1130. Centropus sinensis.
The Common Coucal or Crow-Pheasant.
Pelophilus sinensis, Steph. Gen. Zool. ix, p. 51 (1815). Centropus bubutus, Horsfield, Trans. Linn. Soc. xiii, p. 180 (1821). Centropus castanopterus, Stephens, Gen. Zool. xiv, p. 215 (1826). Centropus philippensis, apud Blyth, J. A. S. B. xi, p. 1099; xii, p. 240 ; xiv, p. 202 ; id. Cat. p. 78 ; Layard, A. M. N. H. (2) xiii, p. 450, nec Cuvier. Centropus sinensis, Blyth, J. A. S. B. xii, p. 247; xiv, p. 202 ; id. Cat. Add. p. xix ; Shelley, Cat. B. M. xix, p. 343. Centropus rufipennis, apud Blyth, Cat. p. 321; Horsf. & M. Cat. ii, p. 681; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 348 ; id. Ibis, 1872, p. 15; Hume, S. P. i, p. 173 ; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 81; Leqge, Birds Ceyl. p. 260; Marshall, Ibis, 1884, p. 411; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 132; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 400; nec Illiger. Centrococcyx rufipennis, Cab. & Heine, Mus. Hein. iv, p. 115; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 207 ; Hume, Cat. no. 217; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 400. Centropus eurycercus, apud Hume, S. F. ii, p. 196; nec Hay. Centrococcyx eurycercus, apud Hume & Oates, S. F. iii, p. 83. Centrococcyx intermedius, Hume, S. F. i, p. 454; xi, p. 77 ; id. Cat. no. 217 quat.; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 168 ; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 126; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 404. Centrococcyx maximus, Hume, S. F. i, p. 454; id. Cat. no. 217 quint.; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 405.
Mahoka, H.; Kuka, Beng.; Jemudu-kaki, Tel.; Kalli-kaka, Tam.; Chembigum, Tam. Ceylon; Aetti-kukkula, Cing.; Bote, Burmese ; Crow-Pheasant of Europeans in India.
Coloration. Whole plumage, .except the wings, black with a green gloss, varying to steel-blue .and purple, especially on the upper back ; the tail generally dull green ; shafts of the feathers on the head, neck, and breast shining black; wings with their coverts and scapulars chestnut, tips of quills dusky; wing-lining black.
In the young there is much variation; the upper parts are black with rufous or white bars and spots ; the wings and coverts are barred chestnut and black; tail dark brown, with narrow wavy whitish bars; lower parts dull black, with greyish-white bars. The change to the adult plumage is gradual.
Bill black; iris crimson; legs black (Jerdon).
Length about 19; tail 9 to 11; wing 7 to 9.4; tarsus 2; bill from gape 1.8. Females are larger than males.
Distribution. Throughout India, Ceylon, and Burma, with the exception of the Himalayas, in which this species is rare and confined to low elevations; also China, Siam, and the Malay Peninsula and islands.
Hume, who has been followed by several writers, has divided the Indian Coucals into three species thus distinguished:—
Interscapulars black; wing 7 to 8……………………..1. C. rufipennis: Indian Peninsula and Ceylon.
Wing 7.3 to 8.25…………………….. 2. C. intermedius: Eastern Bengal Assam, Burma, &c.
Wing 9 to 9.5……………………..3. C. maximus: Sind and Northern India.
And unquestionably these are three well-marked races. The differences between C. intermedius and C. maximus are, however, not so clear as was at first supposed. I find Delhi and Sikhim male specimens, referred to the latter by Hume, with wings of 8.3, whilst wings of Tenasserim males measure 7.75; and as Manipur birds are intermediate in size, I regard this as one of the numerous instances in which there is a diminution of size to the southward. The distinction of the Peninsular and Ceylonese form I should accept, but that several South Indian and Ceylonese specimens in the British Museum have the interscapulary area chestnut as in Burmese birds. I therefore agree with Shelley in uniting all these races. I should add that the form called G. intermedius by Hume is identical with the Chinese bird G. sinensis, and that the name G. rufipennis, Illiger, does not belong to this species, but to the Philippine C. viridis: those who require a distinct term for the Indian Peninsular bird should call it C. castanopterus. C. eurycercus, with a broad blue tail, 12-13 inches long, from the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, appears to me distinct from C. sinensis,. though Shelley has united them.
Habits, &c. This is one of the common birds of India. It is found in cultivated ground, waste land, or bush-jungle, less commonly in forest; it is frequently seen in bushes on the banks of stream-beds and in hedge-rows. Its flight is slow and laboured. It feeds on the ground on insects, and occasionally on lizards and small snakes. It may often be seen walking on the ground, and both on the ground and on trees it has a trick of raising its large tail over its back. It has a peculiar sonorous call like hoop, hoop, hoop, repeated slowly several times. It breeds chiefly in June, July, and August, earlier in Southern India, and makes a huge globular nest of twigs, green and dry leaves, and coarse grass, generally, but not invariably, with a lateral entrance, and placed in a thick and often thorny bush or tree. The eggs are broad regular ovals, white and covered with a chalky layer; they are usually three in number, and measure about 1.44 by 1.16.
Coucals are regarded as a great delicacy by Indian Mahomedans and by some Hindoo castes.