(1207) Otocoris alpestris longirostris.
The Long-billed Horned Lark.
Otocoris longirostris Moore, P. Z. S., 1855, p. 215 (Kulu). Otocorys longirostris. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 320.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Very similar to O. p. albigula but with a white band between the black of the cheeks and ear-coverts and the black of the throat and breast; the upper plumage is darker, less strongly suffused with vinous and much more definitely streaked.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill dark greyish-homy, paler at the base aud on the commissure; legs dark plumbeous-brown or blackish.
Measurements. Wing 120 to 131 mm.; tail 74 to 88 mm.; tarsus 24 to 25 mm.; culmen about 15 to 17 mm.
Young birds are similar to those of the other species and subspecies.
Nestlings. "The gape orange with one black spot at the tip of the inside of the lower mandible, another on the tip of the tongue and a kidney-shaped one in the centre of the tongue" (C. H. T. Whitehead).
Distribution. Kashmir, North to the Karakorum Pass, Afghanistan and Baluchistan.
Nidification. Whitehead found this bird breeding freely on the Afghan frontier between 11,500 and 15,000 feet. He found eggs from early June to the first fortnight of July, but many birds must breed in May before the snows have melted as by June the 15th many eggs had already hatched out. The nests he describes as merely hollows scantily filled with grass and vegetable down. The eggs numbered two or three and are nearly all of the yellow type, already described, laid by the preceding bird; a few are rather darker and more brown but none are of the greyish type. Twenty-two eggs average 24.9 x 17.1 mm. : maxima 26.2 X 17.7 and 24.2 x 18.0 mm.; minima 23.5 x 16.5 and 24.1 X 16.1 mm. Whitehead records how he twice saw birds which had been disturbed on their nests return and remove the eggs by carefully rolling them down the hill with their bills. A Cuckoo's egg found outside one of these nests seems to have been removed in a similar manner.
Habits. A resident bird over 11,000 feet, apparently moving but little lower even in the severest winter. The alarm-note is described as a whistling peo or sometimes ee-up. Stoliczka found this Lark on the highest passes on the trade routes, hunting for grain in the snow. He describes the song as so like that of the Sky-Lark as to be easily mistaken for it.