67. THE WHITE-CRESTED KALIJ-PHEASANT.
Gennaeus albicristatus, (Vigors).
MALE :—No portion of the upper plumage vermiculated with white ; crest white ; back and rump with broad white fringes.
FEMALE :—No white spearhead-shaped marks on the mantle; all the tail-feathers, except the middle pair, glossy black.
Vernacular Names -.—Kalij, Hind. ; Kookera, Murghi-Kalij, Hills north of Mussooree ; Kalaysur (male), Kalaysee (female) Kulu, Mandi, Suket, etc.; Kolsa, Punjab.
The White-crested Kalij-Pheasant is found in the lower and middle ranges of the Himalayas from Hazara to Kumaon and probably as far as the extreme western part of Nepal. According to Messrs. Hume and Marshall, this Pheasant occurs in the Siwalik Hills as well.
This species is usually found low down on the outer ranges and their valleys, but in summer it may be met with at an altitude of 9000 or 10,000 feet.
Much has been written on the habits of this common Pheasant. I shall content myself with transcribing a few notes by Captain J. H. Baldwin as quoted by Messrs. Hume and Marshall. He says:— " Its favourite habitat is among thick clumps of bushes and shrubs near the banks of rivers, in low valleys through which streams of water run, and on the slopes of hills where there is plenty of low bush cover, especially thorny thickets bordering on cultivation; in the early morning, the vicinity of an old cowshed is a sure resort of this bird if anywhere in the neighbourhood. I have flushed this Pheasant and the common red Jungle-Fowl from the same description of cover at the foot of the hills. The call of the bird, which may be heard at all times of the day, is a sharp twut, twut, twut, sometimes very low, with a long pause between each note, then suddenly increasing loudly and excitedly."
The peculiar sound the birds of this group make in the breeding season is caused by the flapping of the wings against the body, and is a challenge to other cocks. Captain Baldwin thus describes a scene he was once fortunate enough to witness : " We had been sitting motionless for, I suppose, half an hour, when I was startled, all of a sudden, by the loud drumming noise I have already described close at hand. The sound came from behind, and on looking over my shoulder, my companion, with a smile, pointed out the drummer. An old cock Kalij was squatting on the stump of a fallen tree, and, with its feathers all ruffled and tail spread, was causing this extraordinary sound by rapidly beating its wings against its body."
The 'White-crested Kalij-Pheasant breeds up to fully 8000 feet, the time ranging from April to June. The eggs vary from nine to fourteen in number, and are laid in a hole scraped in the ground in some underwood and under the shelter of some stone, bush or tuft of grass. A nest was once found on a large low bough of a tree, but this must be a very unusual site for a bird to select. The eggs vary in colour from pale creamy white to rich reddish buff. They are oval in shape and glossy, and they vary in length from 1.85 to 2.03 and in breadth from1.25 to 1.52.
The male has the crest white, the head and neck glossy blue black. The mantle and the wing-coverts are black, each feather with a white shaft and a pale grey margin. The back and rump are glossy black, each feather with a terminal white fringe nearly a quarter of an inch in width. The tail is black with the inner web of the middle pair of feathers brownish. The breast and upper belly are greyish white, each feather black at the base, very long and sharp-pointed. The remainder of the lower plumage is smoky brown with pale grey margins, the feathers more or less sharply pointed. The first ten quills of the wing are brown.
The female has the head and crest brown, the feathers with pale shafts. The whole upper plumage is reddish brown, the shafts white, each feather margined with grey and very minutely but distinctly stippled and vermiculated with black. The middle pair of tail-feathers is wavily marked with black and rufous, the others are glossy black. The throat is greyish brown with paler shaft-streaks. The whole lower plumage is dark reddish brown with paler shafts, each feather margined with pale buff and minutely stippled with black. The first ten quills of the wing are brown with the outer webs mottled with buff. Length of male about 25 ; wing about 9; tail 10 to 12; length of female about 21; wing about 8 1/2 ; tail about 8 1/2. Legs brownish grey; irides orange-brown; bill greenish white ; bare skin of face crimson. Weight up to 2 lb. 6 02.