(2117) Cirrepedesmus mongolus atrifrons.
THE PAMIRS LESSER SAND-PLOVER.
Charadrius atrifrons Wagler, Isis, 1829, p. 650 (Bengala). Aegialitis mongolica. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 238.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead, lores, cheeks and ear-coverts black, more or less marked with white; anterior crown, supercilia and hind-neck pale fulvous-chestnut; posterior crown and upper plumage cinereous-brown, the shafts faintly darker ; sides of the rump and upper tail-coverts white; tail brown with white tip, the outermost feathers nearly all white; primaries blackish, the whole of the shaft of the first primary and the terminal halves of the others white: a white patch on the sixth and succeeding primaries on both webs; outer secondaries tipped white; chin, throat and fore-neck white; upper breast and sides of lower pale chestnut-rufous ; remainder of lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill black; legs and feet fleshy-grey, yellowish-olive to bluish or olive-slate colour.
Measurements. Wing 124 to 129 mm.; tail 44 to 53 mm.; tarsus 33 to 34 mm.; culm en 16 to 18 mm.
In non-breeding plumage the forehead, lores and ear-coverts are fulvous, the ear-coverts mixed with brown; the collar on the hind-neck is obsolete or wanting and the rufous on the breast and flanks is much less in extent.
Young birds have pale fringes to the feathers of the upper parts.
Distribution. This Sand-Plover breeds in the Pamirs and throughout the higher plateaus of Kashmir, Ladak, Tibet and North West China. Probably also in Turkestan and parts of Southern Siberia. In Winter it is found over an enormous area of Africa and Southern Asia. In India it occurs commonly on the coasts of North-West India as far South as Bombay and more rarely farther South and inland on the bigger rivers. It occurs in the Andamans but certainly does not breed there normally, though Hume received skins of young birds obtained there in May, July and September.
Nidification. Osmaston, Whistler and Ludlow have found this Plover breeding at Ladak and Tibet from 12,500 feet upwards, probably up to 16,000 feet, during June and July. Osmaston found hard-set eggs on the 26th and 27th of June at 13,200 and 13,400 feet and fresh eggs at Shushal, 14,500 feet, on the 2nd of July as well as freshly-hatched young. Osmaston sent; me a beautiful series of these eggs and Whistler and Ludlow obtained others. Three seems to be the full clutch, not four, and these in appearance are exactly like large eggs of Charadrius hiaticula, except that one set has a deep rich buff ground. In the other dutches the ground-colour is pale stone-yellow, in some with a faint touch of green or buff. In every egg the markings consist of small spots and specks of black, the secondary, of lavender, are obsolete and difficult to see. Twenty-five eggs average 37.0 x 26.3 mm.: maxima 39.7 x 27.0 and 38.1 x 27.1 mm.; minima 35.4 x 26.0 and 36.5 x 25.1 mm. There is no nest beyond a scraping in the sand or earth.
Habits. Osmaston says that this Plover is common in Ladakh between 13,000 and 15,500 feet near streams and they may be often seen running about in the stony, sandy plains adjacent to them, where they feed at a considerable distance from the water. The note is described as a vibrating call, reminding one of the Jungle Night-jar or the song of the Indian Redstart. Their flight and run are exactly like those of the birds of the genus Charadrius and their food consists of tiny insects, flies, coleoptera etc