Birds – Golden And Lady Amherst’s Pheasants

Beyond question the most gorgeously plumaged members of the entire group are the Golden and Lady Amherst’s Pheasants (Chrysolophus pictus and C. amherstice) of western and southern China and eastern Tibet, the males of which have a full, long crest of hair-like feathers and a peculiar cape-like ruff of erectile feathers on the back of the head and neck, while the tail of eighteen feathers is long and vaulted, the central feathers being more than four times the length of the outermost pair. In the Golden Pheasant, the male, to quote from Mr. Ogilvie-Grant, has the top of the head, crest, and rump brilliant golden yellow, the square-tipped cape-like feathers covering the back of the neck brilliant orange, tipped and banded with black glossed with steel-blue, while the throat and sides of the head are pale rust-color the shoulder-feathers and remainder of under parts crimson-scarlet, and the middle tail-feathers black with rounded spots of pale brown; the tail is twenty-seven inches out of a total length of about forty inches. The female, which lacks the crest and ruff, is largely brown, mottled and barred with black and buff. Lady Amherst’s Pheasant is considerably larger, the male attaining a total length of fifty inches, and is further distinguished by having the crest blood-red, the cape-like feathers pure white, margined and barred with black, and the mantle and chest dark green. As both these species stand confinement fairly well, they are often seen in aviaries, but in a wild state they are but little known. They interbreed freely, and the Golden Pheasant has been known to cross with the common domestic fowl and the Common and Reeves’s Pheasant, the latter hybrid being an especially handsome bird, ” with almost the entire plumage dull purplish Indian-red.”

The Jungle Fowls (Gallus), of which four very distinct species are recognized, are natives of the dense jungles of the Indo-Malayan region and adjacent islands, and,. as is perhaps well known, exhibit quite marked differences from the other members of the group, the males being provided with a high, fleshy comb along the middle of the head from the base of the bill backward, the margin being either serrated or entire. The chin, throat, and sides of the head are naked, the throat below the eyes being provided with two wattles, — or a single one in the Javanese species, — while the legs are furnished with long, sharp spurs. The plumage is of brilliant colors and the feathers mostly hackled, that is, long and pointed at the tips. The females, however, are plainer in plumage and lack the wattles, while the comb is rudimentary. In their native haunts the jungle Fowls exhibit many of the characteristics so familiar to us in the domestic fowls; thus the males crow, and the females cackle on leaving the nest, a procedure sounding very strangely coming from the wild jungle. Although they may be quite abundant in a locality, they are very difficult to catch sight of, as they run with astonishing swiftness through the mazes of the dense vegetation, only rarely taking to wing. The cocks often engage in fierce battles, resorting, it is said, to certain secluded spots in the jungle, and not infrequently these encounters end in the death of the vanquished. The nest is a simple hollow scratched in the earth, and the eggs, like miniature hens’ eggs, are from five to nine in number. The birds are omnivorous feeders, living on seeds, grasses, insects, and worms.

The Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) is said to be the original whence all the domestic breeds of poultry have been derived. It is a native of northeastern and central India, ranging south through the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra and east through Siam to Cochin-China. The male has the long hackles covering the mantle and rump orange-red or yellowish orange, with the breast black, slightly glossed with green. The domestic varieties are almost infinite, and so unlike the original as to retain little resemblance to it, one of the most remarkable being a Japanese form in which the tail of the cock grows to a length of ten or fifteen feet.

The Ceylon species (G. lafayettei) is a handsome bird, having the hackles of the mantle golden orange, with a black band down the middle of each, while those of the lower back and rump are bright orange-red, with a heart-shaped spot of glossy violet on the terminal half of each. The chest, breast, and sides are also orange-red.

The Gray Jungle Fowl (G. sonnerati) of western, southern, and central India has the hackles of the neck and mantle black, fringed with gray, and with a yellowish spot like sealing-wax near the tip of each. The Green or Javan Jungle Fowl (G. varius) of Java, Lombok, and Flores has the margin of the comb entire and the feathers of the back of the neck and upper mantle covered with short, square-tipped, purplish blue feathers, each edged with greenish bronze, while the lower mantle is golden green.