(1918) Gennaeus hamiltonii.
THE WHITE-CRESTED KALIJ PHEASANT.
Gennaeus hamiltonii, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 320.
This Kalij Pheasant occurs from the Indus on the West to Nepal as far as the Gogra in the East. Hodgson obtained a skin from West of Jamla, presumably in Nepal, but with no definite locality, and Hume thought it most probably came from Garhwal or some place farther West, where it is very common.
It is found almost from the foot-hills up to at least 11,000 feet. Hume actually found it breeding at 1,400 feet, but this is very unusual and, though a certain number of birds breed at 4,000 feet and under, most do so between 6,000 and 9,000 feet.
* I have little doubt that eventually the whole of the Kalij and Silver Pheasants will be treated as subspecies of the one species, nycthomerus. This would create a species with a great and unwieldly number of races, but might be more technically correct. If kept in sections the horsfieldii group would come under leucomelanos (1790).
The two things needed by this Kalij Pheasant for its nesting site ana ample cover and water not too far away. Its nest may be placed in thin forest with thick undergrowth ; evergreen forest with plenty of ferns, brambles and bracken ; ravines and water-courses with rocky sides, well covered with weeds etc, ; or in bamboo-jungle with very little undergrowth at all.
As regards the nest Hume writes : “The Common Kalij hardly makes a regular nest. It gets together a pad, sometimes rather massive, sometimes very slight, of fine grass and coarse moss roots, mingled with a little grass or a few sprigs of moss, and on a slight depression in the centre of this the eggs are laid. One which I measured in situ in May 1871, in the Valley of the Sutlej just below Kotegarh, was circular, 11.5 inches in diameter and 4 inches in thickness outside, with a central depression 6 inches wide and nearly 2 inches in depth in the centre. Others again have been merely linings to a slight hollow in the ground, either natural or scratched by the birds ; I have seen a great many nests of this species, and they were generally very scanty. The nest is usually very well concealed under tufts of fem (they are very fond of the fern-clad hill-sides), grass or “riugall," as the natives call the slender dwarf hill-bamboos.”
The breeding season lasts from the middle of April to the end of June, the great majority of eggs being laid in the last fornight of April and first fortnight of May in the lower elevations, and about ten days later in the higher.
The number of eggs laid varies from four to fourteen, Dods¬worth found four and Whymper took five hard-set, Hume had thirteen brought to him, and both Jerdon and Wilson record as many as fourteen. The usual number is eight to ten.
In appearance they are just like the eggs of the domestic fowl and are similar in shape and texture. In colour they range from a pale creamy or buff-white to a warm reddish-buff. Hume says that sometimes they are “a rich reddish buff, even richer and redder than any specimens of the Peafowl’s eggs that I have seen.” Whymper also once found a clutch of five eggs, three of which had been broken and eaten by a civet-cat, which were practically white.
One hundred eggs, including most of Hume’s which I have remeasured, average 49.5 x 37.0 mm. : maxima 53.1 x 39.1 and 50.8 x 40.0 mm. ; minima 44.1 x 36.3 and 48.2 x 34.3 mm.
Hume thinks this Pheasant is monogamous, and says that he has many hundreds of times flushed both parents with their young broods. In former times every one wrote of all Pheasants and of many other Game-birds as if it had already been proved that all were polygamous. Of recent years more and more sportsmen have come to the conclusion that most of these birds are monogamous, and certainly my own experience confirms this.
During the breeding season they are said to be very pugnacious, and “Mountaineer” (i. e., F. Wilson) writes :—“The males have frequent battles. On one occasion I bad shot a male, which lay fluttering on the ground in its death struggles, when another rushed out of the jungle and attacked it with the greatest fury.
“The male often makes a peculiar drumming noise with its wings, not unlike the sound produced by shaking a piece of cloth in the air. It is only heard in the pairing season, but whether to attract the attention of the females or in defiance of his fellows I cannot say, as I have never seen the bird in the act, though often led to the spot where they were by the sound.”
Judging by analogy from the habits of the Black Kalij I have no doubt the call is one of defiance.
1918. Gennaeus hamiltonii
(1918) Gennaeus hamiltonii.