(2032) Hydrophasianus chirurgus (Scop.).
THE PHEASANT-TAILED JACANA.
Hydrophasianus chirurgus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. vi, p. 42.
This, perhaps the most beautiful of all our Indian Water-birds, has an even wider range than the preceding bird. It is found in similar places to that species all over India, Burma and Ceylon, and has been recorded as far North as Gilgit and Panji, while it is common in all suitable country in Kashmir and the Outer Himalayas, and I have had it brought to me from the Abor Hills, Outside our limits it ranges to South China, the Philippines, Java and Borneo, This Jacana breeds in the same situations and in the same kind of lake, swamp and marsh as the Bronze-winged Jacana, while it makes nests which cannot be distinguished from those of that bird. On the whole the nest is even more flimsy and more casually made, but it is also more constantly built on a substratum of broad lotus leaves. One nest I saw was indeed a lotus-leaf with upturned rims, nothing being added beyond about twenty or thirty chips and bits of dry rush, while Bates in Kashmir (Journ. Bomb, Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxx, p, 605, 1925) found eggs laid "on a thick layer of soggy weed” with no attempt at a nest. It breeds in smaller tanks and even wide ditches more often than the Bronze-winged bird, while on the larger lakes two nests may be found close together and they seem to have no desire for a special territory. The nests are never hidden in any way, though at the same time they are very inconspicuous. In the Khasia Hills I found them breeding in tiny pools of open water in rice-fields at over 5,000 feet, and here the nests were usually made of blades of green rice and bits of the old straw.
They breed at the same time of year as the Bronze-winged species but perhaps a little earlier, many birds laying in June.
Blewitt found them breeding at Saugur in August ; Marshall at Bolundashahr and Cawnpore in July ; Butler in Deesa took eggs in August and September, and Wenden in Callian between the 20th August and 29th October. In Assam Inglis, Coltart, Primrose and I found very many nests from early June to the end of October with fresh eggs, and in Bihar the two first-named record the birds breeding in the same months, Scrope Doig found numerous nests in the Eastern Narra, Sind, in August. In Burma many collectors have taken the eggs in these months, and it is only in Ceylon where the breeding season changes and is said by Legge to be April and May and by Wait to be March to June. Wait also adds that they sometimes lay their eggs on hare floating lotus-leaves.
The eggs almost invariably number four, never more and only very rarely three.
In shape they are peg-top, often very flat at the top of the larger end. The texture is fine but less close and hard than in Metopidius and the eggs are much more fragile ; the surface is smooth and generally with a fine gloss.
In colour they are immaculate bronze, varying considerably in tint and depth from a rufous-brown bronze to a deep almost choco¬late-bronze, Other eggs have a definite olive tint and some might be described as a yellow-brown. Abnormal eggs are not rare, and I have clutches of pale yellow-brown and eggs of pale grey-blue, sometimes only one in a clutch, sometimes more. One curious clutch of three has two eggs pale grey-green with specks of blackish at the larger end ; the third egg looks like a piece of mottled green moss, the whole surface being heavily mottled with brown-green.
A hundred eggs average 37.4 x 27.6 mm. ; maxima 39.9 x 27.1 and 30.1 x 29.0 mm. ; minima 34.5 x 28.9 and 34.6 x 26.0 mm.
Both sexes make the nest but the female alone incubates. She sits very closely, though during the warm hours of the day the eggs are often left exposed for hours on end. Rain at once drives her back, and I have seen her sitting close in the heaviest tropical rainfall, getting up every now and then to shake herself free of the raindrops.
2032. Hydrophasianus chirurgus
(2032) Hydrophasianus chirurgus (Scop.).