Only about the size of a sparrow, the painted quail is not likely to be mistaken for any of our game birds, except perhaps the even tinier little button-quail, from which the darker colour will distinguish it on the wing, and the yellow, four-toed feet in the hand ; it is quite a sporting bird, too, and when flushed flies for fifty yards or more, low over the grass. Close at hand, a very striking difference is observable between cock and hen, the former having a blue-grey breast and sides, and the centre of the under-parts rich chestnut, while those handsome colours are well set off by the characteristic black anchor-mark on a white ground on the throat of the true quails, the colours in this species being as distinct as in the rain-quail. The young cock is at first brown below like the hen, but gets his full plumage in little over a month. It is only when a pair have fledged young that these quail are seen in coveys, otherwise they are found singly or in pairs.
The cock is much attached to his mate, and feeds her with insects; besides the chirping alarm-note when flushed, he has a distinct trisyllabled call, tee-wee-wee.
Like the rain-quail, this bird does not leave the Indian Empire (although it has a wide range outside it to the southeast, even to China) but is locally migratory within it. It is found at one time or another almost all over India and. Burma, and in Ceylon, but it is essentially a bird of moist districts, and absent from the dry regions of the north-west. It ascends the Himalayas into the temperate region, and in Lower Bengal, where so many widely distributed birds are wanting, it is quite common in the cold weather. To the foot hills of the Himalayas and districts adjacent it is a rainy-season visitant, and immense numbers arrive in Pegu at the beginning of May. The favourite haunts of these tiny birds are open, moist grass-land, and they frequent the grassed lands of paddy fields, the paddy-stubble itself, and scrub-jungle. They feed on grass-seeds and insects, but will also take millet. Where bigger quail are scarce they may be found worth shooting, if anyone cares to expend powder on birds which do not weigh at most more than a couple of ounces; I never heard of anyone eating them.
Judging from their habits in captivity, they are to a considerable extent nocturnal; but they may be seen feeding outside of the grass in the early morning, and are not very shy, though when once flushed they much object to showing themselves again. They nest in Ceylon and in the Malay Peninsula as early as March, but further north in June and later, up to even the middle of August in the Sub-Himalayan tracts. The nest is the scanty affair one expects from a quail, and is placed among grass, containing about six eggs, buff or pale drab generally, somewhat peppered with brown. Considering the size of the producer, they are remarkably large, many being an inch in the larger diameter ; the incubation period is three weeks, and the minute chicks are dark with pale streaks.
In Ceylon this pigmy quail is known as Pandura or Wenella-watuwa, and as Gobal-butai in Oudh. Kaneli is also a Nepalese name.