(1950) Coturnix coturnix coturnix (Linn.).
The Common Grey Quail.
Coturnix coturnix coturnix, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p, 372.
The Common Quail breeds in considerable numbers in North¬-West India, breeding birds having been recorded as far East as Purnea, Mymensingh and Manipur and as far South as Sattara in the Bombay Presidency and Hoshangabad in the Central Provinces. Outside India its breeding range covers most of Central and Southern Europe and Asia East to Lake Baikal, Afghanistan and Persia.
Compared with the many millions of Quail which visit India in the Winter our resident birds are but few in number, yet records of their breeding are numerous, and in a few places they are almost common during the breeding season. Up to a comparatively recent date this Quail was accepted as a Winter visitor only, and when eggs were found they were invariably said to be those of the Black¬breasted Quail.
In Hume’s time he himself had taken a single clutch of eggs in Purnea, Marshall (C. N. T.) found one in Lahore, Blewitt another near Hansi, Marshall (G. F. L.) saw one at Allahabad, and Cock reported it as “breeding most abundantly about Nowshera in April, while Biddulph said it also bred at Gilgit. Now they are known to breed freely in the Deccan, Central Provinces, United Provinces, Western Bengal and over much of the Punjab and Frontier Provinces. The numbers, however, which breed in any one locality differ greatly from year to year, probably influenced by food and weather conditions.
In Kashmir Osmaston found it in many places, as did Ward, and several other collectors in yet different localities, so that it undoubtedly breeds over a wide area.
It constantly breeds up to 8,000 and 9,000 feet, while heat has, no terrors for it. Betham found it breeding in Ferozepore in March. Lindsey Smith in Lyallpur in May, and it has been found breeding in the hottest parts of the Punjab in the hottest months of May to July.
The nest of course in India is just what it is in Europe and else¬where, a mere scratching in the soil ; sometimes there may be a leaf or two in the hollow or a few scraps of grass, though often these are only accidental; at other times quite a compact pad of leaves and grass is gathered together by the hen bird as a bed for her eggs.
Sometimes the nest is placed in open grass country, cultivated land of any kind with crops on it or lying fallow, and sometimes in the thin grass patches between the fields. Often they are laid in fields of growing corn, millet or other cereals, though most birds seem to prefer green grass-lands or crops which are young and green. Wherever the nest may be, it has often been noticed that it is placed near some tall bush or other landmark which may serve as a guide to the nest.
The two months during which moat eggs are laid in India are March and April, and in these two months eggs have been taken by Hume (Purnea) ; Marshall (Lahore) ; Cock (Nowshera) ; Lindsey Smith (Multan and Lyallpur) ; Betham (Ferozepore) ; Jesse (Lucknow). Many birds, however, breed quite late after the rains break. Jennings obtained them in the Central Provinces in September, while in Kashmir Osmaston obtained nearly all his eggs in August. They have also been often taken in April and early May, as by Lindsey Smith in Lyallpur, in Gilgit by Biddulph, and in Kashmir by Ward.
The number of eggs in a clutch varies greatly. Lindsey Smith sent me two clutches, one of three and one of four eggs only, both of which were much incubated. Clutches of six to eight are common, of nine to eleven not very rare, while I have two of thirteen. Ludlow also took a clutch of thirteen in Turkestan in June near the Koh- Terek-Tekkes junction.
The eggs vary very greatly and, though intermediate eggs occur, there are the following very definite types :—
1. Ground-colour rather a deep yellow-brown or reddish-brown covered all over with minute specks of dark blackish-brown with here and there a few rather larger blotches of the same colour.
2. Ground-colour a pale creamy white with blotches of almost black everywhere, in some very numerous but not very big, in others bigger and less numerous, and in some very big and scanty.
3. Similar to (2) but with the ground a warmer buff and the great blotches a rich chestnut.
4. Ground-colour pale yellowish or stone-colour with scanty freckles and specks and large blotches of pale reddish.
5. Ground creamy, yellowish or pale buff with mottlings of liver-brown, or with large blotches of the same running into one another.
As a rule all the eggs in a clutch are the same in type, but I have one or two clutches which contain some eggs of two types and others intermediate.
The texture is hard, fine and close, the surface smooth and often highly glossed. The shape varies from broad oval to an almost peg-top.
One hundred Indian egga 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.
We have no notes on incubation in India, but of the European bird Witherby says that the female alone incubates and that the period of incubation varies from sixteen to twenty-one days, a very remarkable degree of variation recorded from observations of birds in captivity.
They sit very close and sometimes allow themselves to be caught on the nest. Donald speaks of actually treading on one bird, while Hume also caught one on the nest, and replaced her, when she continued to sit on her just-hatching eggs without attempting to fly away.
It is said to be single-brooded, but in India some pairs may breed twice.
It is almost certainly monogamous.
1950. Coturnix coturnix- coturnix
(1950) Coturnix coturnix coturnix (Linn.).