(1242) Ammomanes phaenicura phaenicura.
The Indian Rufous-tailed Finch-Lark.
Mirafra phaenicura Franklin, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 119 (Ganges, Calcutta-Benares). Ammomanes phaenicura. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 339.
Vernacular names. Aggiya, Retal (Hind.); Ambali-jori-gadu, Dowa-pitta (Tel.).
Description. Lores dusky; an ill-defined supercilium pale rufous; whole upper plumage, lesser and median wing-coverts dark brown, with obsolete paler edges and darker centres showing more definitely on the crown; rump and upper tail-coverts deep
rufous; tail deep rufous with broad blackish-brown tips ; greater coverts dark brown edged with sandy-rufous; quills dark brown edged externally with sandy-rufous, the inner secondaries tipped with rufous and all the quills with broad rufous margins to the
inner webs; ear-coverts and sides of head mixed rufous and brown; lower plumage, axillaries and under wing-coverts deep rufous; the throat and upper breast paler and streaked with black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill dark horny-brown, fleshy on the base of the lower mandible; legs and feet pale fleshy to fleshy-brown.
Measurements. Wing 100 to 107 mm.; tail 49 co 59 mm.; tarsus 22 to 23 mm.; culmen about 13 to 14 mm.
Distribution. Northern India West of a line drawn from the Rann of Cutch to Delhi, East to Dinapore in Eastern Bengal with the Granges as the Northern boundary and South to Mysore and Travancore.
Nidification. This Finch-Lark is one of the most consistent and regular of all Larks in its breeding .
Habits. Occasionally eggs may be found in February and equally seldom in late May, March. April, and the first week in May being the period during which nine out of every ten eggs are laid wherever they may be. In Sholapore and Poona Davidson found the nest built in holes in banks of rivers and ravines but the favourite site undoubtedly is a depression, either natural or scraped out by the birds, under a clod of earth in a ploughed field. At other times it is made under shelter of a stone or rock or, more rarely still, under a bush or among the roots of grass. Often this Finch-Lark makes its nest on the ground where there is no hollow but in such cases it builds up a little retaining wall of small stones all round the nest, a characteristic of other specie's of Finch-Larks also. The nest varies considerably; when placed in a hole in a bank it is well made and thickly lined with wool, hair or other soft material; when placed under a clod or other shelter it is more shallow, and is roughly put together of grass and roots and thinly lined with wool etc. The eggs number three or four, sometimes two only, and are typical Larks' eggs. The ground varies from pure white, which is exceptional, to pale yellowish or greenish stone-colour covered, generally rather densely, with tiny blotches and freckles of reddish- or yellowish-brown with secondary or underlying marks of neutral tint and lavender. In some eggs the markings form a dense ring round the larger end and less often an irregular cap. Fifty eggs average 21.2 x 15.7 mm.: maxima 23.2 X 15.8 and 23.0 x 16.5 mm.; minima 19.1 x 15.4 and 21.2 x 14.3 mm.
Habits. This Pinch-Lark frequents open country of any kind so long as it is sufficiently dry; its favourite resorts, however, are dry ploughed fields and fields from which the crops have been cut but. in which the stubble is still standing. It feeds largely on grass-seeds but it also eats small grain freely and it has been recorded as frequenting fields of high-growing millet and feeding upon the ripe crop. Its song is pleasant but poor and ill-sustained and, such as it is, is uttered from the ground or from a bush or hillock. When displaying during the breeding-season it flutters almost straight into the air for a few feet and then descends, uttering a soft whistling note, its wings spread and feathers distended.