(1244) Ammomanes deserti phaenicuroides.
The Indian Desert Finch-Lark.
Mirafra phaenicuroides Blyth, J.A.S. B., xxii, p. 583 (1853) (Kashmir). Ammomanes phaenicuroides. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 340.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Whole upper plumage pale earthy-brown tinged with pinky-rufous on the upper tail-coverts and, in some specimens, showing faint streaks of blackish on the crown; tail brown,, edged with fulvous and tinged with rufous at the base and with the whole of the outer web of the outermost feathers pale rufous-pink; wing-coverts and quills light brown edged with pale fulvous ; the inner bases of the primaries and nearly the whole of the inner webs of the secondaries rufous ; lores brown, the lores and the eye surrounded by white; cheeks and ear-coverts greyish-brown ; chin, throat and upper breast fulvous-white, indistinctly streaked with dark brown; remainder of lower plumage dull greyish rufous-pink; under wing-coverts and axillaries rufous-pink.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale brown to hazel; bill above dark horny-brown, yellowish or pale horny-yellow below; legs and feet pale yellowish-brown.
Measurements. Wing 95 to 105 mm.; tail 65 to 69 mm.; tarsus 22 to 23 mm.; culmen 13 to 15 mm.
Distribution. Kashmir, N.W. .Frontier Province, Punjab, Sind, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Mekran Coast, Muscat. It straggles into the Plains in Winter as far as Jacobabad, Rohri and Sukkur.
Nidification. Currie found this bird breeding in some numbers on the rocky limestone hills near Kerman as well as in the desert country in their immediate vicinity. It breeds commonly in Sind in the stony foothills of the North; Magrath took its nest near Khar on the Afghan Frontier and Cock, Buchanan and others took many nests and eggs round about Nowshera in the Punjab. The nest itself is like that of the Rufous-tailed Finch-Lark, and like that bird the Desert Finch-Lark makes a neat little encircling wall of small stones round its nest to retain the materials in position. It seems to keep almost entirely to barren hilly country in the breeding-season and selects very desolate rocky sites for its nest, which is usually built under the shadow of a rock or boulder.
The eggs number three or four and are like those of the Indian Rufous-tailed Finch-Lark but generally decidedly less reddish-brown in general tint. Sixteen eggs average 22.1 x 16.4 mm.: maxima 23.2 x 17.0 mm.; minima 19.3 x 15.0 mm. The breeding-season is from the middle of March to the middle of May, a few eggs being laid up to the middle of June.
Habits. This is not a migratory Lark but in Winter a few birds wander some distance into the plains from the hills where they breed. It is purely a desert form and is rarely seen in cultivation, living almost entirely on the seeds of grass and desert plants. Ticehurst thinks that it never drinks, as he never saw it visit the water-holes where various other birds came to drink. Its actions on the ground are strong and quick but its flight is feeble and ill-sustained. The song is pleasant but weak and is said to be uttered both on the wing and on the ground.