(1976) Francolinus francolinus asiae.
THE INDIAN BLACK PARTRIDGE.
Francolinus asiae Bonap., Comp. Rend., xlii, p. 882 (1856) (Asia). Francolinus vulgaris. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 135 (part.).
Vernacular names. Kola Tetar (Hind.); Tetra, Kalo-Tetra (Garhwal).
Description.— Adult male. Crown to nape sandy or rufous-brown, the feathers centred dark brown ; supercilium and feathers round the eye black; a broad white band from lower lores, cheeks and ear-coverts white; chin, throat and a broad patch below ear-coverts running up to nape black; feathers of nape showing a little black-and-white mottling; a broad chestnut collar all round the neck ; behind the collar the back and sides are black, each feather with white spots on either web ; back, scapulars, smaller wing-coverts and innermost secondaries brown, each feather with a submarginal black-edged band of buff or sandy-rufous ; lower back, rump, upper tail-coverts and tail black with narrow white, or fulvous-white, bars, the outer tail-feathers with the terminal third unbarred black; primaries, outer secondaries and greater coverts dark brown with spots or broken bars of rufous-buff; breast black, unspotted in very old males in the centre but with oval white spots on the sides; flanks black with larger oval white spots, rarely becoming longitudinal bars on the posterior flanks and, generally, with narrow brown fringes; lower breast and thigh-coverts black to blackish-brown, with very large white spots or bars ; centre of abdomen and vent light chestnut with whitish bars; under tail-coverts chestnut,, occasionally with a few white or fulvous bars; under wing-coverts and axillaries mottled fulvous and dark brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or hazel-brown ; bill black or dark horny-brown, the tip of the lower mandible whitish ; legs and feet reddish-brown to orange-red or brick-red; claws black or horny-brown.
Measurements. Wing 145 to 168 mm.; tail 77 to 110 mm.; tarsus about 45 to 50 mm.; culmen about 22 to 26 mm. " Weight 10 to 20 oz." (Hume).
Female Above similar to the male but paler and duller; the white of the head is replaced by pale buff; ear-coverts brown or buffy-brown; cheeks speckled with dark brown; the chestnut collar is reduced to a dull chestnut nuchal patch, sometimes freckled with dark brown ; rump to tail dull pale brown; with narrow wavy bars of pale buff edged with black; chin, throat and fore-neck white or buffy-white ; breast and flanks white or pale buff, sometimes slightly rufous, with wavy arrow-shaped bars of black, widest on the posterior flanks and lower breast, obsolete or much fewer on the abdomen ; vent pale dull chestnut, sometimes with faint brown bars and sometimes with whitish tips; under tail-coverts chestnut.
Colours of soft parts as in the male but paler and duller.
Measurements. Wing 138 to 167 mm. Weight 8 to 17 oz." (Hume).
Young males are like richly-coloured females but with dark, almost black, supercilia and white cheeks ; the rufous nuchal patch is darker and more pronounced and the breast is black, the white spots usurping nearly all the visible parts of the feather.
Chick in first feather. Pale rufous-buff everywhere, with broad dark brown bars and spots; below pale albescent-buff with small brown spots.
Chick in down. Head bright rufous with darker crown and pale supercilia and cheeks; a dark line through the eye; above brown with a very pale buff streak on either side of the back and rump; chin whitish; neck and throat fulvous-white; rest of lower parts dull earthy-white.
Distribution. Excluding Sind and the extreme North-West Frontier of India, the whole of North India as far East as West Nepal and Behar. South it extends to Deesa, Gwalior, Sambalpur and in the Central Provinces to Saran, Udaipur and in Western Bengal to Chota Nagpur. Col. Sparrow found it common near Trimulgherry in the Deccan.
Nidification. The Indian Black Partridge breeds from April to July but Whymper took hard-set eggs near Naini Tal on the 21st October, probably a second laying. The nest generally consists of a little grass at the bottom of some hollow scratched out by the birds, in among the roots of grass in extensive grass-covered flats or uplands, less often in scrub-jungle. Occasionally the nest is more substantial, consisting of a thick pad of grass well matted together. The number of eggs varies greatly. I have seen three hard-set and they have been recorded up to fifteen but the normal clutch is six to eight. They vary in colour from a pale olive-brown, or olive, to a warm olive chocolate-brown, whilst an occasional clutch is yellowish-olive or yellowish-stone. In shape they are broad peg-tops with a fine close texture and often well glossed. One hundred eggs average 37.8 x 31.3 mm.: maxima 42.0 X 33.1 and 40.0 x 34.0 mm.; minima 32.3 x 30.4 and 36.0 x 29.2 mm. They breed up to 7,000 ft., at which height Dodsworth has taken them near Simla and it is very noticeable that these high-level breeding-birds lay very large eggs.
Habits. This Partridge is an inhabitant of grass-lands and scrub-jungle. Almost any grass will do if over two feet high and the longest ekra, reeds or elephant-grass, ten feet or more in height seems equally acceptable, more especially if near water. It is occasionally found in thin deciduous forest but possibly prefers grass three or four feet high, such as is found in vast stretches in many parts of India. Their food is principally seed and grain, but they eat roots, buds, insects of all kinds, worms, etc. They are very sporting birds, fly well and, for Indian Partridges, are not too difficult to flush. Their call is a most musical and cheery " che-cherree, chick-cherree " and during the breeding-season may be heard constantly through the cooler hours of the day.