81. VIEILLOT'S FIREBACK-PHEASANT.
Lophura rufa, (Raffles).
MALE :—Upper plumage black with the exception of the lower back and rump, which are maroon chestnut.
FEMALE :—Upper plumage chestnut with fine black vermiculations.
Vernacular Names :—None known.
Vieillot's Fireback-Pheasant has been observed only in the extreme south of Tenasserim at Bankasoon and Maliwun. The proper home of this species is the Malay Peninsula, Siam and Sumatra.
The late Mr. W. Davison had exceptional opportunities for studying the habits of this Pheasant when he was in Tenasserim. He remarked:—"These birds frequent the thick evergreen forests in small parties of five or six; usually there is only one male in the party, the rest being females, but on one or two occasions I have seen two males together; sometimes the males are found quite alone. I have never heard the males crow, nor do I think that they ever do so; when alarmed both males and females have a peculiar sharp note, exceedingly like that of the large black-backed squirrel (Sciurus bicolor). The males also continually make a whirring sound with their wings which can be very well imitated by twirling rapidly between the hands a small stick in the cleft of which a piece of stiff cloth has been transversely placed. I have often discovered the whereabouts of a flock by hearing this noise. They never come into the open, but confine themselves to the forests, feeding on berries, tender leaves, and insects and grubs of all kinds; and they are very fond of scratching about after the manner of domestic poultry and dusting themselves. When disturbed they run rapidly away, not in different directions, but all keeping much together; they rise at once before a dog, getting up with a great flutter, but when once well on the wing, fly with a strong and rapid flight; they seldom alight again under a couple of hundred yards, and usually on the ground, when they immediately start running."
In the British Museum there is an egg of this bird which was laid in confinement Fireback-Pheasants. at Singapore. It is of an oval shape, buffy white in colour, and measures 2.2 by 1.65.
The male has the whole plumage, with the crest, glossy bluish black, except the lower back and the rump, which are maroon chestnut. The sides of the body are streaked with white. The two middle pairs of tail-feathers are white; the next pair chiefly white "on the inner web, black on the outer; the remainder all black.
In the female the whole upper plumage, crest, and the visible parts of the closed wings are chestnut, minutely and closely vermiculated with black. The tail is maroon, the middle two or three pairs of feathers indistinctly marked with black wavy lines. The throat is white; the foreneck chestnut streaked with white; and the breast and the sides of the body dark brown or black, each feather laterally margined with white and tipped with chestnut. The belly is black, each feather margined with white.
Length of male about 28 ; wing about 11; tail about 10. Length of female about 24; wing about 10; tail about 8. Legs bright red; irides pale red; bill horny to white; facial skin blue. Weight up to 5 lb.