(1916) Lophura rufa.
VIEILLOT'S FIRE-BACK PHEASANT.
Phasianus rufus Raffles, Trans. Linn. Soc, xiii, p. 321 (1882) (Sumatra). Lophura rufa. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 87.
Vernacular names. Knock-wah, Kai-jah-phya (Siam); Mooah-Mooah (Malay).
Description. Plumage above a deep rich metallic purple-violet; lower back a fiery golden-red, passing into rich copper-red on the rump, the concealed bases of these feathers like the upper back; two pairs of central tail-feathers white; inner webs of third pair white, outer webs of these and remaining tail-feathers black, glossed with violet; wing-quills brown, darker and almost black on the innermost secondaries ; greater and median coverts black, glossed with green ; lower plumage purple-violet like the back, the sides of the lower breast and flanks with conspicuous white streaks, sometimes tinged with chestnut; centre of abdomen black ; vent and thigh-coverts dingy blackish-brown; under tail-coverts black glossed with green.
Many birds, apparently fully adult, have a curious sprinkling of the finest specks of white arranged in a narrow line on each feather of the metallic black plumage and with similar terminal lines, but reddish, not white, on the primaries and secondaries.
Birds from Sumatra have the flank-streaks chestnut, nut white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright pale red; facial skin smalt-blue ; bill white to pale fleshy-horn; tarsus and toes bright vermilion-red, back of tarsus and sole paler; spur fleshy-pink or pale vermilion ; skin of throat fleshy-pink (Davison).
Measurements. Wing 254 to 297 mm.; tail 228 to 325 mm.; tarsus 107 to 121 mm.; spur 31 to 43 mm.; culmen 32 to 36 mm. Weight 4 1/4 to 5 lb.
Female. Head, neck and upper back bright chestnut-rufous; lower back and remainder of upper plumage a paler buff -rufous, profusely covered with narrow irregular bars of black ; the two colours grading into one another; tail and upper tail-coverts a rather richer chestnut than the head, narrowly barred with black except on the outer tail-feathers; wings like the back but more chestnut; chin and throat rufescent-white, changing into pale chestnut on the fore-neck; lower neck and breast bright chestnut, with broad white edges to the basal halves; remainder of lower plumage black with broad white edges to each feather and mixed with chestnut on the flanks; under tail-coverts black and chestnut; thighs black and chestnut fringed with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright pale red; facial skin smalt-blue; bill horny-white, greenish-white or pale yellowish, the base and gape dark horny-brown; legs bright red or vermilion.
Measurements. Wing 223 to 264 mm.
Young males dull earthy-brown above, much freckled with rufous, head darker and an incipient crest tipped with chestnut; chin and throat albescent; neck, breast and flanks dark brown, the two latter with the feathers broadly edged white; centre of abdomen and vent dull white; under tart-coverts brown.
Distribution. South-Western Siam and the extreme South of: Tenasserim to Sumatra.
Nidification. Two eggs from the Waterstradt collection are dated Malacca, 4.4. 99, and are said to have been laid by wild birds " in a nest composed of dead leaves, grass and bamboo-spates under some thick low bushes in dense evergreen-jungle." An egg in the Hume collection laid in captivity is dated July. The three eggs measure 52.5 x 39.3, 50.9 x 39.1 and 57.1 x 39.6 mm. In colour they are a pale creamy-buff, quite unspotted.
Habits. This Fire-backed Pheasant is a bird of the dense low-conn try evergreen-forest, not being found in the higher hills anywhere throughout its habitat. They are said never to come into the open but feed in the forests on berries, shoots, seeds, insects and grubs, generally keeping in small coveys though the males sometimes live alone. They run well and though they make a great fluster in rising when once up have a strong and speedy flight. Davison says they have a note like the Black-backed Squirrel and another which he calls " chukan-chukan," whilst they also make a whirring sound with their wings, probably a challenge.