(2013) Porzana pusilla pusilla (Pallas).
THE EASTERN BAILLON’S CRAKE.
Porzana pusilla pusilla, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. vi, p. 14.
This pretty little Rail is found from Afghanistan, East to the Indo-Chinese countries and all China. In India it breeds in great numbers in Kashmir and quite possibly over a great part of the plains as Hume and Brooks took a nest with three fresh eggs in the Achulda Jheel near Etawah, while Butler took another on the 26th September at Milana, 18 miles East of Deesa.
In Bengal and Assam, though common enough in Winter, I do not think it breeds, for I have made very special searches for it in the most likely places.
Hume gives its maximum breeding elevation as 4,000-5,000 feet and it is common below Simla at this height. It is, however, almost equally common on the Gunderbal Lake and also in the Simla States well above this height and probably up to 7,000 feet.
In the Hokra and some of the other lakes in Kashmir it is very common indeed and, in that state, seems to keep very closely to the lakes and their immediate surroundings, but elsewhere it breeds in small pools, rice-swamps and rice-fields. Thus Hume found a nest at Syree, below Simla, “in amongst rushes and sedges on the margin of a small swampy pool encircled by rice-fields.”
Most nests in Kashmir are placed in the reed-beds which surround the lakes in that country ; others are built on the floating islands of weeds while, occasionally, they are placed in the long grass growing at a little distance from the lake. Those in the reed-beds are situated within a few inches of the water, some with the bottom actually resting in it, though most are so built that they lie on the tangle of broken-down reeds and debris which mat the lower parts of the reeds.
An unusual situation is recorded by Butler, who found a nest in a small clump of bulrushes on a hank, three or four feet above the level of the water. When built on the islands they are well concealed in the grass and weeds and are often very difficult to get at owing to the treacherous surface letting one through if attempts are made to walk on them, while no boat can push through the mass. If placed in the luxuriant meadow-grass they are equally well hidden and are often placed close to an extra long tuft of grass, a bush or some prominent weed which serves as a land-mark for the birds.
The nest itself is generally little more than a pad of grass, rushes and reeds, 6 inches or so across and 2 or 3 deep. When, however, it is built with the lower part in water it may be more bulky, some¬times 6 or even 8 inches deep. Wherever placed, the lining seems to be always dry and warm and is made of finer shreds of grass and rush-leaves than is the rest of the nest.
The usual breeding season is May and June, a few birds breeding in July also while, as above recorded, Hume took three fresh eggs on Angust 16th. Probably these were a second laying by a bird whose first had been destroyed by accident as, normally, this Rail is not double-brooded.
The eggs number five to eight, Occasionally four eggs are incu¬bated, as Betham found four hard-set, and equally rarely nine eggs are laid, Livesey having taken this number on one of the Kashmir lakes.
In shape the eggs vary from a short broad oval to a long narrow one, the small end pronounced, but very seldom pointed. The texture is fine, close and hard, the surface smooth, generally with a faint gloss, sometimes with a strongly developed one.
The ground-colour may be pale yellow-brown, olive-brown, olive, yellow-grey or pure pale brown. The markings consist of tiny freckles and small blotches of various shades of reddish-brown. In some eggs these markings are so minute and so dense that the eggs look uniform olive, olive-brown or brown. In others the blotches are larger and more scanty, so that the eggs appear definitely though faintly blotched, while in a few eggs only there may be a small cap at the extreme large end.
One hundred and forty eggs average 28.1 x 20.0 mm. : maxima 30.2 x 21.1 and 29.1 x 21.8 mm. ; minima 26.0 x 20.0 and 26.1 x 19.1 mm.
The male performs a small part of the incubation and probably assists in making the nest, though there is no evidence on the point. The hen sits very closely and, as she generally flies direct from the nest when the intruder is almost on it, is not bard to find.
2013. Porzana pusilla pusilla
(2013) Porzana pusilla pusilla (Pallas).