Weli kukula, Cingalese.
Even if it were not confined to Ceylon, and the only species of jungle-fowl found in that island, there would be no difficulty in distinguishing the Ceylon jungle-fowl.
The cock's plumage, red below as well as above, and with the same narrow feathers, glassy-lustred everywhere, is quite distinct from that of either of the mainland species, to say nothing of the yellow patch in the middle of the red of his comb.
The hen, like the cock, shows her distinction from the red jungle-fowl of the north in her under plumage chiefly; this, instead of the fawn-colour found in the hen of the red jungle-fowl, is black-and-white, not in the form of white centres and black edges to the feathers as in the hen grey jungle-fowl, but irregularly mottled and intermixed with brown. Her comb is particularly small even for a wild hen's, and her face feathered like a partridge's, not bare as in the hen of the mainland jungle-fowl.
Young cocks can be distinguished from hens by being more reddish on the brown upper parts and having only black and brown below, with no white.
The voice of this jungle-fowl is quite as distinct from that of the two mainland birds as his plumage is, if the words "George Joyce" or "John Joyce," the renderings given of it, are at all correct. A bird in the London Zoo, believed to be a hybrid Ceylon common fowl, crowed in three syllables " cock-a-doo."
Hybrids between the jungle-fowl and tame poultry are liable to occur, as the wild bird sometimes crosses with village hens, being able to overcome their consorts ; so the characteristic points of yellow-patched comb and glazed lower plumage should be borne in mind in determining the characteristics of a genuine bird.
Many tame cocks of a red colour—if not most, in places where poultry breed anyhow— have reddish-brown instead of black breasts, but on examination it will be seen that the feathering here is ordinary, not glazed like that of the upper parts, so that there is no reason to believe that such birds have a cross of the Ceylon wild fowl. Similarly, the grey domestic fowls, which are also common, are never marked in detail like the grey Sonnerat cock, nor have they his peculiar pointed feathering.
Hybrids with the Ceylon jungle-fowl and common fowl, by the way, have been proved fertile, with one of the parents at least.
In Ceylon this bird is very generally distributed in all jungly portions, but favours low rather than high ground in the north, and in the south is scarcer and more a bird of the hills. It likes a dry soil and scrub-jungle, especially of thorn and bamboo. The cocks are far more often seen than the hens, though no doubt the inconspicuousness of the latter has a good deal to do with this; but in any case they are shyer in disposition. More than one hen and brood often associate, and flocks of these jungle-fowl may sometimes be seen feeding on cultivated land, but on the whole the species, like the grey jungle-fowl, seems to be more shy and unsociable than the red bird of the north. It also resembles the grey jungle-cock in taking a good deal to trees in wet weather, and in its fondness for Strobilanthes seed, the "nilloo" of Ceylon, on which the bird feeds so greedily that it seems to become stupefied, being a plant of this genus.
There is a point of affinity with the red jungle-fowl, however, not only in the colour of the male of this bird, but in his habit of flapping his wings before he crows ; this, as far as I have seen, the grey bird does not do, but in this species, as in the red jungle-cock and his tame descendants, the habit must be very pronounced, for shooters can and do decoy the cocks within shot by imitating this sound, the native doing it by striking the thigh with the slightly-curved open hand. Any other noise will cause the wary bird to run off at once.
The food of this bird consists chiefly of wild seeds, but also of insects, especially of white ants. In one part of Ceylon or the other it may be found breeding at any time of the year, depending apparently on the incidence of the north-east monsoon; it is even thought that the birds may be double-brooded, and they seem to pair. The young, even the full grown, have been seen to show great reluctance to leave their dead mother when she had been shot.
The small clutch of two to four eggs is laid on the ground in a scanty nest in some thicket or at times on a decayed log, are much pale buff, and speckled finely and spotted with rusty red, like many eggs of the grey jungle-fowl, to which this species, in spite of its red colour, is probably quite as nearly related as it is to the red bird, unless it represents the ancestor of both, as seems possible from the hybrid grey and domestic specimen before-mentioned, having come out reddish below as well as above. Moreover, this hybrid, like the grey jungle-fowl, had a purple, not green, tail, and this is also the case with the Ceylon jungle-fowl.
The legs of this species are also said to be yellow, but, Lewis Wright, in Cassell's " Book of Poultry," says, pink in the cock, which is far more likely to be correct, for the cock grey jungle-fowl has salmon-coloured legs.
The female of this species is called in Cingalese Well kikili, and the Tamil name is Kaida koli.