Painted Spurfowl: A resident bird that ‘chooses’ its hills with a fine-toothed comb

Largely seen as a fowl of Peninsular India, the species is present in pockets that mix hills and scrublands. In its vary, why does this fowl skip many terrains that match this description?

Three bitter phasianidae realities birders from Peninsular India need to swallow.

Taking its identify significantly, the delectably-coloured Himalayan Monal retains to that area, fancying actual property that comes with an elevation of 10,000 ft, give or take a few hundreds. So, a monal sighting is far effort, a lot time and some journey tickets away.

The Golden Pheasant, additionally strikingly-painted, isn’t inside simple vary, and may even be safely known as out-of-bounds. Although endemic to western China’s mountainous ranges, it has populated scattered components in the remainder of the world as feral populations, however none of those is in India.

The unkindest lower of all: the Painted Spurfowl, as with the opposite two, the male is true out of a canvas, belongs to peninsular India. However not each peninsular birding soul is deemed worthy to have a Painted Spurfowl sighting of their yard. The fowl a mixture of a scrub atmosphere and a hilly terrain, nevertheless it chooses such properties with a fine-feathered comb.

A male Painted Spurfowl at Rishi Vally in Madanapalle, Chittor district, Andhra Pradesh. Picture: V. Santharam  
| Picture Credit score:
V. Santharam

So, you will see that this species within the Natham-Vallapakkam vary in Vellore, round 150 km from Chennai. However not within the Kumizhi hills close to Guduvancherry; not within the hillocks in Pallavaram; not within the Vandalur space; nor on the hillocks round Mailai village on the way in which to Chengelpet, although the non-decrepit village with its hillocks is understood for one more well-known phasianidae, the Indian peacock. In fact, the Indian peacock is a extremely adaptable member of the household, with a variety overlaying the size and breadth of India, apart from the actually excessive reaches of the Himalayan vary.

“The Painted Spurfowl wants a hilly terrain marked by enormous, uncovered rocks, which I don’t suppose actually characterises the hillocks in and round Guduvanchery. Massive boulders with scrub vegetation in-between — that’s the place we usually see this species. The Painted Spurfowl sighting closest to Chennai has been at Gingee in Vellore district. I don’t suppose they’re in coastal areas. They’re present in areas somewhat extra inside; somewhat extra drier. The Deccan plateau have to be a very good habitat; Hampi could be a very good space to sight the Painted Spurfowl. In fact, the species is within the Japanese Ghats’, and in addition present in a few of the outlying hills of the Western Ghats, however not within the vary’s densely forested areas,” says V. Santharam, orinithologist and director, Institute of Chook Research, Rishi Valley, a residential faculty run by the Krishnamurti Basis of India, in Madanapalle, Chittor.

Seen in pairs

If the final paragraph of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Seashore ever required an illustration from the pure world, the Painted Spurfowl could be a match candidate.

A male Painted Spurfowl at the Natham-Vallapakkam range in Vellore. Photo: Rama Neelamegam

A male Painted Spurfowl on the Natham-Vallapakkam vary in Vellore. Picture: Rama Neelamegam
| Picture Credit score:
Rama Neelamegam

Grownup birds are often seen transferring round in pairs, ascending and descending hilly slopes, and foraging collectively in scrub vegetation. That’s precisely Santharam’s commentary ay Rishi Valley.

He elaborates: “Our campus is protected and well-wooded, and surrounded by rocky hillocks. I’ve seen the Painted Spurfowl go up these hillocks in pairs, flying from one rock to a different, solely to keep away from stepping into the bushes, and making a characterisitc name. They most likely feed on the rocky hill, within the scrub forest, on seeds fallen from the vegetation within the crevices of those rocks. Within the night, the reverse occurs. They begin descending from 4.30 p.m. – 5 p.m. onwards, and the gradual descent would come to an finish round 5.30 p.m. – 6 p.m., relying on the sundown. As they transfer downwards, they’d once more fly from one rock to a different, making that decision. And they also come to our campus, the place they most likely roost on timber. On the campus, I’ve seen the Crimson Spurfowl climb up timber to roost there. For a very long time, we thought solely the Painted Spurfowl was on the campus, nevertheless it got here to the sunshine that the Crimson Spurfowl was there too; they usually appear to be commoner than the Painted Spurfowl.”

A phasianidae cousin

ts inherently cautious nature had saved the Crimson Spurfowl from being undocumented as a species on the campus

In Indian Birds, dated 22 April 2013, Santharam narrates how in February 2011, Chennai birder and Madras Naturalists’ Society member Gnanaskandan Keshavabharathi photographed the Crimson Spurfowl at Rishi Valley. That proof led Santharam to revisit areas the place he had earlier heard what he recognised as calls of the shy and retiring Crimson Spurfowl, however not clapping eyes on it round theses areas, had held him again from acknowledging the species’ presence. Contemporary and decided efforts now led to many Crimson Spurfowl sightings on the campus.

A Red Spurfowl at Rishi Valley in Madanapalle, Chittor district, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: V. Santharam

A Crimson Spurfowl at Rishi Valley in Madanapalle, Chittor district, Andhra Pradesh. Picture: V. Santharam
| Picture Credit score:
V. Santharam

The Crimson Spurfowl can also be a fowl of the hill nation with a desire for scrublands.

Santharam says, “There are outdated data of Crimson Spurfowls being offered within the Madras Market; these had been most likely birds captured from hills, probably Nagari Hills, and dropped at Madras.”

‘A chance’

Coming again to the Painted Spurfowl, eBird reviewer Vikas Madhav Nagarajan has made an commentary of feminine Painted Spurfowl sighting at Kolapakkam, within the Vandalur belt, in December, 2018. He might snap a photograph of the fowl.

“Although I’m sure it was a Painted Spurfowl, I’m not certain concerning the fowl’s origin: the place it might have come from. It might have been an escapee, after being introduced right here and saved in some type of confinement,” says Vikas.

On the chance of the Painted Spurfowl being a resident in these components: “With the sort of rocks discovered there, the Deccan topography could be best habitat for the Painted Spurfowl. It isn’t nearly hills, even the character of the vegetative cowl issues. The vegetative cowl within the hillocks in Chennai and its outlying areas is totally different from that present in Vellore and Tiruvanamalai hills. Painted Spurfowl, White-naped Woodpecker and Yellow-throated Bulbul Crimson Spurfowl are birds you see in Vellore and Thiruvanamalai.”

Not many weeks in the past, Chennai-based birder Rama Neelemegam documented Yellow-throated Bulbul and Crimson Spurfowl sightings from the identical habitat in Vellore.

Vikas says: “You by no means know, there could also be an odd pocket or two round Chennai that will have the Painted Spurfowl. However are these areas accessible sufficient for us to discover them? For instance, I stumbled on the Barred Buttonquail at Guindy Nationwide Park. It simply turned up. The Barred Buttonquail is recorded within the suburbs. However sighting it in the midst of the town was a shock. An openness to sure prospects about birds ought to be entertained.”

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