18. THE PAINTED BUSH-QUAIL.
Microperdix erythrorhyncha, (Sykes).
Lower plumage with numerous round or oval black spots.
MALE:— With a white band across the crown, narrower than the black band on the forehead.
FEMALE :—With no white band across the crown or black band on the forehead ; lower plumage rufous, the spots on the breast being generally confined to the sides; hardly any tinge of grey on the lower plumage.
Vernacular Names:—Kokni-lowa, ? Hind.; Kadai, Tamil.
The Painted Bush-Quail occurs on the Western Ghats of India from the Palni hills on the south up to about the latitude of Bombay, and it extends eastwards to the hills in Mysore, Belgaum, Satara and Poona. This species is a constant resident in the parts it frequents.
The late Mr. Davison wrote regarding these birds :".... They always occur in bevies numbering eight to twelve birds.
They of course avoid the inner" depths of the jungle, but are found on the outskirts, especially where there is good dense cover, such as the common brake fern; but their favourite resort is rather rocky ground, interspersed with bushes and dense clumps of fern and high grass, especially when such places abut on or are near cultivation, or any road along which cattle, carrying grain, habitually pass. . . . They are tame little birds, and will seldom rise when met with on a road unless hard pressed or suddenly surprised; they content themselves with running on ahead, occasionally stopping to pick up a grain or an insect, until they think they are being too closely followed, when they quickly slip out of sight into the first bit of cover they come to Their call is a series of whistling notes, commencing very soft and low, and ending high and rather shrill, the first part of the call being composed of single, the latter of double notes, sounding something like tu-tu-tu-tu tutu-tutu-tutu, etc. When a covey has been flushed and scattered, one bird commences after a few minutes calling in a very low tone, another immediately taking it up, then another, and so on.
They then begin' cautiously to reunite, uttering all the time their low note of alarm."
Dr. Jerdon remarks :—" It lives in moderately large bevies, which rise all together, but with less whirr than the other Bush-Quails, their plumage generally being softer and not so firm."
The Painted Bush-Quail probably has two or more broods in the year, for Miss Cockburn tells us that in the Nilgiris it breeds in January, February and March, and also in September and October. From ten to fourteen eggs are deposited in the nest, which is merely a shallow hole scratched in the ground under the shelter of some cover. The eggs are oval in shape with little gloss, and of a spotless and very pale buff colour. They measure in length from 1.11 to 1.35, and in breadth from 87 to 95.
The male has the forehead, the crown, the point of the chin and the greater portion of the sides of the head black, with a brown patch on the hinder part of the crown. A white band crosses the crown between the eyes and is continued over them to the back of the head; the cheeks and the whole throat are white. The upper plumage is brown with large deep black oval spots, and the visible portions of the closed wings have conspicuous white shaft streaks. The outer web of the quills of the wing is barred with rufous. The lower plumage is chestnut, the feathers of the breast broadly fringed with pinkish grey and each of them with a roundish black spot; each feather on the sides of the body with a large oval black patch and terminally fringed with white.
The female, with the exception of the head, closely resembles the male. The lower plumage, however, is much paler, being merely rufous, not chestnut, and the grey fringes to the feathers of the breast are much narrower and frequently absent. The black spots are generally confined to the sides of the breast, the middle part being spotless. As regards the head all the white and black portions are wanting. The forehead, a very broad band over the eye and ear, the sides of the head and the whole chin and throat are rufous, of much the same shade as the rufous of the lower plumage.
Length nearly 7 ; wing nearly 3 1/2 ; tail 1 1/2 to 13/4; legs red; irides brown; bill red. Weight up to 3 oz.