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Black Francolin

Kingdom: Animalia    Phylum: Chordata   Class: Aves (Birds)    Order: Galliformes   Family: Phasianidae

Black Francolin
Black Francolin - photo © Rajiv Lather

Francolinus francolinus
Black Francolin

Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus), sometimes known as Black Partridge, is a widespread breeding resident in most of north and central India. The southern edge of its range extends eastwards from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa to Assam. In north it is seldom found above an altitude of 2700 m. Three geographical races in India; the western (paler) F. francolinus henrici, the central F. francolinus asiae and the eastern (darker) F. francolinus melanonotus. Called Kala Teetar in Hindi, this handsome stub-tailed game bird is found near cultivation and scrub, bordering wetlands. Black francolin prefers crops, grass and bushes, tall enough to offer shelter and open beneath to provide easy escape on ground. It is more closely associated with water than the Grey Francolin.

Size: 34 cm

The male Black Francolin is black with white patch on the cheek, a chestnut collar and white spots on the flanks. The back and wings are scalloped with shades of golden brown with sub-terminal tawny-buff bands and pale edges. Tail is black with narrow white bars. Legs are reddish-brown to red. The female Black Francolin similar to the male, but is paler, with wider brown bars on the lower back, the white cheek patch is missing and the chestnut collar replaced by a nuchal patch.

Food consists mainly of grain, grass seeds, fallen berries, shoots, tubers, termites, ants and insects. The Black Francolins are usually seen in pairs or small droves of up to five birds. They leave the undergrowth early and late in the day to feed in the fields, never straying too far from the thicket cover. These birds are secretive, shy and suspicious of humans, and thus hard to observe and photograph. Fast runners, they move along the ground when approached and fly only when the end of cover is reached. Then, breaking cover, they fly strong, fast and low to the next thicket patch. The call of the Black Francolin, described as a loud ringing klik cheek-cheek-cheerakik, can be heard in the mornings and evenings and almost all day during the breeding season. The male calls standing on a earth mound, bund, rock or a low tree branch and is soon joined by other birds answering from all directions.

Black Francolin is monogamous and breeds from late March to September depending on the range. The nest is a grass-lined shallow depression in the ground, usually well concealed in vegetation. The clutch size can vary between 6 to 10 eggs. Only the hen incubates the eggs for 18 to 19 days. The young appear in April through October.

Black Francolin had earlier been hunted and netted extensively thus resulting in considerable decrease in population. Now, with hunting ban in force, they are making a gradual comeback. The Black Francolin has been notified as the state bird of Haryana.


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