1387. Rallus indicus.
The Indian Water-Rail.
Rallus indicus, Blyth, J. A. S. B. xviii, p. 820 (1849); id. Cat. p. 286; id. J. A. S. B. xxviii, p. 281; Adams, P. Z. S. 1858, p. 508 ; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 726 ; Hume, S. F. iii, p. 416; Blyth, Birds Burm. p. 162 ; Hume, Cat. no. 914: Hume Marsh. Game B. ii, p. 257, pl. ; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 778; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 342; Swinh. & Barnes, Ibis, 1885, p. 135; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 373; Reid, S. F. x, p. 453; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 24.
Coloration. Feathers of upper surface, including scapulars, tertiaries, and tail-feathers, black, with broad olive-brown margins, black predominating on the head and brown on the rump; supercilia, cheeks, and sides of throat ashy grey, the supercilia paler or whitish anteriorly ; lores and a band beneath (or surrounding) the eye to the ear-coverts dark brown ; secondary wing-coverts olive-brown, usually with a few white cross-bars ; primary-coverts, primaries, and most of the secondaries dark brown ; chin and middle of throat white; breast ashy, washed with brown ; abdomen dingy rufescent in the middle ; flanks black with white cross-bars ; lower tail-coverts black, with white edges; edge of wing white, wing-lining black mixed with white.
Younger birds have more white bands, which are dark-edged, on the wing-coverts ; these bands disappear with age.
Bill brown, the basal two-thirds of the lower mandible and a stripe on the upper along the commissure vermilion in adults, reddish yellow in the young ; irides red; legs and feet dull dingy pink or brownish (Hume).
Length 11 ; tail 2 ; wing 5 ; tarsus 1.7; bill from gape 1.75. Females run smaller.
Distribution. A winter visitor to parts of India, ranging west as far as Indore, according to Barnes, and Sind, whence a specimen, collected by Dr. Gould, is in the British Museum. Adams says this Bail is common in the Punjab, but when he wrote the species was not clearly distinguished. It is common in Bengal, especially about Calcutta, and has been obtained in Tipperah and Arrakan, but not elsewhere in Burma. It has been recorded from Ceylon, but there is no distinct evidence of its occurrence in Southern India. Outside Indian limits it has been found in China, Eastern Siberia, and Japan.
Habits, &c. The Indian Water-Bail is usually found in thick grass or rushes on the banks of marshes and wet cultivation. It is a skulking running bird, with a croaking call, seldom seen, and difficult to flush ; it feeds partly on small insects, mollusca, and worms, and partly on vegetables. It is not known to breed in India.