Thursday, January 8, 2009

Grey Partridge with babies
Grey Francolin, also called Gray Partridge or “teetar” in Marathi or Hindi, is a common breeding resident bird in India. The Grey Francolin’s legs and feet are dark red. It is about 31 cm long, and about the size of a large domestic pigeon or a half-grown village hen, but with shorter tail and wings. Being a game bird, it is characterized by its strong legs and feet, adapted to both running and scratching. The birds are however well camouflaged by the pattern of their plumage. The breast and abdomen grayish white, tinged with rufous and closely barred with narrow wavy black bars. Sexes alike, but the male somewhat larger with a sharp spur, occasionally double, on each leg.
The Grey Francolin inhabits open ground dotted with scrub jungle, grasslands. It is typically found in pairs, but family parties or coveys of 4-8 birds are also known which break up into pairs during the breeding season. Despite its brown plumage, it is a beautiful bird with a graceful walk, well adapted to withstand drought conditions. As they can subsist for long periods without water as long as dew is available, they are even encountered miles away from water. Although the Grey Francolin is an amazing runner, it prefers to walk. The birds seem to glide rather than run. When alarmed or disturbed, they will quickly fly with a true Partridge ‘whirr’ and disappear into the nearest bush. The Grey Francolin is an extremely noisy bird, whose call is the most noteworthy. In India, partridges are captured and kept as pets because of their loud calls, and also trained to fight.
The cryptic coloration of the hen helps provide some degree of protection to the eggs while she sits on them. The female lays from 8-10 eggs, but sometimes the clutch size can be larger, from 8-16. Other Partridge hens produce some of the largest clutches of any bird species. Clutch size can range up to 22 eggs, and averages 16 to 18. The chicks feed for themselves from hatching, but they are escorted and guided by one or both parents. Both adults and young feed on insects, mostly grasshoppers. They can be observed digging and scratching the ground for insects with the bill and feet. Even cattle dung is pecked at times for food. The young are especially fond of ants and their pupae or larvae.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

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