(1997) Turnix suscitator plumbipes.
THE BURMESE BUSTARD-QUAIL.
Hemipodius plumbipes Hodg., Icon., ined. in Brit. Mus., Nos. 126, 127 (Nepal). Turnix pugnax. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 150 (part.).
Vernacular names. Timohpho (Lepcha); Tinisk (Bhutia); Ngon (Burmese); Sunsorai (Assamese); Daoduma (Cachari); Inruibuma (Kacha Naga); Vohbubum (Kuki); Purjoh (Malay); Guskecoone, Vock-coone (Siamese).
Description.— Adult female. Similar to the Ceylon Bustard-Qnail but wanting the rufous nuchal collar. It is also a rather darker bird with more rufous on the upper parts and the black not quite so rich and velvety. The underparts are usually paler.
Measurements. Wing, $ 82 to 98 mm., 77 to 90 mm.
Distribution. The North and North-West Chin and Kachin Hills, N. Arrakan, Chittagong and its Hill Tracts, the whole range of country, plains and hills, extending West as far as Sikkim throughout Assam and the Bengal Dooars and Nepal, together with the wetter, better-forested districts at their base, from Mymensingh to Bettiah in Behar, where, however, it meets the Southern form taijoor and intergrades with it.
Rothschild records three geographical races, plumbipes, taijoor and rostrata (=blakistoni) from Yunnan but only the last-named can occur there, some individual birds perhaps somewhat approaching plumbipes.
Nidification. These birds breed practically all the year round, principally between April and September, and one hen will apparently go on laying eggs as long as she can find a supply of husbands to hatch the eggs she lays and to look after her innumerable progeny when hatched.
Dr. H. E. Butler, quoting from the German of Huth, tells us that in 1890 a female Turnix nigricollis laid no fewer than eight clutches of eggs and from three of these young were hatched. It must, however, be noted that Huth speaks of the female as being " a pattern of love, attention and solicitude towards the little chicks."
I have had plumbipes, tanki and dussumieri in captivity but I found that, though I could keep any numbers of the males together, I could not keep two females, as they always fought until one was disabled.
It is the cock-bird that has to do all the hatching and looking after the young, for the hen, as soon as she has laid her first set of eggs, goes off to hunt up another male to look after her second laying, and so on, until matrimony palls for the season and she either indulges in lonely blessedness or joins one or two other ladies who are also grass widows for the time being.
The male, having hatched the eggs, a process which takes about twelve days, then looks after the young and brings them up, performing his duties in the most admirable manner, feeding, tending them with the greatest solicitude, brooding them at night and fighting for them against all possible enemies, sometimes including their mother, with the greatest bravery.
The nest is like that of the preceding bird but almost invariably there is a good lining of grass in the hollow selected, which may be in any kind of grass-land, scrub, bush, or suitable grain-crop. Occasionally a nest of this species is made in tufts of grass, the blades of which are employed to make sides and roof to the nest and sometimes, in addition, a little tunnel through which the cock-bird steps to and from the nest.
The eggs are just bigger editions of those of the Ceylon Bustard-Quail. Sixty average 24.9 x 20.2 mm.: maxima 27.5 x 20.8 and 25.3 X 20.9 mm.; minima 22.1 X 17.0 mm.
Habits. Similar to those of the preceding bird. The female is extremely pugnacious and her loud booming call, " boom-boom-boom," may be heard morning, noon and night during the breeding-season, when the females fight desperately for the possession of the male. So fiercely do they fight that they may sometimes be caught with a cloth when so engaged and the natives trap great numbers through female decoy birds and then keep or sell them as fighting birds.
They are found in all kinds of jungle other than deep forest but prefer scrub and grass-lands in cultivated country. They occur as, high as 8,000 feet in the Himalayas and in the hills of South Assam are quite common up to 5,000 and even 6,000 feet.