Editor’s Note: Maps, rich media, and text have been updated to reflect a taxonomic change/split for this species. This species account is still being edited and may contain content from an earlier version of the account.
Francolins are plump game birds with rounded tails and wings. Of the 3 species covered in this account, Erckel's Francolin is endemic to northeastern Africa, the Gray Francolin naturally occurs from Iran to Bangladesh, and the Black Francolin is naturally found from the eastern Mediterranean region through Myanmar (Burma) and from the former Soviet Union to the Caspian Sea. These species have been introduced to many regions of the world, including Italy, parts of the former Soviet Union, Guam, many islands in the Indian Ocean, and the United States.
Under the direction of the Foreign Game Importation Program, a cooperative effort that included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and various state fish and game departments, these francolins were introduced for recreational hunting to several U.S. states during the 1950s and 1960s. These attempts at introduction failed on the mainland, but all 3 species of introduced francolins survived on the main Hawaiian Islands.
Francolins are birds of open habitats that frequent grasslands, shrubby uplands, open thorn forests, and forest edges. Their omnivorous diet has allowed them to adapt to human-altered environments such as cultivated fields, irrigated plantations, golf courses, and roadsides; the Gray Francolin is the most adaptable of the 3 species. The distinct Advertisement Calls of francolins are loud and are heard through most of the year. Highly cursorial, francolins prefer to run for cover rather than to fly. Francolins are monogamous, and both parents tend young. Sedentary and gregarious, young stay with parents for several months. Nests are simple scrapes on the ground, sometimes lined with vegetation. Clutch size generally ranges from 4 to 10 eggs. Chicks are highly mobile at hatching; they follow parents shortly after hatching and are capable of finding food on their own (Cramp and Simmons 1980a, Del Hoyo et al. 1994).