1401. Amaurornis phoenicuras.
The White-breasted Water-hen.
Gallinula phoenicurus, Penn. Ind. Zool. p. 10, pl. ix (1769) ; Morgan, Ibis, 1875, p. 323; Newton, S. F. viii, p. 415. Porzana phoenicura, Blyth, Cat. p. 284; id. Ibis, 1867, p. 171; Hume, S. F. i, p. 251 ; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 161 ; Butler, S. F. vii, p. 187. Gallinula phoenicura, Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 720; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 274 ; Aitken, S. F. i, p. 424 ; Hume, S. F. ii, p. .300: id. N. & E. p. 599; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 21; v, p. 224 ; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 460; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 229. Erythra phoenicura, Reichenb. Naturl. Syst. Vogel, p. xxi (1852); Oates, S. F. v, p. 165 ; Anders. Yunnan Exped., Aves, p. 691; Cripps, S. F. vii, p. 306; Hume, Cat. no. 907 ; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 780 ; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 87; Butler, ibid. p. 431 ; Reid, S. F. x, p. 73 ; Davison, ibid. p. 415; Macgregor, ibid. p. 441; Parker, Ibis, 1883, p. 195 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 368; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 328; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 391. Erythrura phoenicura, Oates, B. B. ii, p. 348. Amaurornis phoenicura, Salvad. Ann. Mus. Civ. Gen. (2) iv, p. 612; Barnes, Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 60; vi, p. 138, tig. 907 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 156. Amaurornis insularis (subsp.), Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 162.
Dawak, Dahak, Dauk, H. ; Kinati, Oudh ; Kurahi, Sind; Kureyn, Gond; Boli-Kadi, Tel.; Tannin-Koli, Kanung-Koli, Tam. (Ceylon) ; Kalu-gwet, Burm.
Coloration. Broad forehead and sides of face, including the orbits and ear-coverts, chin, throat, fore neck, and breast white ; upper parts generally and sides of body dark slaty grey, more or less washed and concealed by olive; rump and upper tail-coverts olive-brown ; quills blackish brown ; outer margin of first primary and edge of wing white ; tail dark brown ; abdomen buff in the middle ; lower flanks, sides of rump, vent, and lower tail-coverts pale dull chestnut.
In young birds the forehead, crown, and upper parts generally are olive-brown, and the white of the face and underparts obscured by dusky tips to the feathers.
Bill green, the frontal portion red; irides brown to red; legs and feet yellow to yellowish olive.
Length 12.5 ; tail 2.5; wing 6.5; tarsus 2.25 : bill from gape 1.5. Females are rather smaller than males, and skins from Ceylon appear to measure less than those from Northern India.
The race inhabiting the Andamans and Nicobars forms the sub¬species A. insularis of Sharpe. It has the white of the forehead extended over the anterior part of the crown, whilst that of the breast is confined to a narrow strip in the middle. Undoubtedly the insular form is a well-marked race, but its peculiarities are sometimes found in mainland specimens.
Distribution. Almost throughout India, Ceylon, and Burma, with the greater part of the Oriental region, to Celebes and Formosa. This Water-hen appears not to be found in the Himalayas above the swampy ground at the foot of the hills, and becomes rare in North-western India.
Habits, &c. This is the commonest and most familiar Indian bird of the whole family, and is often found about gardens and village cultivation, as well as near tanks and marshes. It feeds in the open, and when disturbed runs rapidly, with its tail raised, into cover. It feeds on insects, molluscs, grain, &c. It is an excessively noisy bird; its loud, hoarse, reiterated call, predominating in the evening and morning over the cries of the other waders and the ducks in the village tank, must be familiar to most people in India. The breeding-season is from May to September, varying with the locality. The nest, sometimes on the ground, more often on reeds, bamboos, bushes, or trees standing in water, is the usual pad of grass, rushes, and leaves, often resting on twigs. The eggs, 4 to 8 in number, measure about 1.57 by 1.18, and are buff with spots, streaks, and blotches of brownish red and pale purplish grey.