ERCKEL’S FRANCOLIN (Pternistis erckelii) Introduced
DESCRIPTION: The Erckel’s Francolin is part of the partridge family. It has a rusty cap and the overall plumage is brown, heavily streaked in beige. The bill and eyes are black, and there’s a small white patch behind the eye. The throat is white. The legs and feet are yellow. Overall length is around 15 inches (40 cm). Sexes are similar and both have spurs, the male two and the female one. For this reason some francolin species are called ‘spurfowl’.
NAME: The English name ‘Francolin’ comes from Italian ‘Francolino” and means ‘free place’. The bird’s name was given by German naturalist Eduard Rüppel in 1835.
HABITAT: Dry shrub land at higher elevations, forest edges, golf courses and pasture land.
DIET: Omnivorous. Erckel’s francolins feed on grain, seeds and insects.
NESTING: Around 6 beige eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with leaves generally. Pairs are monogamous.
VOICE: One sound is like a barking ‘cak-cak-cak’. I heard one when close to the Palila Forest Discovery Trail, on the slope of Mauna Kea at around 7,000 feet elevation, but could not see it because of the thick cloud cover.
DISTRIBUTION: This francolin is native to Africa and was introduced to Hawaii in 1957 as a game bird. It has well adapted there since.
CONSERVATION: Estimates list that species as ‘least concern’ due to its large range and its successful adaptation where it was introduced (such as Italy and Hawaii).
NOTES: Francolins are partridge-like birds all native to Africa. The Erckel’s francolin will run for cover rather than fly. Before making that decision however, the bird will ‘freeze’ (see video below), probably ‘thinking’ that this makes it invisible. The Erckel’s francolin is also captive-raised as a source of meat.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Gray Francolin.
As can be seen in this video below, this game bird will ‘freeze’ before running in the underbush, as a strategy to avoid being seen:
This video below features an Erckel’s francolin alarm call from somewhere in the forest, in the Bird Trail of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (the bird itself could not be located though):
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