Swamp francolin (Francolinus gularis)

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Swamp francolin
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Swamp francolin fact file

Swamp francolin description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGalliformes
FamilyPhasianidae
GenusFrancolinus (1)

The swamp francolin (Francolinus gularis) is a shy, terrestrial game bird belonging to the grouse, partridge and pheasant family (Phasiandae). It is the largest of the Asian francolins (2). This species is easily distinguished within the genus due to its unusually long legs (4).

The swamp francolin’s back and wings are covered in black and brown feathers and it has white flashes on the chest, not dissimilar to other partridges. This species also has distinctive rusty-red colouring on the upper throat and neck. Although the male and female have similar plumage, the male swamp francolin is easily recognisable by its spurs and darker coloured legs (3) (5).

The call of the swamp francolin is often a loud and harsh chuill sound, but when panicked it resembles a loud chuckling and whirring sound (2) (3).

Size
Body length: 37 cm (2)
Weight
51 g (3)
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Swamp francolin biology

The swamp francolin is usually found in small groups or in pairs (2) (3). It is an omnivorous bird, with a diet consisting of seeds, grains, small insects, snails, worms and small crabs (4).

The swamp francolin breeds between February and May. It nests on a thick ‘pad’ of vegetation among reeds, in shallow water up to 45 centimetres deep (3) (4). The incubation period is unknown, but clutch size is typically four to five eggs. The eggs are cream coloured with a slightly speckled pattern. The chicks are highly active just a few days after hatching and follow the adults around looking for food (4) (5).

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Swamp francolin range

The swamp francolin is endemic to the high grasslands, called terai, of the Himalayas in Nepal, northern India and Bangladesh. It typically occurs at an altitude of up to 500 metres (2) (3).

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Swamp francolin habitat

The swamp francolin occurs in different types of habitat in different seasons (6). Generally, this species is found in tall, wet, swampy grassland, commonly within 200 metres of water (4). However, during the monsoon season, the swamp francolin prefers dry grassland and woodland (6).

During the breeding season, the swamp francolin is found in woodland and wet grassland (6), and has more recently been reported to also inhabit sugarcane fields (3).

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Swamp francolin status

The swamp francolin is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Swamp francolin threats

The swamp francolin is classified as Vulnerable due to the rapid decline in its population, which is thought to be the result of a number of threats (2).

Almost the entire natural habitat of the swamp francolin is under intense pressure from the encroachment of people, deforestation, forest fire and man-made fires, as well as drainage for agriculture and irrigation schemes (4) (7).

There is also the possibility that the use of pesticides may be killing the swamp francolin indirectly, by poisoning its invertebrate prey and entering the swamp francolin’s food chain (4).

In addition to threats to its habitat, the swamp francolin is also a target for hunting for sport and food. In some cases, caught birds are sold illegally on the black market (8).

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Swamp francolin conservation

In India, the swamp francolin is legally protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which bans the trade and trapping of all indigenous birds (4) (7). However, after revelations of the illegal trade in birds on the black market, it is clear that stricter controls need to be enforced (8). A captive breeding programme has also been initiated in India by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, in an attempt to increase this species’ numbers (4) (5).

Habitat management and protection is vital to secure the survival of the swamp francolin. Any disturbance to its habitat that is necessary for agricultural progress is being conducted before the breeding season to reduce its impact (4) (5).

There are numerous studies being conducted to improve knowledge of the distribution and ecology of this species, which will hopefully increase awareness of the dangers it faces (6) (7). The protection and identification of the most vulnerable habitats, together with the prevention of hunting, are the main targets in the protection and conservation of the swamp francolin (4) (5)

In Nepal, Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) has recommended the inclusion of the swamp francolin on the protected bird list. It has also been suggested that the swamp francolin’s image should appear on postage stamps to help raise its profile as a vulnerable species (9).

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Find out more

Learn more about the conservation of the swamp francolin:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Indigenous
A species that occurs naturally in an area.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Omnivorous
Feeding on both plants and animals.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International (September, 2011) http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=150
  3. Sathyakumar, S. and Sivakumar, K. (2007) Galliformes of India. ENVIS Bulletin: Wildlife and Protected Areas, 10:14.
  4. Coller, N.J., Andreev, A.V., Chan, S., Crosby, M.J., Subramanya, S., Tobias, J.A. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
  5. Fuller, R.A., Carroll, J.P., and McGowan, P.J.K. (Eds.) (2000) Partridges, Quails, Francolins, Snowcocks, Guineafowl, and Turkeys. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 20002004. WPA/BirdLife/SSC Partridge, Quail, and FrancolinSpecialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK, and the World Pheasant Association, Reading, UK.
  6. Dahal, B.R., McGowan, P.J.K., Browne, S.J. (2009) An assessment of census techniques, habitat use and threats to Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Nepal. Bird Conservation International, 19: 137-147.
  7. Iqubal, P., McGowen, P.J.K., Carroll J.P., Rahmani A.R., (2003) Home range size, habitat use and nesting success of Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis on agricultural land in northern India. Bird Conservation International, 13: 127-138.
  8. Bagla, P. (2002) India’s Black Market in Birds Threatening Rare Species. National Geographic News, 2 October. Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1002_021002_indiabirds.html
  9. Baral, H.S. (2009) Galliform conservation in Nepal. World Pheasant Association, International Journal of Galliforms Conservation, 1: 6-8.
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Image credit

Swamp francolin  
Swamp francolin

© Jyotendra Thakuri

Jyotendra Thakuri
jyotendra123@gmail.com

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