(1948) Excalfactoria chinensis chinensis.
THE BLUE-BREASTED QUAIL.
Tetrao chinensis Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed., i, p. 277 (1766) (China). Excalfactoria chinensis. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 112.
Vernacular names. Khair-butai, Kaneli (Nepal) ; Gobal-butai (Oude); Ngon(Burm.); Pandura-watuwa., Wenella-watuwa (Cing.); Daobui-majungbi (Cachari); Shorbol (Manipuri).
Description.— Adult male. Lores, supercilium, forehead, sides of head and neck slaty-grey; centre of crown and nape rufous-brown with broad concentric black bars; back, rump and upper tail-coverts rufous-brown, with grey edges and broad black bars; the feathers of the centre of the crown and back have central white streaks broadest in young birds, obsolete or absent in the oldest; tail-feathers slaty-blue edged with chestnut and nearly all of the latter colour in old birds; wings fulvous-brown, much suffused with slaty-blue and more or less marked with rich chest¬nut on the inner secondaries and greater coverts ; a line under the lores to the eye white and another from the angle of the mouth to the posterior ear-coverts black; below this again white ; chin and throat black, the black produced in a line upwards round the white to join the upper black line; fore-neck white, edged with black; upper breast and flanks slaty-blue, this colour often running up and encroaching on the sides of the neck and back; centre of breast, abdomen and under tail-coverts deep chestnut.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright vermilion-red to deep crimson; rarely a bright vinous-pink; bill black, the edge, gape and gonys slaty; legs and feet bright yellow, soles paler and claws brownish.
Measurements. Wing 65 to 78 mm.; tail about 25 mm.; tarsus 20 to 22 mm.; culmen 10 to 11 mm. Weight 1 1/2 to 2 oz.
Female. Above like the male but with no slaty markings; the white streaks are broader and the black markings rather smaller; the slaty-blue on the head is replaced by rufous; chin and throat fulvous-white; remainder of lower plumage pale buff, the fore-neck, breast and flanks barred with black; the tail is brown with buff and black markings.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown.
Measurements. Wing 66 to 77 mm.
Young male is like the adult with no blue or chestnut above; there are broad buff centres to the feathers of the rump and upper tail-coverts; the slaty-blue of the underparts is duller and barred with black on the sides of the head and neck and the chestnut is restricted to the centre of the abdomen or wanting altogether.
Young male in first plumage like the female but paler and more rufous in general tint. Iris glaucous-brown or blue.
Chick in down. Coronal streak and one on either side of the crown buff; tips of the wing, sides of the head, chin and throat-buff; remaining plumage brown, darker above, paler below.
Distribution. Practically all India and Ceylon in suitable country and all Burma. It is a common breeding-bird in Travancore and the Malabar coast to Bombay; it is rare in Madras and South-East India, becomes more common in North Orissa, Eastern Bengal and Behar and is very common in Assam and Western Burma. It is rare or absent from the North-West of India, West of a line drawn from Bombay to Simla. Outside India it ranges East through the Indo-Chinese countries to China and Formosa and South into the Malay Peninsula. Allied races extend as far as Australia.
Nidification. The time of this little Quail's breeding varies greatly according to locality. In Ceylon the. principal months are February and March and September and October; in Southern India February to April; in Northern India and Assam June and July ; in Burma January and again in June and July and in the Malay Peninsula January to March. It breeds, however, at odd times practically throughout the year ami for Assam there are records of eggs in every month. They breed m the plains and in the hills up to 7,000 feet (Kohima) and quite commonly up to 6,000 feet. The nest is a mere scrape in the earth lined with a little grass, a few leaves or pine-needles or not lined at all. Nine out of ten are made in grass-lands, a few in bamboo- or scrub-jungle. The eggs number four to seven, very rarely eight, and vary in colour from a pale yellowish or olive-clay to a warm olive or pure brown. Most eggs are unmarked but a few are stippled lightly and sparsely with darker freckles. One hundred eggs average 24.5 X 19.0 mm.: maxima 27.7 X 18.5 and 25.3 x 20.4 mm.; minima 22.9 X 17.3 mm.
Habits. Hume considered this Quail to be migratory over most of its range but certainly in Bengal, Assam and Northern Burma it is resident all the year round. In Ceylon and Travan¬core it is also resident and probably the same everywhere else. They prefer grass-lands to all other places but seem equally at home in elephant-grass and reeds of enormous height growing in swampy places. They also haunt bamboo- and thin scrub-jungle, never forest. They are shy little birds, wandering about in small coveys and often venturing on to jungle-paths to hunt for seeds berries and insects ; on the slightest alarm, however, they scuttle into cover and will not appear again for a long time. When flushed they utter a quiet " tir-tir-tir " but the call-note to the male or young is a sweet double whistle sounding like " ti-yu, ti-yu."