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A photo of a Grey Francolin (Ortygornis pondicerianus)
Grey Francolin

Grey Francolin

Ortygornis pondicerianus

The Grey Francolin, Ortygornis pondicerianus, is a medium-sized bird of the francolin genus, notable for its barred plumage and pale face with a thin black border around a pale throat. Males, larger than females, may sport up to two leg spurs, while females typically lack them. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism in size, with males measuring between 29–34 cm and weighing 260–340 g, and females measuring 26–30 cm with a weight range of 200–310 g.

Identification Tips

In the field, one can distinguish the Grey Francolin by its overall barred appearance and the pale face contrasted by the black-bordered throat. The painted francolin is a similar species but can be differentiated by its rufous vent. When in flight, the Grey Francolin reveals a chestnut tail and dark primaries.

Habitat

The Grey Francolin is predominantly a ground-dwelling bird, favoring open cultivated lands, scrub forests, and other open habitats. It is typically found at elevations below 500 m in India and up to 1200 m in Pakistan.

Distribution

This species is native to the plains and drier parts of the Indian subcontinent and Iran. It is also present in north-western Sri Lanka and has been introduced to the Andaman and Chagos Islands, as well as Nevada and Hawaii in the United States.

Behaviour

Grey Francolins are often observed in small groups, foraging on the ground. They are known for their loud and distinctive calls, particularly in the mornings. The calls include a repeated "Ka-tee-tar…tee-tar" and variations used for mating and challenging. They are weak fliers, preferring to escape into undergrowth after short bursts of flight.

Song & Calls

The species is vocal with a variety of calls. The female's call is a repeated "tee…tee…tee" or "kila..kila..kila," while the challenge call is a duet of "kateela..kateela..kateela."

Breeding

The Grey Francolin's breeding season spans from April to September. Nests are typically scrapes on the ground, sometimes elevated in a wall or rock niche. Clutch sizes range from six to eight eggs, though larger clutches have been recorded, possibly due to brood parasitism.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists of seeds, grains, insects (notably termites and beetles), and occasionally larger prey like snakes. They are particularly adept at foraging for food on the ground.

Conservation status

The Grey Francolin is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, they are hunted in much of their range, often using low nets and calling decoy birds.

In culture

The Grey Francolin has a long history of domestication in the northern Indian subcontinent for the purpose of bird fighting. Domesticated birds are significantly larger than their wild counterparts and exhibit a high degree of tameness.

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