(1940) Galloperdix spadicea spadicea.
THE RED SPUR-FOWL.
Tetrao spadiceus Gmelin, Syst. Nat. i. pt. 2. p. 759 (1789) (Madagascar, in errore; Nilgiris). Galloperdix spadiceus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 106 (part.).
Vernacular names. Chota Jungli Murghi (Hind., Cen. Pro.); Chakotri, Kokatri (Mahr., Syhadri Range); Kustoor (Mahr., Deccan); Sarawa Koli (Tam.) ; Yerra-kodi, Jita-kodi (Tel.).
Description.— Adult male. Forehead sandy-buff or brown; crown and nape dark brown shading into pale brown on the hind-neck; upper back and scapulars rufous-chestnut, each feather margined with pale greyish-brown ; lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts chestnut, finely vermiculated with broken bars of black; visible portions of tail the same but the inner webs blackish on all but the central pair of rectrices and almost entirely black on the outermost; lesser wing-coverts like the upper back; median and greater coverts and inner secondaries like the lower back; quills dark brown, the secondaries with chestnut-brown mottlings on the outer webs; chin whitish-brown grading into silvery-brown on the cheeks, ear-coverts and sides of the throat; breast, flanks, and abdomen above vent chestnut-buff; thighs, vent, and posterior flanks dull brown; under tail-coverts brown or chestnut-brown, vermiculated with black.
Occasionally individuals of all ages and races have a few of the breast-feathers centred with grey.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow to hazel-brown ; naked skin round the eye brick-red; bill horny-brown, reddish at the base and paler on the .lower mandible; legs reddish-brick or reddish-brown, sometimes reddish-yellow or with a faint greenish tinge.
Measurements. "Wing 145 to 166 mm.; tail 123 to 147 mm.; tarsus 48 to 52 mm.; culmen about 20 mm.
Female. Forehead sandy-brown; crown and nape blackish-brown; neck dark brown; back, scapulars and wing-eo\erts grey or sandy, rarely with a faint rufous tinge, each feather with two bold bars of black; rump and upper tail-coverts less black and more rufous ; tail blackish ; the central tail-feathers with mottled bars of buff or rufous, decreasing until they form merely a mottled edge on the outermost; chin and throat almost white, changing to dirty pale brown on the fore-neck; breast and flanks rather pale chestnut-rufous, each feather with a terminal band of black, less conspicuous towards the vent; posterior flanks mottled, as well as barred, with black; vent and under tail-coverts dull brown, the latter mottled with black and rufous or sandy.
Orbital skin duller than in the male, sometimes more greenish-brown.
Measurements. Wing 134 to 163 mm.
Young males are like the females but more richly and deeply coloured, with more black in proportion to the buff and rufous.
Distribution. The Terai from Western Nepal to Goruckpore; the better-wooded tracts of Central India from Saugor to Rajmehal and Nya Dumkah ; South of this it occurs in suitable country in Central India, Orissa and Madras and as far South-West as Mysore, North Coimbatore and the Palni Hills; the birds from the Bombay Presidency South of Rajputana and Mahableshwar are nearer this form than to caurina. Malabar birds and those from the North coast of Travancore are intermediate between spadicea and stewarti but nearer the former.
Nidification. The Red Spur-Fowl breeds throughout its range from the broken country in the plains up to the tops of the Nilgiris and other Hills of Southern India. Most eggs appear to be laid in January and February but they breed practically throughout the year, except perhaps in the three months October to December. The eggs are laid on the ground with no nest beyond a hollow scratched in the earth, in which may, or may not, be a few leaves or a little grass. The favourite breeding-places are bamboo- and scrub-jungle but many nests may be found in forest. Three or four eggs undoubtedly form the normal clutch and most often the former. Occasionally more, even up to seven, eggs may be laid; sometimes these are, however, the layings of two birds and anything over five is exceptional. In appearance they are small, buff-coloured, rather long miniatures of those of the Barndoor Fowl, varying from pale whitish-fawn to a fairly deep buff. Forty eggs average 40.4 x 29.5 mm.: maxima 44.9 x 32.0 and 43.0 x 32.6 mm.; minima 37.6 x 28.2 and 41.4 x 28.0 mm. An egg in the Hume collection measures 46.9 x 36.3 mm. and is probably a small egg of some fowl.
Spur-Fowls, including this species, all seem to be monogamous, the cock assisting the hen in caring for the young and, probably also, in the work of incubation.
Habits. This Spur-Fowl is not at all particular as to what kind of jungle or forest it frequents so long as there is ample cover; scrub, bamboo-jungle and deciduous thin forest are its favourites, and in these it wanders about in small parties, probably a pair with their last brood, feeding on any insects, worms, beetles, grain, seeds, berries etc. which come their way. In their actions they are very like bantam hens but not quite so fussy, turning over the leaves and rubbish with their feet far more slowly than the bantams do. They are poor fliers and very hard to flush without dogs and even when forced to rise fly no distance, and soon pitch headlong into the jungle again. "When disturbed they utter a chuckle like a frightened fowl and they have numerous chuckling conversational notes, whilst the cock in the breeding-season has a crow not differing much from their calls of fright. Their flesh is excellent for the table, white and not too dry.