(1826) Crocopus phoenicopterus phoenicopterus.
THE BENGAL GREEN PIGEON.
Columba phoenicoptera Lath. Ind. Orn., ii, p. 597 (1790) (in insula Eimeo). Crocopus phoenicopterus. Blanf, & Oates, iv, p. 5 (part.).
Vernacular names. Harial (Hind.); Haitha or Bor Maltha (Assam); Daorep gadeba (Cachari) ; Inruigu (Naga).
Description. Forehead to the eye, lores, chin and throat greenish-yellow; crown to nape, upper cheeks and ear-coverts ash-grey; hind-neck bright chrome followed by a band of pure grey; remainder of upper plumage, wing-coverts and innermost secondaries yellowish olive-green; upper tail-coverts the, same but sometimes tinged with grey; tail above grey with a broad basal band of olive-yellow, contrasting with the grey;. outer-most tail-feathers nearly all grey, and the yellow on the inner webs ,of each pair of feathers decreasing towards the outermost ; an undefined; patch of lilac purple on the smallest wing-coverts ; greater wing-coverts and secondaries boldly edged with yellow, forming. ,a conspicuous, bar primary coverts and quills, dark brown or blackish edged *with yellow, the innermost changing to the same colour as the back; breast pure yellow; lower breast, flanks and abdomen grey; centre of abdomen, vent and thighs yellow witb deep green-grey centres and pale whitish fringes; under tail-coverts purple-chestnut with white subterminal bands; under aspect of tail grey with a broad basal black band concealed by .the tail-coverts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pink to bright crimson with an inner ring of blue; bill very pale bluish- or greenish-white, the cere more strongly tinged with this colour; lower mandible sometimes darker at the base; legs and feet bright chrome-yellow, sometimes nearly orange-yellow.
Measurements. Total length about 330 to 350 mm.; wing 184 to 200 mm.; tail 110 to 118 mm.; culmen 19 to 19-5 mm.; tarsus about 25 to 26 mm.; females are rather smaller, wing 180 to 186 mm.
Female. Generally slightly duller than the male, with the purple wing-patch less pronounced.
Young males are like the adult but without the lilac-purple wing-patch.
Distribution. The base of the Himalayas from Oudh to Eastern Assam as far West as the Jumna ; South it occurs rarely in Central India and Northern Orissa, whilst it is extremely common in Bengal and Behar. In Southern Assam—i.e., Cachar, Sylhet, the Naga Hills and North Cachar Hills—we still get this race but individuals show an approach to the next, viridifrons, and occasionally a bird is nearer to that form than to true phoenicopterus.
Nidification. The Bengal Green Pigeon breeds from early March to the end of July and probably sometimes has two broods. The nest is the typical Dove's nest of small twigs laid criss-cross over one another with very little interlacing. It is generally -placed in small trees and saplings on horizontal boughs or branches not very high from the ground, though Mango-trees form favourite sites and when in these the nests may be as high up as fifty feet. Several pairs often build close together and Inglis records three nests on one tree. Two eggs are laid, as is usual with all Pigeons and Doves, but Inglis once took three from a nest and, rarely, one egg only is incubated. They are a pure shining white, the surface smooth but not with the hard gloss of Woodpeckers' eggs, whilst in shape they are broad ovals, almost elliptical. One hundred eggs average 31.8 x 24.4 mm; maxima 35.0 X 26.1 mm.; minima 28.4 x 22.6 mm. The birds are very close sitters and when incubation is advanced will sit until almost bandied. Incubation probably takes thirteen to fourteen days. The display of the Green Pigeons, except that it takes places on trees and not on the ground, is similar to that of all other Pigeons and Doves. The cock bird puffs out his throat and breast, lowers his wings and ruffles his feathers and then prances solemnly up and down a branch, bowing his head and whistling softly all the time. The female sometimes ignores him and sometimes in response indulges in a similar step-dance to his.
Habits. Typically the birds of this genus frequent open but well-wooded country and are common in gardens, even in big towns, or round about villages. Occasionally they may be found in the interior of deep forest, lured into them by the abundance of some favourite fruit; in the same way they keep normally to the plains and foot-hills, yet have been killed at 4,000 feet feeding on ripe fici. Green Pigeons of all kinds seem to have regular roosting-grounds occupied for this purpose only and they flight regularly mornings and evenings to and from these grounds either in small or large flocks, according to their numbers in the district concerned. Whilst thus flighting they form admirable shooting, for the pace at which they travel is very great and they have a disconcerting habit of suddenly altering the height of their flight so that it requires a good shot to make sure of a decent bag. For the table they are excellent, especially if skinned before being cooked. Their notes are most beautiful soft whistles, very much like a human whistle with no defined tune-yet full of melody. They feed on all kinds of fruit, especially those of the various Pig-trees. They also eat grain, some buds and shoots, and I have seen them eating maize, climbing about the stalks rather like parrots.