The Beloved Francolins of Keauhou

The Grey Francolin is one of our favorite creatures

The Gray Francolin was imported to Hawaii in 1959 as a game bird. Native to India, they’re now commonly found on Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Hawaii Island. Francolins are regular visitors to our front lawn in Keauhou on the Big Island. One of the most enjoyable aspects of living in Hawaii is the wildlife and the Gray Francolin is among our favorite creatures.

Francolins are vigilant and well camouflaged

They’re easy to spot on our green lawn but are difficult to see in the underbrush they prefer.

Francolins are inquisitive and cautious.

Male Francolin / Keauhou / September 2021

They have a pale face and throat, outlined in dark brown.

Female Francolin / Keauhou / September 2021

They have a distinct crosshatch feather pattern. Downy tufts are seen alongside the tail feathers.

Francolin / Keauhou / Aug 2021

The male Francolin has spurs.

Male Gray Francolin / Keauhou / Sept 2021

Francolins are terrestrial birds

Francolins are considered terrestrial birds. They run when startled, seeming to opt for flight as a last resort. When they launch they generally fly short distances before quickly disappearing into shrubs or undergrowth. We find their gait humorous. They glance about and change direction often as if they’re unsure of where they’re headed.

They feed on insects, vegetable matter and seeds.

Francolin Foraging / Keauhou / Sept 2021

They forage like wild chickens, pecking and scratching at our lawn.

Male Francolin Scratching Lawn / Keauhou / Sept 2021

The Call of the Francolin

Our most regular Francolin visitors are a group of three — a large male and two females. The male of this group is the dominant male of our lawn. He chases other Francolins away. A House Sparrow once got in his road and he plucked a tuft of feathers from its rump. His call is distinct and uniquely loud.

The Call of the Francolin / Keauhou / Sept 2021

A Francolin love affair

A few months back a lone male began visiting us. Recently, a lone female appeared. At first they seemed disinterested in one another and would sit with their backs facing. It soon became clear that while playing hard to get, they were always within a few feet of one another.

Now they dine together — alfresco of course.

Francolins feeding / Keauhou / September 2021

They take naps on our rock wall. Perhaps they’re resting up for the work that lies ahead?

Francolins napping on rock wall / Keauhou / September 2021

Francolins are dutiful parents

We’ve seen several groups of adult Francolins with chicks. It’s not always a pair of Francolins that are accompanied by fledglings. We have seen three adults — two males and a female — escorting chicks.

Every season Francolins make nests in our neighbors’ planters. The typical clutch is six to eight eggs.

Francolin nest / Keauhou / May 2021

Francolins are active parents, dutifully corralling the young, offering protection and teaching them to forage.

Francolin hen with five chicks / Keauhou / July 2021

Francolins adopt out

Researchers believe Francolins engage in “intraspecific brood parasitism,” a fancy way of saying they sometimes lay their eggs in other Francolin nests, leaving the childrearing to the adoptive parents.[1][2][3] Last May our neighbor found a nest in her planter with 11 Francolin eggs in it. We’re pretty sure the owner of that nest didn’t lay all those eggs herself!

[1] Jerdon, T. C. (1864). The Birds of India, Vol 3. George Wyman & Co. pp. 569–572.

[2]Tiwari, J.K. (1999). Large clutch size in Grey Francolin. Newsletter for Birdwatchers. 38 (6): 105.

[3] Edwards, D.B. (1933). Nesting of the Grey Partridge. .J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 36 (2): 512.

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Aloha! I’m a real estate agent on the wonderful and amazing Big Island of Hawaii. I live up the hill from Keauhou Bay, just south of downtown Kailua-Kona. I love to help people. If I can be of assistance, get in touch.

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