1207. Otocoris alpestris longirostris

(1207) Otoeoris alpestris longirostris * Moore.
THE LONG-BILLED HORNED LARK.
Otoeoris alpestris longirostris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p, 309.
The Long-billed Homed Lark extends from the Afghan and Baluchistan frontiers, through Kashmir, to Ladak, where it meets and merges into O. a. elwesi, the Tibetan race.
* Meinertzhagen has notes on the distribution of the races of O. alpestris in The Ibis,’ 1927, pp. 399-402.
The Homed Larks are birds of very high elevations, breeding from 11,500 feet up to 15,000 feet or perhaps even higher.
Osmaston (Journ, Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxxi, p. 194, 1926) describes the kind of country in which these birds breed. He found it common in the Dras and Suru Valleys in Ladak, Sanku and the country round, he says (p. 153), is “a village on an extensive flat above the Suru River with much cultivation, inter¬sected by irrigation channels, waste land between fields being occupied by dense patches of the Ladakh thorn. There are also a good many Willow-trees.” He then adds :—“The country round Suru is quite similar to that at Sanku. A joint colony of the Short¬toed Lark and the Long-billed Horned Lark was discovered about 1,000 feet above the camp (10,600 feet). The type of locality which these birds select for breeding purposes is a gentle mountain slope covered with scattered Artemisia and Trollius plants. Nests are placed in the shelter of an often tiny plant of one of these species.
“There is the full complement of eggs, and not infrequently two only are laid.”
Whitehead obtained a fine series of the nest and eggs of this Lark on the North-West Frontier, nearly all in the Khagan Valley, of which he gives an account in the Journal of the Bombay Nat, Hist. Soe. (vol. xxiii, p. 108, 1914):—
“It is not uncommon at the head of the Valley above 11,500 feet. The nest is merely a bellow scantily lined with grass and vegetable down. Nine nests in all were found with eggs. The full clutch is two and occasionally three. Whilst watching the first nest” [this contained two and a Cuckoo’s egg] “the hen returned and at once set to work to remove the eggs by carefully rolling them down the slope with her bill. This also happened at another nest.
“This Lark is extremely hardy ; by mid-June many clutches had already been hatched out even up at 13,000 feet when clear of snow. On June 26th, at the top of the Babusar Pass, at 13,580 feet, a blizzard-swept spot, we found a nest containing three young—two of these were dead, evidently killed by the blizzard which had been raging for twelve hours almost on end— the parents were still busily getting food for the survivor.
“Some 5 yards from another nest was found a single egg, but not one of the Lark’s as it was smaller and nearly glossless. It must I think be a Cuckoo’s (C. canorus telephonus), as this species, was very common in these parts.”
Later the egg was sent to me for inspection and proved to be the Cuckoo’s, as expected.
From the above it is shown that the breeding season commences in the last week of May or first week in June and continues up to about the middle of July.
The number of eggs laid is two, rarely three. Buchanan found four in a nest be took at Gulmarg on the 23rd June, and these eggs seem quite typical, but the nest he describes as “a mere pad of moss, feathers and hair, about 18", under a rock.” In the same letter he says he saw both male and female quite close.
The eggs are in colour a very pale stone or yellowish-stone, very finely stippled with light reddish-brown, so fine that many eggs appear unicoloured, with a hazy ring round the larger end. In some eggs the markings are rather larger and more definite, with the ring better defined and, occasionally, the ground is pale grey with small dark grey or brownish-grey blotches scattered over the whole surface and with the usual denser ring at the larger end.
Twenty-two eggs, eliminating those from Ladak, which may be either longirostris or elwesi, from Kashmir Westwards 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.
The surface is finer and more glossy than in the eggs of the Anthus species and the texture much more close.
The shape is decidedly long oval but the smaller end very slightly compressed.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 3. 1934.
Title in Book: 
1207. Otocoris alpestris longirostris
Spp Author: 
Moore.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
1207
Year: 
1934
Page No: 
154
Common name: 
Long Billed Horned Lask
M_ID: 
21891
M_SN: 
Eremophila alpestris longirostris
Volume: 
Vol. 3
id: 
14283

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