(2027) Gallicrex cinerea.
THE KORA or WATER-COCK.
Fulica cinerea Gmel., Syst. Nat., i, p. 702 (1789) (China). Gallicrex cinerea Blanf. & Oates, Avifauna, B. L, iv, p. 176.
Vernacular names. Kora, Kongra (Hin.); Kettala (Cing., N. Ceylon); Willi-kukulu (S. Ceylon); Tannir-koli (Tam., Ceylon); Boun-dote (Burma); Khora-sorai (Assam).
Description. - Adult male in breeding plumage. Head, neck and lower plumage black, the feathers edged with pale grey except on the posterior flanks and abdomen, where the edges are whiter and broader ; hind-neck, back, scapulars and wing-coverts blackish-brown, broadly edged with light slaty-grey; rump and upper tail-coverts brown edged with fulvous-brown ; outer wing-coverts dark brown edged with fulvous; quills blackish-brown, the outer web of the first primary white ; under tail-coverts buff or buffy-white with brown bars and centres.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright red; bill and shield at the base blood-red, paling and becoming more dusky yellow at the tip ; the horn projecting from the back of the casque is bright red ; legs and feet dull to bright red.
Measurements. Wing 211 to 227 mm.; tail 77 to 83 mm.; tarsus 75 to 77; culmen 37 to 38 mm.
Female. Lores and feathers round the eye mixed dark brown and fulvous-white; crown brown faintly edged paler; upper parts, scapulars, tail and wing-coverts dark brown broadly edged with fulvous; quills dark brown, the outer web of the first primary white; lower parts pale buffy-brown, nearly white on the chin, throat and centre of the abdomen, barred everywhere with wavy lines of dark brown but the bars less obvious on the whitest parts; under tail-coverts buff, barred with blackish-brown.
Male in non-breeding plumage. Similar to the female.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow to yellowish-brown; bill horny-yellow with no casque, but the small triangle running into the forehead yellowish; legs and feet dull greenish-brown.
Measurements. Wing 172 to 184 mm.; tail 65 to 75 mm.; tarsus 65 to 68 mm.; culmen 32 to 34 mm.
Young birds are like the female but less barred below.
Chick in down. Black above, more brownish below.
Distribution. The whole of India, Ceylon and Burma, wherever the country is suitable and wet enough, but especially common in Bengal, Assam, the Malabar coast and the wettest areas in Southern Burma. Outside our limits it extends practically throughout the Indo-Chinese countries, the Malay Peninsula and Islands and again east through China to Japan.
Nidification. Over nearly all its habitat the breeding-season of the Water-Cock extends from the end of June to the beginning of September, most eggs being laid in the end of July and early August. In Ceylon it breeds in January and February and again in July and August. The nest is built low down in dense reeds at the water's edge or resting on the leaves of water-plants, further inside the swamps and, less often, in rice-fields. When built in reeds the nest is a bulky structure of weeds and rushes bub at other times is very flimsy and badly put together. The eggs number three to five, rarely as many as eight. In appearance they are like handsome, richly-marked eggs of Moorhens. The ground-colour varies from pale pink or yellow stone-colour to deep brick-pink, profusely covered all over with blotches of light to dark reddish-brown, with secondary markings of neutral tint and lavender. One hundred eggs average 42.2 x 31.0 mm.: maxima 46.6 x 33.0 and 42.3 x 33.1 mm.; minima 38.9 x 31.3 and 39.5 x 28.1 mm.
During the breeding-season the Water-Cock is very pugnacious and the males fight desperately but, though the Sylhet natives assert that such is the case, they are probably not polygamous.
Habits. As the Water-Cock is much appreciated by the Indians for food, they are regularly hunted and are, in consequence, very shy and retiring in most of their haunts. When, however, these are more remote from mankind they are quite tame and do not shun observation, though, like most Bails, they are rather crepuscular and feed principally in the mornings and evenings. Their diet consists of freshwater mollusca, insects, grasshoppers and the seeds and shoots of water-plants as well as young green crops. The call, or challenge, is a deep boom uttered in rapid repetition and the birds also have many chuckling notes. They are much prized as fighters by the Sylhetis, who take their eggs, which they hatch by tying them up against their own waists in a cloth.