(2003) Turnix dussumieri.
THE LITTLE BUTTON-QUAIL.
Hemipodius dussumieri Temm., Pl. Col., v, p. 454 (1828) (India). Turnix dussumieri. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 152.
Vernacular names. Ginwa Lawa, Chota Lawa, Dabki (Hind.); Tura Shimaj (Muttra) ; Libbia (Pumea); Darwi (Ratnagiri); Chinna or Tella-dabba Gandla (Tel.); San Gundla (Ooriya) ; Choto Sansorai (Assamese); Dao-duma kashiba (Cachari) ; Inrui-buma gajeba (Naga); Tutu-butera (Sind) ; Ngon (Burmese); Nok-kum-kerp (Siam).
Description.— Adult male and female. A distinct mesial stripe from forehead to back of crown pale buff; sides of the crown rufous-brown to brown, generally much mixed with black, whereas the mesial stripe is often unspotted and seldom heavily marked; lores, supercilia and sides of the head white or buffy-white, speckled with black; back of the neck ferruginous-red to dull ferruginous; back, rump and upper tail-coverts barred black and rufous, the rufous varying from a bright tint to a dull greyish-rufous and the amount of black varying greatly in individuals; here and there, more especially on the rump, a few of the feathers are very narrowly margined with whitish and some of the outer tail-coverts have the outer webs edged with buff; the black is nearly always more strongly developed on the rump and upper tail-coverts than ou the back; scapulars, inner wing-coverts and innermost secondaries like the back but with broad buff margins to each feather; other wing-coverts rufous with a black spot; on the outer web and broad buff! margins, in some birds this buff margin occupying nearly all the visible portion in the closed wing; bastard-wing and primary-coverts grey-brown with buff edges; primaries brown, or grey-brown, with buff edges, broad and distinct on the outer, narrow and sometimes abraded on the inner; chin and throat white, centre of breast rufescent, sides of breast and flanks white or buffy-white, with bold drops of black and more or less numerous patches of chestnut; remainder of lower parts white, often tinged with buff and sometimes with chestnut; the lower tail-coverts nearly always of this colour.
Colours of soft parts. Legs and feet pale fleshy-white to light lead-colour or pale blue-grey; bills leaden-white or fleshy-white to lavender or plumbeous ; iris light yellow to straw-white.
Measurements. Wing, 73 to 75 mm., 61 to 71 mm.; tail about 31 to 37 mm.; tarsus about 18 to 20 mm. ; culmen about 10 to 11 mm. Weight 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 oz.
Young birds. " In the young birds the whole of the upper plumage is reddish-brown, becoming brighter rufous on the nuchal region, indistinctly barred with blackish-brown and spotted with white, especially on the wing-coverts and chest. The latter is paler buff than that of the adult and spotted all over with black " (Ogilvie-Grant).
The nestling in down is not distinguishable from the nestling of Turnix s. leggei.
It is quite impossible to divide this little Bustard-Quail into subspecies. Two specimens in the British Museum collection, from Formosa, one from Sambalpur, another from the Deccan, and yet one more from East Burr!wan, all females, can be picked out from the rest by their rich plumage. All these five are, however, identical and their distribution over so scattered an area at once disposes of the question of their difference in coloration being of a subspecific value ; moreover, they are closely approached by a few specimens from Raipur and other parts of Central India.
It is curious to note that many specimens from Pegu are rather paler than birds from other parts of Burma, just as are specimens of Turnix suscitator, though these latter agree with the dark Malayan and Eastern form rather than with the South Indian ferruginous bird.
The range of individual variation in Turnix dussumieri is not nearly as great as it is in Turnix suscitator and consists principally in the amount of black barring on the upper plumage and the -extent of the buff margins to the feathers of the wings and scapulars. As these are plentiful, or the reverse, so is the general aspect of the bird itself, dark or pale. The rufous of the nape and neck does not vary much in colour, though a good deal in extent, whilst the rufous of the upper back is often a more grey-brown than red and this, of course, also affects the general appearance considerably.
Distribution. -This tiny Game-bird is found practically throughout India as far South as Travancore, from the Southern part of which I have received two male specimens with their eggs. Prom this State it extends North in every direction as far as the Himalayas, ascending these to at least the height of 8,000 feet. It occurs in all the hill-ranges of Assam and I have personally often taken it in the Khasia Hills, Cachar Hills, Naga Hills and up the Assam Valley as far East as Dibrugarh and Sadiya. It is also found in Cachar, Sylhet, Tippera, Chittagong and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Further East it has been obtained by one of my native collectors in the Shan States., Oates got specimens in Pegu, Herbert records it as not uncommon about Bangkok in Siam and Swinhoe obtained it in Formosa and Hainan.
Doubtless it will be found to occur in all the districts of Burma and through the lower hill-ranges into Western China.
Naturally from certain parts of the country it is debarred either by the heaviness and denseness of the forests or, on the other hand, by the dryness and bareness of the plains. To the North-west it, perhaps, only wanders during the Bains and in these parts is semi-migratory, to the extent of moving when, literally, a place becomes too hot to hold it. Elsewhere it is certainly a resident bird, breeding wherever found.
Nidification. The Little Button-Quail breeds practically throughout the year hut most regularly from June to August and least often from January to March. Their nests are similar to those of the other species of Turnix and they select very similar sites for them but domed nests are very rare. They breed all over the plains and up in the hills to a considerable elevation. On the Nilgiris and hills of Southern India they occur everywhere up to the peaks and in the Himalayas they have been reported above Simla on the West and above Darjeeling on the East over 8,000 feet. In the hills South of the Brahmapootra they breed up to about 7,000 feet in the Naga Hills.
The eggs resemble those of the other Bustard-Quails but are much more richly marked, the freckles giving place to bold blotches of colour. Sixty eggs average 21.3 x 17.3 mm.: maxima 23.2 X19.2 mm.; minima 19.7 x 15.9 mm.
Habits. Those of the genus. The boom of the female is rather softer than that of the species suscitator but she is just as pugnacious and fights unconscious of everything round her when battling for her temporary husband.