57. Coturnix communis.
THE COMMON or GREY QUAIL.
Bateyr, Upper India; Batairo, Sind; Batri, Lower Bengal; Soipol, Manipur; Botah-surrai, Assam; Burganji, Deccan; Burli, Belgaom; Sipale-haki, Mysore; Watwalak, Kashgar.
Male 6 3/4" to 8 1/2"; 3 to 4 1/2 oz. Legs fleshy pink. Bill grey-brown. Male: Double collar with black band down middle of throat. Above brown with yellow shaft streaks, black patches, and cross marks. Quills brown, the first with outer border white, the other primaries and secondaries barred on outer webs rufous (see illustration). Lower plumage and sides pale rufous, with paler shaft streaks (see illustration).—Female: Larger than male, with brown spots on breast. No black throat line. Feathers on chin and throat short and rounded.— Young birds ashy, spotted black or brown.
Sykes, Yarrell, and others say this was the Quail of the Israelites (see No. 5).
The Grey Quail is migratory, and is found throughout the greater part of Europe, Asia, and Africa. They generally arrive in N. India from C. Asia in September; occasionally in Sind as early as 16th August, but these come probably from Arabia and Persia, and remain for a few days only. They leave N. India in December and January for the south, returning for the wheat and barley harvests in February, March, and April, finally leaving northward in May. A few breed in India, and Hume asks (ii. p. 136), "Are these birds the representatives of a permanently resident race?" Six to ten eggs (1.18 x 0.89), buff, speckled brown.
The call of the Grey Quail is trisyllabic— Whit / Whit-whit!
"A group of men talking and lounging round a field of waving barley clearly indicates that something is on hand, and this something is merely the preliminary to net such Quail as may have sought shelter in the cover before the crop is cut. The arrangement is very simple. A few cone-shaped cages, covered with coloured cloth, containing the call birds, are suspended from poles at the end of the field; a large stop net is then spread at this end, reaching from the ground, and resting so as to cover some 6 or 8 feet on the top of the barley; two men them go off with a long rope to the other end of the field, and beating is commenced by drawing this rope backwards and forwards through the tops of the barley; the rope is very gradually brought forward, and the Quail, disturbed by the rustling noise, are supposed to run forward into that part of the field which is covered by the stop net. "When the rope has been drawn to the net, the beaters drop the rope and enter the field, taking the net in one hand, and beating the barley with the other, while the birds, scared by the noise, jump up and catch themselves in the net. The birds so caught are at once operated on by the wily Afghan, who draws the whole of the quills of one wing by a simple bite of his teeth, and the game is popped into a bag for market, the stronger male birds being selected and reserved for fighting purposes. Many of the birds fly back, and probably alight in a field less grown ; a hawk is then flown across the field to make these birds lie till they are secured by a small hand net drawn over the spot. Quail-fighting seems to be a favourite pastime, for, go where you will, every other urchin you meet will have a quail in his hand, handling and smoothing its feathers, and training it to be strong by jumping it up and down. Again in the market-place of a morning, the farmers in the intervals of buying and selling will have a round or two, betting one, two, and even three rupees, and for the moment all thoughts of business are absorbed in the issue of the bet" (Kandahar in 1879, pp. 180,181). The system of netting is also the same in Hazara.— A. Le M.
(J. 829. B. 1355. O. 14. O.G. i. 180. H. & M. ii. 133.)