(1133) Emberiza melanocephala.
The Black-headed Bunting.
Emberiza melanocephala Scop., Annus i, Hist. Nat., p. 142 (1769) (Carniola); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 261.
Vernacular names. Gandam (Hind.); Booree (Sind).
Description. - Male. Whole upper parts and sides of head black; the hinder crown nearly always retaining some of the golden-brown fringes; nape rufous and golden-yellow ; back, scapulars, rump and shorter upper tail-coverts orange-chestnut; the longer tail-coverts brown edged with ashy; tail brown margined with fulvous and with a whitish edge at the end of the inner webs of the outermost pair of feathers : lesser wing-coverts orange-chestnut ; other coverts and quills dark brown edged with ashy-white; sides of the breast chestnut; lower plumage, under wing-coverts and axillaries bright deep yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown ; upper mandible horny-brown, gape, commissure and lower mandible yellowish-horny; legs and feet fleshy-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 170 mm.; wing 90 to 99 mm.; tail 67 to 72 mm.; tarsus 23 to 24 mm.; culmen about 13 to 14 mm.
Male after moult has the black feathers of the head edged with rufous-brown, the chestnut feathers of wings and back edged with ashy-olive and many of the feathers of the underparts edged with lilac-ashy.
Female. Whole upper plumage and lesser wing-coverts pale fulvous-brown, with a faint rufous tinge; the feathers of the head, back, scapulars and coverts centred darker and the feathers of the rump with a golden sheen; below pale clear fulvous, the breast with a tinge of vinous and everywhere traces of yellow, the under tail-coverts being all of this colour.
Distribution. Eastern Europe from Italy, Asia Minor, Palestine, (Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Occurs in Winter in India in Sind, North-West Provinces, Punjab, Rajputana, Deccan and the Bombay Presidency on the West to Belgaum and Khandesh.
I agree with Ticehurst that our Indian and Eastern bird is not separable from that found in Europe.
Nidification. The Black-headed Bunting breeds during May, June and July, making an untidy nest of grass, mixed with leaves and plant-stems etc and lined with fine grass or hair. Unlike most Buntings the nest, though sometimes placed on the ground, is generally built on bushes, vines, or small fruit-trees of various kinds. The eggs are not at all like Bunting's eggs in character. The ground-colour varies from almost white to pale bluish-green, rarely tinged with yellow and the markings consist of specks and small spots of dark brown with secondary ones of pale lavender and grey. Occasionally the marks are larger and more blotchy and in these instances are often more numerous in a ring or cap at the larger end. One hundred eggs average 22.4 x 16.1 mm.: maxima 26.0 x 15.1 and 23.8 X 18.2 mm.; minima 19.0 x 14.5 and 19.2 x 14.0 mm.
Habits. In Europe during Summer the Black-headed Bunting is a very familiar bird, breeding in cultivated country round about villages; in Palestine also it breeds in orchards and groves but in Asia it breeds in the wilder wastes in scrub-jungle. In India it arrives in the North-West Provinces, Punjab, Sind, etc. in the end of August in vast flocks which often do immense harm to crops. Ticehurst says they assemble in such numbers that when flushed and taking refuge in the nearest Acacia-trees they make the whole tree look yellow. The sexes according to him migrate in separate flocks and the birds moult after their arrival in their Winter quarters.