(1976) Francolinus francolinus asiae Bonap.
THE INDIAN BLACK PARTRIDGE.
Francolinus francolinus asiae, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v. p. 408.
Excluding Sind and the extreme North-West of India, this race of Black Partridge is found over the whole of Northern India as far East as Western Nepal and Bihar. South it extends to Deesa, Gwalia, Sambalpur and, in the Central Provinces, to Saran and Udaipur. Sparrow found it common around Trimulgherry in the Deccan ; it occurs in Western Bengal now only as far as Chota Nagpur but, in 1883, there were a few birds still to be found as far East as the Santhal Parganas.
All the Black Partridges are birds which haunt grass-lands and scrub-jungle. It does not mind much what the grass-land is like ; it may be thin and not more than two feet high or it may consistof ekra, reeds and elephant-grass as much as 10 feet. Probably it prefers wide grass stretches in which the growth is about four feet in height and in which, occasionally, hushes appear here and there, showing their heads above the grass. If water is near by this is always an added attraction, I do not think they aver breed in evergreen or really thick deciduous forest but I have had records of them making their neats in Sal forests where the trees are small and thinly grown and where there is a little grass or bush undergrowth.
They breed at considerable elevations. Dodsworth obtained nests near Simla at about 7,000 feet and Jones took several in the Keonthal State at about 6,000.
In some parts of the country where crops intervene between patches of scrub or between fields of grass, the birds frequent and breed in the standing crops, especially in those which attain a fair height during the breeding season, such as some of the millets. They have also been known to breed in sugar-cane fields, while in Bihar they formerly often nested in indigo fields.
The nest may be found in any one of the various types of country above referred to and, wherever it is placed, it is sure to be well concealed. It may vary much in size and quality, some nests being just a collection of a few leaves and bits of grass in a natural hollow, other nests good pads of grass in a scrape made by the birds, while a few are quite massive nests of accumulated leaves, grass blades, sugar-cane leaves or other material. It is, of course, always on the ground and generally tucked away in among thick grass which completely hides it but, sometimes, it is hidden under a bush, among tamarisk or in a thick crop. The most exposed nests are those found in sugar-cane hut, oven these, are placed where the canes are thickest or where some other growth helps to conceal them.
They breed in April, May and June, while a few birds may have two broods, as Cripps (in Faridpore), Hume, Hutton and others have taken eggs in July and August, while Whymper obtained a clutch of four hard-set eggs on the 21st October in Naini Tal (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xvii, p. 232, 1906). In Bihar Inglis and Coltart both thought the bird bred twice in the year, for eggs are there commonly found in August and September as well as in “the early part of the year.”
The number of eggs laid is generally six to nine but many writers say they lay much bigger clutches. Hutton, who describes the eggs as “dull greenish-white !”, says they lay only six ; Hume thinks six to ten ; Jerdon says ten or twelve and sometimes fifteen “pale greenish” eggs, and I was told of a clutch of seventeen, perhaps the produce of two birds.
The eggs are very broad ovals but sometimes decidedly pointed at the smaller end. The texture is close, fine and hard, the shell thick in proportion to the size of the egg and the surface glossy.
In colour they vary from pale yellowish-stone, yellowish-olive or, more often, pale olive or olive-brown to a warm olive-brown or sienna-brown. I have also seen a clutch which was quite a deep olive chocolate-brown.
One hundred eggs average 37.8 x 31.3 mm. : maxima 42.0 x 33.1 and 40.0 x 34.0 mm. ; minima 32.8 x 30.4 and 36.0 x 29.2 mm.
The cock bird is monogamous and its breeding habit3 and post¬breeding habits are those of the genus and are fully described under F. f. melanonotus, the Assam Black Partridge, which is the one I personally know best.
1976. Francolinus francolinus asise
(1976) Francolinus francolinus asiae Bonap.