(1862) Columba elphinstonii
THE NILGIRI WOOD-PIGEON.
Ptilinopus elphinstonii Sykes, P. Z. S., 1832, p. 149 (Nilgiris). Alsocomus elphinstonii. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 36.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Head above, nape and sides of neck dove-grey, faintly glossed with iridescent emerald-green; forehead, sides of head and lores the same but paler and tinged with pink; hind-neck with a large patch of black feathers tipped with white and with a tiny metallic edging below these tips; the posterior feathers glossed with green; back brick-red brown, gradually getting more brown and less red towards the rump ; upper back and base of hind-neck glossed with purple-copper, showing green here and there ; rump, upper tail-coverts and tail blackish-brown, the feathers of the rump obsoletely edged with metallic green; wings dark brown, in very fine specimens the lesser wing-coverts are like the back and the median and inner greater coverts are edged with brick-red; occasionally the scapulars and innermost secondaries are powdered with red; chin and centre of throat whitish; neck below and breast ashy-grey or grey tinted with vinous, the feathers edged with metallic emerald-green, sometimes obsolete; abdomen paler and more vinous ; flanks, axillaries and under aspect of wings darker ; under tail-coverts brownish-ashy.
Colours of soft parts. " Corneous part of bill and claws horny-white ; fleshy part of bill, eyelids, legs and feet pink; irides pale yellowish-red to red-brown" (Davison). " Eyelids, legs and feet lake-red " (Davison). " Bill brick-red at base " (Cockburn).
Measurements. Total length 3S0 to 430 mm.; wing 204 to 224 mm.; tail 152 to 178 mm.; tarsus about 25 to 26 mm.; culmen about 15 to 17 mm.
Distribution. Confined to the Hill-tracts of South-West India from Kanara to Cape Comorin. Col. Sykes obtained it in the Deccan Ghats, where, however, it is rare. Captain Blaxland's report of its occurrence on the Mahanadi and Godavery Rivers has never been confirmed.
Nidification. This Pigeon breeds in some numbers on the Nilgiris in April, May and June from 5,000 feet upwards; in Travancore it breeds as low down as 4,000 feet and on the Palnis and Shevaroys at about the same elevation. The nests are the usual rough saucers of twigs and though Miss Cockburn found a few nests "on lofty trees," it generally builds them on high leafy bushes or small saplings under, rather than over, fifteen feet. The bush or tree selected is one in "sholas" or spinneys and small woods, less often in dense or deciduous forest. Only one egg is laid, nine of which average 38.4 x 28.8 mm. and most eggs are broader ovals than is usual with this Subfamily.
Habits. This Pigeon is found singly, in pairs or in quite small flocks, frequenting woodlands and forest, feeding on various fruits and buds. It is said also to descend to the ground and feed on snails and Jerdon took *' small Bulimi" from their crops. They are said to move about a great deal in their search for ripening fruit but they are in no way migratory. Its call is said to be the same soft sweet " coo " of the Common Ring-Dove and its flight also resembles that of that bird.