1948) Excalfactoria chinensis chinensis (Linn.).
THE CHINESE BLUE-BREASTED QUAIL.
Excalfactoria chinensis chinensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 369.
This beautiful little Quail has a very wide range, extending practi¬cally over the whole of Ceylon, India and Burma. It is a common breeding bird on the South-West coast from Bombay to Travancore, equally common in Orissa, Bengal, Bihar and Assam. It is rare in Madras and South-East India and does not occur in North-West India North-West of a line drawn roughly from about Bombay City to Simla.
Outside India it ranges East through the Indo-Chinese countries to China and Formosa and South into the Malay Peninsula.
This is a Quail of grass-lands, and I gave the following full descrip¬tion of its haunts in 1923 (Journ. Bomb. Nat, Hist. Soc. vol. xxix, p. 6, 1923), where I wrote :—“There are two essentials for the country they reside in ; first ample water and, secondly, cover of the sort they prefer, i. e., thin grass or reeds, sungrass three or four feet high, or fairly thin scrub or bush-jungle. If there is heavier forest or jungle close by, so much the better, but they only seek safety in this when in dinger. We also found them in Cachar and Sylhet in the dense ekra and elephant-grass bordering the endless swamps in these districts, but they came out of the heavy reeds in the mornings and evenings to feed in the thinner grass alongside them, retiring once more during the heat of the day into their cool shade. In the Winter and Spring as these swamps dry up the birds move with them, deserting those which are entirely dry for those in which some water still remains, whilst throughout the year they may be found in bush or grass cover on the sides of streams and water-courses. In the hills where there were but few swamps they were quite content with the grass-lands through which a stream or two found their way and, in North Cachar, I have often put them up in the dense secondary growth which grows up in deserted cultivation. They were also to be found in standing crops of hill-rice, millet etc. and in sugar-cane.”
There is very little said about this Quail in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs,’ hut I have seen many dozens of nests in Assam. I have found them in the plains and in the hills up to 5,000 feet, while
Tytler took eggs in Kohima at 7,000 feet, which is probably about as high as they breed.
The nest is very primitive, just a hollow, either natural or scraped out by the birds in the soil, and either lined with a few leaves or a little grass. Sometimes, however, I have seen the eggs deposited on the bare earth, although leaves and oddments lay all round the scrape, some even just turned out of this by the birds themselves.
Oates says of a nest found by him in Pegu that it "was a mere pad of grass, placed in a clump of coarse grass." In the Malay Peninsula Davison, who found eggs in March, says that the “nest, always on the ground, usually in the midst of low, short grass, though always close to thicker cover, is a mere depression in the soil, more or less thinly lined with blades and fine stems of grass.”
The breeding season seems very indefinite. In Assam the principal months for eggs are June to August, but I have taken them at odd times throughout the year. In Southern India it breeds mostly from March to April and in Ceylon, according to Legge, in May, while Phillips took a clutch of four eggs in September. In Burma I have records of eggs taken in January, May and July, while in the Malay Peninsula they have been taken from January to March.
The usual clutch is five to seven, occasionally only four and equally rarely eight. In shape they are broad ovals, generally well pointed at the smaller end and, sometimes, almost peg-top-shaped. The texture is very hard, fine and close, the surface often highly glossed and the shell strong.
In colour they vary greatly from a pale grey or green drab, a pale olive-yellow or olive clay-colour to a rich deep sienna-brown. Many eggs have a stippling of tiny black marks, usually mere specks, rarely tiny blotches. These are sparsely, often very sparsely, distributed equally over the whole egg ; occasionally they are fairly numerous and show up well.
One hundred eggs average 24.5 x 19.0 mm. : maxima 27.7 x 18.5 and 25.3 x 20.4 mm. ; minima 22.8 x 17.3 mm.
The female alone, so far as I know, carries on incubation, but the male is always to be found near the nest and is certainly mono¬gamous, being a very good father to the chicks.
Hume thought that this bird was more or less migratory, and Oates speaks of immense “numbers appearing in Pegu about the 1st May, while the sexes arrive in separate flocks.” Hume says that they are only monsoon visitors to Assam, but this is not so, and they are to be found all the year round if one knows where to look for them.
1948. Excalfactoria chinensis chinensis
1948) Excalfactoria chinensis chinensis (Linn.).