(1906) Gallus lafayettii Lesson.
THE CEYLON JUNGLE-FOWL.
Gallus lafayettii, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 300.
Ceylon only is inhabited by this Jungle-fowl and it occurs there according to Wait ('Birds of Ceylon,’ 2nd ed. p. 317, 1925), “in most parts of the island except in the more cultivated districts. Its chief haunts are the forests of the north and the scrub-jungle of the maritime districts. It ascends in great numbers to the Horton Plains and other elevated plateaus when the nella (Strobi¬lanthes sp.) is ripe,” Legge says that “in the hills it is resident and breeds commonly up to 6,000 feet.”
The Ceylon Jungle-fowl, like others of the genus, keeps closely to the thickest of jungle when breeding.
In many cases, perhaps in the majority, this Jungle-fowl makes its nest on the ground in some hollow, lined with leases and well hidden in the undergrowth. Legge writes ('Birds of Ceylon,’ vol. iii, p. 336) :—“The nest is nearly always placed on the ground near a tree, under a. bush, or beneath the shelter of a fallen log ; a hollow is scratched and a few dry leaves placed in it for the eggs to repose upon. I once found a nest in damp soil between the large projecting flange-like roots of the Doon-tree containing two eggs partially incubated.
“In 1873 Mr. Parker found, a nest on the top of a young tree about 30 feet high. He writes to me that it had the appearance of a Crow’s or Hawk’s nest, of which the Jungle-hen had taken possession. She flew off and three eggs were found to be in the nest.” This curious habit of making its nest at some height from the ground seems to be a characteristic of this Jungle-fowl. W. A. T. Kellow and Jenkins both told me that they constantly found eggs laid in nests on stumps, tops of bushes etc. Wait writes :— “In one respect I differ from Legge’s account of the nesting of the Ceylon Jungle-fowl, for this bird’s nest is quite as often built on the ground as off it. The most peculiar situation I have come across was in an oven-shaped hollow about 8 feet from the ground in a fairly targe tree which stood at the edge of a cart-track running through the jungle, A big branch had been torn off at its junction with the stem of the tree, and the socket had rotted out. In the hollow thus formed four eggs had been laid on a soft layer of touch-wood which had crumbled to dust. On another occasion I came across a nest in a hush overhanging a dry water-course. It was a mere depression in a matted platform of dead leaves which had been swept down the. water-course in some flood.
“A favourite site is a stump of a tree which has been felled and left standing after the tree has been taken away. Ill these cases there is a scanty bed of dead leaves which have fallen from the surrounding trees and collected in the hollow which generally forms in the upper surface of the stump in a very short time.”
Layard, Parker and Hart all refer to this habit of laying on old stumps, and the natives are also well aware of it.
Eggs may be taken in any month of the year, and Wait has taken them or seen them in every one. In the higher hills the months of March to June are the favourite ones for laying, but even here they may he found at almost any time.
The number of eggs laid varies from two to four, and the latter is so rare that I did not succeed in getting a clutch of four until 1931, when Phillips obtained and sent me one. The large clutches, one of nine, obtained by Beebe, were probably arranged for him, as no such clutch is ever laid normally, nor would it be possible for birds selecting sites on stumps and other places high up to have room in them for large clutches.
The eggs are very curious ; in shape, texture and ground-colour they are quite typical Gallus eggs, but the great majority are marked. Most eggs have a minute stippling of specks and spots of light brown, purple-brown or purple-grey all over the surface, with a few scattered small blotches of the same. Some eggs, however, are quite well marked with small blotches of brown of some shade and with larger, well-marked secondary blotches of iron-grey or inky grey, A few eggs have only these dark grey secondary markings, which give them a very quaint appearance. One egg taken by Wait is quite handsome, with large red smeary blotches on a pale stone ground,
Forty-eight eggs average 46.3 x 34.5 mm. : maxima 49.5 x 39.8 mm. ; minima 42.1 x 35.0 and 43.1 x 32.0 mm.
1906. Gallus lafayettii
(1906) Gallus lafayettii Lesson.