The Game Birds of India which frequent the land, as distinguished from those which swim or wade, are eighty-eight in number, and are referable to five sections or orders, containing the following number of species:—
Sand-Grouse. . 8 species.
Hemipodes . . 5 ,,
Gallinaceous Birds . 68 ,,
Megapodes 1 „
Bustards 6 „
The characters which separate these ve sections one from the other are very simpla and'; easily, .understood. The following statement exhibits these characters :—
Sand-Grouse (p. 16). — The tarsus feathered, and sometimes the toes also.
Hemipodes (p. 55).—The tarsus bare; no hind toe.
Gallinaceous Birds (p. 70).—The whole or a large portion of the tarsus bare; with a hind toe situated above the level of the front toes.
Megapodes (p. 382).—The tarsus bare; with a hind toe situated on the same level as the front toes.
Bustards (p. 389).—Not only the tarsus, but also a portion of the tibia bare; no hind toe.
The limits of British India, as recognized by me, coincide with those employed by Dr. W. T. Blanford in the volumes of the " Fauna of British India." I include Ceylon for the same reason that led Dr. Blanford to include it in his volumes ; its inclusion only adds two species to my list. With reference to .the little-known and undefined territories in the extreme north-east of Assam and Burma, I have included all the country which is pre¬sumably British. Of this nature, in my opinion, are the Mishmi Hills, which appear to stand in the same category as the Kachin tracts in the extreme north of Burma, above Myitkyina. The limits of Burma, east of Bhamo, and of the northern Shan States are not yet properly defined and mapped out, and in the case of one or two birds which have been found in this debatable land, I have thought it preferable to include, rather than to exclude, them. By bringing them to notice, we may hope that sportsmen will direct their energies to the acquisition of specimens of these rare species.
On the other hand, while quite willing to give any species the benefit of a doubt, I am unable to include in my list two species noticed by Messrs. Hume and Marshall, which there is no reason to believe have ever occurred within Indian limits.
Of the eighty-eight species included in my list, forty are in Dr. Jerdon's work and seventy-six in that of Messrs. Hume and Marshall. Of the twelve species not treated of by the latter authors, eight are species discovered and named after the issue of their work; three are additions to the Indian fauna from surrounding countries ; and one is a species of which they were in doubt at the time they wrote, but which appears to me to be quite valid.
I have tried to write for the sportsman rather than for the naturalist, and I have consequently avoided the use of technical terms. I believe I have employed no term which requires explanation.
Throughout this work the characters employed for the groups apply equally to the males and females, unless otherwise noted. When I finally arrive at the species, the difference between the male and female, if they differ, is then duly pointed out.
I have not dealt with the plumage of the immature bird. To have done so would have taken a great deal of space, and to very little purpose, for the plumage of the young is always undergoing a series of changes. Usually the young will be obtained- in the company of the parents, and can thus be easily identified. It may be laid down as a general rule that the young male resembles the female parent till such time as it commences to assume the plumage of the adult male.
The description of the plumage in this volume is generally in considerable detail, but I have not thought it necessary to describe minutely the intricate coloration of the Quails, nor the complicated pattern of colours which frequently adorns the wing of many of the game birds. The measurements given are sufficient to afford an accurate idea of the size of a bird, and represent average measurements. The total length of a bird has frequently been taken from a skin, and may not be accurate, but no better information is available. The weights of the game birds have in almost all instances been taken from Messrs. Hume and Marshall's work. Most of the vernacular names are derived from the same source. All dimensions are in inches.
There is a point about which sportsmen may be inclined to disagree with me, and this is the alteration of name in some of the game birds. I have only done this when absolutely obliged. Many familiar names were conferred by Dr. Jerdon at a time when he had only a limited number of species to deal with. For instance, he treated of only two Hill-Partridges in his work, and he appropriately enough termed one the Black-throated, and the other the Red-throated, Hill-Par-tridge. But now that there are several Partridges of this group with red throats known to inhabit India, and more than one with a black throat, Dr. Jerdon's names are misleading and, in my opinion, require revision. I have similarly revised some of the names used by Messrs. Hume and Marshall.
In order that a change of name may cause as little trouble and inconvenience as possible to the sportsman who is accustomed to the older names, I append a table in which are shown in parallel columns the name used in this volume, the corresponding name used by Dr. Jerdon, and similarly the corresponding name employed by Messrs. Hume and Marshall, with a reference to the volume and page where these names may be found. This table will also serve as a systematic index. A blank shows that the bird concerned is not included in the work of Dr. Jerdon or of Messrs. Hume and Marshall, as the case may be.
I have not burdened my work with any synonymy, but I have applied to each bird the systematic name it bears in the " Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum" (vols, xxii., xxiii.), except in a few instances where my reasons for differ¬ing from the author of the "Catalogue" are given at length. Such instances are very few.