The black-breasted jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) inhabit northern India, Burma, Indo-Chinese countries, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippine Islands; a related species, G. lafayetti, is found in Ceylon; another, G. sonnerati, in southern India, and a fourth, G. varius, in Java.
We found the jungle fowl wild and hard to kill even where they were seldom hunted. During the heat of the day they remain in thick cover, but in cloudy weather and in the early morning and evening they come out into clearings to feed. At our camp on the Nam-ting River we could usually put up a few birds on the edge of the deserted rice fields which stretched up into the jungle, but they were never far away from the edge of the forest.
We sometimes saw single birds of either sex, but usually a cock had with him six or eight hens. It was interesting to watch such a flock feeding in the open. The male, resplendent in his vivid dress, shone like a piece of gold against the dull brown of the dry grass and industriously ran about among his trim little hens, rounding up the stragglers and directing his harem with a few low-toned “clucks” whenever he found some unusually tempting food.
It was his duty, too, to watch for danger and he usually would send the flock whirring into the jungle while they were well beyond shotgun range. When flushed from the open the birds nearly always would alight in the first large tree and sit for a few moments before flying deeper into the jungle. We caught several hens in our steel traps, and one morning at the edge of a swamp I shot a jungle fowl and a woodcock with a “right and left” as they flushed together.
We were at the Nam-ting camp at the beginning of the mating season for the jungle fowl. It is said that they brood from January to April according to locality, laying from eight to twelve creamy white eggs under a bamboo clump or some dense thicket where a few leaves have been scratched together for a nest. The hen announces the laying of an egg by means of a proud cackle, and the chicks themselves have the characteristic “peep, peep, peep” of the domestic birds. After the breeding season the beautiful red and gold neck hackles of the male sometimes are molted and replaced by short blackish feathers.
There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether the cocks are polygamous, but our observations tend to show that they are. We never saw more than one male in a flock and in only one or two instances were the birds in pairs. The cocks are inveterate fighters like the domestic birds and their long curved spurs are exceedingly effective weapons.