(1873) Streptopelia chinensis suratensis.
THE INDIAN SPOTTED DOVE.
Columba suratensis Gmel., Syst. Nat., i, p. 778 (1789) (Surat). Turtur suratensis. Blanf. & Oates. iv, p. 43.
Vernacular names. Chitroka fakhta, Chitta fakhta, Perki, Chitta, Kang skiri, Panduk (Hind.); Chaval ghughu, Telia ghughu (Beng.); Kawala (Mahr.); Bode (Gond.); Poda-bella-guwa (Tel.): Pulipora (Tam.); Ko-pu-ku, Pati-kopa (Assam); Kodaya-Punduk (Bihar); Daotu (Cachari); Inruigu (Naga) ; Voh kurup (Kuki).
Description. Upper portion of head and nape vinous ; more grey on the forehead and above the eye; a small black mark between the eye and the base of the bill; a dense collar of black on the sides and back of the neck, each feather bifurcate and with two white spots at the tip; on the upper back the velvety black changes to brown and the spots from pure white to rufous; the bifurcations become less pronounced till they cease on the lower back where the spots become narrow terminal bars; lower back and rump brown with narrow rufous fringes ; upper tail-coverts slaty-brown, bifurcated and tipped narrowly with brown and subtipped rufous, the latter sometimes obsolete; central tail- feathers brown, obsoletely barred darker; the next pair almost black with broad terminal band of dark slate; each succeeding pair has the base darker and the terminal band wider and paler grey until the outermost has the basal half black and the terminal half almost white, running down the edge of the outer webs towards the base; scapulars and innermost secondaries like the back but with larger spots, paler and tinged with vinous ; lesser and median wing-coverts grey-brown with large terminal spots of vinous, divided by a streak of dark brown; shoulder of wing more grey and less spotted; greater coverts grey; edge of wing, primary coverts and quills dark brown, the primaries and outer secondaries edged with grey; chin white; centre of throat albescent; sides of head, throat, breast and flanks vinaceous-pink, centre of abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts white, the latter with a V-shaped spot near the tips.
Colours of soft parts. Iris, two rings, the inner pure hazel, the outer hazel-red; eyelids and narrow bare orbital space red; bill dark horny- or plumbeous-brown; legs and feet dull red or purplish-red, claws horny-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 280 mm.; wing, Northern India 135 to 148 mm., South India 128 to 143 mm., rarely under 132 mm., except in Travancore; tail 133 to 142 mm.; tarsus about 22 mm.; culmen 12.5 to 14.5 mm.
Young birds are paler and browner, with no nuchal patch; the upper parts are barred instead of spotted; the wing-coverts edged with rufous and the lower parts fulvous-brown, the breast with narrow fringes of pale fulvous.
Distribution. Throughout the whole of India and in the Himalayas up to 7,000 feet. Assam birds are of this race, whilst Cachar and Manipur birds are intermediate between this and tigrina. In the Bengal districts East of the Bay S. c. tigrina replaces S. c. suratensis. In Sind it only occurs in wet seasons. Birds from South Travancore are near S. c. ceylonensis, wing 128 to 133 mm.
Nidification. The Spotted Dove breeds in every month of the year. In the plains of Bengal March to June and again September and October are the principal breeding-months; in Southern India most birds lay from October to April and in the higher hills from February up to September; in the Himalayas mostly from April to July. It builds its nest in trees, bushes, verandahs and eaves of occupied buildings, stables and outhouses and in all sorts of unexpected corners. Nor does it matter much where the tree or bush is, unless it is in deep forest. Thin forest, scrub- and bamboo-jungle, gardens or bare cultivated land are equally agreeable to it. Generally its nest is placed low down in bush, tree or building but occasionally high up in a Mango or other large tree. The nest itself is the ordinary tiny saucer or platform built by all members of this family and, according to Thompsou, contains fifty to one hundred and fifty pieces of twigs and roots. One hundred eggs average 27.2 x 21.8 mm.: maxima 29.7 x 22.4 and 28.2 x 24.1 mm.; minima 25.0 x 19.0 and 27.8 x 19.1 mm.
Habits. The Spotted Dove is one of our most familiar Indian birds all over India except in the very arid regions such as Sind and parts of the Deecan. Given a sufficient water-supply it may be found anywhere up to 8,500 feet, though not often breeding over 7,000 feet. It is a most tame and confiding little bird, running about freely in gardens and villages or searching the roads for fallen grain and seeds, generally hunting in couples and constantly calling to one another in the softest and sweetest of coos. Their flight is swift and powerful and they rise from the ground with the usual fuss and clatter of wings over their backs so often heard in Pigeons' flight. They eat grain, fruit, seeds and termites and, when breeding in houses, they often take scraps of potato, bread and other oddments thrown to them by the servants. They also furnish an excellent item of food themselves when needed.