The collections of the Museum of Natural History of Paris have just been enriched with a magnificent, perfectly adult specimen of a species of bird that all the scientific establishments had put down among their desiderata, and which, for twenty years past, has excited the curiosity of naturalists. This species, in fact, was known only by a few caudal feathers, of which even the origin was unknown, and which figured in the galleries of the Jardin des Plantes under the name of Argus ocellatus. This name was given by J. Verreaux, who was then assistant naturalist at the museum. It was inscribed by Prince Ch. L. Bonaparte, in his Tableaux Paralléliques de l'Ordre des Gallinaces, as Argus giganteus, and a few years later it was reproduced by Slater in his Catalogue of the Phasianidae, and by Gray is his List of the Gallinaceae. But it was not till 1871 and 1872 that Elliot, in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History, and in a splendid monograph of the Phasianidae, pointed out the peculiarities that were presented by the feathers preserved at the Museum of Paris, and published a figure of them of the natural size.
The discovery of an individual whose state of preservation leaves nothing to be desired now comes to demonstrate the correctness of Verreaux's, Bonaparte's, and Elliot's suppositions. This bird, whose tail is furnished with feathers absolutely identical with those that the museum possessed, is not a peacock, as some have asserted, nor an ordinary Argus of Malacca, nor an argus of the race that Elliot named Argus grayi, and which inhabits Borneo, but the type of a new genus of the family Phasianidae. This Gallinacean, in fact, which Mr. Maingonnat has given up to the Museum of Natural History, has not, like the common Argus of Borneo, excessively elongated secondaries; and its tail is not formed of normal rectrices, from the middle of which spring two very long feathers, a little curved and arranged like a roof; but it consists of twelve wide plane feathers, regularly tapering, and ornamented with ocellated spots, arranged along the shaft. Its head is not bare, but is adorned behind with a tuft of thread-like feathers; and, finally, its system of coloration and the proportions of the different parts of its body are not the same as in the common argus of Borneo. There is reason, then, for placing the bird, under the name of Rheinardius ocellatus, in the family Phasianidae, after the genus Argus which it connects, after a manner, with the pheasants properly so-called. The specific name ocellatus has belonged to it since 1871, and must be substituted for that of Rheinardi.
The bird measures more than two meters in length, three-fourths of which belong to the tail. The head, which is relatively small, appears to be larger than it really is, owing to the development of the piliform tuft on the occiput, this being capable of erection so as to form a crest 0.05 to 0.06 of a meter in height. The feathers of this crest are brown and white. The back and sides of the head are covered with downy feathers of a silky brown and silvery gray, and the front of the neck with piliform feathers of a ruddy brown. The upper part of the body is of a blackish tint and the under part of a reddish brown, the whole dotted with small white or café-au-lait spots. Analogous spots are found on the wings and tail, but on the secondaries these become elongated, and tear-like in form. On the remiges the markings are quite regularly hexagonal in shape; and on the upper coverts of the tail and on the rectrices they are accompanied with numerous ferruginous blotches, some of which are irregularly scattered over the whole surface of the vane, while others, marked in the center with a blackish spot, are disposed in series along the shaft and resemble ocelli.
This similitude of marking between the rectrices and subcaudals renders the distinction between these two kinds of feathers less sharp than in many other Gallinaceans, and the more so in that two median rectrices are considerably elongated and assume exactly the aspect of tail feathers.
THE OCELLATED PHEASANT (Rheinardius ocellatus).
The true rectrices are twelve in number. They are all absolutely plane, all spread out horizontally, and they go on increasing in length from the exterior to the middle. They are quite wide at the point of insertion, increase in diameter at the middle, and afterward taper to a sharp point. Altogether they form a tail of extraordinary length and width which the bird holds slightly elevated, so as to cause it to describe a graceful curve, and the point of which touches the soil. The beak, whose upper mandible is less arched than that of the pheasants, exactly resembles that of the arguses. It is slightly inflated at the base, above the nostrils, and these latter are of an elongated-oval form. In the bird that I have before me the beak, as well as the feet and legs, is of a dark rose-color. The legs are quite long and are destitute of spurs. They terminate in front in three quite delicate toes, connected at the base by membranes, and behind in a thumb that is inserted so high that it scarcely touches the ground in walking.
This magnificent bird was captured in a portion of Tonkin as yet unexplored by Europeans, in a locality named Buih-Dinh, 400 kilometers to the south of Hué.--La Nature.