1406. Heliopais personata.
The Masked. Finfoot.
Podica personata, Gray, P. Z. S. 1848, p. 90, Aves, pl. 4; Blyth, J. A. S. B. xxviii, p. 415 ; Tickell, ibid. p. 455 ; Blyth, Ibis, 1862, p. 91 ; Blanf. J. A. S. B. xxxviii, pt. 2, p. 191 ; Hume & Oates, S. P. iii, p. 185 ; Blyth, Birds Burm. p. 162 ; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 465; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xlvii. pt. 2, p. 21; Hume, Cat. no. 903 bis; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 353; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 327. Heliopais personata, Sharpe, Bull. B. O. Club, vol. i, p. xxxvii (1893) ; id. Ibis, 1893, p. 439; id. Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 232.
Coloration. Male. Forehead and anterior part of crown with a streak running back on each side of the occiput, sides of head to back of eye, chin, throat, and fore neck, ending in a point behind, velvet-black, all the black area below the superciliary streaks narrowly bordered with white ; occiput and hind neck bluish grey; sides of neck and lower fore neck light brownish olive; upper parts, wings, and tail rufescent brown washed with olive, except on the larger coverts; quills and rectrices, rump and upper tail-coverts slightly paler: breast and abdomen white, passing into light brown on the sides of the body: flanks, vent, and lower tail-coverts more or less barred brown and white.
In females the chin, throat, and fore neck are white with a black border, broadest on the cheeks and edged outside with white as in the male ; the frontal black band is rather narrower; otherwise the plumage resembles that of the male sex. Young birds are like females.
Bill chrome yellow in males, dull yellow in females; irides dark brown in males, yellow in females ; legs and feet pale green, edges of the webs bright yellow in males, faintly tinged with yellow in females (Davison).
Length of male 22 ; tail 5 ; wing 10 : tarsus 2; bill from gape 2.4. Length of female 20.5; tail 4.5; wing 9.25; tarsus 1.75.
Distribution. From Assam and Cachar throughout Burma to Malacca and Sumatra, in suitable localities, but very rare.
Habits, &c. This very curious bird has been found on the sea-coast, in swamps, and on rivers and mountain streams. I believe I once killed one on the Irrawaddy above Prome, but I did not know the bird and did not preserve it. According to Davison it swims deep in the water, with only the head and neck above the surface ; it runs quickly, holding its body in a peculiar way, at an angle to the ground of about 45°. It is shy, and when disturbed takes refuge in cover or flies up, slowly at first, but strongly when fairly on the wing. The food consists of mollusca and insects, probably of vegetable substances also; the flesh is said by Davison to be delicious. Nidification unknown.