Ammomanes deserti (Licht,), Verz. Donbl, p. 28 (1823) ; Dresser, iv p. 329, pl. 233 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. Br. Mus. xiii p. 646 ; A. phoenicuroides (Blyth), J. A. S. Beng. xxii. p. 583 (1853) ; Sharpe tom. cit. p. 647 ; A. fraterculus Tristr., P.Z.S. 1864, p. 434 ; A. algeriensis ; Sharpe, tom. cit. p. 645.
Male ad. (Egypt). Upper parts varying from warm rufescent isabelline to greyish sandy isabelline ; supercilium indistinct, sandy isabelline ; quills and tail brown externally, margined with sandy rufous, the middle tail-feathers like the back ; under parts pale isabelline, the throat some¬times with indistinct darker markings ; legs pale greenish slate ; iris brown. Culmen 0.6, wing 3.9, tail 2.8, tarsus 0.85 inch. Sexes alike. The young bird is generally more rufous, and has the basal portion and the margins of all the tail feathers pale ferruginous, with only the terminal portion dark brown.
Hab. North Africa, south to Abyssinia ; Palestine, east to Afghanistan, Sind, and the northern Punjab.
Essentially a desert bird it is usually to be found in sandy, wild localities where its plumage assimilates in colour with the soil. In its general habits it most nearly resembles the Crested Lark and is often to be found seeking its food on the roads. Its flight is weak and it seldom flies any distance. Its song is agreeable but not varied and is uttered when the bird is on the wing often at a considerable altitude. Its food consists of seeds of various kinds and insects. Its nest, which is loosely constructed of grass-bents, is placed on the ground, under a low bush or a tuft of grass, and the eggs 3 or 4 in number are deposited in April or May, and are creamy grey or white, closely marked with purplish grey shell-markings and dull brown surface-spots and measure about 0.87 by 0.62.
In general coloration the species varies from rufous to greyish rufous, and the latter variety has been separated by several authors under the name Ammomanes fraterculus, but it seems to me without just reason. Nor can I recognise A. algeriensis which is the rufous form, as distinct. A. phoenicuroides from India belongs to the grey form, and has the quills narrowly margined with warm ashy fulvous, and not so rufous as in A. deserti. It has also been treated as distinct, but it appears to me that it should be united with the present species.
565. Ammomanes deserti