33. THE BLACK FRANCOLIN.
Francolinus francolinus, (Linnaeus).
With the hindneck chestnut.
MALE:—The chestnut on the hindneck produced round the neck as a collar.
FEMALE:—The chestnut on the hindneck confined to that part.
Vernacular Names:—Kala titur, Hind.; Kais-titur, female, Nepal; Tetra, Garhwal ; Vrembi, Manipur.
The Black Francolin or Black Partridge is widely distributed through the northern part of the Empire, but is entirely absent from large tracts of country which are too dry for its habits, such as portions of Rajputana.
The series of skins of this Partridge in the Hume Collection do not show the limits of its distribution at all satisfactorily. It appears, however, to be spread over the whole of northern India, its southern limit being, according to Messrs. Hume and Marshall, a line drawn from the Gulf of Cutch up to Gwalior, and thence down to the Chilka Lake on the eastern coast. North of this imaginary and approximate line, the Black Francolin occurs from Sind to Bengal, ascending the Himalayas in summer up to 7000 feet. It also extends through Assam and the country south of the Bhramaputra down to Manipur. Outside our limits it is found as far west as Palestine and Cyprus.
" It is," says Mr. Hume, " in the valleys of our larger rivers, where population is not very dense, and where high grass and tamarisk (Jhao) jungle are interspersed with cultivation, that the Black Partridge will be met with in greatest abundance. . . .
" But though they prefer such localities, and the water and the low-lying lands do seem a great attraction to them, numbers may be found in widely different localities, as, for instance, in the scrub bush jungle about the bases of the Mewat hills (the northern horn, if I may use the word, of the Arvalis), in the Gurgaon district, where every place is as dry as an old bone.
" Again you may find them in fields of all kinds, irrigated or not young mustard fields especially, if the environment be suitable, being favourite resorts.
" But whether in hills or plains, you need never hope -to find more than a straggler or two, unless there be in the immediate neighbourhood thin forest or jungle of some kind, be it brush, tamarisk, stunted date, grass, reed or rush.
" Wherever you may be, you need never remain a second day in ignorance of the proximity of Black Partridges. By the earliest dawn, their clear, far-reaching, cheerful call, syllablised in a score of ways by natives and Europeans, rings out through the fresh morning air; and as soon as it is light enough to look about, you will, by silently following the sound, have little difficulty in discovering some, at any rate, of the vocalists, each posted on some convenient little eminence a clay fence, an old post, a rock projecting from a hill-side, an ant-hill any raised place, in fact, except a bush or tree, on one of which I myself never yet saw this bird perch."
It seems certain, however, that this Francolin does occasionally perch or rest on a bough of a tree.
The Black Francolin breeds in June and July, and also in May according to Dr. Jerdon. The eggs, varying in number from six to ten, are laid on a few pieces of grass and leaves in a hollow of the ground in thick jungle. The eggs are very broad at one end and taper to a blunt point at the other. They are fairly glossy and quite unspotted, varying in colour from a slightly greenish to a brownish buff. They vary immensely in size, and measure from 1.36 to 1.8 in length and from 1.18 to 1.38 in breadth.
The male has the crown reddish brown streaked with black. The throat and the sides of the head are deep black with a patch of white over the ears and a small white spot in front of the eye. There is a broad chestnut collar round the neck. The upper back is black with very distinct white spots. The lower back, rump and middle tail-feathers are black with narrow regular white cross-bars. The other tail-feathers are black with white bars at their bases. The visible portions of the closed wings are dark brown, each feather very broadly edged with rufous. The quills of the wing are brown, very broadly and coarsely barred on both webs with rufous. The breast and the upper belly are deep black. The lower belly and the sides of the body are black with large white spots. The thighs and the space between are chestnut barred with white, and the feathers under the tail are a richer chestnut and without bars.
In the female the chin and throat are whitish and the sides of the head buff speckled with black; the ears brown. The crown is pale buff streaked with black. The back of the neck is chestnut. The whole back and the visible portions of the closed wings are dark brown, each feather broadly edged with buff. The rump and the middle tail-feathers are dark brown mottled and cross-barred with buff. The other tail-feathers are black with narrow white bars at their bases. The quills of the wing are brown barred with rufous on both webs, as in the male. The whole lower plumage from the throat downwards is pale buff with coarse irregular interrupted black bars on every part. The feathers under the tail are deep chestnut.
The size of these birds varies very much and the males are larger than the females. Of males the length is about 14, the wing rather more than 6, the tail about 3 1/2 or 4 ; legs red; irides brown; bill brown to black. The weight varies excessively, and Messrs. Hume and Marshall give it as from 8 to 20 oz.