- History and Culture
The grey francolin was formerly also called the grey partridge. Francolinus pondicerianus is a species of francolin native to the plains and drier parts of South Asia and is believed to have been introduced to Mauritius around the mid18th century as a gamebird. The species is a medium-sized francolin measuring a maximum of 34 centimeters for males and 30 centimeters for females. Both males and females have brown plumage which is barred throughout. Dwelling mostly on the ground, they are weak flyers and if they are required to do so, they will fly only short distances.
Grey francolins are mostly found in open cultivated lands as well as scrub forest, where it forages on bare and low grass, rarely above 500 meters in India and 1200 meters in Pakistan. It also feeds on seeds, grains and insects particularly termites and beetles.
The bird is usually seen dwelling in small groups and is distinguished by its loud calls heard in the mornings. It also roosts in low vegetation in small groups.
In introduced populations, breeding seasons may vary and usually last for a period of six months. Males will attract challengers and decoys by calling. They build nests in a hidden depression on the ground and at times in the crevice of a wall or rock. Females usually lay six to eight eggs.
The species has an extremely large range and is common in its native range as well as where it has been introduced; it is therefore considered a species of ‘Least Concern’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Hunting of the bird in Mauritius was so popular at a time that it was regulated; one could only hunt between the 1st of April until the 15th of August. Diminishing populations due to the popularity of this activity has led to a cessation of hunting activities.