Eastern OR BURMESE FRANCOLIN.
This third member of this beautiful spotted group of partridges is to a certain extent intermediate between the two Indian species; though not so large as the northern bird it is bigger than the southern, and the cock has more black in his under-surface colouring than the latter, and also possesses spurs. He has no chestnut collar, however, and in his head-colouring he is very distinct from either, and perhaps even handsomer ; for the face and throat are white with a bridle-like cheek-stripe of black. This marking is repeated on the head of the hen in buff and brown, otherwise she is very like the hen of the southern francolin or painted partridge.
The Burmese francolin is not generally distributed over Burma, but only in the Thoungyen and Irrawaddy valleys and in Karennee and Tonghoo. In Karennee and down the Irrawaddy to Prome it is a common bird, and being a noisy one, especially in the breeding season, June and July, its presence is obvious enough. The call is of the same character as that of black partridge, but has a style of its own, and is rendered by Wardlaw Ramsay as kuk, kuk, kuich, ka, ka. "When calling it perches on a stump or branch. In Karennee it frequents the slopes of rocky hills, and in Pegu scrub jungle, waste land and open places in forests, and is partial to bamboo jungle, sometimes coming into paddy fields after harvest, though it avoids open country as a rule. It is fond, however, of the thick cover of deserted clearings. In the Thayetmyo district it is very common and appears more or less independent of water, which is here scarce; Oates suggests that this is probably due to its food consisting largely of buds and shoots, as well as insects. It does not seem to be much of a grain feeder, and is rarely seen in stubble.
It will only rise when driven by beaters from its cover, and even then drops again as soon as possible, though it is a strong flyer and gives a sporting shot. It is good eating, according to Schomburgk, who met with it in Siam, and was told it roosted in trees. It is also found commonly in South China, Hainan, and Hongkong.
It seems to breed chiefly in Upper Pegu with us, and lays from four to eight eggs, which are very like those of the black partridge, unspotted and of a greenish cream, buff, or stone-colour. The nests found have been on the ground, but Schomburgk was told that in Siam these birds nested in trees. There also he found it frequenting rice-fields and pasture-grounds in flocks, which does not agree with its habits in our territory, where it does not much affect cultivation and is not social, though many may be found in one place ; this is perhaps what Schomburgk means, and at any rate Swinhoe expressly says that in Hongkong it is solitary and does not associate in coveys, which is the character of these spotted francolins generally. Swinhoe also says the flesh is insipid, which also is more in accordance with what is known of the other species, though much of course in matters of flavour depends on local or seasonal circumstances ; no doubt grain-fed birds might be as good as our home partridges, as Schomburgk says these are.