(1978) Francolinus francolinus melanonotus.
THE ASSAM BLACK PARTRIDGE.
Francolinus melanonotus Hume, Str. Feath, xi, p. 305 (1888) (Assam). Francolinus vulgaris. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 135 (part).
Vernacular names. Kais-tetur (Nepal); Tetri-Sorai, Mechenteri (Assam); kembi (Manipur); Kak (Burma); Dao-chirree (Cachari); Inrui-jirip (Kacha Naga); Voh-chirree (Mikir).
Description.— Adult male. Much darker above and below than the other races ; the upper parts have the feathers centred very dark brown, sometimes almost black, whilst the paler edges are very narrow and darker rufous in colour; the white bars on the posterior upper parts are very narrow ; the white spots below are oval, not round in shape, becoming still more long in shape on the lower breast, the under tail-coverts are unbarred deep chestnut.
Colours of soft parts as in the other races but the legs very bright deep red in the breeding-season.
Measurements. Wing 143 to 155 mm.
Female only differs from the Indian bird in being darker; the breast is more heavily barred with black.
Chick in down. Very deeply coloured, the dark crown broader and a deeper chestnut, the buff parts darker and richer in colour.
Distribution. Eastern Nepal, Sikkim, the whole of Assam and Eastern Bengal, Manipur, Lushai, the Hill Tracts of Chittagong and Tippera. Birds from Central and Central West Bengal are also nearest this race, as are those from Orissa, though somewhat intermediate.
Nidification. Tbe Assam Black Partridge commences to breed in early April and continues up to the end of July, though in some cases the latest broods may be second ones, for a few birds breed in March also. The favourite nesting-places are the enormous stretches of grass-land which run all along the foot of the Himalayas and also the grass-covered rolling hills of the outer ranges up to 5,000 feet and less often up to 7,000 and 8,000 feet. These grass-lands get burnt almost yearly and the old grass, anything from three feet to twelve feet high, withered yellow and dry, gives place to a brilliant green pasture which, however, soon grows to eighteen inches or two feet high, and then the Partridges commence their domestic duties. Some hollow in the ground is selected or scratched out by the birds and lined with grass, well or scantily as the case may be and four to ten eggs are laid, most often four to six. These are like the eggs of the other races but average darker and broader. One hundred and fifty eggs average 37.0 x 31.5 mm.: maxima 40.3 X 32.3 and 37.6 x33.3 mm.; minima 34.0 x 28.3 and 34.3 x 27.7 mm.
Sometimes the birds nest in scrub- or bamboo-jungle and they have been known to breed in thin Sal-forest.
The cock birds of this species are monogamous and help the hens to look after the young.
Habits. The same as those of the other races. They are very early-rising birds and during the breeding-season their cheery challenge, which the Mahomedans interpret as " Subhan tere kudrut" (All Powerful, who shall describe thy power), may be heard at earliest dawn. The young birds have a curious chirrup not unlike the note of a cricket. They utter this in reply to the " chuck chuck" call of the parent birds when they are separated. They do not seem to be pugnacious birds and I have seen no signs of their fighting, even though call-birds are constantly used by the natives to decoy other cock birds within shooting distance, or to their destruction by traps of various kinds. In the mornings and evenings they are fond of feeding in quite open places but always within easy reach of sanctuary in some thick grass or other cover.
Quite good shooting may be had with these birds and a small line of beaters; when first disturbed they flush well and fly strongly and straight but after dropping are hard to rouse a second time, as they are very strong on their legs and run fast and far before they will again take to wing.