Chota jungli murghi, Hindustani.
The scientific name " cock-partridge" and the Hindustani one, "little jungle-fowl," give a very good idea of the character of this queer little wild bantam, though it is a bantam hen, not a cock, which it resembles, the tail being short and hen-like, while there are no hackle-feathers. The comb is also wanting, but the eyes are surrounded with a red bare skin, and the feet and bill are also red. The hen is also not so very unlike some fowls, a light, sometimes greyish brown, more or less pencilled across with black, but the cock is of a strikingly distinct colour, being of an almost uniform chestnut throughout, though this again is much like the shade of the much-boomed "Rhode Island Red " poultry.
Although lacking the distinctive decorations of their aristocratic relations, the jungle-fowl, spur-fowl easily surpass them in the practical matter of armature; the cock has usually two spurs on each leg, sometimes more, while it is a poor hen that cannot raise at least one spur on one leg, and some have two on one and one on the other.
The distribution of this bird is curious ; it is scattered about here and there throughout the Indian Peninsula; yet though it does not extend north of the Ganges in this region, it turns up again in the Oudh Tarai. It is essentially a bird of hilly and rocky jungle, and is never found in flat country or open land of any sort. It is very shy, seldom coming into cultivation, and even when its haunts are invaded always greatly prefers running to flying. It is very swift on foot, and even a dog has difficulty in putting it up ; when it does rise, it goes off with a whirr and loud cackle, and is easily shot, but not at all easily retrieved if not killed, as it goes to ground like a rabbit. In fact the best way of getting it is to treat it like one, and shoot it running, as Hume says. It is a perching bird, roosting at night, and being fond of taking to a thick bush when put up by a dog, a refuge from which it is most difficult to dislodge it. In compensation for its extreme aversion to giving a sporting chance to the gunner, it is an excellent bird for the table, and Hume considers it best of the Indian partridge tribe. But it is hard to get many of them ; about two or three in a day's shooting is about what may be expected on the Nilgiris, where they range up to 5,000 feet, or even over. Although often in coveys of four or five, they even then do not go off all at once, but now and then, and here and there, and they are frequently found in pairs, sometimes even alone.
The cackling call which re-unites a scattered flock is said to be much like that of a hen, and they are credited with a crowing call, which seems, however, to be rarely heard. Their chief food is jungle berries, seeds, and insects, but they will occasionally come into fields for grain, and they seem to need water frequently, as they are constantly to be found near it, and a thorny ravine with a stream in it is the surest locality for them.
This bird is suspected of breeding twice in the year, but the only certain season is during the first six months ; the nest is on the ground, in cover, and the eggs are rather like small hens' eggs of the brown-tinted variety so much esteemed; they vary a good deal in shade, and seven or eight seems to be the maximum set, though smaller and larger numbers occur.
The red spur-fowl is fairly well off for names ; if its Mahratta title, kokatri, does describe its call well, it certainly must have a note that can be fairly called a crow. The Deccan Mahrattas, however, call it Kustoor; in Telugu it is Yerra or Jitta-kodi, and in Tamil Sarrava koli.