Francolinus, The Black Francolin is also known as the Indian Francolin, as these birds are native to Western India.
Black Francolins are unusual and exciting additions to the aviary or game bird collection. Unlike most species of Francolin, male and female Black Francolins look different from each other. The males have striking black faces, which are made more dramatic due to a white cheek patch, brown crown of the head, and a bright chestnut-red neck patch. The black continues down the neck and becomes spotted in bright white over the breast with broad striping and lacing over the shoulders and wings in a more hazelnut brown coloring. Females are subtle but attractive with their camouflaging brown, wheaten, gray, and black barring and spotting. Females also have a chestnut-red neck patch, which gives these birds a 'matching pair' look.
Range: The Black Francolin once had a broad range from Spain to India. It has largely disappeared from most of Europe and is threatened in Eastern Europe and Cyprus. They have been re-established in Italy, as well as on four of the Hawaiian Islands and Guam. And there are also small populations found in Louisiana and southern Florida.
Habitat: Black Francolins are adaptable birds found in a variety of habitats. They seem to prefer dense vegetation with water sources nearby. They prefer scrubby low-lying vegetation such as brush land or wooded edges over forested environments.
Status in the Wild: The Black Francolin is currently listed as being of Least Concern in their Conservation Status.
Status in Aviculture: Black Francolins are established in Asian aviculture, but are uncommon but growing in popularity in the U.S.
Breeding: The breeding season of the Black Francolin is anywhere from April through June. Males have a loud call during the breeding season and can become quite aggressive. It is best to keep pairs secluded during the breeding season. And be wary of the over-aggression of the male even toward the female mate. Plenty of space and brushy-hiding places will help in keeping aggression mild. Birds can usually breed in their first year.
Incubation: The clutch size is usually between 8 to 14 eggs, and the hen incubates the eggs for 18-19 days. The eggs are unusual being rounded and in a light, creamed coffee, almost golden, color.
Lifespan: Black Francolins generally live at least 7 years in captivity.
Size: Black Francolins are partridge-sized birds, measuring 9 to 16 inches in total length and weighing about 1 - 1.25 pounds.
Housing Requirements: Black Francolins can be skittish and can spook, bursting into the explosive flight right into the sides of the enclosure. They do prefer to creep away to brush on foot. Provide plenty of floor space and brush and hiding areas. This would help with their explosive flight pattern. Building aviary sides out of netting with extra give also would help. Black Francolins are winter hardy, but it is best to provide some extra shelter during the winter especially in northern areas.
Diet: The Black Francolin diet in the wild is varied and opportunistic, as the birds will eat any berries, seeds, tubers, roots, grasses, insects, and vegetable matter that they come upon. In captivity, they tend to eat fewer greens and more seeds and insects; a commercial game bird feed is appropriate for feeding these birds.
Miscellaneous Notes: In the areas around northern India and Pakistan, there is a tradition of raising male Black Francolins as household pets. If hand-raised from chicks they can become tame!