16. THE BLACK-BREASTED QUAIL.
Coturnix coromandelica, (Gmelin).
Sides of the body streaked. Outer web of the first ten quills of the wing quite plain and unmarked.
MALE:— Breast black.
FEMALE :— Breast merely spotted with black.
Vernacular Names :—It is improbable that natives discriminate this species from the Grey Quail. The following names, being additional to those already given for the latter bird, are quoted from Messrs. Hume and Marshall's work. China butteyr, Upper India ; Chanac, Nepal; Kade, Tamil; Chinna-yellichi, Telugu ; Ngon, Burmese.
The Black-breasted or Rain Quail is restricted to the Indian Empire and is very widely distributed. I can find no notice of the occurrence of this Quail in Kashmir, Tenasserim or the Shan States, but with these exceptions it appears to have been observed in every part of the Empire from the Punjab to Cape Comorin and from Assam to Pegu. When Colonel Legge wrote the history of the Birds of Ceylon this Quail was not known to inhabit that island, but it has since been observed at Colombo. It ascends the hills, such as the Nilghiris and the lower ranges of the Himalayas, quite up to 6000 feet.
The Black-breasted Quail, although so widely distributed, is only to be found in open country where there is grass and cultivation. It avoids forests. It is to a certain extent migratory, its movements being prompted apparently by a desire to avoid heavy rain and flooded country. Messrs. Hume and Marshall inform us that in the lower ranges of the Himalayas, the Punjab, Sind, Rajputana, Cutch, Kattiawar, the North- West Provinces, Oudh and the northern portions of Bengal, this Quail is mainly a rainy-season visitor. Many birds no doubt remain in the above provinces all the year round, for in the Hume Collection there are several specimens which were procured in the Punjab, for instance, from January to April. In the open parts of Upper Burma, where the rainfall is scanty, very large numbers of this Quail arrive at the beginning of the rains and remain for some months. These birds probably come up from Lower Burma, where the rainfall is heavy. There are, however, large tracts of country in Central and Southern India where this bird is a permanent resident.
This Quail is found singly or in pairs, and is fond of grass-land, fallow fields, embankments, and standing crops which are not too thick nor too high. It rises the first time it is disturbed, but it is difficult to get it to rise a second time. Its pretty double call-note is uttered throughout the day. It is rather tame and confiding, and it may often be seen and heard in compounds and in the vicinity of houses.
In India this Quail breeds in August and September, and in Upper Burma probably earlier, but I have never found the nest and cannot be certain about its time of nesting in Burma. The nest is usually a small hollow in the ground, occasionally lined with grass, but more frequently without any attempt at a lining. As many as nine eggs are sometimes laid in one nest, but the more usual number is six or seven.
The eggs vary from broad oval to pyri¬ form in shape. The shell is not very glossy. The ground-colour varies, being in some yellowish white, in others stone-colour, and a few are of a rusty colour. The marks, which are mostly specks, but sometimes blotches and freckles, are black, olive-brown or reddish brown, and are closely set all over the egg. The eggs vary in length from 1 to 1.21, and in breadth from 8 to 89.
The male bird has the upper plumage, wings and tail a mixture of black, brown, grey and rufous, with numerous conspicuous long yellow streaks. The first ten quills of the wing are plain brown on both webs. The crown is blackish mottled with rufous, with a yellow band passing down the middle and a white band on each side over the eye. The chin and throat are narrowly black. A black band passes from each angle of the mouth round the white cheek to the base of the throat. A broad white gorget succeeds this black band and passes in a crescentic form from ear to ear. This white gorget is again succeeded by a similar black one. The sides of the neck are rich russet. The middle of the breast is black, and the sides of this together with the sides of the body are buff streaked with black and with some admixture of white. The belly is pale buff.
The female bird is very similar to the female. Grey Quail, but may be distinguished at once by the plain brown colour of the outer web of the first ten quills of the wing.
Length about 7; wing about 3 1/2; tail about 1 1/2 ; legs flesh-colour; irides brown ; bill dusky or bluish-horny. Weight about 3 oz.