(1851) Caloenas n. nicobarica.
THE NICOBAR PIGEON.
Columba nicobarica Linn,, Syst, Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 164 (1758) (Nicobars). Caloenas nicobarica. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 24.
Vernacular names. Lo-ung (Nicobarese).
Description.— Male. Read, neck and upper breast deep slaty-black, in perfect specimens having a beautiful purple-blue sheen; shorter neck-hackles the same but glossed with metallic green near the tips; longer hackles metallic blue or copper-bronze, but nearly all with margins of deep metallic blue-black and with dark green shaft-stripes. Upper plumage from shoulders to upper tail-coverts, lesser and median wing-coverts and innermost secondaries bright metallic green, varying greatly individually. In some the prevailing colour is copper-bronze, in a few almost flaming copper, whilst in a few others this tint is almost absent; shoulder of wing, greater coverts and inner secondaries deep Prussian blue with more or less of a metallic sheen and a varying amount of green gloss; primaries blue-black externally and brown-black on their concealed portions; tail with a few of the longest upper coverts and all the under tail-coverts white; lower plumage from breast to vent, flanks and under aspect of wings metallic green, more or less marked with Prussian blue.
Colours of soft parts. Iris white (Ingram), buff (Layard) or nut-brown (Davison); legs and feet purplish-violet to almost coral-red; bill greyish or slaty-black.
Measurements. Total length about 380 to 420 mm.; wing 247 to 268 mm.; tarsus about 36 to 42 mm.; culmen about 24 to 27 mm.
Female differs in having the head, neck and breast more grey and generally in having less of the deep blue sheen ; the hackles are usually less developed.
Young males are like the adult but with no long neck-hackles.
Distribution. The Cocos, Andamans and Nicobars through the islands of the Malay Archipelago to the Solomon Islands. It has not yet been found on any of the islands of the Timor group.
Nidification. The Nicobar Pigeon breeds during March in thousands in Battye Malve and in lesser numbers in some of the other islands. They nest in colonies, several pairs of birds building their nests in the same trees and almost every suitable tree being occupied. The nests are the usual badly put together fragile platforms of sticks placed between 10 and 30 feet from the ground. Only one egg is laid and this can be distinguished from that of the preceding bird by its larger size and by the inner membrane of the shell, which is orange-yellow in the eggs of this species and pale lemon-yellow in that of Myristicivora. Osmaston took a large series of these eggs on the 23rd March at Battye Malve, eighteen of which average 48.6 x 33.9 mm. : maxima 55.1 x 33.0 and 50.1 x 35.2 mm.; minima 46.3 X 32.9 mm.
The next longest egg I have seen was only 51.4 X 33.4 mm.
Habits. This curious Pigeon, except when breeding, seems to keep entirely to the ground, sometimes in small parties, at other times singly or in pairs ; they walk about sedately, seldom running, their wings drooped, searching about among the fallen leaves with their bills and never scratching with their legs like fowls etc. They feed principally on fallen seeds and fruit and usually tiny quartz pebbles are found in their gizzards, which are said to be exceptionally hard and long. Their flight is powerful and rapid, though " heavy-looking, and they are shy alert birds, avoiding observation. The note is described as a deep croak very seldom uttered.