799. Emberiza melanocephala.
The Black-headed Bunting.
Emberiza melanocephala, Scop. Ann. i, p. 142 (1769); Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xii, p. 503; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 170. Euspiza simillima, Blyth, J. A. S. B. xviii, p. 811 (1849) ; id. Cat. p. 128 ; Horsf. & M. Cat. ii, p. 486 ; Hume, N. & B. p. 466. Euspiza melanocephala (Scop.), Blyth, Cat. p. 128; Jerd. B. I. ii, p. 378; Blanf. J. A. S. B. xxxviii, pt. ii, p. 186; Hume, Cat. no. 721 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 271.
Coloration. Male. After the autumn moult the forehead, crown, and nape are black almost concealed by ashy margins ; a concealed yellow collar on the hind neck ; back, rump, and scapulars orange-chestnut with ashy margins ; upper tail-coverts brown, edged with ashy; tail brown, margined with fulvous; lesser wing-coverts orange-chestnut, margined with ashy; remaining coverts and quills dark brown, edged with fulvous ashy; lores and under the eye deep black; ear-coverts black tipped with yellow; cheeks, side of the neck, and the whole lower plumage deep yellow with pale lilac margins.
In spring the margins everywhere get worn away ; the forehead, crown, nape, lores, under the eye, and the ear-coverts become deep black ; the upper plumage and lesser coverts become uniform deep orange-chestnut, and the whole lower plumage a deep yellow.
Female. The whole upper plumage and lesser wing-coverts fulvous brown, streaked with dark brown, the streaks almost obsolete on the rump and upper tail-coverts ; coverts, quills, and tail as in the male; the entire lower plumage is a delicate fulvous, washed with ochraceous on the breast and with yellow on the abdomen; under tail-coverts bright yellow. The difference between the summer and the winter plumage of the female is slight.
Young birds resemble the female closely; young males not quite adult have brown ear-coverts.
Iris dark brown ; legs and feet fleshy brown ; bill pale greenish horn, brown on culmen (Butler).
Length about 7.5 ; tail 3.1; wing 3.8 ; tarsus .85 ; bill from gape .6.
Distribution. A winter visitor to the plains of India as far east as Delhi, Nagpur, and Chanda, and as far south as Belgaum. This species passes through Baluchistan, and, in smaller numbers, through Gilgit on migration, and the Indian birds probably breed in Persia. This Bunting extends westwards to South-western Europe.
Habits, &c. This Bunting is usually found in India in large flocks, which commit great devastation in corn-fields. It breeds about May in Western Asia and South-western Europe; the nest, a cup of straw or grass lined with hair or roots, is usually placed in a bush, vine, or low tree, and the eggs, four to six in number, are pale greenish-blue, spotted throughout, more profusely round the larger end, and measure about 0.87 by 0.62.