23. THE MOUNTAIN-QUAIL.
Ophrysia superciliosa, (Gray).
Total length not less than 9 inches. Tail of ten feathers.
First quill of the wing falling short of the tip of the wing by more than half an inch ; the tip of the tenth quill falling between the tips of the first and second.
MALE :— General colour olive-brown.
FEMALE :— General colour cinnamon-brown.
Vernacular Names' :— None known.
The Mountain-Quail is one of the rarest of Indian game birds, and the few specimens that we know of were procured near Mussooree and Naini Tal many years ago.
This Quail-like bird has been shot at the above places in November, December and June, and I am therefore inclined to consider it a permanent resident in those parts of the Himalayas.
Mr. Hume is, however, of opinion that this species is a winter visitor to India.
He thus summarises all that is known about it:—" We gather that these birds are winter migrants, some occasionally remaining till the beginning of summer. They keep habitually in coveys of six to ten, though single pairs may be met with. They frequent grass jungle and brushwood, cling pertinaciously to cover, and are scarcely to be flushed without dogs, fly slowly and heavily and soon drop again, Quail-like, into cover. They feed on grass, seeds (and probably insects and berries), and when feeding, call to each other with a low, short, Quail-like note, their alarm note and call when separated being a shrill whistle. Their range in the Himalayas in winter is probably from five to eight thousand feet."
This bird appears to have all the skulking habits of the Manipur Bush-Quail, and if so, it is no wonder that it has not been oftener observed.
The male has the sides of the head to a considerable distance above the eye, black. A spot in front of the eye, another behind, and a large patch beneath the ear are white. The forehead and a broad band passing over the eye to the neck are also white. Above this white band there is another black one of about the same length and breadth, and the crown between these black bands is brown streaked with black. The chin and throat are black. The whole upper plumage, the visible portions of the closed wings and the whole lower plumage are olive-brown, every feather margined with black on the sides, but not at the tip. The tail and the first ten quills of the wing are unmarked olive-brown. The feathers under the tail are deep black broadly tipped with white.
Younger males have the quills of the wing freckled and want the white patch under the ear. The female has the forehead and a band over the eye greyish pink, with another black, but shorter, band above. The crown of the head is cinnamon-brown with a few black streaks. There is a white spot in front of the eye and another behind, with a small black patch under the front white spot. The sides of the head and the whole throat are greyish pink. The whole upper plumage with the wings and tail are cinnamon-brown, the feathers of the hindneck with large black streaks, those of the mantle and wings with a triangular black patch chiefly on the inner web, and those of the back and rump with a large black triangular patch extending equally over both webs. The tail is irregularly barred and mottled with black. The first ten quills of the wing are mottled with buff. The whole lower plumage is cinnamon-brown with an oval black spot or streak on each feather.
Length from 9 to 10 ; wing about 3 1/2 ; tail about 3; legs and bill red.