(2025) Amaurornis bicolor.
Porzana bicolor Walden, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (4) iv, p. 47 (1872) (Sikkim),
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Head, neck and lower plumage dark ashy-grey, darkest on the crown and nape and paler on the sides of the head, changing to albescent on the chin ; upper parts, wing-coverts, and inner secondaries rich brownish-rufous ; tail black; wing-quills dark brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown in the young to blood-red in breeding males ; bill pale glaucose-green tipped paler and greyer and with a red patch near the base, more vivid in the breeding-season ; legs and feet dull red to rather bright brick-red.
Measurements. Wing 112 to 119 mm.; tail 57 to 60 mm.; tarsus 37 to 39 mm.; culmen 21 to 27 mm.
Distribution. Nepal and Sikkim to Eastern Assam ; Khasia and Cachar Hills, Manipur and Northern Burma to Yunnan and the Shan States.
Nidification. This Crake breeds in considerable numbers in the Khasia Hills, as also in the North Cachar Hills in the few places suitable to it. In Sikkim it is said to breed between 4,000 and 6,000 feet, but in Assam we took nests anywhere above 3,000 feet, whilst in Dibrugarh it was not uncommon practically down to the foot-hills. Most of the nests personally found by me were in quite small patches of jungle round about, or between, rice-fields at an elevation of some 5,500 feet. Here they were very numerous and I found nearly a dozen birds breeding in a small patch about 100 yards long by 60 wide. The nest differed in no way from that of the Brown Crake and was usually built a few inches above the water, though one was built up in a rhododendron-tree in deep forest and some way from water.
The eggs only differ from those of the Brown Crake in being more richly coloured. Eighty eggs average 33.9 x 26.1 mm.: maxima 36.3 x 25.3 and 35.3 x 27.0 mm.; minima 31.3 x 26.1 and 32.3 X 25.1 mm.
The breeding-season is from the middle of May to the end of August, whilst the number of eggs laid varies from five to seven.
Habits. The habits of Elwes's Crake are much the same as those of the Brown Crake. In the bills south of the Brahmapootra we found it kept to patches of jungle, scrub and rushes between or round the rice cultivation or, where there was none of this, to small ponds and pools in or near forest. They also frequented small streams, especially those which had plenty of cover on one side and open grass-land on the opposite one. They often came out of the cover in the early mornings and late evenings and fed on the grass-land, picking up small grasshoppers, land-shells and small worms. On the least sign of danger they scuttled down to the bank and either swam or flew to the cover on the far side. When frightened they ran with head and tail depressed and covered the ground at a great pace but, at other times, their walk was the usual slow jerky movement affected by all Bails. I have never heard their call, even in the breeding-season, though I attributed to this bird a deep grunting noise, very loud and resonant, which I sometimes heard, late in the evening, in their favourite haunts.