45. THE RED SPUR-FOWL.
Galloperdix spadicea, (Gmelin).
Tail brown, mottled with rufous.
MALE:—Feathers of the lower plumage bright chestnut, margined with grey.
FEMALE :—Feathers of the lower plumage chestnut with a terminal black margin.
Vernacular Names -.—Chota jungli murghi, Central Provinces, etc ; Chakatri, Chakotre, Kokatri, Syhyadri Range; Kustoor, Deccan ; Sarava Koli, Tamil; Yerra-Kodi, Jitta-Kodi, Telugu.
The distribution of the Red Spur-Fowl is not known with any great degree of accuracy, but after examining all the specimens of this bird in the British Museum and all that has been written about its range, I arrive at the conclusion that the northern limit of this species may be defined by a semicircular line starting from the head of the Gulf of Cambay and passing through or near Mount Abu to the foot of the Himalayas where Nepal and Kumaon meet; thence along the Terai to the Gunduk river, and down this river and the western branches of the Ganges to the Bay of Bengal. The area enclosed by this semicircular line and the coastlines of India to the latitude of the Palni hills in Madras will sufficiently indicate the range of this species.
The late Mr. W. Davison thus records his experiences of this bird in the Nilgiris :—" It seems to affect by preference dense and thorny cover in the vicinity of cultivation, but is also found in small isolated patches of jungle or sholas and along the outskirts of the larger forests. . . . When flushed they fly with a cackle, and fly well and strong for a couple of hundred yards. Their flight is very like that of the Kyah Partridge. They are usually found in small coveys of four or five birds, and when flushed do not rise together, but at irregular intervals, dispersing in different directions; they are often found in pairs, and not unfrequently I have come across single birds.
" They come into the open in the mornings and evenings to feed, and wander about a good deal. Even after they have retired into the shade, they do not rest quietly but wander about hither and thither under the trees, scratching about among the dead leaves.
" A well-wooded ravine, with plenty of thorny undergrowth and with a stream of water in it, is always a favourite resort of this species."
In another place, he remarked :—" The male has a partridge-like call heard in the morning and evenings during the cold season."
Colonel W. C. Plowden has the following note about this Spur-Fowl:— " Their habits are vile, as they won't break, and always fly back through the beaters if there is another thicket within 20 or 30 yards; and if they are very hard pressed, we found they would sometimes make an effort to get away. One pair I found in a tree after furious driving and they had been put up several times. Their note I heard three times, when they were a bit pressed. It sounded like coo, coo, coo, coooh very low."
This Spur-Fowl is found at all elevations up to 5000 or 6000 feet.
The Red Spur-Fowl breeds from February to June, and it has been suggested that this bird may have a second brood in the autumn. The nest is a slight structure of a few dead leaves, placed in a hollow in the ground in dense brushwood. The eggs are six to ten in number and vary in colour from a creamy white to a pinkish buff. They have very little or no gloss, and measure from 1.55 to 1.85 in length by from 1.13 to 1.3 in breadth.
The male has the forehead black, each feather edged with grey. The crest and the crown are dark brown. The upper plumage and the visible portions of the closed wings are dull chestnut, all the feathers broadly margined with grey, and, except those on the back, stippled with black. The tail is brown mottled with rufous. The throat and the sides of the neck are greyish brown and the lower plumage is bright chestnut, each feather margined with grey. The lower part of the belly and the thighs are smoky brown. The first ten quills of the wing are plain brown.
The females are of two distinct types, varying in the colour of the upper plumage. In all, however, the forehead is grey streaked with black and the crest and crown are blackish. In the first type, the whole upper plumage and the visible portions of the closed wings are chestnut mottled and barred with black, the whole presenting a somewhat streaked appear¬ ance. In the second type the whole upper plumage and the visible portions of the closed wings are buff with large bars and blotches of black, the whole presenting a somewhat barred appearance.
In both types the tail is brown or blackish, mottled with rufous, and the first ten quills of the wing are plain brown. The throat is smoky brown; the foreneck, breast, upper belly and the sides of the body chestnut, each feather terminally margined with black; the lower part of the belly and the thighs smoky brown. The feathers under the tail are black with wavy chestnut bars.
The male is rather larger than the female. Length about 14; wing about 6 ; tail about 5 ; legs red; irides yellow, orange-brown or brown ; bill horny brown. Weight up to 14 oz.