58. THE BURMESE PEA-FOWL.
Pavo muticus, Linnaeus.
Feathers of the crest uniformly narrow, with no expansion at the tip.
MALE :—Back and rump with glossy scalelike green feathers.
FEMALE :—Back and rump with ordinary brown feathers, barred and mottled with buff.
Vernacular Names :—Doun, Oodoun, Burmese; Marait, Talain ; Toosia, Karen.
The Burmese Pea-Fowl takes the place of the Indian species, south of Assam. The meeting line of the two species is at present undetermined, but we know that on the west the range of the Burmese species extends up to Chittagong, in which district it appears to be the only Pea-Fowl; and that on the east this species is found abundantly at Myitkyina, high up on the Irrawaddy river. Our knowledge of the range of the two species in the country between Chittagong and Myitkyina is a blank. Mr. Hume unfortunately met with neither species in Manipur, so he was unable to throw any light on the distribution of these birds.
The Burmese Pea-Fowl occurs over every part of Burma down to the extreme south of Tenasserim. It is probably found also all over the Shan States. I observed it far from uncommon near Lashio.
Outside our limits this species is distributed over the Malay Peninsula, Siam, Cochin China and Java.
This Pea-Fowl is very locally distributed, and is by no means generally abundant. It affects particular localities to the exclusion of others which appear to be equally suitable to its habits. The places frequented by colonies of these birds are generally well known to the natives, for the birds remain there, constantly. In some parts of Upper Burma this Pea-Fowl is very abundant, and on some of the higher reaches of the Irrawaddy, above the third defile, large flocks may be seen in the mornings and evenings on the sandbanks and shingly margins of the river. I have counted as many as fourteen in one flock. Wherever this bird is found it is extremely shy, and it is not often secured with the shot-gun. The train of this Peacock commences to grow at the autumn moult, and by the end of November attains its greatest development. Magnificent trains may be observed in December. Throughout the greater part of the dry weather the train is preserved intact, but gradually the tips of the feathers get worn down and some of the feathers drop out, and by the commencement of the rains little of the train remains.
I have never been able to obtain any information regarding the nesting of Pea-Fowl in Burma, and I have never had any of their eggs brought to me.
The Burmese Pea-Fowl differs from the Indian species in many important particulars, both as regards the plumage nd the shape of the crest.
In the Burmese bird the head alone is blue. The whole neck and the upper part of the mantle and breast are covered with rounded scale-like feathers of a greenish bronze colour, each feather having a purplish centre and a narrow black margin. The first ten quills and their coverts are chestnut, but all the remaining quills are black or dark brown, The wing coverts, except those mentioned above, are green and purple, but not barred with black and buff as in the Indian species. The other parts of the plumage closely resemble the corresponding parts in the Indian Peacock.
The Peahen resembles the Peacock in the colour of those parts described above, except that the inner feathers of the wing are barred and mottled with buff. She differs from the male, however, in having the whole back and rump brown barred with buff, the brilliant scale-like feathers of the male on those parts being entirely absent.
The length of the male to the end of the tail is about 45; the total length to the end of the train is sometimes 90; wing about 19; tail about 22. The female measures about 40 in length ; wing about 17; tail about 16. Legs dark brown; irides dark brown; bill blackish; naked skin of face partly blue, partly yellow. Weight up to 11 lb.