(1911) Pucrasia macrolopha macrolopha Less.
THE ALMORA KOKLAS PHEASANT.
Pucrasia macrolopha macrolopha, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 310.
The range of the typical form of Koklas stretches along the Outer Himalayas from Kuman to the Simla States and Garhwal and North to Lahul. Birds of Jammu, Kashmir, are also nearest this race. The boundary lines probably are the Jhelum River on the North-West and the Chenah where it runs Bast and West.
The Pheasants of this genus are forest-birds breeding between 6,000 feet and the forest’s limits, about 12,000 feet and, casually, some 2,000 feet higher. Rarely also they may be found breeding down to about 4,500 feet.
In my Indian Pheasants,’ p. 209, I give a full account, to which I can add nothing, of its breeding haunts :—
“Rattray has a beautiful photograph of this Pheasant’s nest taken by him near Murree, and he records it as breeding very commonly in the Galis in the vicinity of that place between 7,000 and 9,000 feet. In letters to me he describes the nest as being nearly always placed in thick green undergrowth on the sides of hills in forest, either evergreen or fir. Sometimes it is in among the bracken and sometimes in among tangles of briars, raspberries or other canes but, wherever placed, generally well hidden from view and, often, protected by a fallen tree or some densely foliaged, low bush. Occasionally the nest is wedged in among the projecting roots of some big tree, either standing or fallen, and, in such cases, may be in a hole or hollow out of sight, Rattray also observes of the neats he saw round about Murree and in the Galis that everyone was placed under thick bushes of a species of rue with a strong aromatic smell,”
* It has been shown that Ceriornis macrolopha Lesson = Meleagris satyra Linn. So we may revert to Pucrasia for the generic name of this Pheasant.
The nest itself is a poor affair of sticks, leaves, grass and dead weeds, more often than not merely the fallen odds and ends with a receptacle for the eggs scratched out in the centre. Less often it is a rather more pretentious affair, a hollow having been scratched out by the birds, well filled in with material as above and then a depression, deep or shallow, worked out for the eggs.
The nest may often be found in forests of the Paludna Pines, and when in these it is usually in some damp, mossy ravine, in which the rocks, bracken and bush undergrowth offer better protection and concealment than do the more open parts under the pines, where the undergrowth is scanty and the surface of the hill-side unbroken.
Dodsworth found it breeding near Simla among Deodars in the same kind of positions as those found in the Paludna Pine country and, generally speaking, thick undergrowth for the nest to be hidden in and the near vicinity of water seem to be the two great essentials for a breeding haant.
The breeding season is late. In its lowest elevations a few birds breed in April but, higher up, most birds lay from the middle of May to the end of June.
The full clutch of eggs is probably five to seven. Rattray and Wilson both give seven as the normal full clutch, Hume says five to nine ; Whymper has taken seven, but thinks that more often five or six only are laid. The biggest clutch taken by Osmaston is eight, while I have had several clutches of four or five eggs sent to me said to have been hard-set.
In general appearance the eggs rather remind one of sparsely marked Grouse-eggs. The ground varies from a pale yellow-stone, or pale buff to a deep buff, sometimes rather rich and deep and, very rarely, with a distinct pink tinge. The markings consist of spots, specks and blotches of reddish-brown, dark, pale or medium in different clutches and, occasionally, with a purplish or chocolate tinge. In the majority of eggs the markings are small, a few blotches but, principally, specks and dots, scattered thinly and irregularly over the whole surface. In a few eggs the markings are rather larger and even more scarce, while in one clutch, taken by Whymper, they consist of scanty but bold blotches of purple-brown, the surface of the spots looking as if mildewed.
There are no real secondary marks, but a few blotches may be paler than the rest and tinted yellowish or sienna.
In shape they are fairly true ovals and in texture similar to those of the Cheer, but brighter and cleaner looking.
Sixty-eight eggs average 51.3 x 37.5 mm. : maxima 57.0 x 38.1 and 51.0 x 40.0 mm. ; minima 49.0 x 37 and 51.1 x 34.5 mm.
The Koklas is monogamous and pairs for life. Hume considered this to be the case, and says that the cock-bird may generally be found close to where the hen is sitting and that he shares with the hen the duty of looking after and feeding the chicks.
“Pine Martin,” however (Journ. Bomb. Nat, Hist. Soc. vol. xix. p. 797. 1910), disagrees with this, and says : “In the shooting season the old cocks are almost always found by themselves. In shooting, if your dog puts up an old cock, do not trouble to look for any more birds near him.”
The hen sits very close, but generally sneaks away very quietly before being spotted.
Incubation takes twenty to twenty-one days, and the chicks are able to fly, well within a very few days after they have been hatched.
1911. Pucrasia macrolopha macrolopha
(1911) Pucrasia macrolopha macrolopha Less.