(1850) Myristicivora bicolor bicolor.
THE PIED IMPERIAL PIGEON.
Columba bicolor Scop., Del Flor. et Faun., Insubr., ii, p. 94 (1896) (New Guinea). Myristicivora bicolor. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 23.
Vernacular names. Kaluia (Car Nicobar).
Description. Bastard-wing, primaries and outer secondaries deep slaty, almost, black; central tail-feathers with a terminal band of black nearly two inches deep, this band gradually decreasing in width on each succeeding pair to about 8 or 10 mm. on the outermost pair, which pair is also sometimes margined with black on the central portion ; the under tail-coverts sometimes have edges of black, more rarely a. broad band of black at their tips ; remainder of plumage creamy-white, the creamy tinge varying greatly individually and fading rapidly in skins.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill leaden-blue, the bill dark horny or dark plumbeous; legs and feet pale smalt-blue.
Measurements. Wing about 218 to 231 mm.; tail about 125 to 135 mm.; tarsus about 26 to 29 mm.; culmen 23 to 26 mm.
The extent of cream on the plumage varies greatly and is generally most developed on the head and shoulders. Robinson and Kloss consider the colour, at all events to some extent, natural but other observers believe it to be merely stains from nutmegs and other fruit. Its patchy appearance and its prevalence about the face and head support this latter idea but Robinson tells me he has obtained birds the whole plumage of which was a level creamy-buff, though it soon faded.
Distribution. Andamans and Nicobars through the Malay Peninsula to New Guinea. It has occurred on the coasts and inlands of Burma from Sondoway in Arrakan, where it was obtained by Hopwood in 1910. It visits constantly the islands of the Mergui coast and also in scanty numbers the coast itself and is said to breed regularly in all the islands. It also occurs, though irregularly, on the West Malay coast and more numerously in the islands.
Nidification. Osmaston took a long series of these birds' eggs on Sentinel Island in the middle of February and thus describes their nesting:—6t We found the island swarming with the Pied Imperial Pigeon, and it was not long before we found a nest containing a single fresh egg, followed by many others. Altogether we found some fifty nests containing each a single egg, some fresh, some more or less incubated.
"The nests were not as a rule close together. They were placed near the tops of small trees, or on the lower branches of big ones, usually about 25 feet from the ground. One nest I found was only 10 feet from the ground, but this was exceptional.
" The nest is the usual flimsy platform of sticks, through which the egg is visible from below."
Habits. This Pigeon is extremely common on many islands of the Andamans and Nicobars and probably almost equally so at certain times of the year on the islands of the Mergui and Malay coasts but it is not yet certain if they are residents or merely visitors to most of the islands. In spite of its handsome plumage Butler says that it is by no means conspicuous when on trees, the black and white looking like patches of sunlight and deep shadow. It is as fearless and tame as it is common but so many of its haunts are almost inaccessible that its undue diminution need not be feared. Its flight is powerful, direct and swift and its note is said to be a deep "hu-hu-hu." It is entirely frugivorous and during the season they feed almost exclusively on nutmegs, swallowing these whole and then rejecting the nuts and retaining the mace.