1404. Porphyrio poliocephalus.
The Purple Moorhen.
Gallinula poliocephala, Lath. Ind. Orn. Suppl. p. Ixviii (1801). Porphyrio poliocephalus, Blyth, Cat. p. 283; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 713 ; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 274; Hayes Lloyd, Ibis, 1878, p. 418; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 161; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 20 ; ix, p. 431; Oates, S. F. v, p. 165 ; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 464; Elliot, S. F. vii, p. 22; Bourdillon, ibid. p. 39; Ball, ibid. p. 229; Cripps, ibid. p. 305; Hume, Cat. no. 902; Doig, S. F. viii, p. 371; Legge, Birds' Ceyl. p. 795; Bingham, S. F. ix, p. 197 ; Parker, ibid. p. 483 ; id. Ibis, 1883, p. 194 ; 1886, p. 187; Barnes, S. F. ix, p. 459; Reid, S. F. x, p. 72; Davidson, ibid. p. 322 ; McGregor, ibid. p. 441; Simson, Ibis, 1882, p. 94 ; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 351; Swinh. Sf Barnes, Ibis, 1885, p. 135 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 365; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 59; vi, p. 135, fig. 902 (egg); Hume, S. F. xi, p. 326; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 177 ; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 384 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 197. Porphyrio neglectus, Schlegel, Mus. Pays-Bas, v, Ralli, p. 53 (1865) ; Hume, N. & E p. 691; id. S. F. i, pp. 125, 136, 249; Hume' & Oates, S. F. iii, p. 185.
Kaim, Kalim, Kharim, Khima, H.; Nila, boli-kodi, Tel.; Kittala, Cing.; Indura-kukula, do. (S. Province) ; Sanndry, Tam., Ceylon.
Coloration. Head pale brownish grey, tinged with cobalt on cheeks and throat, and passing on the nape into the deep purplish lilac of the hind neck, back, rump, and upper tail-coverts; wings outside, scapulars, and breast light greenish blue; abdomen and flanks like the back; wing- and tail-feathers black, blue On the exposed portions; under tail-coverts white. No immature plumage; nestlings on leaving the egg are clad in black down like other Kails and Water-hens. The grey of the head is due, partly at all events, to the wearing away of the feathers.
Bill and casque deep red, tinged brown in places ; irides deep red ; legs and feet pale red, brown at joints (Davison).
Length 17; tail 3.75; wing 10; tarsus 3.2; bill from gape 1.5. Females are rather smaller.
Distribution. Throughout the plains of India, Ceylon, and Burma, in suitable localities. This bird is replaced in the Malay Peninsula and to the eastward by different species, but ranges throughout South-western Asia to the Caspian.
Habits, &c. The Purple Moorhen or, as Jerdon calls it, the Purple Coot (but it is far more like a Moorhen than a Coot), is found on large, pieces of water—tanks, marshes, or rivers— portions of which are thickly covered by high reeds or bushes; amongst these the bird makes its way, clinging to the reeds and twigs with its huge feet like a gigantic Grass-Warbler. It has, according to Jerdon, a fowl-like call, and it certainly is given to cackling. Its food is mainly vegetable, and it commits great havoc in rice-fields by cutting down the growing rice. This Moorhen breeds from July to September, makes a large rush nest, sometimes floating on water, sometimes in reeds, and lays 6 to 8 or even 10 eggs, pale pinkish in colour with numerous red and pale purplish-grey spots and measuring about 1.93 by 1.39.