35. THE CHINESE FRANCOLIN.
Francolinus chinensis, (Osbeck).
No chestnut on the hindneck.
Sides of the head with dark bands, one over the eye, and one below the white of the face.
MALE :—Lower plumage spotted.
FEMALE :—Lower plumage barred.
Vernacular Name -.—Hka, Burmese.
The Chinese Francolin abounds over a great portion of the Province of Burma and the Shan States. Its western limit is probably the Irrawaddy river, for I do not remember to have seen or heard it west of that river, except near its banks —as at Thayetmyo, for instance. The southern limit of the distribution of this Francolin is well defined in the plains, being coincident with the line which separates the dry and wet zones of Burma, and is a line drawn approximately from Prome to a point about midway between Yemethin and Pyinmana, and produced to the adjacent hills. Along this range and its ramifications this species extends south to Tenasserim, Major Wardlaw Ramsay having met with it in Karennee, and Colonel Bingham in the Thoungyin valley.
To the east this Francolin occurs all over the Shan States, extending to Southern China and Siam. The northern limits of this bird are not known, but I met with it at the Ruby mines, and it probably occurs much farther north.
The Chinese Francolin is found in dry open forest and scrub jungle, and it generally keeps to hilly or undulating country in preference to the low flat plains. It is found in nearly every part where the rainfall is moderate, and it avoids thick, humid forests. It frequents the smaller tracts of cultivation where these are surrounded by high grass and brushwood intermingled with low trees.
Although this bird is found singly or in pairs, and never in coveys, very many birds congregate together in favourite localities. The cocks perch freely on the larger boughs of trees as well as on posts, stumps, ant-hills and other objects which raise them a few feet above the ground. Their loud and pleasant call is heard pretty well all the year round, but more especially on fresh, cold-weather mornings. When crowing they are not very shy; but they are difficult to detect, and on being closely approached they drop very quietly to the ground and disappear instantly.
This Francolin breeds in May or June, but Mr. D. K. MacDonald took a large number of eggs for me near Meiktila in September, some of which are now in the British Museum. It probably breeds in many months of the year, according to locality. The nest is merely a depression in the ground, in which from four to six, or perhaps more, eggs are laid. They are sharp-pointed ovals in shape, with little gloss, and are a pale buff, sometimes with a greenish tinge. They measure about 1.5 by 1.2.
In the male a broad black band passes from the bill over the eye to the neck, and above this a broad chestnut band. The crown, between these chestnut bands, is black, each feather edged with chestnut. Below the black band, the side of the head is broadly white succeeded below by a long black moustachial streak reaching to the neck. The chin and throat are white. The neck all round, the mantle and the breast are black with double sets of round white spots. The back, the rump and the tail-coverts are cross-barred with black and white. A patch on the closed wing, next the body, is rich chestnut; the remainder of the wing blackish with pale rufous round spots. The quills of the wing are dark brown barred on both webs with rufous. The tail is black, more or less finely barred with white at the base. The belly and sides of the body are black with double sets of large roundish pale rufous spots. The feathers under the tail are rich chestnut.
The female has the head very similar to that of the male, but the white parts are tinged with buff and the dark bands are dark brown instead of black. The mantle is the only part of the plumage with round white spots. The chestnut patch on the wing of the male is, in the female, merely indicated by some rufous on the edges of the feathers. The wings and the whole lower plumage are barred with black and buff, the former prepon¬derating on the wings and the latter on the lower plumage. The back and rump are blackish mottled with buff and barred narrowly with white and pale buff. The tail resembles that of the male.
Length about 13; wing about 5 1/2; tail about 3; legs orange; irides reddish hazel; bill blackish. Weight up to 14 oz.