(2011) Porzana porzana.
THE SPOTTED CRAKE.
Rallus porzana Linn., Syst. Nat., 12th ed., i, p. 262 (1766) (Prance). Porzana maruetta. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 166.
Vernacular names. Gurguri-khairi (Beng.); Venna-mudi-kodi (Tam.).
Description. Centre of crown, nape, neck and whole upper plumage rufescent olive-brown, each feather from crown to tail with broad back central streaks; hind-neck and upper back spotted with white; the lower back, rump, upper tail-coverts, scapulars and innermost secondaries streaked narrowly with white; outer wing-coverts immaculate except along the edge; inner wing-coverts with arrow-shaped white streaks edged with black; inner secondaries the same but with golden-rufous margins to the inner webs ; quills brown, the first primary edged with white; lores and round the eye blackish; a line behind the eye rufescent; supercilium, sides of the head and neck and whole breast grey, speckled with white and washed with brown across the breast; centre of chin and throat and the abdomen white; flanks brownish-grey barred with white; vent and under tail-coverts buff; edge of wing white; remaining under wing-coverts and axillaries barred brown and white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris reddish-brown to red; bill yellow, orange at the base and darker, more greenish at the tip and along the culmen; legs and feet bright olive-green.
Measurements. Length about 200 to 220 mm.; wing 112 to 119 mm.; tail 47 to 52 mm.; tarsus about 33 to 35 mm.; culmen 19 to 21 mm.
Young birds are more brown below and have the white on the chin and throat more extensive. Nestling. Down all black.
Distribution. Europe and West Central Asia. In Winter it migrates into Northern Africa and into India and is then not uncommon in Northern India from Sind to Bengal. Both Coltart and I obtained it in Assam and it has been recorded as far East as Arrakan. To the South it has occurred in Belgaum, and Jerdon stated that it occurred almost all over India, though it is probably an exceptional visitor South of Bengal or to the South of Bombay in Western India.
Nidification. The Spotted Crake is only a migrant to India and does not breed within our limits. In Central Europe it breeds principally during May and early June, but in Finland eggs may be taken as late as the middle of July. The nest is the usual Raillike affair of coarse grass and rushes lined with finer grass, placed in amongst vegetation around the edges of swamps, at other times in a dry patch in a marshy field or, less often, away from water in amongst long grass or standing crops. The eggs generally number eight to ten but frequently larger clutches are found, fifteen eggs having been recorded. The ground-colour varies from greyish to greenish-buff, profusely marked all over with small spots and blotches of reddish-brown or purplish-brown with underlying spots of neutral tint and lavender-grey. The eggs, though quite Ralline in character, can be separated at a glance from those of any of the other Rails either resident in India or migratory. The average of one hundred eggs is given by Witherby as 33.62 x 24.57 mm.: maxima 37.5 x 24.8 and 33.0 x 26.8 mm.; minima 29.1 x 23.0 and 32.0 x 22.2 mm.
Habits. Generally speaking there is little to record about the Spotted Crane which is different from that of its nearest allies. I arrives in Northern India in early October, the first few birds coming in some ten days earlier, and it leaves again in March or April. Like all the family it is a COD firmed skulker and one but seldom sees it except when out Snipe shooting with a good line of beaters. It runs well but, in spite of the long distances it has to migrate, it is neither a very fast nor a very powerful flier. Like all the Rails it swims well. Its food consists of insects, small mollusca and worms as well as all sorts of seeds and shoots of aquatic and land plants.