(2106) Leucopolius alexandrinus alexandrinus.
THE KENTISH PLOVER.
Charadrius alexandrinus Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 150 (1758) (Egypt). Aegialitis alexandrina. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 240 (part.).
Vernacular names. Punchi-oleyiya (Cing.); Sinna-kotan(Tam.).
Description. Forehead white, followed by a broad black patch; above and behind the eye white ; lores black, running back under the eye and in a streak behind; anterior crown, nape and hind-neck rufous, more grey on the nape; whole remaining upper plumage sandy grey-brown, the four middle tail-feathers blackish,, the outermost white throughout and the intermediate white on the outer webs and tips, blackish elsewhere; primaries blackish, the first white-shafted throughout, the others increasingly brown at their bases; innermost secondaries like the back, outer blackish-brown with white tips and edges; median, greater and primary coverts blackish with white tips forming wing-bars ; a broad black patch on each side of the breast, remainder of lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill black; legs and feet plumbeous-grey.
Measurements. Wing 106 to 114 mm. (one 118); tail 48 to-50 mm.; tarsus 27 to 29 mm.; culmen 13 to 15 mm. (one 16 mm.).
In Winter the rufous and black crown is lost, these parts-assuming the colour of the back; the white forehead is restricted in extent and the black eye-streak is replaced by grey-brown.
Female similar to the male in Winter but with less white on the forehead ; the lores, ear-coverts and eye-streak are sandy-brown and the breast-patches brown. In Summer when freshly moulted the edges of the feathers of the crown, as well as those of the brown breast-patches, have rufescent edges.
Young birds are like the female but have nearly all the feathers of the upper part fringed with sandy-buff.
Nestling in down. Forehead, a ring round the back of the neck and the lower parts white; an ill-defined eye-streak dark brown and sometimes faint indications of a black edging to the crown ; a dark brown horse-shoe mark on the wings; upper plumage and crown pale buffy-grey speckled with brownish.
Distribution. Breeding in Europe and Western Asia to Mesopotamia and Sind. Several specimens in the British Museum collection from Khandeshin Bombay with wings 106 to 111 mm. and culmens over 15 mm. are in my opinion also of this race and not seebohmi as noted on their data labels.
Nidification. The Kentish Plover breeds numerously in Sind and as far South as Guzerat in Cutch. The breeding-season seems to be a very long one. Cumming found young hatched on the 9th of March, whilst Bulkley took eggs as late as August. Most eggs are laid in April and May but probably many birds have two broods. The nest is the usual scrape, lined with scraps of shell, bits of dead leaves or, when these are available, tiny pebbles. The scrape may be made on the bare sand or mud near creeks and marshes or some distance away from them. Ticehurst says a favourite site is the top of one of the little wind-blown mounds which pile round the Sueda bushes. The number of eggs laid seems to be nearly always three but Ticehurst found some of the early clutches to contain four. In shape they are conical oval, the ground-colour varying from pale yellowish or greyish-stone to an olive or buffy-brown, whilst the marks consist of small blotches, specks and scrawls of black or blackish-brown, generally most numerous at the larger end. In most eggs there are a few secondary markings of pale grey but they are very inconspicuous and often absent. One hundred British eggs average 32.5 x 23.5 mm.: maxima 35.2 X 23.7 and 32.0 x 25.0 mm.; minima 30.2 X 23.2 and 32.6 x 22.5 mm. Indian eggs are much the same but the minima are 31.1 x 23.1 and 32.0 x 21.5 mm.
Habits. In Sind this seems to be a sedentary bird and there is no influx of visitors during the Winter. It frequents the coastline and the rivers but is also found at some considerable distance therefrom, keeping, however, always to open land such as sandy banks and shores, open desert country or the dry mud shores of lakes and swamps. It flies and runs swiftly the latter in little spurts with head and tail down, then a halt in an erect position and then another little run. They feed on tiny Crustacea, molluscs and insects. Ticehurst found those he examined had fed entirely on tiny crabs, whilst others have been found to contain nothing but sand-hoppers. Its breeding-note is a pretty trilling whistle uttered whilst it " butterflies " in the air. Its alarm-note is a shrill "too-it, too-it, ittup, ittup" (Witherby).