39. THE SEESEE-PARTRIDGE.
Ammoperdix bonhami, (Fraser).
First ten quills, except the first, barred with rufous on the outer web only.
All but the middle tail-feathers chestnut.
MALE :—Sides of the body banded with black and chestnut.
FEMALE:—Sides of the body narrowly barred with black.
Vernacular Name : Seesee, Punjab and Sind.
The Seesee-Partridge occurs in the northern part of the Punjab and in Hazara, and its southern limit east of the Indus river appears to be approximately a line drawn east and west from the Indus to the Chenab river through Shahpur. It is found throughout the hills of the Punjab and Sind, west of the Indus river, and extends to Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and through Persia, to the Euphrates river. It has also been observed at Aden.
This pretty Partridge is an inhabitant of barren and rocky ground up to a level of about 7000 feet. Mr. Hume thus refers to its habits :—" They are eminently birds of bare broken ground; on grassy slopes they may indeed be found, for they feed much on grass seeds, but they eschew utterly forests or thickly wooded tracts, and even where there is much scrub about they are less common, the barer and more desolate the ravines and gorges, the more thoroughly do they seem at home.
" They are active, bustling little birds, scratching about a great deal in the earth, dusting themselves freely in the sand, basking in the sun, resting in little hollows they have worked out for themselves, and generally reproducing in many ways the manners of the domestic fowl.
" Their call, continually heard in the spring, is a clear double note, 'Soo-see, Soo-see,' and they have also, whilst feeding and when surprised, a whistled chirp, uttered very softly when at their ease, but sounding more harshly when they are alarmed."
Dr. Blanford observed these Partridges in Persia, and makes the following remarks :—"They keep much to low hills and stony ravines about the bases of hill ranges. During the spring and summer they are found in pairs or singly; in the winter they are occasionally to be met with in small coveys, but by no means so frequently as Caccabis; nor do they collect, as far as my observations extend, in equal numbers. They may usually be seen walking quietly up stony hillsides, not running so swiftly as most Partridges, nor caring much for concealment ; indeed, when they wish to hide, it is sufficient for them to remain still, for their colour so closely resembles that of the sand and stones around that they are most difficult to detect. When they rise, it is much like a Quail, with a rather quick flight, and a whistle uttered as they start."
The Seesee appears to breed in April, May and June, and the eggs are laid in a depression scratched by the birds near or under a bush or a rock or sometimes in the midst of loose stones. The depression is lined with a little dry grass and sometimes a feather or two. The eggs vary from eight to twelve in number. They are oval in shape and have little gloss. Their colour varies from almost pure white to a pale cream colour, and they are spotless. In size they vary from 1.3 to 1.5 in length and from 1 to 1.1 in breadth.
The male has the forehead and a streak over the eye black. The space in front of the eye and a streak behind the eye are white, margined below by a very narrow black line. The crown of the head, the ears, cheeks, chin and throat are grey. There is a patch of bright buff behind each ear. The sides of the neck are barred with grey and buffish white. The upper plumage with the wing-coverts and tail are sandy buff, brighter on the mantle and with small triangular black spots on the rump. The quills of the wing are brown, much marked with light buff on the outer web. The middle tail-feathers are mottled rufous and dusky; the others are chestnut. The lower plumage from the throat downwards is a beautiful pinkish buff, the lower part of the belly, the thighs and the feathers under the tail being very pale, and almost white. The feathers on the sides of the body are broadly margined with black and chestnut.
The female has the whole plumage throughout irregularly cross-barred with wavy lines of grey and pale rufous; the rump marked with a few short black streaks; the quills of the wing next the body blotched with black; and the sides of the body barred narrowly with black. The quills of the wing and the tail are coloured as in the male.
Length about 10; wing about 5; tail about 2 1/2; legs yellow; irides yellow, orange or brown; bill orange. Weight up to 8 oz.