(2045) Sypheotides indica.
THE LESSER FLORICAN or Likh.
Otis indica Miller, Icones Animalia, pt. vi, pl. 33 (1782) (India orientali). Sypheotes aurita. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 198.
Vernacular names. Likh, Chota Charat,Barsati or Kala (Hind.) ; Ker mor (Guzerat); Chini Mor (Belgaum) ; Khartitar (Bhil); Charas, Chulla Charas (Hind., S. India); Niala Nimili (Tel.); Kannoul (Can.); Warragu Koli (Tam.).
Description. - Male. Whole head and neck and ear-plumes glossy black; chin and centre of upper throat pure white; between the hind-neck and upper back a broad hand of white, running down to the sides of the neck ; upper plumage sandy-buff, each feather with a blackish patch edged with yellowish-sandy and vermiculated with brown or blackish; lower back only obsoletely marked; central tail-coverts barred with black; tail sandy-buff, tinged with rufous, finely vermiculated and with four definite cross-bars of blackish-brown; scapulars like the back but freckled with white; greater wing-coverts black, the concealed parts of the inner webs freckled with white and brown ; remaining visible coverts white, the bases of the secondary coverts freckled with brown ; first two, three or four primaries brown, the remainder with broad bars of rufous-buff, widening towards the secondaries: outer secondaries mottled brown and buff, freckled with white at the tips; inner secondaries like the back, the edges next the coverts freckled with white and the innermost marked with rufous-buff ; lower plumage black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale yellow to yellowish-brown ; bill pale yellow, fleshy at the gape and horny-brown on the culmen; legs and feet fleshy or dusky-yellow.
Measurements. Wing 180 to 204 mm.; tail 82 to 114 mm.; tarsus about 85 to 95 mm.; culmen 31 to 38 mm.
Female. Forehead and crown black, the feathers buff-tipped and the inner webs of those on the crown also buff, forming a well-marked mesial streak; lores, supercilium and behind the eye buff with black specks; a line of black specks under the eye ; sides of head and ear-coverts buff; hind-neck buff, finely vermiculated with dark brown; upper plumage and wing-quills as in the male; wing-coverts buff, the outer sparsely, the inner profusely barred with brown or black and freckled more or less, with the same; chin and throat white; fore-neck buff with broad splashes of black, forming two broad streaks down the sides ; breast buff boldly marked with black, remainder of lower parts white or buffy-white, the flanks more or less barred and vermiculated with blackish; axillaries black.
Measurements. Wing 209 to 248 mm. ; culmen 37 to 42 mm.
Male in winter. Similar to the female but with much white on the wing.
Nestling uniform dull pale yellowish; a black V on the crown and longitudinal patches of dingy black on the wings, back and sides.
Distribution. This small Bustard is fairly common in suitable country from South-Eastern Punjab, Guzerat and South Sind thoughout Rajputana, Deccan, Western Central India to North Mysore and Madras. Outside these limits it wanders into the North-West Provinces, United Provinces, Western Bengal and Behar. It occurs in Orissa and Bengal as far East as Malda and Nadia ; O'Donel obtained it 50° East of the Teesta River. South they occur and breed as far as Trichinopili. It has also been obtained in the Valley of Nepal and has been shot on the Nilgiris.
Nidification. The Likh breeds in Southern India from July to November, occasionally as late as January, whilst over the rest of its habitat September and October are probably the two months in which most eggs are laid, though a good many birds start nesting in October. They breed exclusively, or almost so, in grass-fields and prefer rather thin patches, often small in extent, to wide stretches with long dense grass. The eggs are laid on the bare ground with no pretence at a nest and number three or four, very rarely five and sometimes only two. In colour, texture etc they cannot be distinguished from those of the Little Bustard but they average smaller and are, generally, rather more spherical in shape. Fifty-four eggs average 49.1 x 40.9 mm.: maxima 52.0 x 42.8 and 49.0 x 44.0 mm.; minima 46.2 x 39.2 mm.
The males are said to be monogamous but it is very doubtful if this is correct.
Habits. The Lesser Florican is not gregarious, though it collects in considerable numbers in some places during the breeding-season ; nor is it migratory, though it indulges in local movements which are not yet understood. Some movements are doubtless due to excess or insufficient rainfall, whilst others are merely a question of food-supply but for others there seems no explanation. Their favourite resorts are extensive grass-lands and they also resort to cultivated fields of millet and other crops. This Bustard has a curious habit of leaping into the air above the crops or grass, at the same time uttering a frog-like croak; this is evidently a display to attract the female, which utters a similar note, but very rarely springs into the air, before joining the male. They fly with far more rapid beats of the wing than the Great Bustard or the larger Florican but proceed no faster than these do. Their diet is omnivorous but chiefly seeds and insects, whilst they are themselves excellent birds for the table.
This is one of the Indian Game-birds which requires most rigid protection, as it is constantly shot and harassed during the breeding-season.