1133. Centropus bengalensis.
The Lesser Coucal.
Cuculus bengalensis, Gmel. Syst. Nat. i, p. 412 (1788). Centropus bengalensis, Blyth, J. A. S. B. xi, p. 1104; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 82 ; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xiv, pt. 2, p. 70; Gammie, S. F. v, p. 385 ; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 171; Bingham, S. F. ix, p. 169; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 133; Shelley, Cat. B. M. xix, p. 352. Centropus viridis, apud Blyth, Cat. p. 78; Horsf. & M. Cat. ii, p. 685; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 350; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 98; nec Cuculus viridis, Scop. Centrococcyx bengalensis, Hume & Oates, S. F. iii, p. 84; Hume, S. F. v, p. 28 ; xi, p. 78; id. Cat. no. 218; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 208; Cripps, ibid. p. 266; Davison, S. F. x. p. 361; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 127; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 406. Centropus javanicus, Shelley, Cat. B. M. xix, p. 354, partim.
Nyong, Lepcha; kyok-Kyok, Bhot.; Ulu Kukuha, Assam.
Coloration. Head and neck all round, upper back, rump, and lower parts black with purplish gloss ; tail black with green gloss; wings and their coverts both upper and under, scapulars, and interscapulary region deep chestnut; tips of quills more or less infuscated.
The nestling is dark brown, with large rufous spots on the head and neck, and rufous bars on the back, wings, and tail; lower parts rufescent white, with dark spots on the throat and dusky bars on the lower abdomen and flanks. The bird then passes without a moult into a second plumage: the head and neck above and at the sides, the back, scapulars, and wing-coverts are brown, with pale shaft-stripes and white shafts ; the rump and upper tail-coverts, two of which extend nearly to the end of the tail, are narrowly barred black, glossed with green and rufous; the wings and tail as in adults, but the wings more infuscated and the tail-feathers with rufous tips; lower parts rufescent-white, throat speckled with dark brown; flanks, lower abdomen, and lower tail-coverts with narrow dark bars. This plumage is assumed gradually, and the change to the adult plumage, partly at all events by a moult, generally takes place in March or April; the white shafts to the scapulars and coverts being longer retained.
The second garb is called the winter or seasonal plumage by most authors, but I can find no evidence that it is ever assumed by birds that have once attained adult Coloration. and there are several winter birds in the British Museum collection with the adult dress. The long upper tail-coverts appear peculiar to the immature plumage.
Bill and legs black, iris crimson in adults; in the young the bill is yellowish, dark on the culmen, iris brown to yellow; legs plumbeous.
Length of males about 13; tail 7 ; wing 5.4; tarsus 1.6; bill from gape 1.1: in females, length about 14.5 ; tail 8; wing 6.7 ; tarsus 1.75; bill from gape 1.25.
Some specimens from Assam and Burma are referred by Shelley in the British Museum Catalogue to a distinct species C javanicus, but I am unable to separate them from C. bengalensis.
Distribution. The Lesser Coucal has been found very sparingly in the Peninsula of India in Travancore, the Wynaad, Mysore, Orissa, and Singhbhoom; not, so far as I can ascertain, in the Central Provinces, Bombay Presidency, North-west Provinces, nor Punjab, nor in Ceylon. Jerdon (Madr. Jour. L. S. xiii, pt. 1, p. 172) states that Elliot found it in the Southern Mahratta country; but this was probably a mistake, as the locality was not mentioned in the ; Birds of India.' It is more common in Bengal, and is found about Calcutta and up to about 5000 feet in Sikhim, and ranges from Assam through Burma to the Malay Peninsula and Southern China.
Habits, &c. Very similar to those of 0. sinensis, but this bird is chiefly found in high grass, not in forest nor scrub. The call of the female is said by Gammie to be double—first a series of sounds like whoot, whoot, whoot, &c, ventriloquistic, appearing to come from a distance; then, after an interval, kurook, kurook, &c, no longer ventriloquistic. Gammie did not observe the male calling. This species feeds on grasshoppers. It breeds from May to August, in different localities, making a domed nest of coarse grass, the living blades being bent over and incorporated. The eggs are two or three in number, white, chalky, and about 1.17 by 1.01 inches.