Bill moderate, somewhat slender, straight, compressed. Nostrils elongate, horizontal, linear. Wings pointed, 1st quill generally longest in Indian species. Tarsus moderate; no hind toe, the three anterior toes much longer in proportion in some species than in others.
None of the species are truly migratory, though, as with many other resident birds, some species wander at particular seasons into localities which they do not inhabit throughout the year.
Key to the Species.
a. Bill plumbeous or slaty.
a1. Larger: breast barred black and white; throat and middle of breast black in adult females…………………….T. pugnax, p. 151.
b1. Smaller, wing never exceeding 3 : middle of breast buff without black…………………….T. dussumieri, p. 152.
b. Bill partly or wholly yellow; middle of breast buff without any black.
c1. Wing 3 to 3.5.
a2. Back in adults brown with slight black vermiculation ; rufous confined to collar…………………….T. tanki, p. 153.
b2. Back in adults with bold black and rufous markings…………………….T. albiventris, p. 154.
d1. Wing 3.5 to 4 …………………….T. blanfordi, p. 155.
The habits of all the three-toed Quails are very similar. They live chiefly in grass or low bush, only emerging into bare places, such as roads, in the morning and evening ; they are solitary, as a rule, and although far from rare, are seldom seen, except when disturbed by men walking through the grass. The bird then rises at the man's feet, flies with much the flight of a Common Quail for a short distance, often not more than 10 or 15 yards, and then drops once more into the grass, whence it can very seldom be flushed a second time. Dogs may often catch these birds alive, as, after one flight, they lie still and allow themselves to be captured in preference to flying. The food of all species consists principally of small seeds ; small insects and tips of grass and leaves are also eaten.
Throughout the genus the females are larger, and in several species they are more brilliantly coloured than the males. In the only species of which the breeding-habits are well known, T. pugnax, the birds pair, but still the ordinary conduct of the sexes during the period of incubation is reversed, for the male alone sits on the eggs and tends the young brood, whilst the females wander about, utter a purring call, that serves as a challenge, and fight each other. Jerdon has described how a hen is used as a decoy in the Carnatic, and other hens captured by means of a trap-cage when they approach to fight her. A similar device is employed in Bengal near Calcutta, as recently noticed by Mr. Munn. Only females are thus caught and only in the breeding-season, the birds, after they are taken, often laying their eggs in the basket or bag in which they are placed.
The eggs appear to be usually four in number, occasionally more numerous, broad ovals, generally pointed towards one end, and double-spotted—that is, they are stone-coloured, whitish, or yellowish, with two sets of coloured spots differing in tint and Distribution. They are laid in a hollow on the ground, which is generally under a bush or beside a tuft of grass, and sometimes lined with grass.