First Record of Black Francolin in Asansol
The black francolin (Francolinus francolinus) is a gamebird in the pheasant family, it normally flies only when disturbed. The Gallinaceous birds, as they are called, are important as seed dispersers and predators in the ecosystems they inhabit.
Discovery: It’s a cloudy Sunday morning of May, 2021 and we, the three vagabonds were biking beside the grasslands of Damodar river in Asansol in search of birds. Asansol, the third largest city of West Bengal is known for its coal mines, steel industry and other colonial hazards. But this area is also popular for its avian and lepidopteran diversities, which we earlier published in this esteemed magazine. However, back to the scene, we were searching for birds and we stopped in an area where one can find the typical Chotanagpur Plateau grassland habitat i.e. the land covered with grass and small bushes. And here, he came out like a king from a bush. The search for the last seven years came to an end. We couldn’t believe our eyes, that we were seeing a Black Francolin and that too in Asansol.
Identification: Black Francolin (Francolinus francolinus) is a resident bird and sizes about domestic cock. The male has a black face with white ear-covert patch, rufous collar and black underparts. The females are likely to be less beautiful with rufous hind neck, more greyish body with white and black spots in belly and chest. Like all francolinus, the Black Francolin too utters a loud, penetrating and repeated sound which is enough to track them, for a birder.
Geographical location and Lifestyle: Black Francolin, although quiet common in Chotanagpur Plateau part of Bengal, but elusive than its brother Grey Francolin and therefore possibly less documented, although the distribution shows it could be found throughout the north and north-east part of the subcontinent.
The actual time to find this elusive bird is perhaps early in the morning and late evening. These birds need good ground cover to hide and a water source nearby. The barren land with high grass or bush with an adjacent river or waterbody will be perfect for them. Disturbance, especially by humans, would not bother them and cultivation land far away would also do no harm.
Authors: Saptarshi Mukherjee, Manish Kumar Chattopadhyay and Diptesh Goswami