(1215) Alauda gulgula gulgula Franklin.
THE INDIAN SMALL SKY-LARK.
Alauda gulgula gulgula, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 319.
The Indian Small Sky-Lark is found over the whole of tropical Northern India, Assam and Burma. In India its Southern limit may be taken roughly as a line from Khandeish on the West to Hyderabad in the Deccan and thence to Masulipatam. It is found in Sind wherever there is suitable cultivated country and it ascends the Himalayas to some height. In Kashmir it is common up to about 5,000 feet and occurs in Kuman at this elevation. On the North-West Frontier Whitehead found it to be a common Summer breeder, nesting freely on the grass-farm up to some 2,000 feet or more. Harington also found it breeding at Peshawar.
This little Sky-Lark is just a miniature of our Enghsh Sky-Lark in its nidification. It haunts almost exclusively cultivated country or well-covered grass-lands, though occasionally it may breed in waste lands where there is little cover beyond a few bushes and some half-burnt grass. It builds often in grass by the sides of roads and village tracks, sometimes in grass growing on the banks of, or sand-banks in, rivers. Nests have also been found on golf-courses, boundary banks of rice-fields, in the scrub and grass) on the sides of ravines and so on. The nest is nearly always well secreted and is usually placed in a small depression, which Hume says the birds scratch out for themselves. This hollow may be among the roots of grass, at the foot of some small bush or, though only rarely, under a clod in a ploughed field or half under some protecting stone on waste land.
The nest is, more often than not, a rather flimsy cup or saucer made of grass and lined with rather finer grass. Sometimes roots are mixed with the grass, and Inglis says that moat nests in Bihar are composed partly of these. Sometimes a few fine weed-stems are also used, and I have seen nests made entirely of rice-straw and only lined with grass. In such cases only short lengths of straw are employed, not long lengths which can be curled round. These are just laid criss-cross on the ground, filling up the base and sides of the hollow, while the lining is more carefully placed and better intertwined. Even so the whole falls to pieces on removal, as indeed do nearly all nests of this bird.
The breeding season is principally in April, May and June and, even in the hotter drier districts, the Sky-Larks do not wait until the rains break to breed. In the hills they keep pretty closely to the three months mentioned but, in the plains, eggs have been taken in March, and in Belgaum Butler took eggs both in April and in September and saw flying young in June, while Aitken (B.) obtained eggs at Akola in July and August.
The number of egga laid is generally three, sometimes two only and very rarely four, while I have never seen more than this last number, Hume says : “Five is certainly the maximum number of eggs laid and three is the usual complement.” Marshall also says that “five is the full number of eggs.” All other collectors speak of only three, or even two, eggs forming a full clutch.
In appearance they are typical little Sky-Lark’s eggs. The two extremes seem to be ; (1) ground very pale cream or buff stippled freely all over with pale brick-red ; (2) ground pale grey similarly marked with pale grey-brown ; (3) deep dull buff ground almost obliterated by deep reddish-brown or brown freckles, small blotches and spots ; (4) rather dark grey ground densely speckled with dark grey-brown. In all eggs the markings are more numerous at the larger end than elsewhere and, in the dark eggs especially, often form rings or caps.
In shape they vary from broad to moderate ovals ; the texture is not very fine, but the shell has a fair, sometimes a high gloss.
Sixty-five eggs, including Hume’s, average 20.6 x 15.3 mm. ; maxima 23.0 x 17.0 mm. ; minima 18.4 x 14.5 and 19.3 x 14.0 mm.
Both birds assist in the construction of the nest, and the male bird incubates regularly in the early mornings and evenings, while his wife feeds, though he does not allow her very long off.
1215. Alauda gulgula gulgula
(1215) Alauda gulgula gulgula Franklin.