49. THE GREY PEACOCK-PHEASANT.
Polyplectrum chinquis, (Muller.)
MALE :—Ocelli on the mantle and wings round and brilliant.
FEMALE:—Ocelli on the mantle and wings black, blotchy, with little or no gloss.
Vernacular Names :—Munnowar, Deyo¬dahuk, Assam ; Deo-durug, Deo-dirrik, Garo Hills; Doun-kalah, Shway-doun, Burma; Kat-moir, Chittagong.
The Grey Peacock-Pheasant occurs on the outer slopes of the Himalayas from Sikhim to the extreme eastern part of Assam, and thence southwards through all the mountains and hill ranges of the Indo-Burmese countries to Mergui in Tenasserim. As to its eastern limits in Burma, this Pheasant has been observed at Bhamo, in Upper Burma; and at Papun and in the Thoungyin valley, in Tenasserim. This bird, however, is found in Siam, and therefore the line of its eastern limit cannot be defined even roughly. This Pheasant is found on or near hills, and it has been procured as high as 6000 feet of elevation, but it appears to be not uncommon also at low elevations, near the level of the sea.
This species is very shy, frequenting the densest portions of the forest on hill-sides and ravines. It is generally found singly or in pairs, and is one of the most difficult of birds to approach, owing partly to its wariness and partly to the difficult nature of the ground it affects.
Mr. Inglis remarks :—" About the beginning of the year the male begins to call in the early morning and late in the afternoon ; perched on the bough of a tree, or on the top of a stump, about eight or ten feet from the ground, he emits his loud call-note about every half-minute. This call is often kept up for an hour or two at a time, and can be heard on a quiet morning a very long way off. Then is the time to stalk him, but it requires a large amount of patience and perseverance to do it successfully, as you have only the sound to guide you, and after approaching within about one hundred yards of your game, it is unsafe to proceed except during the calls; thus you can only advance a few yards per minute." Peacock-Pheasants.
The call of this Pheasant is said to resemble the words qua-qua-qua, and in places frequented by these birds they may be made to call by firing off a gun.
Mr. R. A. Clark, whose remarks are quoted by Messrs. Hume and Marshall, found a nest of this bird in Cachar in May. The nest was placed at the foot of a large bush which stood amongst some grass and cane jungle, and was composed of twigs and leaves roughly put together and lined with a few feathers. The eggs are described as being of a cafe-au-lait colour, but the number found is not mentioned.
Some eggs laid in captivity are said to have been of a creamy or buffy white and to have measured 2 inches in length by 1 .44 in breadth.
The male has the crown and crest mottled with black and white and the hindneck barred very finely with grey and brown. The whole upper plumage, wings and tail are brown, dotted all over with white; the feathers of the mantle and wings, each with a brilliant round metallic purple or violet spot surrounded by a whitish ring; the feathers of the tail each with a pair of large oval steel-blue or metallic green ocelli, each of which is surrounded by a double ring, the inner of which is black and the outer grey. The throat is white and the whole lower plumage dark brown mottled and dotted with white.
The female has the whole upper plumage, the closed wings and tail dark brown or blackish, the feathers of the rump with small triangular white marks, the feathers of the back and wings each with a large black patch near the tip, more or less glossy or metallic, and fringed with a series of whitish spots. All the tail-feathers, except the middle pair, have a pair of bright but ill-defined metallic ocelli. The throat is white and the lower plumage brown mottled with buff.
Length of male about 25 ; wing about 8; tail about 13. Length of female about 20; wing about 7 1/2; tail 9. Legs plumbeous or blackish; irides white; bill brown to black; skin of face pale yellow.
The superb Pheasants which form this group occupy the Himalayas and the mountains of Assam and Upper Burma, extending into China. Four out of the five known species are found within our limits.
In the males of this group the plumage is beautifully spotted; the sides of the head are naked or merely sprinkled with some bristles; an erectile process or fleshy horn springs from either side of the head, just behind the eye, and frequently three inches in length in the breeding season ; and the naked throat is at the same season produced into a gular flap of brilliant colour, capable of expansion at times of excitement. The crest is pointed, composed of soft narrow feathers, and about two inches in length, and there is always one spur on each leg.
The female is devoid of all ornaments about the head, which is entirely clothed with feathers. The crest is similar to that of the male, but much shorter, being only about one inch in length. In both sexes the tail is rounded and comparatively short, composed of 18 and occasionally 20 feathers. The outermost feather of the tail extends beyond the middle point of the centre pair. The first quill of the wing falls short of the tip of the wing by more than one inch and frequently by two inches.
The plumage of the females of this group is very plain, and they are not easily distinguishable from each other ; nor are they distinguishable from the females of the next group, the Moonal-Pheasants, by any point of structure that I can discover except the size of the bill.