Indian YELLOW-LEGGED BUTTON-QUAIL.
Pedda daba-gundlu, Telugu.
The yellow-legged button-quail is easily distinguished from the bustard-quail by its yellow legs and bill, and, of course, from such of the true quails as are yellow-legged, by the absence of the hind toe. It agrees with the bustard-quail in the difference of size in the sexes and in the female being more richly coloured; but the decoration is quite different, the female having a chestnut collar instead of a black cravat, and this is not permanent, being only assumed during the breeding season. The back is less variegated in this species than the last, though young birds have more marking than adults, but the most conspicuous difference, besides the yellow bill and feet, is the absence of .any bars on the breast. There is practically no difference in size between this particular yellow-legged race and the blue-legged hemipode.
Although more numerous in India proper than the bustard-quail, and found in the North-west districts, where the other is absent, the yellow-legged bird does not go so high up in the Himalayas, my record of one caught by Mr. Goldstein at Darjeeling, in my book on " The Game Birds of India and Asia," being quite an exception, the usual limit of this bird's vertical range being 4,000 feet. As this was caught at night at light, it looks as if the bird were migrating, but it might have been a mere stray. This button-quail does not occur in Ceylon, and its eastern limit is the Naga Hills ; in Assam begins the range of the large Burmese race of this yellow-legged type.
There is little to be said about the habits of this bird, which are much like those of the bustard-quail, but it affects drier localities, and does not come quite so much into cultivation on the whole ; moderately high grass is a pretty good place in which to look for it, and it is also found in grassy patches in forest clearings. Its flight is feebler and less whirring and noisy than the bustard-quail's, and it goes for even a shorter distance when flushed, dropping so quickly as scarcely to allow time for a shot, and lying so close afterwards that smart dogs may often pick it up. In captivity it shows an even tamer disposition than the blue-legged bird. The first pair the Zoo in London ever had, presented by Mr. E. W. Harper, were so tame that I have poked my finger through and touched them as they sat at the side of the aviary. This bird lays four eggs, peppered and blotched like those of the bustard-quail, in a domed nest of grass.
Mr. D. Seth Smith, now Bird Curator at the Zoo, has given, in the Avicultural Magazine for 1902-03, some very interesting details of the habits of this species as observed by him in the private aviary he then had. He successfully bred the birds, this being the first instance of any hemipode being bred in Britain; and found out about the seasonal change in the female's collar, and also that she gave any mealworms given her to her mate, thus showing that the moral reversal of the sexes in the hemipodes results in the hen being generous as well as quarrelsome. She did not, however, feed the chicks, and the male did everything for them as well as the sitting, which only lasted twelve days— a remarkably short period, for even a canary takes fourteen. In the aviary, which had a grassed outdoor enclosure, he noticed that the birds did not seem so much at home in the long grass itself as the painted quails, which made little tunnels in it and bolted down them, but preferred sandy spots with grass tufts here and there; this is rather at variance with Indian experience of it as a grass bird, but Tickell says it is found, in Bengal at any rate, " in open, sandy, bushy places." The young were mottled rather than distinctly striped like the young of the true quails, and were very insectivorous, refusing at first all kinds of artificial food, which the young of the true game birds nevertheless eat readily. The note of the hen is " a soft booming sound, which is more or less ventriloquial" ; the male seldom calls, if at all, and all the bird utters when flushed in the wild state is a faint low double chirp. Tickell says this bird is most delicious eating, but Hume condemns it ; probably both are right, the difference depending on food.