Size of a partridge, or of a half grown village fowl. The hen resembles a small, brown village chicken; the cock, with his white-spangled black foreparts and dark chestnut hinder parts, is unmistakable.
Strictly a forest bird, it is so shy and wary that its presence in a district would often pass quite unknown were it not for its unmistakable cry; this reveals that it is not uncommon in much of the more densely forested parts of its range. The cry is peculiar, ringing cackle, consisting of series of three-syllabled whistles.
Distinctly a ground bird. The food consists of various seeds, fallen berries, termites and other insects, and it scratches vigorously for them amongst the dead leaves, etc.,of the forest floor.
The breeding season is in the north-east monsoon, and sometimes a second brood is raised in July-September. The nest is a slight scrape in the ground in the shelter of a rock, bush, etc. The eggs from the normal clutch, but up to five have been recorded; they are cream or warm buff in colour, and exactly resemble miniature hens' eggs in appearance. They measure about 43 × 31 mm.
This bird widely distributed in the southern half of the Island, both in in the hills, up to 7,000 feet, and in the low country; but is commonest in the damp rain-forests of the wet zone. It also occurs locally in riverrine forests of the dry zone, in both the northern and southern half of the island.