Amaurornis phaenicura

White-breasted Water-hen.

Amaurornis phaenicura.

Dawak, Hindustani.

The contrast between the black upper and white under-parts of this bird, which is besides of a fair size for a rail, being about as big as a partridge though much slimmer, make it a con¬spicuous object whenever it comes out of its cover. This it pretty frequently does, for it is the most indifferent to human proximity of all our rails, and is quite common, not only in cultivated places, but in the actual neighbourhood of houses and in gardens. It is also, though at home by the waterside and not averse to swimming, not so confined to watery places as most of the family, but frequently seen in hedges and among crops, away from water.

It is not only the most familiar, but about the most widely distributed of all our rails, living nearly everywhere within our limits, even in the Andamans, where it is quite abundant. It is, however, rare in the North-west and does not ascend the Himalayas, though found in the swamps at their bases. Although less timid than rails in general, it has all their essential characteristics—fluttering flight with hanging legs, flicking up of the tail, which in this case displays the chestnut patch underneath, running, swimming, and perching powers, and omnivorous dietary.

The rail habit of being more heard than seen is also very well developed in this species, for it is a very Boanerges among birds, and can literally roar down all the other waterfowl. It generally nests off the ground, on trees, reeds, &c, but makes the usual style of nest constructed by rails, of grass and reeds, sometimes with a twig foundation. It may commence breeding in May, or do so as late as September, according to the district it lives in. The eggs are spotted with reddish-brown and dull, pale purplish on a buff ground, and range from four to twice that number. The down of the chicks is black, and the young birds in their first feather are rusty above and smutty below, while retaining the general pattern of old ones. This familiar bird ranges east to Formosa and Celebes ; it has many Indian names : Boli-kodi in Telugu, Tannin or Kanung-koli in Tamil, Kaul-gowet in Burmese; while in Oudh it is called Kinati, Kurahi in Sind, and Kureyn by the Gonds.

Indian Sporting Birds
Finn, Frank. Indian Sporting Birds. Edwards, 1915.
Title in Book: 
Amaurornis phaenicura
Book Author: 
Frank Finn
Page No: 
Common name: 
White Breasted Water Hen
White-breasted Waterhen
Amaurornis phoenicurus

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