69. THE BLACK-BACKED KALIJ-PHEASANT.
Gennceus melanonotus, (Blyth).
MALE :—No portion of the upper plumage vermiculated with white ; crest black ; back and rump glossy blue-black with velvety black fringes.
FEMALE :—Undistinguishable from the female of the previous two species.
Vernacular Names :— Muthuraj , Bengali ; Kirrik, Bhutia; Kirrik-pho, Lepcha.
The Black-backed Kalij-Pheasant occupies a comparatively small portion of the Himalayas, being confined to Sikhim, both Native and British, and the western portion of Bhutan. This Pheasant does not ascend to any great height, being seldom found above 6000 or 7000 feet of altitude.
Mr. Gammie has written an excellent account of this bird, and I reproduce a portion from Messrs. Hume and Marshall's work :—" In Sikhim the Black-backed Kalij is abundant from about 1oo up to 6000 feet, and it is occasionally found at both lower and higher elevations. It frequents forest and scrub, rarely coming out to cleared land except in the mornings and evenings to feed, and even then seldom leaving the cover for many yards.
"At no time of the day is it a shy bird, but in the evenings and early mornings it is almost as tame as a domestic fowl, and, if feeding on the road, will leisurely walk but a few steps out of the way of a passer-by.
" It appears to dislike sunshine, and scarcely leaves the shade of trees or shrubs while the sun is up.
" It seldom, if ever, perches in the daytime, but keeps to the ground, unless suddenly disturbed by dogs or wild animals, when it may take refuge in a tree as a last resource. If alarmed by men it always runs along under the scrub if the circumstances are favourable for that mode of escape, but if not, it flies within twenty feet of the ground for forty or fifty yards, and then again alights on the ground. By making a short detour they will be found close to where they alighted."
The Black-backed Kalij-Pheasant breeds from March to July according to elevation, laying its eggs amidst dead leaves, etc., under cover of bushes without apparently making any nest. The eggs are sometimes ten in number, and vary in colour from creamy white to buff. They measure from 1.79 to 2 in length and from 1.4 to 1.54 in breadth.
In this species the male has a black crest and each of the feathers of the rump with a velvety black, instead of a white, fringe. The other parts of the plumage and the dimensions are the same as in the two preceding species.
The female is quite undistinguishable from the female of the two preceding species both in colour and size.