26. THE COMMON HILL-PARTRIDGE.
Arboricola torqueola, (Valenciennes).
Sides of the body marked with white and chestnut. Breast grey or rusty olive-brown. Feathers of the back with broad black bars and margins.
MALE :— Throat black, followed by a white gorget.
FEMALE :— Throat rufous streaked with black, followed by a chestnut gorget.
Vernacular Names -.—Roli, Ramchukru, Chamba; Peura, Ban-tetra, Kumaon and Garhwal ; Kaindal, Kangra; Kohempho, Lepcha ; Kangkom, Bhutia.
The Common Hill-Partridge is distributed over the outer ranges of the Himalayas from Sikhim to the Chamba State, and is found at all elevations from 5000 to 14,000 feet; but it appears to be commoner below 8000 feet than above that altitude. It also occurs in the Naga Hills.
This Partridge inhabits watercourses and ravines as is the habit of all the members of this group. There is not much to be said about this species in particular, but Colonel Tickell, in his usual charming manner, has strung together a few remarks about it which I shall reproduce. He says : " I have met with them in ones and twos, sometimes in a small covey of five or six. They are not wild, trusting apparently to the dense covert they frequent for safety; and I have sometimes sat down on the hill side and, after remaining quiet for a few minutes, heard their little feet pattering and scratching over the fallen leaves close to me. Now and then one would emit a low soft whistle; and in places under the bushes, where no grass grew, one or two might be seen picking and pecking as they glided along under the leaves. In these bare spots they would sit or lie on their sides, scratching and throwing dust over themselves. A very little movement would send them all into covert as suddenly as if they had disappeared by magic; and by striding hastily into the bush where they had been last seen, it was possible sometimes to flush them and get one, or a hasty right and left shot; but a more difficult one cannot be imagined, for they fly with the sudden startling flush and flurry of the Partridge, with great speed, and so low over the underwood as barely to afford aim enough to be reckoned even a snap shot."
There are four eggs in the British Museum said to have been found in Sikhim, and which I think have been correctly assigned to the present species. They are broad ovals, pointed at one end and very glossy. They are very pale greyish white with some minute pale brown specks. In length they vary from 1.56 to 1.6, and in breadth from1.22 to 1.27-
The male bird has the whole crown and the ears deep chestnut. A narrow white line borders the crown on each side. The space round the eye and in front is black. The chin, throat, part of the sides of the head, and the whole neck are black streaked with white. In some specimens the throat is almost wholly black. A white gorget divides the black of the neck from the grey of the breast. The belly is pure white and the sides of the body are of a purer and deeper grey than the breast, and each feather has a large oval white spot and broad lateral chestnut margins. The upper plumage, wings and tail are olive-brown, each feather of the back and rump broadly margined and barred with black, the feathers of the latter part with triangular black marks. Many of the wing-coverts have a large diagonal oval black drop with a chestnut tip or lateral margins, and some few feathers again are frequently streaked with white.
The female differs from the male chiefly in the colour of the head and neck. The crown is olive-brown streaked with blackish, and a broad streak over the eye is pale rufous streaked with black. The chin, throat, part of the sides of the head and the whole neck are rufous streaked with black, and these parts are separated from the rusty olive-brown breast by a chestnut gorget. The other parts of the plumage resemble the same parts in the male but are duller, and the belly is hardly of such a pure white.
The female of this species closely resembles the female of the next species, but may be recognised at once by the bars and fringes on the feathers of the back being broad and well-defined. In the next species there are no bars on these feathers and the fringes are very faint.
Length about 11; wing about 6; tail about 2 1/2 ; legs fleshy grey ; irides brown; bill blackish. Weight up to 13 1/2 oz.