(1996) Turnix suscitator leggei.
THE CEYLON BUSTARD-QUAIL.
Turnix javanica leggei Stuart-Baker, Bull. B. O. C., xliii, p. 9 (1920) (Ceylon). Turnix pugnax. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 150 (part.).
Vernacular names. Kadai (Ceylonese, Tamils); Waltuwa, Pundura-Waltuwa, Bola-Waltuwa (Cinghalese).
Description.— Adult female. Upper plumage dull, rufous-red to dark, rather brownish-grey; the head is usually a trifle darker than the other parts, whilst the rump and tail-coverts may be slightly paler; feathers of the crown in the centre tipped white, often forming a definite coronal streak, the rufous on either side more or less barred and spotted with black; lores, supercilia and sides of the head white with narrow margins or small spots of black; nape, shoulders and upper back finely barred with black, these parts, specially the nape, being often much spotted with white ; a broad, well-marked nuchal collar of rufous, sometimes quite unmarked with other colours, rarely slightly spotted with black and white on the lower neck and upper back; lower hack, rump and upper tail-coverts much more boldly barred with black and with white marks, either lines or large spots, on the outer webs of the lower back and rump-feathers and the tips of the upper tail-coverts ; scapulars like the back but often a little paler, still more boldly marked with black and white, the latter predominating. "Wing-coverts like the back but rather paler, "the greater and median boldly spotted with buff and black, the amount varying in individuals and the buff on the outer webs often forming a fairly distinct broad bar across the closed wing; lesser coverts and shoulders of wing less conspicuously barred. Quills brown, not very dark and bordered on the outer webs of the primaries with pale buff; primary-coverts the same but often much freckled or barred with buff; the innermost secondaries are like their greater coverts and those nearest them are tipped pale and barred to a slight extent on the outer webs at their ends ; chin, throat and centre of neck and breast deep velvety-black; sides of lower neck and breast huffish-white to buff, broadly barred with black, with a few bars extending across the breast below the black and the barring sometimes continued well down the flanks; remainder of lower parts rufescent-buff or deep rusty-buff, usually darkest on the vent and under tail-coverts; under aspect of the wing and axillaries dark silver-grey.
Colours of soft parts. Iris white, occasionally yellowish; legs and feet slate or leaden-grey; bill dark bluish-slate or plumbeous-grey, the culmen slightly darker, especially at the base, where it is quite a dark brown.
Measurements. Total length about 130 to 140 mm.; wing 81 to 88 mm.; tarsus about 25 mm.; culmen about 13 mm.; tail about 25 mm. Legge gives the total length as about 6.3 to 6.5 in. and the wing as 3.4 to 3.55 in., but none of the specimens in the British Museum have a wing as large as this latter. Legge, however, perhaps includes Indian birds in his measurements and those from Upper India run very large.
Adult male. Like the female but has the chin white instead of black, the breast and fore-neck banded black and buff like the sides instead of pure black. As a rule, the markings are somewhat less bold in character and the general appearance duller.
Colours of soft parts. As in the female but the iris more often straw-yellow.
Dimensions. Wing 76 to 81 mm., and other measurements proportionately smaller than in the female.
Young females only differ from the adult in having chin, throat and upper breast like these parts in the male.
Quite young birds of both sexes have the plumage similar to that of the adult male but the black on the upper parts is more plentiful, though duller; the secondaries are more marked and freckled with buff or rufous and the primaries are also rather more widely margined with the same. The breast is spotted with large drops of black, which are sometimes rather arrow-head in appearance or sometimes become broadened into broken bars but never form complete bars as in the adult. The variations in the colour of the tail follow the same range as that of the old birds.
The nestling when hatched is covered with pale whitish-buff on the lower parts and dark chestnut-buff above. There is a broad white line from the lores through the eye to the nape ; a dark coronal streak, almost black; pale buff and black crescentic marks on the back; the wings have a dark and a pale bar; the inside of the thighs are chestnut.
Certain naturalists have claimed that the black throat of the female is merely a seasonal change and is lost after the breeding-season. When a bird has so variable a breeding-season as the Bustard-Quail has, it is very difficult to assert that such is, or is not, the case; but the probabilities are all against it. The hen assumes this black during the process of a moult, possibly taking two years before she fully acquires it; birds may, however, be found in every month of the year with the black fully developed. Distribution. Ceylon.
Nidification. Wait and Phillips between them have taken eggs in every month of the year except August. The nest varies considerably ; sometimes it is just a hollow under a tuft of grass or bush with a few wind-blown scraps of grass; at others quite a well-made pad of grass is put together for the eggs to rest on. The hollow may be a natural one or one made by the birds and the site selected almost anywhere in among grass and bushes in gardens, round about villages, between patches of rice and other cultivation or in grass-lands or thin scrub. Tea-gardens and rubber-plantations seem to be exceptionally favoured localities. The normal full clutch of eggs is four bub Wait says that three are not uncommon, whilst, exceptionally, two only may be incubated. Except in size the eggs do not .differ from those of the other races and a description of those of this subspecies will suffice for all. The ground-colour is generally a greyish-white, sometimes tinged with yellow or red and, very rarely, rather warmer in colour. The markings consist of tiny specks of yellowish- and reddish-brown with others, fewer in number, of blackish-brown and, again, if very carefully examined, secondary specks of grey and lavender.
In most eggs these specks cover the whole surface profusely but in nearly all they are larger and more numerous still at the larger end. In a few eggs the specks give place to larger blotches and black spots. In shape they vary from peg-top to broad obtuse ovals and in texture they are fine, very hard and stout, often with a pronounced gloss. Forty-seven eggs average 23.3 x 19.1 mm.: maxima 25.3 X 19.1 and 24.2 x 19.6 mm.; minima 22.0 x 17.3 mm. The domestic arrangements of this race are, like those of the Burmese Bustard-Quail, more fully described later on.
Habits. This Bustard-Quail is found over most of the plains of Ceylon where the ground is more or less open and cultivated. It is less common in the hills but ascends occasionally as high as 4,000 feet, whence I have had eggs sent me with the cock-bird caught on the nest. It is an inveterate little skulker but not shy of humanity, often entering and breeding in gardens and perhaps more common in patches of grass or scrub round villages than anywhere else. When forced to rise they fly straight as a dart with whirring wings and very fast for fifty or sixty yards, and then drop as if shot into cover again. They run with great speed. Their food consists of seeds and insects and they are generally very fat and make delicious morsels on toast for those who can find it in their hearts to shoot them.