATER-HEN.
Rallus phoenicurus Pennant, Ind. Zool., ix, p. 10 (1769) (Ceylon). Amaurornis phoenicurus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 173 (part.).
Vernacular names. Bole-Radi (Tel.); Tannin Koli, Kannung Koli (Tam., Ceylon).
Description. Forehead, supercilia, sides of the head, chin to vent pure white; upper parts, wings and sides of the body from breast to vent dark slaty-grey more or less washed with olive, the upper tail-coverts generally browner; tail and wing-quills blackish, the first primary with white outer web; posterior flanks, thigh-coverts, vent and under tail-coverts dingy rufous ; axillaries and under wing-coverts slaty edged with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown in the young to crimson in the breeding male: bill green, the base of the upper mandible red, the tip and lower mandible paler and more yellow ; legs and feet dull chrome-yellow to yellowish-green.
Measurements. Total length about 320 mm.; wing 142 to 160 mm.; tail 58 to 66 mm. tarsus 49 to 57 mm.; culmen 35 to 42 mm.
Young birds have the feathers of the forehead and face tipped with slaty, obscuring the white ; the upper parts are more olive-brown than slaty-grey.
Distribution. Ceylon and Southern Travancore only.
Nidification. Wait and Phillips have taken the eggs of this Rail in every month of the year in Ceylon. The neat is a roughly put together structure of twigs with a thick lining of grass or paddy-straw or may be made of grass only. It is placed either in a thick bush a little above the ground or on the ground in among vegetables round tanks and swamps. The eggs number three to five and in ground-colour vary from a very faint yellowish-cream to yellowish stone-colour or pale buff. The markings consist of longitudinal blotches and spots scattered sparsely over the whole surface of the egg and rather more numerous at the larger end. The primary blotches are light to dark reddish -brown and the secondary lavender to purplish-grey. Forty eggs average 39.5 x 30.0 mm.: maxima 42.1 X 30.3 and 40.5 x 31.5 mm.; minima 37.0 x 28.0 mm.
Habits. In the mornings and evenings this Rail feeds much in the open, walking about quietly on the tops of the water-weeds or in the fields, whilst in the heat of the day it keeps to the denser reeds or to the forest and jungle round the lakes and swamps. It is less of a skulker than most birds of the family, easier to induce to fly, less intolerant of observation and, often, quite tame and familiar. This is especially the case when it haunts small ponds in the vicinity of villages. It feeds on young rice and water-plants, seeds, grain, insects, worms, mollusca etc. During the breeding-season it is a very noisy bird and its harsh roars are audible at a great distance. At the same time it has many other notes, some chuckling, some quite soft and low. They are pugnacious birds but do not carry their quarrels to an extreme.