(2051) Cursorius cursor cursor.
THE CREAM-COLOURED COURSER.
Charadrius cursor Latham, Gen. Synop. Birds, Suppl. i, p. 293 (1787; (England). Cursorius gallicus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 211.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead and fore-crown rufous, the lores paler; hind-crown and nape ashy-grey ; a nuchal patch black ; supercilia white, meeting round the black patch; a second line of black from the eye below the supercilium ; upper plumage, wing-coverts and inner secondaries rufous-sandy; primaries and primary coverts black; outer secondaries rufous-sandy, tipped white and with a subterminal patch ; tail-feathers sandy-rufous, the central with an obsolete black spot, the lateral with broad black sub-terminal spots and white tips, the white extending to the outer web of the outermost feathers ; wing-lining and axillaries black ; lower plumage paler sandy-rufous, the chin and throat paler and the under tail-coverts absent or quite white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill black; legs yellowish or fleshy-white.
Measurements. Wing 150 to 171 mm.; tail 58 to 72 mm.; tarsus 55 to 60 mm.; culmen 21 to 26 mm.; generally 23 to 25 mm. Sexes alike.
Young birds are a paler duller sandy and are barred on the upper plumage with blackish-brown; there is no grey or brown on the crown.
Distribution. North Africa, Marocco to Egypt; South-West Asia from Palestine to North-West India, South Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. In India it occurs as far as South-East as Ajmere, Jodhpur and Erinpura and South to Cutch. In Europe it occurs regularly as far as Italy and South France and sporadically to England.
Nidification. The Cream-coloured Courser breeds in Northern Africa and from Palestine to Mesopotamia, during March to June. Pitman took a fine series of their eggs in the Sinai desert between the end of March and early May, whilst in Palestine Sladen took them up to the end of June. The two eggs are laid in the sand without any protection and the birds sit very close, returning to their eggs when disturbed before the intruder has gone many yards. They have a ground-colour of pale sandy-grey or buff and are freckled all over with darker sandy-brown or brown. In most specimens the secondary marks of pale grey are equally numerous and similarly scattered all over. In a few eggs the markings are most numerous in a ring at the larger end. The only twenty eggs I have seen of this race average 34.7 x 27.2 mm.; maxima 39.3 x 29.0 mm.; minima 32.2 x 26.5 and 34.0 x 25.5 mm.
Habits. This Courser is an inhabitant of desert country, where its colour harmonizes completely with its surroundings until it catches the eye whilst rapidly running from one point to another. Its actions are very much like those of Burhinus, consisting of constant rapid little runs hither and thither with head and tail depressed, after which for a few seconds it will stand erect like a Bustard. It flies strongly and rapidly but if suddenly frightened will sometimes seek safety by squatting close to the sand with head stuck out in front. In this position it merges so beautifully into the sand around it that it is very hard to detect. It feeds almost entirely on insects.