(2019) Amaurornis fuscus bakeri (Hartert).
THE NORTHERN RUDDY CRAKE.
Amaurornis fuscus bakeri, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed, vol. vi, p. 21.
The present subspecies of Ruddy Crake has a very wide range, being found from the lower Himalayas in India to Bombay, where it meets and merges into the preceding race. East it is found throughout Bengal, Assam and Northern Burma. In the Kachin Hills the bird is somewhat intermediate, approaching the Chinese race, which is the one inhabiting the Shan States. It breeds over the whole of this area, but many birds move about locally and the majority of the mountain birds move South in Winter, though some stay all the year round in Kashmir. In Eastern Bengal it literally swarms in the Sundabands during Winter but its nest has not often been taken though, doubtless, it breeds in great numbers. Hume, in fact, says that in Bengal it breeds abundantly from July to September, I found one nest in Nadia, others in the great swamps of the Eastern Bengal Districts of Dacca and Mymensingh, and any number in Assam. West it becomes more and more rare and is absent from the driest areas in the Punjab, Rajputana and Sind. In Kashmir it is exceedingly common in all the swamps up to 7,000 feet and in Assam it occurs, wherever there are possible breeding grounds, up to 6,000 feet.
It keeps almost entirely to swamps, large lakes and marshes and sometimes small ponds and patches of swampy land. I have taken nests occasionally from rice-land but only when it adjoins swamps and marshes. In these cases they are generally placed in the rank grass and weed that cover the banka dividing the rice-fields. On a few other occasions I have seen nests in the miscellaneous growth round ponds and in patches of swampy grass close to them. The vast majority of nests, however, are built on the outskirts, or on islands, of large lakes and marshes, either in the reed-beds which skirt their shores, in the dense grass which grows all round them or in among the water-weeds, lilies etc, which cover their surface. In Kashmir their favourite breeding grounds are the great reed-beds round the edges of the lakes though, even here, most nests have been taken by Osmaston, Livesey and others in the meadow-Land adjacent to them rather than actually in among the reeds themselves. In fact Bates (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxx, p. 609, 1925) remarks :—“The Ruddy Crake does not seem to like the large reed-covered jhils, but shows a great preference for the rice-fields and the ditches which supply them. The nests are to be found on the banks which divide the fields, in tangled undergrowth in their vicinity and also attached to the rice-stalks or reeds, a number of which are bent over the nest to form a partial roof, giving to the nest a most pleasing appearance.”
The nest is a pad or shallow cup of grasses and weeds, sometimes quite substantial and well put together, at other times rather small and loosely made. The upper part, or the inside of the egg-cavity, is always dry and warm but the base is frequently wet.
The breeding season is quite well defined and the birds do not commence breeding until after the start of the rains. A few birds lay at the end of June but most in early July and thence onwards through August and into early September. Occasionally a nest may be found with a full clutch of eggs in May in Kashmir while, in Assam, if the rains are early, or the spring rains heavy, a good many birds breed in the last week of that month and early June.
The fall clutch of eggs varies from four to nine, both exceptional, the most common number being from five to seven.
The ground-colour varies from a very pale cream, almost white, to a cream tinged with pink or reddish, never very deep. The markings are in most cases flecks and tiny spots, or small blotches of reddish-brown with a few secondary ones of lavender and dark grey. As a rule these markings, whether specks or blotches, are scattered over the whole surface and are but little more numerous at one end than the other. In some eggs the markings, both primary and secondary, are larger and holder and these are nearly always more heavily blotched at the larger end than elsewhere. A very beautiful clutch of eggs taken by Osmaston in Kashmir gives an impression of a pale pink ground marbled with bright red-brown and clear lavender.
In shape the eggs are broad to rather long ovals, I never much pointed. The texture is strong and close with a smooth surface, glossless or only faintly glossed.
One hundred eggs average 32.3 x 23. mm. : maxima 84.2 x 23.3 and 33.1 x 24.1 mm. ; minima 29.0 x 23.1 and 30.1 x 21.8 mm.
Both sexes incubate, as we have trapped the male on the nest and, as I have seen a male wandering about with material in his bill for the nest, we must give him the credit also of helping to build it. They sit very close but generally manage to creep off before they are spotted. This they do very quietly and seldom seem to fluster off the nest unless the eggs are much incubated.
2019. Amaurornis fuseus bakeri
(2019) Amaurornis fuscus bakeri (Hartert).