(1982) Francolinus gularis.
THE KYAH or SWAMP-PARTRIDGE.
Perdix gularis Temm., Pig. et Gall., iii, p. 401 (1815) (India, Cachar). Francolinus gularis. Blanf. & Oates, iy, p. 141.
Vernacular names. Kyah, Khyr, Kaijah (Beng.); Koi, Koera, Koi-sorai (Assam); Bhil-tetur, Gul-tetur (Cachar and Sylhet) ; Hoi-Koli (Plains Miri).
Description. Head from forehead to nape brown; lores and a narrow supercilium, widening to a broad patch behind the eye, buffy-white; whole of the rest of the upper parts brown, with bars of buffy-white edged with darker brown; on the longer upper tail-coverts and central tail-feathers the bars become vermiculations, on the whole of these parts the feathers are conspicuously white-shafted ; outer tail-feathers deep chestnut with buff tips and brownish sub-tips; wing-coverts, scapulars and innermost secondaries like the back; primaries brown with chestnut on the inner webs, increasing in extent on the inner primaries and extending on to the outer webs in the innermost; the secondaries grade from the primaries to the back; a dark streak behind the eye under the supercilium; cheeks whitish, changing to rusty-chestnut on the chin, throat and fore-neck; lower parts white to pale buff, each feather with black margins and brown sub-margins, the black and brown lessening in width from breast to vent and the white increasing proportionately; vent and centre of abdomen pale rufous; under tail-coverts darker rufous; axillaries white and brown; under wing-coverts chestnut, except, the smallest, which are brown and white.
The extent, of rufous tinge on the lower plumage varies considerably—in some it is strong, in others absent or nearly so.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown, crimson-brown or crimson; eyelids dull livid green or plumbeous-green; bill black, the tips horny-white; legs and feet orange-yellow to dull red, redder in the male than in the female and brighter in both sexes during the breeding-season than at other times. The male has short blunt spurs and the female also sometimes has rudimentary spurs.
Measurements. Length about 370 to 390 mm.; wing 162 to 186 mm.; tail 101 to 127 mm.; tarsus about 60 to 70 mm.; culmen about 21 to 23 mm.
Distribution. The Alluvial plains watered by the Granges, Brahmapootra and Megna Rivers from the North-West Provinces to Eastern Bengal and Assam. It is common in Sylhet, Cachar, Noakhali and Tippera. It occurs, but is not common, in Chittagong and does not extend into Arakan. Osmaston says that it is rare in Gorukpore.
Nidification. The Swamp-Partridge breeds in the United Provinces in April, whilst in Assam we found eggs from the middle of March to the end of May and Coltart took others in Behar in April. The nest is generally in among broken-down reeds, elephant-grass, " nal " etc.* either close alongside some swamp or water-course or actually growing in the water. It is a well-built thick pad of rushes and grass, the base often mixed with weeds. The diameter may be anything from eight inches to a foot and the depth approximately four to six inches, with a good deep hollow for the eggs. Occasionally this Partridge breeds in thin thatching-grass beside lakes, ponds or rivers, though such a site is -not usual. The nest is very hard to find, owing to its exact resemblance to the surrounding mass of reeds etc., whilst even the eggs are very inconspicuous. These latter number from three to six and are of two types. That found in the United Province and over the greater part of the Ganges area is a pale buff or greyish-buff, almost immaculate but, if carefully examined, generally showing a few faint freckles or small blotches of tan-brown. The eggs found in Assam have the same ground-colour hut almost invariably have the blotches of light reddish-brown or tan-colour well developed and sometimes numerous and conspicuous. Forty-eight eggs average 39.4 x 30.0 mm.: maxima 42.0 x 29.9 and 36.6 x 31.3 mm.; minima 36.1 x 29.3 and 38.2 x 29.0 mm. The hen-bird is a very close sitter and seems to do all the incubation during the day, while the cock-bird assists during the night or, at least, in the very early morning and late evening, when the hen goes to feed.
Habits. Godwin-Austen obtained the Kyah on the Khasia Hills plateau but with this exception this Partridge is a bird of swamps, lakes and rivers in the plains. The occurrence in the Khasia Hills must have been quite unusual, as during many years' residence in that district I never saw or heard of it. It is most common in Cachar, Sylhet and some of the coastal Sunderband districts, where it keeps almost entirely to the dense ekra- and elephant-grass which covers wide areas on the banks of the big rivers and round about the vast lakes and swamps. It is only when, in the height of the rains, these grounds are deep under water that the Kyah wanders up into the fields of thatching-grass. They feed in the open in the mornings and evenings, both in short grass-land and in cultivated fields but never far from the longer grass and reeds, into which they run on the slightest hint of danger. Their food consists of grain, seeds, shoots of both land and water-plants, snails, worms, insects, small crabs and shellfish and they themselves furnish an excellent dish for the table. They are the most pugnacious of ail the Francolins, fighting rather like Game-fowl but using their bills more and their spurs less. The Sylheti Mahomedans train these birds for fighting and much money often changes hand over a main. In a wild state they will sometimes fight until one bird is completely exhausted but not, I think, to death. Their call is a loud ringing " chuck, chuck, chukeroo, chukeroo," not so musical or cheerful as that of the Black Partridges.