Anthus obscurus, (Lath.) Ind. Orn. ii. p. 494 (1790) ; Gould, B. of Gt. Brit. iii. pl. 10 ; Newton, i. p. 586 ; Dresser, iii. p. 343, pl. 141 ; Sharpe. Cat. B. Br. Mus. x. p. 599 ; Saunders, p. 143 ; Lilford, iii. p. 126, pls. 63, 64 ; A. rupestris, Nilss. Orn. Suec. i. p. 245, pl. 9, figs. 1, 2 ; Naum. xiii. p. 108, pl. 371, figs. 1, 2 ; A. aquaticus, (nec. Bechst.) ; Hewitson, i. p. 174, xliv. fig. 3.
Pipit obscur, French ; Spioncello marino, Ital. ; Strandpieper, German ; Skjaer-piploerke, Norweg. ; Skjoerpiber, Dan. ; Skarpip-larka, Swed. ; Luoto-kirvinen, Finn.
Mae ad. (England). Upper parts olivaceous obscurely streaked with dark brown ; rump brighter olivaceous very slightly streaked ; wings and tail brown, the former margined with olivaceous, the outer tail-feathers with a broad oblique smoke-grey terminal band ; an indistinct supercilium yellowish buff ; under parts yellowish buff obscurely streaked with dark brown or olive-brown ; bill dark brown, tinged with dull orange at the base of lower mandible ; legs reddish brown ; iris brown. Culmen 0.78, wing 3.5, tail 2.65, tarsus 0.95, hind toe with claw 0.75 inch. Sexes alike. In the winter the plumage is paler, the under parts much paler and less streaked, the centre of the throat almost unmarked. The young bird is darker, more clearly streaked above and more boldly marked below.
Hab. Northern Europe from the coasts of France east to the White Sea, north to northern Scandinavia, south into Spain, and has occurred in Morocco in the winter ; resident in Great Britain.
Essentially a shore bird it frequents the barren rocky parts of the coast, never straying far inland. It feeds on marine insects and their larvae, small molluscs, and seeds. Its song is tolerably pleasing, but short, and is uttered whilst the bird is on the wing. It breeds in April or May, and places its nest on the ground under a stone or ledge in a cliff, or amongst moss, constructing it of grass-bents, and sometimes seaweeds, lining it with finer bents or a little horsehair. The eggs, 4 or 5 in number, are grey with an olivaceous tinge in ground colour, closely marked with dark reddish brown or olivaceous brown, in size averaging about 0.82 by 0.65.
On the Norwegian and Swedish coasts a variety or form of this species occurs, which has the breast dull vinous in tinge, which may almost be considered as a sub-species, and this form A. rupestris (Nilss. Orn. Suec., i. p. 245) has occurred on passage in Great Britain, and been mistaken for A. spipoletta, from which it can readily be distinguished, in having the band on the outer tail-feathers smoke-grey and not white.
321. Anthus obscurus