(1899) Argusianus argus.
THE ARGUS PHEASANT.
Phasianus argus Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed., i, p. 272 (1766) (Malacca). Argusianus argus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 71.
Vernacular names. Qum, Borong Quon, Kwang (Malay); Kyek or Kyet-wah (Siam, Bankasoon).
Description.— Adult male. Centre of crown from forehead to nape black, the latter forming a small crest; feathers of the neck sparse, barred black and white, the latter changing to rufous next the back; sides of head, chin, throat and sides of neck nearly bare with fine shaft-like feathers scattered thinly over the whole surface ; upper back, scapulars and wing-coverts blackish-brown ; barred and edged with buff and dark rufous ; lower back, rump and shorter tail-coverts rufous-buff very finely edged and boldly spotted with black, the tail-coverts palest and dullest; longest outer tail-coverts white, densely covered with kidney-shaped spots of black centred with buff; primaries purple-grey changing to buff on the innermost, freely spotted with black and buff kidney-shaped markings, most numerous on the outer webs and bases; on the inner webs there is a broad line of pale rufous or cinnamon densely spotted with small white specks, this line shortest on the first primary, longest on the innermost, fine bars of black connect this band with the blue shafts; outer secondaries like the pri¬maries but with broad white margins to the inner webs and the spots on the outer web developed into black bands ; on the outer webs near the shafts there are ocelli of iridescent buff, green-grey and purple surrounded with black and with an outer ring of pale buff; the inner secondaries are without ocelli and are mottled black, rufous and brown with white spots, over all of which there is a faint purple sheen; on each of the secondaries there is a broad ill-defined band of deep purple with white spots and specks and faint rufous bars ; central rectrices black shading to rufous-chestnut on the edge of the outer web and to pale grey on the inner web; both webs spotted with white, the spots smaller and surrounded with black on the outer webs, tips dull white; remaining tail-feathers blackish speckled with white and indistinctly mottled ; breast to vent chestnut-rufous, dotted with black and white on the fore-neck, mottled and barred with black elsewhere; centre of vent dull unmarked ashy.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown, hazel or greenish-brown ; bare skin of head and neck dull pale slate to bluish-grey or bluish-plumbeous ; bill light bluish-horny; legs and feet pale dull crimson-pink to vivid red or coral-pink.
Measurements. Wing to end of primaries 444 to 495 mm. to end of secondaries anything between 760 and 920 mm.; central tail-feathers up to 1422 mm., generally about 1150 to 1250 mm.; tarsus about 105 to 115 mm.; culmen about 33 to 37 mm. Weight 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 lb.
Females. Forehead to nape dull rufous-buff, the feathers edged black, more pronounced down the centre of the crown; a crest of bristly dark grey feathers ; nape bright chestnut-rufous, the bases of the feathers vermiculated darker ; mantle less bright and more vermiculated, the upper back, scapulars and wing-coverts about equally black and rufous, the latter colour paling posteriorly; lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts with more definite bars of black mottled with buff; primaries chestnut, speckled with black on both webs, but brighter on the outer web ; secondaries boldly mottled black and buff, tinged with chestnut on those next the primaries ; below chestnut, bright and almost immaculate on the fore-neck and dullest and inclined to buff on the flanks and abdomen, very finely stippled with dull rufous.
Colours of soft parts. Skin of head and neck dull grey or plumbeous to dark blue ; legs and feet pale vermilion or litharge-red ; bill horny-white or greyish-white.
Measurements. Wing 300 to 330 mm., to end of secondaries 355 to 394 mm.; culmen about 31 to 35 mm.
Young males are like the female but with no crest and with a longer tails.
Chick in down. Below rufescent-brown, paler on chin and albescent on vent; forehead rich rufous-brown, head the same vermiculated with rufous-brown; upper back darker, lower back and rump velvety blackish-brown with two lines of pale buff from the scapulars to the tail.
Distribution. The Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and the extreme South of Siam and Tenasserim. Hop wood says that the local people knew it as far .North as Tavoy.
Nidification. Practically nothing known. It certainly breeds in dense forest and probably throughout the year as suggested by Davison. The full clutch of eggs will possibly prove to be two or three only but hens in captivity lay four or five. Two eggs were taken by Waterstradt's natives in dense jungle on the 20th May and 2nd July and another egg was laid by a recently caught female on the 27th March. One of these eggs is a very faint buff, the other two creamy-white; in shape they are long well-pointed ovals with a fine close texture. They measure 69.1 x 46.3, 67.3 x 42.4 and 61.3 x 44.0 mm. Some eggs of this Pheasant laid in confinement are said to be a rich coffee-colour.
Habits. The Argus Pheasant is a bird of the densest forests and both sexes appear to be solitary. The cock-bird makes for himself a displaying ground some six to ten yards square which he keeps free of all vegetation and it seems probable that the hens resort to these places when the desire for reproduction impels them. The display of the Argus is very magnificent and has been described by several naturalists, but especially by Seth Smith, so that it is now well known. Davison says the call of the male sounds like " how-how " repeated ten or a dozen times, whilst that of the female is " oowhoo-how-oo-whoo." The food consists of fallen fruit, insects, ants, slugs, etc