(2167) Scolopax rusticola rusticola.
Scolopax1 rusticola Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 145 (1758) (Sweden). Scolopax rusticula. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 283.
Vernacular names. Simtitar, Tutitar (Hind.); Sim Kukra (Kuman and Nepal); Chinjarole (Chamba); Daodidap gadeba (Cachari); Simpookhlaw (Khasia); Kangtrulc (Manipur) ; Wilati Chaha (Chittagong); Bumped or Dhabha (Chitral); Gherak(Drosh);
Description. Forehead and sinciput grey, generally with a dark mark on the forehead; occiput and nape with three broad transverse bands of velvet-black, divided by yellowish or rufous lines; a deep rufous-brown, almost black, line running from the base of the bill to the corner of the eye, a second similar line below eye and posterior ear-coverts; ear-coverts and cheeks grey, with numerous brown spots; upper parts and wing-coverts rufous-grey with numerous bars of brown and rufous, the lesser wing-coverts brown and rufous only and the scapulars broadly black on the inner and white, yellowish-white or pale grey on the outer webs; the primary coverts are rufous with bars of grey, finely edged with dark brown; the primaries and outer secondaries brown, the latter notched on the outer webs with rufous, the notches being palest on the outermost feathers; the quills are also margined with rufous at the tips ; the inner secondaries are barred right across with alternate bands, broad and narrow, of rufous; rump and upper tail-coverts barred rufous and black or rufous-brown, as a rule on the longest coverts the terminal half is almost pure rufous; tail-feathers dark brown or black, notched or barred with rufous, tipped grey above and broadly silver-grey below; chin white or nearly so, remainder of lower parts dull greyish white, barred throughout with narrow rufescent bars which become darker and more numerous on the upper breast, often running into one another and forming dark patches ; on the abdomen and flanks posteriorly the bars are sometimes centred with a paler tint.
Colours of soft parts. Iris deep brown, almost black; feet green-grey, livid-grey, or grey lead-colour, claws generally paler and more fleshy; bill dusky, base brown, paler and tinged with purple at the base of the lower mandible.
Measurements. Wing 183 to 219 mm.; the largest and smallest measurements are those of adult females; tail about 80 to 90 mm,; culmen 68 to S3 mm.; tarsus 36 to 41 mm. Weight 7 to 16 oz.; 14 1/2 oz. (Lambton, Nilgiris); 16 oz. (II. Baker, Nilgiris) ; 14 3/4 oz. (Moore, Assam).
In many specimens the whole tone of the plumage is more grey than rufous ; this phase appears not to be connected in any way with age or sex.
Young birds have the feathers of the mantle with more or less exposed brown bases and marked with buff and cinnamon-buff; the upper tail-coverts are more barred and want the buff tips; the underparts have the bars narrower and paler.
Nestling. General down rufous-buff; a blackish streak from the forehead through the eye ; crown and nape chestnut-rufous, a dark streak from the eye to the crown; broad dorsal line, lateral lines joining under the uropygium, sides of neck, band down wing and one on flanks dark chestnut-rufous.
Distribution. Breeds throughout Northern and Central Europe and throughout Northern Asia to Northern Japan. South it breeds in the Himalayas and mountains of Northern China. In Winter it migrates to the Mediterranean countries of Europe, North-West Africa and South Asia to India, Indo-Chinese countries, China and South Japan.
Nidification. The Woodcock breeds in the Himalayas from about 8,000 feet up to at least 12,000 feet and probably a good deal higher. The earliest birds on the lower ranges commence to lay in the middle and end of April, whilst on the higher ranges they do not lay until June and continue to the end of July. The nest is merely a depression in the ground but it is always well bedded with dry leaves and nearly always well concealed among bracken, fern, brambles or other undergrowth. It chooses sites in forest, never in the open, and favourite places are rather thin forest with plentiful undergrowth close to streams. The hen-bird sits very close and seldom moves until almost trodden on and I have, myself, sat down within a few inches of a sitting bird for some ten minutes before she left her nest. The eggs, four in number as with all the Snipe, are broad ovals, occasionally slightly pointed; the colour varies from pale clay to deep buff and the markings from pale reddish-brown to dark chocolate with others underlying of lavender. The blotches are of some size but not numerous and are collected more thickly at the larger end. Fifty Indian eggs average 44.5 x 33.3 mm.: maxima 48.1 x 33.2 and 45.3 x 34.3 mm.; minima 42.3 x 33.1 and 44.5 x 31.7 mm.
When the young are hatched the mother bird frequently moves them from one place to another, grasping them between her thighs and her abdomen. This she does not only when disturbed but, also, when desiring to get them closer to the feeding-grounds. During the breeding-season the male bird has a habit of flying backwards and forwards in an arc, his feathers puffed out and alternately uttering a " croak and a squeak like a bat, but louder." This is termed roding.
Habits. In India the Woodcock is merely a casual migrant to the plains, the great majority of the Himalayan birds being resident or merely moving to lower levels in the Winter. It is very crepuscular in its habits and seldom moves by day unless forced to do so. It feeds on insects of all kinds, small worms, grubs, beetles and tiny freshwater snails and its flesh is a great dainty for the table. Its flight is a curious, wavering one but it twists in and out of trees at a pace that is very deceiving and is, in consequence, a difficult bird to shoot. The majority of the birds in India, except in the North, are young birds and weigh light, giving the impression that Indian birds are smaller than those of Europe.