Chota hater, Hindustani.
Although the cock rain-quail is noticeably distinguished by the black streaks—in old birds coalescing into a black patch— on his more warmly-tinted breast, and by the purity and distinctness of the white and black of his throat, the species is very commonly confounded with the common quail, and it must be admitted that the hens are almost exactly alike. In this bird, however, there is none of the light chequering on the pinion-quills in either sex, and it is smaller altogether than the common quail, not exceeding two ounces in weight.
When used to it one can always pick out even the hens, without looking at the quills, by their brighter colouring and smaller size, which is conspicuous enough to distinguish this bird even in flight. The same native names, however, usually are given to both, though the Telugu speakers call this bird Chinna yellichi, and the Tamils Kade, while Chanac is used in Nepal. This species, although to a great extent locally migratory, is a purely Indian and Burmese bird ; but it does not extend to the confines of our Empire, being absent from Kashmir in one direction and Tenasserim in the other, while it is not found in Ceylon, attempts to introduce it (and the common quail also) having apparently failed.
Its name, rain-quail, has reference to its appearance in certain districts coinciding with the opening of the rains ; these are the drier parts of Upper India and Burma, and it visits these to escape, apparently, from the damp in the more low-lying and rainy tracts, where, as in Lower Bengal, it is common enough in the dry months. It is generally a bird of the plains, but on the advent of the rains will penetrate up to 6,000 feet in the Himalayas and Nilgiris. In the Deccan it is resident, and also in parts of Southern India.
It frequents the same sort of low cover as suits the larger quails, and the two may often be flushed in the same locality; but although it comes freely into grassy compounds, it is not quite so much addicted to cultivation, preferring wild grass-seed to grain. It also feeds on insects, and Hume records having found one which had fed on the scarlet velvety mite, a remarkable article of diet, as he says, usually avoided by birds.
On the whole, however, there is nothing noteworthy in its ways to distinguish it from the common quail, except its very distinct two-syllabled note; it is just as pugnacious, is kept for fighting, and fattened for food in the same way. Hume thought, however, it was slightly inferior as a table bird. Like the common quail it is found in pairs or singly, not in coveys. Its breeding season lasts about half the year, from April onwards, sometimes even to November, and the eggs are in some cases very like those of the common quail, but they are smaller, and vary enormously, some being finely peppered and freckled, and some marbled. The ground colour also varies from a decided buff to nearly white, and the markings may be blackish, olive, or purplish brown. But only one shade is found on one egg, and all the eggs in a set, which does not exceed nine, unless two hens lay in one nest, as often happens, are usually much of the same type. The cock, which feeds the hen during courtship, keeps close at hand during incubation. The very scanty nest is placed among crops or moderately high grass. The main breeding-ground of this species in India is in the Deccan, Guzerat, and Central India; it appears to be much persecuted by vermin, for where the birds are breeding freely an enormous number of broken-up nests are to be found.