(1245) Pyrrhulauda grisea.
The Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark.
Alauda grisea Scop., Del. Flor. et Faun. Insubr., ii, p. 95 (1786) (no locality) (Ginge, South Arcot District), Pyrrhulauda grisea. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 341.
Vernacular names. Diyora, Duri, Dabhak-churi, Jothauli (Hind.); Chat-bharai, Dhula-chata (Beng.); Poti-pichike, Piyada-pichike (Tel.); Gotowli (Mir-shikari, Bihar); Gomaritta (Cing.); Vannam padi, Pullu (Tam.).
Description. - Male. Upper plumage ashy-brown, each feather margined with pale grey; forehead and crown appearing much paler owing to the dark bases being concealed; tail dark brown, the central tail-feathers very broadly edged with whitish-brown or white; outermost tail-feathers dull white on outer web and whitish-brown on terminal half of inner web; wing-coverts and quills dark brown edged with pale grey, almost white on the former; lores, face, a broad supercilium to the nape, chin, throat,, sides of neck, breast, abdomen and under tail-coverts dark choco¬late-brown, the head-parts practically black; ear-coverts and cheeks white mixed with fulvous; sides of body ashy-grey mixed with dark brown; axillaries and under wing-coverts deep chocolate.
Colours of soft parts. Ins dark brown; bill bluish flesh-colour to pale plumbeous; legs and feet livid to brownish-fleshy.
Measurements. Total length about 135 mm.; wing 74 to 79 mm.; tail 41 to 46 mm.; tarsus 15 to 16 mm.; culmen 9 to 10 mm.
Female. Has the black of the head and lower parts replaced by pale brownish-fulvous; the grey margins to the upper parts are less obvious and the forehead is no paler than the back; the fore-neck, breast and flanks are faintly streaked with darker brown.
Nestlings are more rufescent above and each feather has black marginal bars; the feathers of the wing are broadly edged with pale rufous and the lower"parts are dull fulvous, marked with brown on fore-neck and breast.
Distribution. The whole of India, except the North and "West Punjab, from the Himalayas to Ceylon and from Sind to^extreme Eastern Bengal and Assam.
Nidification. The breeding-season of this little Finch-Lark is very extended, but there seem to be two periods during which most broods are raised. The first is from February to early May before the rains commence and the second from August to October, but eggs have been found in practically every month of the year. In Ceylon the season seems to be more restricted, eggs nearly always being laid from the middle of April to early July. The nest is just a little cup made of fine grasses and often lined with wool, cotton-down or the flowering ends of grasses. Like all the Finch-Larks there is nearly always a small wall of stones,. dry earth, bits of brick or some other similar material placed round and often also under the nest, but a feature of this little nest is its extraordinary neatness, so that, as Wait remarks, they look like the perfect hemispherical sockets in a bagatelle board. Usually they are built under the protection of a tuft of grass or weed but sometimes they are placed well out in the open with no protection whatsoever. The eggs generally number two, but three is not uncommon and I have one of four in my collection taken by Currie at Bolaram. They are like the eggs of the other Finch-Larks but typically longer in shape and more yellowish-brown in tone as a series. One hundred eggs average 19.1 x 13.7 mm.: maxima 20.2 X 14.5 mm. and 19.8 x 14.7 mm.; minima 16.0 X 13.2 and 17.0 x 12.5 mm.
Habits. This little Lark is found wherever there are wide open spaces not too wet, for it frequents alike sandy uplands, cultivation and grass-lands. Wherever found it is resident, though it may move locally from some of its more low-lying haunts during the wettest season. It is a very active little bird on the ground but not strong on the wing, though during the breeding-season it constantly soars into the air for a short distance, singing as it does so and then drops almost perpendicularly to earth again. It feeds principally on grass-seeds but, like so many other seed and fruit-eating birds, will greedily eat termites when these are on the wing.