(1225) Alaudula raytal raytal.
The Ganges Sato-Lark.
Alauda raytal Blyth, J. A. S.B. xiii, p. 962 (1844) (Lucknow). Alaudula raytal." Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 330.
Vernacular names. Metal (Hind.).
Description. Upper plumage brownish-grey with dark brown central streaks; central tail-feathers grey-brown edged with fulvous-white ; lateral tail-feathers dark brown, the outermost with all the outer web and half the inner web next the shaft white, the penultimate with nearly all the outer web white; wings like the back; lores, cheeks and supercilium white; ear-coverts pale brown with grey streaks; lower plumage dull white, streaked finely on the breast with dark brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill horny-brown, with a yellow or green tinge, the tip almost black ; legs and feet fleshy-yellow.
Measurements. Wing 74 to 83 mm.; tail 41 to 47 mm.; tarsus 19 to 20 mm.; culmen about 11 to 12 mm.
Distribution. Northern India from the North-West Provinces to Bengal; Barnes recorded it from Rajputana and Hume from the Nerbudda. In Burma it occurs from the extreme North on the big rivers South to Thayetmyo.
Nidification. This little Lark breeds on the sandy banks and islands of big rivers and the larger of their tributaries. It is not to be found either on the faster running waters of the upper reaches nor on the shores where they run down to the sea, though it does occur on the vast, almost bare, sand-banks in the brackish water of the Megna and other of the great tidal rivers of Bengal. Sand and very scanty vegetation combined with the vicinity of water that is not turbulent seem to be the essentials for their nesting sites. The nest is generally a very flimsy affair, more rarely a comparatively well-built one; grass wound round the inside of some small natural hollow is all the material used, whilst all the protection asked for is a tuft of withered grass, a stone or piece of fallen timber in a waste of sand. Where tamarisk bushes grow these are often built under,, but, on the other hand, the nests are occasionally placed beside a tuft of grass so stunted and poor that as a shield from the sun it is worthless. The bird is a very close sitter and only scuttles off the nest when the intruder almost steps on her, or she sometimes continues to sit, a little grey patch, invisible against her grey background, until he passes by. The eggs are two or three in number; in shape long ovals rather pointed at one end and in colour pale grey or yellowish-white, with pale specks, freckles or small patches of sandy-grey, greyish-brown, or pale reddish-brown. Twenty eggs average 20.1 x 14.6 mm.: maxima 21.0 X 14.1 and 20.2 x 15.0 mm.; minima 18.0 x 13.9 mm.
The usual breeding-season is March and April, before the rivers, begin to rise, but Dr. Coltart took eggs in Bihar in July.
Habits. The Granges Sand-Lark is found only in the kind of country in which it nests and never seems to wander far from the rivers into adjoining fallow land or land on which dry crops are just appearing. In green crops or damp pasture-land it is never seen. It is a resident bird but sometimes collects in small flocks during the Winter, though often even then still found singly or in pairs. Its flight is not very strong and it does not soar, but it utters its few pleasing and musical notes as it flits from one hummock, or from one sand-hank, to another.