(1246) Pyrrhulauda frontalis affinis.
The Indian Black-crowned Finch-Lark.
Pyrrhulauda affinis Blyth, Ibis, 1867, p. 185 (Madras, in errore ; Karachi, Ticehurst). Pyrrhulauda melanauchen. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 343.
Vernacular names. Duri, Dabhak-churi (Hind.).
Description - Male. Forehead white; whole crown and nape chocolate-black; remainder of plumage like that of P. grisea but paler and more sandy-grey; the ear-coverts are nearly pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill pale horny, darker on the culmen, paler and bluish on the lower mandible; legs and feet pale whity-brown.
Measurements. Wing 78 to 83 mm.; tail 46 to 49 mm.; tarsus 16 to 17 mm.; culmen 10 to 11 mm.
Female. Similar to that of the preceding bird bur paler and more sandy above and with the lower breast and abdomen almost pure white; the streaks on the lower plumage are still more indistinct.
Young birds are paler and more sandy above than are those of P. grisea.
Distribution. Sind and the Punjab, as far East as the Jumna.
Nidification. Exactly the same as that of the preceding Finch-Lark. Scrope Doig found the Black-crowned Finch-Lark breeding in large numbers in Sind, evidently in communities, for in one place in the desert about 10 miles from Narra he found over twenty nests with eggs. Here a considerable growth of grass had sprung up after some local rain and the birds had taken advantage of this to build their nests, placing them on the North side of tufts of grass so as to shelter them from the hot winds. They seem to lay only two eggs and the breeding takes place, according to Scrope Doig, in February and early March, the end of May and early June and, again, in August and September. Lindsey Smith and Ticehurst both found it breeding about May in the sand-hills near Karachi. The eggs are not distinguishable from those of the Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark.
Habits. " It is a true desert bird and moves about locally as its food-supply becomes exhausted; this consists of seeds of desert-plants, chiefly grasses. It is a sociable bird, even in the breeding season flocks of ten to fifty individuals being often met with. It is somewhat local in its distribution and, unless one knows a favoured spot, one may wander far and never see it at all. It is resident.
" The male has a typical Lark-like soaring flight." (Ticehurst.)