(1983) Francolinus pondicerianus pondicerianus.
THE SOUTHERN GREY PARTRIDGE.
Tetrao pondicerianus Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p. 760 (1789) (Pondicherry). Francolinus pondicerianus, Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 139.
Vernacular names. Gowjal Huki (Can.) ; Kondari (Tam.); Kawanga (Tel.) ; Oussa watuwa (Cing.).
Description. Forehead and pale supercilium rufous, the latter paler; crown and nape brown; upper plumage greyish-brown with pale buff, black-edged cross-bars; the back, scapulars and wing-coverts much mixed with chestnut, the inner secondaries with much black on the inner webs and the tips mottled brown and fulvous; upper tail-coverts and rump vermiculated with obsolete dark bars ; inner coverts, scapulars and inner secondaries white-shafted; primaries brown with obsolete white spots near the tip of the outer webs developing into bars on the outer secondaries; central tail-feathers like the upper tail-coverts, outer tail-feathers chestnut, grading into broad black subterminal bars and pale dirty-grey tips; sides of the head pale rufous, speckled with black on lores, upper cheeks and behind the eye; point of chin white; rest of chin and throat ochraceous-rufous surrounded with black; remainder of lower parts pale buff, with narrow bars of black, transverse on fore-neck and upper breast and following contour of feathers on abdomen and posterior flanks; sides of neck more grey and a space of unbarred white all round black gular band; upper breast much suffused with chestnut.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel-brown ; bill dusky plumbeous, paler and fleshy at base ; legs and feet dull red.
Measurements. Wing, 142 to 161 mm., 142 to 146 mm.; tail 81 to 91 mm.; tarsus, 44 to 46 mm., 41 to 42 mm.; culmen, 22 to 24 mm., 21 to 23 mm.
Young birds are like the adult but have less rufous on the forehead and have the black gular line less developed or obsolete and the ochraceous patch paler.
Distribution. Ceylon, South India, North to Poona on the West, the South Deccan in Central India and Madras Presidency on the East to the Godavery River. Introduced into Andamans.
Nidification. The Southern Grey Partridge breeds in Ceylon from December to March and in South India has apparently two seasons, one from February to May and the second in August to October. The nest varies—sometimes indeed there is none, the eggs being laid on the bare ground but generally there is a certain amount of grass lining to the hollow selected, while at other times there is quite a good nest of grass and weeds. Most nests are placed in grass-land, thin scrub-jungle or in ploughed fields and standing crops, less often they may be found in denser bush-jungle. Hume also records certain nests as being built three feet from the ground in tangled bushes. The eggs number four to eight, occasionally nine. In colour the eggs vary from a cream, so pale as to appear white, to a fairly warm pale cafe-au-lait or buff. There are, of course, no markings. The texture is fine, smooth and clear with a considerable gloss and the shape varies from peg-top to oval. Eighty eggs average 34.5 x 26.3 mm.: maxima 37.2 X 23.0 and 35.2 x 27.8 mm.; minima 31.6 x 24.0 and 32.6 x 22.8 mm.
The birds probably pair for life.
Habits. The Grey Partridge, whatever the race, is a bird of neither the wettest parts nor of the driest areas except when the latter are immediately surrounding swamps or lakes or bordering large rivers. It prefers patches of grass and jungle in between cultivated areas and may be seen in the close vicinity of villages, where it will be found in coveys containing one or two pairs of birds and their last broods, the young ones remaining with their parents until these again desire to breed. Although monogamous the cock-birds are very pugnacious and are kept by Mahomedans for fighting purposes. They become extraordinarily tame and will follow their masters when taken for a walk and when directed will also return to them and re-enter their cages. Their call is a fine game sound and consists of three single, rather harsh notes followed by trisyllabic cries rapidly repeated which are very resonant and high-pitched. The cock is habitually used as a decoy and, placed in a cage on the ground, by its challenges, soon answered by every bird within hearing, enables the trappers to arrange nets or other traps with success, or else it actually decoys its fellow Partridges into the trap already set. Although confirmed runners, once flushed they fly well and strongly and afford excellent sport, big bags being often made during the non-breeding months. They feed on insects, seeds, grain and shoots of plants and are themselves, though rather dry, good birds for the table.