(2005) Turnix maculatus tanki.
THE INDIAN BUTTON-QUAIL.
Turnix tanki Blyth, J. A. S. B., xii. p. 180 (1843) (India) - Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 153.
Vernacular names. Lowa (Upper India); Pedda dabba gundla (Telegu). In most places the natives do not distinguish between this bird and the Common Bustard-Quail.
Description.— Adult female. From forehead to nape barred buff and brown with indications, sometimes well defined, of a buff mesial stripe; nape, neck and extreme upper back bright ferruginous-red; remainder of upper parts, including inner wing-coverts and innermost secondaries, greyish-brown, occasionally an almost vinous tint, profusely barred with fine wavy lines of deep brown or dull black, giving these parts a vermiculated appearance; remaining wing-coverts buff or brownish-buff with a broad sub-terminal drop or short bar of deep brown; inner secondaries like the back, those next them more or less freckled with rufous at the tip and with black and buff on the outer web near the tip -r primaries, outer secondaries and primary-coverts greyish-brown edged with buff on the outer webs ; edge of shoulder buff; below from chin to upper breast reddish-ferruginous albescent, often pure white on chin and throat; the same colour on the upper breast as on the neck, these parts forming a broad collar; remainder of lower surface buff, deepest on the breast and flanks and sometimes almost pure white on the centre of the abdomen; the breast next the collar in the centre, the sides of the collar and the rest of the breast and flanks nearly as far down as the thighs with large, round or crescentic spots of black.
Females.— Adult, but not so old as that above described, have the mesial line more strongly marked, the sides of the head are often much marked with rufous and the black barring is very broad and prominent; the whole of the upper parts are much more heavily spotted and barred with black; the scapulars, and sometimes the back also, have drops of buff succeeded by black on the outer webs of the feathers, sometimes becoming buff streaks on the former; the inner secondaries and the wing-coverts are a purer buff, whilst the black drops or bars are far more numerous ; the inner secondaries also as a rule have a good deal of rufous mixed with the vermiculations; below, the colour is much like that of the older female but the grey-brown colour of the back often encroaches on the sides of the breast, the black markings are more numerous and are occasionally mingled with pale buff spots ; the chin and throat are nearly always paler and almost, if not quite, white, whilst the buff of the belly is whitish, the centre of the abdomen being often pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris straw-colour or white, probably always white in old birds. Bill fleshy-white, greyish-white or pale plumbeous, always with a yellowish tinge at the base and sometimes darker and brownish on the culmen; legs and feet yellow, fleshy or fleshy-grey, sometimes with a tinge of orange; claws the same.
Measurements. Wing 79 to 89 mm.; tail 35 to 40 mm.; tarsus about 23 to 25 mm.; culmen about 12 to 13 mm.
Adult male. The adult male is similar to the first stage adult female but entirely wants the chestnut collar, the centre of the breast is a paler, duller rufous-buff and the general appearance of the upper parts is less bright, though the vermiculations are larger, in places becoming almost bars.
The young male resembles the second stage of female described but has no rufous collar. The colours of the soft parts are the same as in the female but the bill is said to be brown on the culmen and at the tip. I have not noticed any difference between the bills of males and females.
Measurements. Males: wing 71 to 79 mm.
Quite young females have the nuchal collar very indistinctly shown and are plentifully spotted with white, whilst the feathers of the other parts are profusely barred with dull black; the white and buff markings of the scapulars and inner quills are almost entirely wanting, being represented only by a few pale spots on the outer webs of the quills and coverts ; the primaries are margined and freckled with dull rufous on the outer webs, whilst the other secondaries have a pale margin with blackish submargin to the outer webs which are much freckled with dull rufous ; the underparts are duller than in the adult and are less boldly spotted with black and rufous.
The nestling closely resembles that of Turnix suscitator leggei already described.
Hitherto Turnix albiventris from the Nicobars and Turnix blanfordi have both been treated as good species but, after a very careful examination of all the material at my command, I cannot discover any difference between T. m. tanki and T. albiventris, upon which it is possible to make the one a different species or even subspecies to the other.
Distribution. The Indian Button-Quail is found over practically the whole of India but it does not, apparently, occur in Ceylon. Hume received specimens from South Travancore. 1 have had specimens sent me from near Tinivelli in the extreme South of Madras and also specimens from Mysore, whence" it had not previously been recorded. In the North-West it straggles into the Punjab but probably only during the rainy season; it is found throughout Bombay and the North-West Province and thence East everywhere as far as Calcutta. In the furthest North-East it extends throughout the Assam Valley to Dibrugarh and Sadiya, but South of the Brahmapootra Valley it is replaced in most parts by Turnix m. maculatus, though a specimen from Tippera in the Hume Collection is nearer T. m. tanki than T. m. maculatus. I never came across it either in the Cachar Hills, Khasia Hills or Surrma Valley and I think I may say it does not occur there. It ascends the hills to a considerable height, for it has been found in the Nepal Hills up to 4,000 feet; Finn found it in Darjeeling at over 6,000 feet; in native Sikkim it has been obtained up to 7,500 feet (in the month of June) and in the Travancore Hills and Palnis up to 4,000 feet; finally, it occurs commonly in the Nicobars and also in the Andamans.
Nidification. Wherever the Indian Button-Quail is found it breeds but there is curiously little recorded so far as to its habits in this respect in a wild state.
Hume records eggs taken on the 15th of July and 26th of August and there are others in the Hume Collection in the British Museum taken on the 29th of April and one in June. From Bengal and Behar I have eggs taken in May and June, though the normal months are July, August and September; Dibrugargh in July and August; Gowhaty, May and June and Tezpur, June. There appear to be no records of its breeding in any of the cold-weather months from November to March. The few nests I have personally seen were just like those of the Common Bustard-Quail and, like those of that bird, the nest is sometimes roughly domed, sometimes a well-made pad and sometimes a rather meagre affair of grass and roots in a natural hollow. The nest is placed in much the same sort of position as is that of its relations already described, though it adheres more closely to grass-land for nesting-purposes and it also likes grass which is rather thin and scanty with ample room to run about in. The full clutch of eggs is almost invariably four and they closely resemble those of the Little Button-Quail but, as a series, are rather less boldly marked. Sixty eggs average 22.8 x 17.9 mm.: maxima 24.4 X 19.0 and 24.2 x 19.1 mm.; minima 20.1 X 17.1 and 22.0 x 16.8 mm.
Habits. Very similar to those of other species of the genus but perhaps more restricted to scrub, grass-lands and growing crops of millet and other grain. It occurs in thin Sal and other deciduous forest but never in thick evergreen.