(1225) Alaudula raytal raytal Blyth.
THE GANGES SAND-LARK.
Alaudula raytal raytal, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 329.
This little Sand-Lark is distributed over the whole of Northern India and Burma, from the North-West Provinces to Bengal and Assam and in Burma on the big rivers South to Thayetmyo, Barnes recorded it from Rajputana and Hume from the Nerbudda, but it is replaced in Sind and the rivers of the Punjab by the next race. The Sand-Larks are essentially birds of the great rivers, keeping to those where they run between sandy banks and where they are not rapid running or with broken water. As Hume says : “A broad and tranquil stream, with wide banks of sand, is what it loves, and there, amid a few stunted, straggling shoots of tamarisk, it breeds and may be seen at all seasons.”
On both the Brahmapootra and the Ganges, on which rivers I have known it best, it is only to be found above the mud-reaches and below the rapid water. I never saw it much above Gowhaty in Assam, though the Brahmapootra is still a mighty river far above this, but the water is broken and rapid, and no longer flows in a silent, even if a swift, stream. On the Ganges it is found far nearer the delta, but in this river also as soon as the banks become mud it disappears.
It breeds both on the sandy banks of big and smaller rivers and on the islands of sand which begin to show in December or November and often become great stretches of sand and pebble by January and February, Much cover does not seem essential. I have seen them on sand-banks in the river which were quite submerged during the height of the rains and along the ridge of which grew a little Equisetum, a few coarse tufts of reedy grass or a small, rather dense bush of which I never learnt the name. As the island arises above the water a few more tufts of grass appear here and there lower down its slopes, and under the shelter of one of these the little Larks scratch out a tiny hollow about 3 inches in diameter, in which they place their nest. This, so far as I have seen, is little more than a pad of grass, very loosely and carelessly put together, which fills the hollow to the depth of about half an inch. There is no special lining and the eggs lie on the fine grass, Hume says the nest is sometimes made of grass and “dry tamarisk leaflets,'' and Cripps found nests in Faridpore made of grass “with a few feathers stuck about” them. This latter must, however, be very exceptional, for though I have seen nests in Faridpore and adjoining districts I have never found one like that described.
I have seen nests built in the open away from any shelter, and in late April have noticed the sitting bird gasping in the beat.
The breeding season is March and April, necessarily early, as the eggs have to be hatched and the young away before the rivers rise. Even as it is many nests, eggs and young get flooded out in the early rains. Both Inglis and Coltart have taken nests in Bihar in February, while on the Nerbudda the only nests ever found were taken on the 1st and 6th May. Occasionally birds have second broods, and in these cases they are built high up on sand¬banks beyond the reach of any but an abnormal flood. Such nests have been taken by Coltart in July.
In Burma the eggs seem to bo laid in February or, less often, in March, but I have very little information on this point.
The full clutch of eggs numbers two or three only, two quite as often as three.
The eggs are very like those of Calandrella but are darker and better marked, the spots being larger and less numerous. One clutch taken by Macdonald in Burma at Yesagyo has the ground pale buff and is well marked all over with small blotches of dull brown and lavender, leaving the ground quite visible. Another clutch taken by Inglis in Bihar has the ground pure white blotched, not very heavily, with b rown and with secondary big clouds of lavender-grey.
ALAUDULA RAYAL ADAMSI..
The Indus Sand-Lark. (Jhelam, 1906.)
Thirty eggs average 20.2 x 14.6 mm. : maxima 22.2 x 15.4 mm. ; minima 18.0 x 13.9 mm.
Both sexes build the nest and both take part in incubation, and during the heat of the day, which is often very great in April, the two birds change duties at very short intervals.