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More about birds

The Sri Lankan jungle fowl (Gallus lafayettii), also known as the Ceylon jungle fowl, is a member of the Galliformes bird order which is endemic to Sri Lanka, where it is the national bird. It is closely related to the red jungle fowl (G. gallus), the wild jungle fowl from which the chicken was domesticated. The specific name of the Sri Lankan jungle fowl commemorates the French aristocrat Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette. In Sinhala, it is known as Wali kukula and in Tamil, it is known as Ilakaik kukki.

As with other jungle fowl, the Sri Lankan jungle fowl is strongly sexually dimorphic; the male is much larger than the female, with more vivid plumage and a highly exaggerated wattle and comb.

The male Sri Lankan jungle fowl ranges from 66–72 cm (26–28 in) in length and 790–1,140 g (1.74–2.51 lb) in weight, essentially resembling a large, muscular rooster. The male has orange-red body plumage, and dark purple to black wings and tail. The feathers of the mane descending from head to base of spine are golden, and the face has bare red skin and wattles. The comb is red with a yellow centre. As with the green jungle fowl, the cock does not possess an eclipse plumage. The female is much smaller, at only 35 cm (14 in) in length and 510–645 g (1.124–1.422 lb) in weight, with dull brown plumage with white patterning on the lower belly and breast, ideal camouflage for a nesting bird.

Classification

This is one of four species of birds in the genus Gallus. The other three members of the genus are red jungle fowl (G. gallus), grey jungle fowl (G. sonneratii), and green jungle fowl (G. varius).

The Sri Lankan jungle fowl is most closely related to the grey jungle fowl, though physically the male resembles the red jungle fowl. Female Sri Lanka jungle fowl are very similar to those of the grey jungle fowl. Like the green jungle fowl, Sri Lankan jungle fowl are island species that have evolved side by side with their similarly stranded island predators and competitors.

Behaviour

Uniquely complex anti-predator behaviors and foraging strategies are integral components in the long evolutionary story of the Sri Lankan jungle fowl.

As with other jungle fowl, Sri Lankan jungle fowl are primarily terrestrial. They spend most of their time foraging for food by scratching the ground for various seeds, fallen fruit, and insects.

Females lay two to four eggs in a nest, either on the forest floor in steep hill country or in the abandoned nests of other birds and squirrels. Like the grey and green jungle fowl, male Sri Lankan jungle fowl play an active role in nest protection and chick rearing.

Reproduction

 

The reproductive strategy of this species is best described as facultative polyandry, in that a single female is typically linked with two or three males that form a pride of sorts. These males are likely to be siblings. The female pairs with the alpha male of the pride and nests high off the ground. Her eggs are highly variable in colour, but generally are cream with a yellow or pink tint. Purple or brownish spots are common. Occasionally, a female produces red eggs or blotched eggs. The hen incubates her eggs, while the alpha male guards her nest from a nearby perch during the nesting season. The beta males remain in close proximity, and guard the nesting territory from intruders or potential predators, such as rival males, or snakes and mongooses. Sri Lankan jungle fowl are unique amongst the jungle fowl in the brevity of their incubation, which may be as short as 20 days as contrasted with the 21–26 days of the green jungle fowl.

The chicks require a constant diet of live food, usually insects and isopods such as sowbugs and pillbugs. In particular, the juveniles of land crabs are also highly important to the growth and survivability of the juvenile and sub adult Sri Lankan jungle fowl. In captivity, this species is particularly vulnerable to a poultry disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella pullorum and other bacterial diseases common in domestic poultry.

Habitat

The chicks, and to a slightly lesser extent the adults, are incapable of using vegetable-based proteins and fats. Their dietary requirements cannot be met with commercial processed food materials. As a result, they are exceedingly rare in captivity. It is common in forests and scrub habitats, and is commonly spotted at sites such as Kitulgala, Yala, and Sinharaja.

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