1415. Houbara macqueeni.
Otis macqueenii, Gray in Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool. ii, pl. 47 (1833-34); Hume, Ibis, 1868, p. 241. Houbara macqueenii, Hutton, J. A. S. B. xvi, p. 786; Blyth Cat. p. 258 ; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 612; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xii, pt. 2, p. 250; Hayes-Lloyd, Ibis, 1873, p. 415; Hume, S. F. i, p. 227; Adam, ibid. p. 393; Le Mess. S. F. iii, p. 379; Butler & Hume, S. F. iv, p. 9; Butler, S. F. v, pp. 231, 286; Hume & Marsh. Game B. i, p. 17, pi.; Hume, Cat. no. 837 ; Doig, S. F. ix, p. 281 ; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 175; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 321 ; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. vi, p. 12, rig. 837 (egg); Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 318.
Tilur, Punjabi; Talur, Sindhi; Hobdra, P.
Coloration., Crown and greater part of upper surface sandy buff minutely vermiculated with black; in the middle of the crown, a crest of lengthened feathers, white with long black tips ; nape greyish white with dusky speckling; feathers on hind neck buff, very downy; back, scapulars, tertiaries, and lesser wing-coverts with blackish patches produced by bands of coarser black mottling on the feathers; ruff of lengthened feathers on each side of the neck black near the head, white behind; median and greater wing-coverts albescent, but vermiculated; some or all of the greater coverts in most birds with subterminal black bars and white tips ; winglet black ; greater primary-coverts black, creamy white at the base and generally white-tipped ; primaries and secondaries white at the base, becoming buff on the outer web, black near the end, the secondaries white-tipped; upper tail-coverts and tail-feathers like back, but more rufous; tail-feathers crossed by bluish-grey bars (black beneath), mottled with buff on the median rectrices only; all the outer rectrices with white tips, the black vermiculation disappearing on the basal portion of the tail-feathers ; chin and throat white ; sides of head buff, with a few black streaks; fore neck buff speckled with black, passing into bluish ashy-grey on the upper breast; lower breast and remainder of lower parts white, generally a few black bars or spots on the flanks and lower tail-coverts, the latter in part buff. Hexes alike in plumage, but females run smaller.
Bill blackish above, paler below; irides yellow; legs and feet dull yellow (Hume).
Length of male 29 ; tail 9; wing 15.5; tarsus 3.8 ; bill from gape 2.25. Length of female 26 ; tail 8.5; wing 15 ; tarsus 3.6.
Distribution. A cold-weather visitor to North-western India, common from early in September to the end of March in parts of the Punjab, Sind, and the desert portion of Rajputana north of the Aravallis, also in Cutch and Northern Guzerat. A few birds occur farther east, single individuals having been shot in Meerut and Bhurtpore. The Houbara breeds in the highlands of Afghanistan and Persia, and a few stragglers may do so occasionally in the Indian desert.
Habits, &c. This Bustard is generally found solitary or in small parties on open sandy semi-desert plains, very often in the neighbourhood of mustard-fields. It feeds on seeds, small fruits, shoots of plants, and insects. It runs quickly and is difficult to approach on foot, but it is generally shot from a camel. I have repeatedly shot Houbara (from horseback) by circling round, never going directly towards the bird until it squats down. When thus lying down, even in bare ground, only a trained eye can detect it, the resemblance to a stone or a small heap of sand is remarkable, and the transformation that takes place when a Houbara, or, as sometimes happens, two, three, or more, spring into flight from the apparently lifeless waste, is not easily forgotten by any one who ha3 witnessed it. Houbara are excellent eating as a rule, but they contract a strong and unpleasant flavour at times from feeding on shoots of mustard and other allied plants grown as oil.