Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
(State Bird of California)
ORTIX CALIFORNICA, Lath.
PLATE CCXC.--MALE AND FEMALE.
This beautiful species was discovered in the course of the voyage of LA
PEROUSE, and figured in the atlas accompanying the account of that unfortunate
expedition, but without any other notice respecting its habits or distribution,
than an intimation of its having been found abundant in the plains and thickets
of California, where it formed large flocks. MR. TOWNSEND has lately sent me a
beautiful specimen of the male, which he procured on the 6th of March, 1837,
near Santa Barbara in California. I have to regret, however, that he has not
furnished me with any account of its habits. MR. NUTTALL, in speaking to me of
this bird, informed me that it is very gentle or confident, so as to be in a
great measure regardless of the approach of man, that its manners resemble those
of our Common or Virginian Partridge, and that the males in spring are seen
perched on low bushes, where they utter their love-notes in the same emphatic
manner as the species just mentioned.
PERDIX CALIFORNICA, Lath. Ind. Ornith. Supplt., p. 62.
CALIFORNIAN PARTRIDGE, Perdix californica, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. p. 152.
Male, 9 1/4, wing, 4 7/12. Female, 9, wing, 4 7/12.
Upper California. Abundant. Resident.
Bill very short, stout; its dorsal outline decurved from the base, the
ridge narrow, the sides sloping and slightly convex, the edges sharp and
overlapping, the tip rather obtuse but thin-edged; nostrils basal, oblong,
opereulate in the fore part of the wide nasal groove, which is partially covered
with feathers; gap-line a little arched; lower mandible with the angle short and
rounded, the dorsal line ascending and slightly convex, the ridge broad, the
sides convex, the edges sharp, the tip obtuse.
Head of moderate size, ovate; neck short; body full. Feet of moderate
length, stout; tibia covered to the joint; tarsus rather short, a little
compressed, sharp-edged behind, covered all round with angular scales, of which
the anterior are very large; toes four, the first small, and placed higher than
the rest; the anterior long, rather slender, the fourth considerably longer than
the second, the third much the longest, all scutellate above. Claws long,
rather slender, arched, rather obtuse.
Plumage full, firm, blended. Feathers on the fore part of the head linear,
recurved, stiff; those of the neck oblong, of the throat blended, of the other
parts generally broadly ovate. On the top of the head is an elegant crest of
elongated feathers, six in number, at first decurved, towards the end recurved,
narrow at the base, broad towards the end, with the webs deflected, the longest
an inch and two-twelfths. Wings short, convex, much rounded, the fourth and
fifth quills longest, the first eight-twelfths of an inch shorter. Tail rather
short, much rounded, of twelve feathers.
Bill bluish-black. Iris dark hazel. Feet dull yellowish-grey, claws
dusky. The stiff feathers on the forehead are dull yellow; the crest black, the
upper part of the head dark-brown, margined with a band of white; the throat
deep black, margined by a semilunar band of white, curving up to the eyes,
behind which is a bare space. The hind part and sides of the neck are light
ash-grey, anteriorly approaching to white, beautifully marked with black, each
feather having a marginal band and central line of that colour; the lower half
of the neck anteriorly and a part of the breast, are greyish-blue, the rest of
the breast reddish-white, its central part chestnut-red, with semilunar black
bands; the sides reddish-brown, each feather with a central white streak; the
rest of the lower parts light yellowish-brown, faintly barred with dusky, the
lower tail-coverts with a central dark brown streak. The back and wings are
greyish-brown, the outer secondaries margined externally, the inner internally,
with light red; the tail brownish-grey.
Length to end of tail 9 1/2 inches; bill along the ridge (6 1/2)/12, along
the edge of lower mandible 6/12; wing from flexure 4 7/12; tail 3 1/2; tarsus
1 1/4; hind toe 4/12, its claw 3/12; middle toe 1 2/12, its claw (6 1/2)/12.
The female, which is a little smaller, has also a shorter tuft of elongated
feathers on the head, and is much less brightly coloured; the bill being brown,
the feet yellowish-brown; the upper part of the head dull reddish-brown, the
throat and cheeks brownish-white, streaked with dusky; the hind part and sides
of the neck greyish-brown, each feather with a median and marginal band of
black, as in the male, but fainter; the lower part of the neck and part of the
breast brownish-grey, the rest of the upper and lower parts as in the male, but
Length to end of tail 9 inches; bill along the ridge 6/12; wing from
flexure 4 7/12; tail 3 9/12; tarsus 1 1/12; hind toe (3 1/4)/12, its claw
(2 1/2)/12; middle toe 1 2/12 its claw 5/12.