(1950) Coturnix coturnix coturnix.
THE COMMON or GREY QUAIL.
Tetrao coturnix Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 161 (1758) (Sweden). Coturnix communis. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 114 (part.).
Vernacular names. Bhater, Burra bhater, Gagus Bhater (Hind., Upp. Ind.); Buttairo, Butteyra (Sind) ; Bhutri (L. Beng.); Gundri (Oonah); Soipol (Manipur); Daobui-kashiba (Cachari); Bota-sorai (Assam); Ngon (Burma); Lorva (Ratnagiri); Burra Ganga and Burgangi, Gurganj (Poona, Saltara); Barli (Belgaum); Gogari-yellichi (Tel.); Peria-ka-deh (Tam.); Sipali-hake (Can., Mysore);, Badina (Turki); Watwalah (Kashgar).
Description.— Adult male. A few streaks on the forehead, lores, a broad coronal streak and supercilia buff; feathers of crown to hind-neck black with broad terminal bars of brown, almost concealing the black; back, rump and upper tail-coverts light brown with narrow, wavy, rufous-buff bars bordered with brown and with buff streaks; scapulars and wing-coverts like the back but with the rufous and black patches almost concealed, the central buff streaks broader and edged with black; the wing-coverts also have numerous pale bars; quills light brown, the first primary with a very pale buff or whitish outer web; the remaining quills barred on the outer webs with buff and brown, the innermost secondaries with some buff bars and blackish markings on both webs; tail blackish-brown with buff bars and streaks ; a narrow line from the gape and above the ear-coverts dark brown, produced as far as the end of the supercilium; centre of chin to throat blackish-brown with a broad band of the same colour across the throat to the ear-coverts and a second, similar but narrower, band lower down; between the bands and the centre of the throat a dark creamy-buff line; breast rufous-buff with glistening pale buff shaft-streaks; flanks brown with broad black-edged pale streaks and suffused with rufous; abdomen and lower tail-coverts creamy-white to pale buff.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright hazel to deep brown; bill bluish, greyish or brownish horny, darker on tip and culmen; legs and feet pale fleshy to fleshy-brown or light brown.
Measurements. Total length about 180 to 200 mm,; wing 100 to 117 mm.; tail 36 to 39 mm.; tarsus about 30 mm.; culmen about 12.5 to 13.5 mm.
Female differs from the male in having the centre of the chin and throat creamy-buff; the two dark gorgets are narrower and broken in the centre; the breast is spotted with black, profusely in the young, less in older birds and even absent in a few very old individuals.
Young birds are like the female but duller.
Chick in down. Crown rufous-brown; a broad central black streak from the anterior crown, bifurcating on the posterior crown and nape, enclosing a buff central patch; back rufous-buff with a broad black central streak; wings buff with black patches; below pale fulvous.
Distribution. Central and South Europe; North Africa; North and Central Asia to Lake Baikal, South to Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and North-West India, breeding birds occurring East to Purnea Mymensingh and Manipur and South to Sattara in the Bombay Presidency and Hoshangabad in the Central Provinces. In the Winter it wanders South to Madras and Travancore. It has also been frequently recorded from Burma but, though it may occur there, most of these records refer to the next race.
Nidification. A great number o£ Common Quails are resident and breed over the greater part of their Indian habitat. Eggs have been taken from Sind in the "West to Cachar in the East and South to the Deccan. Perhaps March and April are the favourite laying-months but Jennings, Betham and Osmaston found many nests in July, August and September and in fact they may be seen occasionally in any month from February to October. The nest is just a hollow scratched in the ground in grass-fields, growing crops etc., generally fairly well hidden. In Kashmir it is very common breeding round the lakes in long grass and fields of crops at elevations between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. The eggs number 6 to 14 and vary extraordinarily in colour and character of markings. The ground varies from palest creamy to a warm buff, reddish-brown or yellow stone-colour. In some eggs the whole surface is covered with innumerable specks and freckles of dark brown; in others these freckles are fewer and are intermixed with a few small spots and blotches; in others there are no freckles and the blotches are very large, bold and almost black ; in others again the freckles are so tiny and pale that at a little distance the eggs look pale clay-yellow, brownish-grey, or olive-brown. Between these variations there is every degree of intermediate coloration. One hundred Indian eggs average 29.7 x 22.8 mm.: maxima 33.0 x 23.6 and 32.0 x 25.0 mm.; minima 27.1 x 19.1 mm.
Habits. Although many thousand of these Quails are resident, the vast millions which are seen during the cold weather months are migrants. The first few arrive in August and the last few depart in late April but the largest flocks do not come until early October, though even these flocks are not so large as those in which they assemble prior to departure in early April. They scatter all over the plains of India and are found up to 8,000 feet in the Himalayas in suitable places. They form, next to Snipe, the favourite small-game shooting in India and good bags are often made of them alone, though more often they constitute the most numerous item in mixed bags. They fly well, fast and straight, but tumble headlong into the cover after covering a couple of hundred yards or so, giving quick but not very difficult shots. After the flocks disperse the birds keep in pairs. The call consists of a loud whistle, followed rapidly by two short notes. They feed on grass and other seeds as well as on insects and are themselves a very great table delicacy.