17. THE BLUE-BREASTED QUAIL
Excalfactoria chinensis, (LINNAEUS).
Sides of the body without streaks. Outer web of the first ten quills of the wing plain, unmarked.
MALE:—Breast and sides of the body blue.
FEMALE:—Breast and sides of the body buff cross-barred with brown.
Vernacular Names:—Khair-butai, Kaneli, Nepal; Burli, Marathi; Ngon, Burmese.
The Blue-breasted Quail is found over a considerable portion of the Indian Empire, but it is nowhere very common except in some of the wetter parts of Bengal and Burma. In many portions of India this species may be considered rare, but materials are wanting to enable me to define its limits. Roughly speaking this Quail does not appear to occur west of a line drawn from Simla to Baroda. East of this line it has been observed in various localities up to the extreme north-east corner of Assam, and south¬wards to Cape Comorin and also in Ceylon. From Assam its range stretches away through the Indo-Burmese countries and Burma to the extreme south of Tenasserim. I am not aware that this bird occurs in the Shan States, but it very probably does, for this little Quail is found in China and Siam. To the south it ranges down to Singapore. Although this Quail chiefly affects plains, it is nevertheless found in the Himalayas up to 5000 or 6000 feet.
The Blue-breasted Quail moves about a good deal according to season, avoiding the dry parts of the country, and keeping to districts where there is plenty of moisture. In many parts of India it appears to be found chiefly, if not entirely, in the rainy season. In Lower Burma it arrives in great numbers in May at the commencement of the rains, but where it comes from is not known.
At the nesting season this Quail is observed singly or in pairs, but at other times it is seen in small companies. I have always found it in heavy grass jungle, and on the edges of cultivation where the vegetation was rank and more or less flooded. June and July are the months in which this Quail nests in India and Burma, but in Ceylon it breeds in March, April and May. The nest is a pad of grass on the ground or in a thick clump of grass. The eggs are usually six in number, but four or five only have been taken from a nest. The eggs are oval, broad at one end and pointed at the other. They have little gloss, and they are olive-brown speckled with a few minute reddish brown spots. They measure from 95 to 1.04 in length, and from 7 to 81 in breadth.
In the male, the upper plumage, wings and tail are a mixture of black, grey and rufous with some conspicuous yellowish streaks, and a pale band down the middle of the crown. The first ten quills of the wing are plain brown. The chin and throat are broadly black bordered by a broad white gorget extending from one angle of the mouth to the other, but interrupted below the ear and behind the cheek by a narrow black line. The white gorget is margined below by a narrow black band. The breast and sides of the body are blue ; the belly bright chestnut.
The female has the upper plumage and the quills of the wing of a similar colour to the same parts in the male. The black and white on the throat and sides of the head are wanting. The chin and throat are pale buff, and the foreneck, breast and sides of the body are buff cross-barred with brown. The belly is pale buff without marks.
Length nearly 6; wing 2 3/4; tail about 1 ; legs yellow ; irides red ; bill bluish black. Weight about 2 oz.