(1865) Alsocomus puniceus.
THE PURPLE WOOD-PIGEON.
Alsocomus puniceus (Tickell), Blyth. J. A. S. B., xi, p. 461 (1842) (Chyebasa) j Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 38.
Vernacular names. Lali Pagooma (Assam); Daohukuruma koro-gophu (Cachari)
Description. Forehead, crown, nape and a line under the orbital skin greyish-white; sides of head and neck pale, dull chestnut-brown, greyish next the base of the lower mandible and the black bases of the feathers often showing on the upper neck; back and scapulars rich deep chestnut, the feathers broadly edged with brilliant green and amethyst; rump and upper tail-coverts deep slaty-grey, almost black, the feathers, except the longest coverts, edged with amethyst; tail blackish-brown ; visible wing-coverts rich chestnut-brown, the lesser and median edged with amethyst; edge of wing and greater primary coverts blackish-brown ; quills blackish-brown, the second primary edged with pale brown, the edge lessening until it disappears on the fifth or sixth primary; innermost secondaries like the back; lower plumage paler vinous-chestnut, darker on the thighs and vent and faintly glossed with iridescent green on the breast; under tail-coverts brownish-black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris creamy-yellow, orange-yellow to orange-red; the eyelids carnation-red ; orbital skin pale purplish-pink ; bill greenish or bluish-horny from tip to nostril and the angle of the gonys and thence to the forehead, with cere sanguineous-pink ; legs and feet purple-red, soles paler and claws whitish.
Measurements. Wing, 210 to 236 mm., 203 to 225 mm.; tail 152 to 178 mm.; tarsus about 23 to 25 mm.; culmen about 16 to 17 mm. Weight 12 3/4 to 18 oz.
Young birds have the head unicolorous with the body and are generally duller in colour.
Young in first plumage are very dull and brown and have the wing-coverts and scapulars margined with rufous.
Distribution. Eastern Bengal, Assam, Burma, Indo-Chinese countries and North Malay Peninsula. Layard apparently obtained a single specimen in Ceylon and Legge thought he saw a flock of these Pigeons near Borella in 1869.
Nidification. Oates found a nest of this bird containing a single egg on the 27th July in Pegu, whilst in Assam I took eggs in June and July and, very rarely, in May. All the nests were built in bamboo-clumps or small saplings, either in bamboo- and scrub-jungle or in evergreen forest. They breed from the foothills up to some 2,000 feet and also in the plains. Occasionally nests may be taken at 3,000 or 3,500 feet. Fifteen eggs average 37.6 x 29.2 mm.: maxima 41.5 x 32.5 mm.; minima 35.5 X 28.0 and 39.1 x 26.6 mm. Both sexes take part in incubation.
Habits. The Purple Wood-Pigeon is a bird of forests and thickly-wooded cultivated tracts alongside forest and is often found feeding in rice-fields after the crops have been cut and the ground has dried up. It is principally a fruit-eater but it is well known to the people of South Assam as a frequenter of their fields of millet and vetches and it seems particularly fond of ripe Indian corn. Tickell found it in small flocks in Eastern Bengal but I have never seen it except in pairs or alone. It flies swiftly and strongly with the usual deliberate wing-beats of the Pigeon tribe and it is also very active on the ground. Bingham describes the call as " a soft mew, not unlike that of Carpophaga aenea, only not half so loud or booming."