803. Melophus melanicterus.
The Crested Bunting.
Fringilla melanictera, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 910 (1788). Emberiza cristata, Vigors, P. Z. S. 1831, p. 35. Euspiza lathami (J. E. Gr.), Blyth, Cat. p. 129. Melophus melanicterus (Gm.), Horsf. & M. Cat. ii, p. 489; Jerd. B. I. ii, p. 381 ; Hume, N. & E. p. 467 ; Anders. Yunnan Exped., Aves, p. 604 ; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 517; id. Cat. no. 724; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 334; Oates, B. B. i, p. 357 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 272; Sharpe, Cat, B. M. xii, p. 568; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 173.
Pathar chirta, Hind.
Coloration. Male. After the autumn moult the whole head, neck, back, rump, scapulars, lesser wing-coverts, and the whole lower plumage except the thighs and under tail-coverts are black, each feather with a broad ashy margin; wings, tail, under tail-coverts, and thighs chestnut, the quills, tail, and some of the wing-coverts tipped with black; upper tail-coverts chestnut, margined with black, sometimes wholly black.
In the spring the ashy margins disappear wholly or in part.
Female. The crest shorter and not very apparent in some specimens ; the whole upper plumage dark brown, each feather edged with olive-brown, frequently with a tinge of rufous ; lesser wing-coverts dark brown, narrowly edged with pale rufous; median and greater coverts dark brown, very broadly edged with cinnamon ; primaries and secondaries with the outer webs blackish, edged exteriorly with pale cinnamon ; inner webs cinnamon, broadly tipped with dark brown ; tertiaries dark brown, edged with pale cinnamon on the outer webs; outer tail-feathers cinnamon, with a broad band of brown on the inner web ; the other feathers brown, with a narrow margin of pale cinnamon on the outer webs, and the fifth pair from the middle also with a streak of cinnamon on the inner webs ; ear-coverts and cheeks dark brown, the former tipped with olive-brown ; lower plumage dull buff to yellowish brown, streaked and mottled, especially on the throat and breast, with dark brown; vent and under tail-coverts brighter and sometimes tinged with rufescent.
The young bird resembles the female very closely, and the young male commences in the autumn to put on the chestnut body-plumage of the adult.
Bill dusky, blackish above and fleshy at base of lower mandible ; irides dark brown ; feet fleshy brown, the toes darker; claws blackish, pale at tips (Scully).
Length 6.5 ; tail 2.8 ; wing 3.2 ; tarsus .75 ; bill from gape .6; crest in male about .8, in female .5.
Distribution, The Himalayas from Kashmir to Bhutan; the plains of India from Sind to Bengal as far south as about the latitude of Mahableshwar; thence through the Assam hills, Manipur, and Upper Burma to Arrakan on the one hand, and to Karennee and Northern Tenasserim on the other. This species is somewhat capricious in its choice of localities, and it is absent throughout large tracts of country. It extends into China. It is everywhere apparently a resident species.
Habits, &c. Breeds from April to August, making a saucer-like nest of grass on the ground or in holes of banks and walls. The eggs are thickly marked with red or purple and measure about .79 by .63.