(2026) Gallinula chloropus indicus.
THE INDIAN MOORHEN.
Gallinula chloropus? var. indicus Blyth, J. A. S. B., xi, p. 887 (1842) (Calcutta). Gallinula chloropus Blanf. & Oates, Avifauna B. I., iv, p. 175,
Vernacular names. Jal-Murghi, Pani-Murghi (Hin.); Dakab-paira (Beng.) ; Jumbu-kodi, Boli-kodi (Tel.).
Description. Head and neck black, passing into dark slaty-grey on the breast, flanks and extreme upper back; remaining upper parts rich deep mahogany-brown, the scapulars and feathers next the grey tinged with olive; tail almost black towards the tip ; primary coverts, primaries and outer secondaries blackish, the first primary and border of wing edged white; below, the deep slaty of the upper breast pales posteriorly and the centre of the abdomen is mottled with white; under tail-coverts white except the central ones which are black; under wing-coverts grey tipped with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red; frontal shield and base of bill bright red, the terminal third greenish-yellow; "tibia and front of tarsus greenish-yellow, hinder part of tarsus and all toes slaty-green ; an orange ring round the tibia just below the feathered portion" (Oates).
Measurements. Wing 152 to 172 mm.; tail 52 to 68 mm.; tarsus 47 to 50 mm.; culmen, 38 to 41 mm., 32 to 35 mm.; the female is very little smaller than the male.
Young birds have the upper parts all brown, less rich and mahogany coloured than in the adult; the lower parts are rather more brown and less grey, much mixed with white.
Chick: in down deep black throughout.
Distribution. Throughout India, Burma and Ceylon; South to the Malay States and East through the Indo- Chinese countries to China and Japan.
Nidification. The Indian Moorhen breeds throughout the plains wherever there are lakes and swamps, in the hills of Southern India to all heights where there is any water, in Kashmir up to 8,000 ft., whilst in Tibet it is said to be very common throughout the year in the marshes round Lhasa, over 12,000 ft. Its nest, like that of the European bird, may be built either in reeds and rushes or upon a bed of weeds and I have seen nests also in rice-fields. The eggs number five or six to fourteen and are indistinguishable from those of the typical form. The ground-colour is a pale yellowish stone-colour, rarely almost white or equally rarely warm buff, the markings consisting of small blotches of pale dull reddish sparsely scattered about the larger end. Two hundred eggs average 40.0 x 29.6 mm.: maxima 45.0 x 30.0 and 40.0 x 31.1 mm. minima 36.1 x 30.4 and 39.3 x 27.0 mm.
Incubation takes 21 days and once it starts, the hen sits close but slips quietly away when disturbed and, by diving, puts some distance between herself and the nest before showing herself.
Habits. This Moorhen is extremely common in the better-watered parts of India and may be found on small ponds, large lakes and swamps which are well covered with reeds and water-plants but it seldom frequents rivers or streams. It runs well and speedily both on the ground and over water-weeds but its usual progress is a rather dignified walk with slow and jerky steps. Swimming, it rests high on the water with tail erect exposing the white under tail-coverts, whilst it can dive with speed and stay under water for nearly a minute at a time. The breeding-note is a loud, sharp " tieruch, tieruch," in addition to which they have many chuckling notes. The food of this bird consists of water-weeds and berries, grass, insects, snails, worms, frogs and even small fish.