(1124) Emberiza stewarti
The White-capped Bunting.
Emberiza stewarti Blyth, J. A. S. B., xiii, p. 215 (1834) (Kotegarh,. near Simla); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 256.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. - Male in Summer. Whole crown and nape grey; a broad supercilium from the bill to the nape, lores and feathers round the eye black ; whole upper plumage, scapulars and lesser wing-coverts chestnut, the feathers of the mantle with obsolete black central streaks; tail dark brown, the outermost pair white except fur an oblique black patch across the base, the penultimate pair with the terminal half obliquely white on the inner web; median and greater coverts dark brown edged with chestnut; quills dark brown, the primaries and outer secondaries narrowly and the inner secondaries broadly edged with rufous; ear-coverts white; chin, throat and sides of neck behind the ear-coverts black-; fore neck and breast white; anterior flanks and lower breast rufous; remaining lower plumage fulvous-white, streaked with chestnut on the flanks and under tail-coverts; axillaries and under wing-coverts white with grey bases.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown to red-brown; bill horny-brown, paler and more yellowish on the lower mandible; legs and feet fleshy-pink to fleshy-yellow.
Measurements. Total length about 160 mm.: wing 80 to 85 mm.; tail 70 to 73 mm.; tarsus about 19 to 20 mm.; culmen 10 to 11 mm.
The Male after the moult has the feathers of the upper plumage edged with grey and the grey feathers of the crown obscured by brown edges; the black of the throat is obscured by white edges and the chestnut of the lower plumage by grey edges to the feathers.
Female. Upper plumage ashy-brown streaked with black; rump rufous and the scapulars with a little rufous edging; wings and tail as in the male but duller and the latter with rather less white; lower plumage pale dull fulvous, slightly rufous on the breast, streaked with brown on the fore-neck, breast and flanks.
Young birds resemble the female but are much more heavily streaked with blackish both above and below.
Distribution. Persia, Turkestan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Gilgit and Kashmir to Murree, Mussoorie and Garhwal. In winter South to the Plains of the North-West Provinces. It has also been found in Tibet.
Nidification. The White-capped Bunting breeds over the whole of its range, building a rather rough, fragile cup of dried grass lined with finer grass-stems and sometimes with a little hair. It is placed on the ground under shelter of a bush, tuft of grass or a root and a very favourite position is on a roadside bank. The number of eggs is generally three, sometimes four, and Wardlaw-Ramsay found five occasionally in Afghanistan. The ground-colour is white or greyish-white, rarely tinged with pink or, even more rarely, bluish. The markings consist of specks, small irregular blotches and a few short broad lines of deep purple-brown or black, with similar underlying marks of pale grey and lilac A few eggs are more boldly marked and some are very purple in general tone. Sixty eggs average 20.2x 15.0 mm.: maxima 22.0 x 15.0 and 19.0 x 16.0 mm.; minima 19.3 x 15.1 and 20.8 x 14.0 mm.
In Kashmir and the Himalayas generally the breeding-season is April and May, occasional second broods being raised in June and early July but in Afghanistan, Turkestan, etc. April, May and early June are the breeding months.
Habits. In Summer these birds are found between 5,000 and 8,000 feet, less often 1,000 feet higher or lower, whilst in Winter they seem to keep much between the foot-hills and 4,000 feet. A few birds remain at their highest level all the year round and many others wander into the plains of the Punjab, North-West Frontier Provinces, Sind and Rajputana as far East as Etawah. It inhabits grass meadows and hillsides, thin scrub-jungle and open cultivation, feeding almost entirely on the ground and not collecting in large flocks, even in Winter.