(1997) Turnix suseitator plumbipes (Hodgs.).
The Burmese Bustard-Quail.
Turnip suseitator plumbipes, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed, vol. v. p. 445.
The distribution of this Bustard-Quail extends from Sikkim to the hills of North-West China, It occurs over the whole of the Nepal and Sikkim Terai, the Bengal Dnars and the whole of Assam. It is found over most of the better wooded, wetter parts of the districts South of the Himalayas from Bihar to Mymensingh, Chittagong, Tippera and Northern Arakan. In the drier Southern districts of Northern India, Bengal and Bihiar it meets and inter grades with laijoor of Southern India.
Given sufficient cover, this Bustard-Quail may be found in almost any kind of country and it occurs from the plains up to some 8,000 feet. I have never found it breeding in deep evergreen forest nor will it be found nesting in very dry, open waste areas. Occasion¬ally its nest may be placed at the edge of evergreen forest where this borders on cultivation or grass-land ; often, it nests in bamboo- jungle, scrub, secondary growth or in deserted cultivation, especially in patches of deserted cotton-fields. Above all other places, however, it loves grass plains which are broken up by stretches of forest, bamboo-jungle or practically bare tracts. Wherever, however, it may be found it is usually not very far from Water, for they are thirsty little birds, watering regularly several times a day.
The nests, of which I have seen many hundreds in various parts of Assam, are almost invariably in hollows, a few of which are natural but, in most cases, are scratched out by the birds. In Assam there is always a lining of sone sort. Sometimes this is merely a bed of grass and leaves but, more often, it is a well-made pad of grasses, both blades and stems, some 3.1/2 to 4.1/2 inches in diameter and from 1/2 to 1.1/2 inch thick, while in many nests the grass at the edge turns up to form a little cup for the eggs to test in.. Sometimes, also, especially when the grass-growth round the nest is dense yet fine, it is worked out into a canopy overhead, while in other neats the entrance is through a little tunnel in the grass. The canopy, perhaps, is a work carried out more by accident than design by the birds burrowing in among the grass-roots and constantly turning round on the eggs and I have never seen any attempt at weaving such as is sometimes carried out by the Wood-Partridges,. In many nests only the softer blades of grass are used in strips and the harder, coarser mid-ribs are discarded, while in other nests any kind of grass is employed. Occasionally, also, one may find scraps of bracken, fem, and even strips of bamboo-leaf in the nest, though this is very rare. Grass-roots and tendrils, however, are often made use of.
In North Cachar the birds were very fond of nesting in the so- called roads. These were merely tracks about 6 feet wide cut through the jungle and cleared for the cold weather. When, however, the rains started the grass quickly grew up and nearly obliterated the road with the exception of a hardened path a few inches wide in the centre. Many times I have seen nests within a few inches of this path or have seen the little bird leading his four chicks along it.
In India Hume says that often the eggs are laid on the bare ground, but he lumps all the races together and .what may be true of taijoor in India may not be correct in regard to other races.
This race seems to breed more or less all the year round, but there are two principal periods, first in April and May and then in August and September.
The full clutch of eggs is four and any other number, more or less, is abnormal. In the many hundreds of clutches I have seen, not necessarily taken, I have seen one clutch of six and perhaps four clutches of five eggs. Speaking of Bustard-Quails generally, Jerdon mentions a clutch of eight eggs, while Hume among thirty clutches found one six and two of five eggs. Three only is just as rare as more than four.
In shape the eggs of the Bustard-Quails are broad ovals, generally obtuse, rarely pointed at the smaller end. The texture is hard, close and rather fine, the surface smooth and often strongly glossed.
In most eggs the ground-colour is a pale grey, sometimes tinged yellowish or reddish, while they vary from this to a medium brown or reddish-brown. The markings vary from tiny specks and dots of yellowish-brown, reddish-brown or black to blotches of the same. In many eggs the tiny specks cover the whole surface equally from end to end but, when the blotches are bigger, they are generally confined to the larger end and occasionally become indefinite rings there. Some of the more heavily blotched egga are quite handsome, especially when the marks are deep black on a reddish ground. The secondary marks are pale lavender but are generally invisible without a strong glass, though I have a few sets having a very pale ground which are boldly blotched with primary markings of black and large secondary ones of lavender, showing up well.
Sixty eggs average ..... 20.2 mm. ; maxima 27.5 x 20.8 and 25.3 x 20.9 mm. ; minima 22.1 x 17.0 mm.
In the Bustard-Quails the dominating partner is the female, who bosses all the domestic arrangement but does none of the work beyond lay the eggs. It is the lady who fights for her husband, challenges other ladies to mortal combat for him, and then, as soon as she has laid her four eggs, deserts him and seeks another. The male bird makes the nest, incubates the eggs and brings up the chicks.
The challenge of the female and the love-call to her mate seem to be one and the same. Seth-Smith in the ‘Avicultural Magazine’ thus describes the booming :—“The call-note uttered by the Hemipodes seems to be much the same with all,—a soft booming which is more or less ventriloquial. The female utters the note far more frequently than the male, and I am not sure that he calls at all, but I believe he does occasionally. The note may be almost called a ‘Coo’ ; I have frequently mistaken it for the coo of the Bronze-winged Pigeon in the distance. Some writers have likened it to the distant bellowing of a bull, and the Mediterranean form, T. sylvatica, is known as 'Torilla’ or ‘little bull.’ ”
The call is not unlike the deep gutteral purr, or grunt, of a tiger, and sometimes when hurrying along a lonely jungle-track in the dark it would give one quite a jump as it came soft and deep from just behind.
As a rule the female mounts a convenient hillock or termite mound to boom, but I do not think she ever gets into a tree or on a stump for this purpose. Her attitude when booming is crouched low on the ground with wings half outspread and gently quivering. If a female answers the call and approaches, the two rush at each other and a first-class fight ensues, in which the two birds get so interested that it is easy to catch both by throwing a cloth over them. I once saw a male answer to the booming of a tethered female, when his modest demeanour was most amusing. There was no cooing or purring on his part, but he slunk up towards the female in the little open space where she was pegged down and then squatted, 5 or 6 feet away, back towards her. For a few seconds the lady lay and boomed, and then, seeing he would not approach nearer, she tried to advance to him and, when held back by the string, danced, bowed and scraped to him in a perfect ecstacy, until finally ho began to sidle towards her, a few inches at a time, coyly looking away as he did so until he stepped into a noose and was caught.
I have kept these Quail in captivity but they never-got nearer breeding than the casual dropping of eggs anywhere on the ground.
In the wild state the lien will often lay three or more clutches of eggs in a season, all within quite a small distance of one another, the eggs showing, by their remarkable similarity, that they are evidently the produce of one bird. This «seems to be confirmed by the fact that often the nests are very close together, though the hens are much too pugnacions for this to happen if laid by different individuals. They are so pugnacious that it is impossible to keep breeding hens together, though the males are quite friendly.
1997. Turnix suscitator plumbipes
(1997) Turnix suseitator plumbipes (Hodgs.).