88. THE LESSER FLORICAN.
Sypheotis aurita, (Latham).
Length of the tarsus nearly half the length of the wing. First ten uills of the wing of very peculiar shape, the terminal portions being very narrow and extremely pointed. Of small size; wingless than 10 inches.
MALE :—Wing not exceeding 8.
FEMALE :—Wing exceeding 9.
Vernacular Names :—Kermor, Guzerat; Tun mor, Deccan and Marathi ; Chini mor, Belgaum; Khartitar, Bhil; Likh, Chota Charat, N.W. Provinces ; Bursati, Kala Tugder, Rohtak, Gurgaon; Charas, Chulla Charas, S. India; Kannoul, Canarese; Niala nimili, Telugu ; Wurragu koli, Tamil.
The Lesser Florican is found over nearly the whole continent of India, being resident in some parts and a partial migrant in others; but its movements are not apparently of any great extent, nor have they been sufficiently studied to enable us to state with any degree of exactness what they are.
To the east this species has been obtained in Purneah and Nadiya in Bengal, but not commonly, and the 88th degree of east longitude may be considered its eastern limit; a specimen has occurred as a straggler much farther east, namely at Sandoway on the Burmese coast. From Bengal it ranges along the base of the Himalayas up to the river Jumna, but this bird apparently does not occur beyond this river nor in any part of the Punjab. On the west this Florican occurs rarely in Sind and as a straggler has been observed on the Mekran coast. As for its limits in the south, Dr. Jerdon states that this species is found down to the southernmost districts. Within the large area indicated by the above limits, the Lesser Florican seems to be found in greater or less abundance according as the country is suitable to its habits or not.
The haunts of the Lesser Florican are extensive plains covered with patches of grass and low jungle and at times cornfields in which the crops are not too high. Dr. Jerdon writes :—" It feeds chiefly in the morning and is then easily raised, but during the heat of the day it lies very close and is often flushed with difficulty. I have known an instance of one being killed by a horse stepping on it. ... I have found the cock bird commencing to assume the black plumage at the end of April, and have killed them with the black ear-tuft just beginning to sprout, hardly any other black feathers having appeared. In other instances I have noticed that these ear-tufts did not make their appearance till the bird was quite mottled with black. The full and perfect breeding plumage is generally completed during July and August. At this season the male bird generally takes up a position on some rising ground, from which it wanders but little, for many days even ; and during the morning especially, but in cloudy weather at all times of the day, every now and then rises a few feet perpendicularly into the air, uttering at the same time a peculiar low croaking call, more like that of a frog or cricket than that of a bird, and then drops down again. This is probably intended to attract the females, who, before their eggs are laid, wander greatly; or perhaps to summon a rival cock, for I have seen two in such desperate fight as to allow me to approach within thirty yards before they ceased their battle."
This Florican has the habit, when running or walking, of raising its tail " the lateral feathers diverging downwards, while those of the centre are the most elevated, as is seen in domestic fowls," etc. [Jerdon).
Birds of both sexes of this species are in the habit of springing up into the air during the nesting season with a low clucking cry.
The Lesser Florican breeds chiefly during the months of September and October in the neighbourhood of Sholapur ; in April and May in Southern India; and in July, August and September near Deesa. The eggs, varying in number from two to four, are laid in a slight hollow of the ground in thin grass jungle or low scrub jungle. In shape they are generally oval, sometimes almost spherical and occasionally pyriform. They are fairly glossy and smooth. The groundcolour is generally some shade of dull green and the egg is covered with numerous blotches and streaks of brown, reddish brown and olive-brown. The eggs measure from 1.77 to 2.o6 in length, and from 1.5 to 1.7 in breadth. Fleri was.
The male bird in summer has die chin white ; the head, the ear-tufts, the neck, the whole lower plumage and the outer wing-coverts deep black. The lower part of the hindneck and a broad band on the wing are white. The upper plumage and the tail are fulvous, beautifully vermiculated and blotched with black, the tail with several narrow but well-defined black liars. The first three quills are brown, the others brown, barred and mottled with fulvous.
The male in winter and the female at all seasons have the whole upper plumage and the visible portions of the closed wings and tail bright fulvous, the crown and the short crest blotched with black, the neck finely speckled with black, the wings sparingly and irregularly barred with black and the remaining upper plumage, together with the tail, blotched, clouded, and variously marked with black, the tail having in addition some black cross-Kirs. The quills of the wing are dark brown, barred and mottled with fulvous, the first three less so than the others. The foreneck has two irregular black lines running down its whole length. The lower plumage is fulvous, somewhat pale on the belly, the breast and the sides of the body much barred and mottled with black. The long feathers lying concealed under the wing are nearly black.
Male : length up to 19 ; wing up to 8; tail about 4. Female : length up to 21; wing nearly 9 1/2 ; tail about 5. Legs dull pale yellow; irides yellowish ; bill chiefly yellow. The weight sometimes reaches to nearly 1 3/4 lb.