(1205) Alaemon alaudipes doriae Salvad.
THE PERSIAN DESERT-LARK.
Aloemon alaudipes dorioe, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 304.
This big Lark is found from Mesopotamia. Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan to Sind and Cutch.
As Ticehurst writes (Ibis, 1923, p. 11) :—This is “pre¬eminently a desert bird, and is only found in the barest, most open plains, both sandy and stony, veritable howling wildernesses, or among the undulating sand-hills where a few straggling tamarisk tots, 'lani’ (Sueda) or marram grass help temporarily to stay the drift. Everywhere where these conditions obtain this bird may be found, and is resident from the North Sind frontier to the Runn of Cutch, west to the Habb River and east to the E. Naira."
J. C. Francis was the first person to obtain the nest of this bird in Sind and then Scrope Doig also found it breeding between the Narra and Hyderabad districts, Bell and Betham later found many nests, and the former in a letter to me gives a most interesting account of its nidification which amplifies that of Francis and Scrope Doig :—
“They are not rare about Karachi but are scattered over a vast extent of ground. They breed in the desert, where there are no trees and little vegetation beyond stunted tamarisk and Sueda- bushes with scattered tufts of withered grass. Hero, if the male is watched for, the nest will soon be found, as ho displays con¬stantly in the breeding season and, within a very little distance of where he alights after his display, the nest will be found. Nor, when once one knows what to look for, is it in the least difficult to find. Scattered about over the plains and sand-hills are numerous little hillocks, each crowned by a scrubby bush or two, the basal half buried in the sand and the flat top mixed with wind-blown debris. Here the Desert-Lark builds his large untidy nest of grass, leaves and soft twigs on a basis of larger twigs, roots and drift. The lining is of finer grasses, roots and twigs mixed with a few feathers. The nest is generally placed on the shady side of the bush, but sometimes right in the middle on the top, where there is no shade at all. The bird has no real song, but before rising on his aerial display utters two loud whistling notes, then three others in a lower key, and finally, as he flutters up into the air and descends again with widespread wings, he utters a continuous little tee-tee-tee, starting on the highest note and then continuing in a descending scale. Occasionally he utters this little attempt at a song when perched on a hush.”
Francis says of the nest found by him that it “was large, placed in the sand, from outside twig to outside twig a foot across. It was composed of, first a layer of small branches, and then a deep circular cup, somewhat like an English Thrush’s nest.”
The breeding season is May and June, but a clutch of eggs taken by Buchanan near Dehra Ismail Khan was found on the 26th April, while one taken by Harington Bulkly’s native collector, who shot the bird off the nest, contained three eggs on the 19th August. In Iraq Cox and Cheesman obtained this bird’s nest and three eggs very hard set on the 5th June.
The eggs number two or three. The ground is white, very rarely tinged with cream or buff. Some eggs are minutely speckled with dark reddish-brown and with secondary pin-points of lavender, sparse everywhere except in a dense ring round the larger end. Other eggs have the marks larger and paler and less numerous but distributed as in the other eggs, only with the zone far less defined. They are the least heavily marked of all Larks’ eggs found within the area treated in this work, this, with their large size, separating them from all others.
In shape they are long ovals, in no case very pointed. The texture is coarse and not very close, the surface glossless and the shells very fragile.
Thirty eggs average 23.7 x 17.2 mm. ; maxima 25.9 x 17.6 and 25.6 x 18.3 mm. ; minima 22.0 x 16.7 mm.
The female alone incubates, but there appears to be nothing on record as to which sex builds the nest.
Many nests are said to be destroyed in sandstorms, the nests and eggs being buried in the sand,
1205. Alsemon alaudipes doriae
(1205) Alaemon alaudipes doriae Salvad.