(1237) Galerida cristata chendoola Franklin.
THE INDIAN CRESTED LARK.
Galerida cristata chendoola, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 343.
This race of Crested Lark is found over practically the whole of Northern India from Sind and the Punjab East of the Indus, West to Bihar and the dry districts of Eastern Bengal, auct as. Ranchi and Hazaribagh, and South to Sambhur and Raipur in the Deccan and Rajputana.
Wherever found this form is resident, though it may move about locally under the influence of excessive rain or drought.
These birds breed in a wide variety of country ranging from rich cultivated areas to comparatively bleak desert, so long as this affords some protection in the way of scrub growth or sparse coarse grass. Possibly it prefers above the rest waste land on which there is a fairly plentiful supply of grass and bushes. It will, however, sometimes breed in ploughed land, sandy and muddy banks of rivers which have some growth on them and also, though rarely, in perfectly open bare places under the semi-shelter of rocks and stones. In Sind Ticehurst (Ibis, 1923, p. 18) says that “Nests in cattle-frequented desert were noteworthy, as in every case the site chosen was at the foot of a perpendicular miniature cliff three or four feet high, and wedged into an angle, so that it was in a position so that no cow could tread on it.” Normally the positions they choose are much the same as are selected by most Larks, i, e., a depression in the ground, self-made or natural, under the shelter of a tuft of grass, small bush, rock or stone or, though seldom, under a clod of earth in ploughed fields. Lindsey Harvey, who sent me a nice series of the eggs of this bird, also found occasional nests made in growing crops.
The nests are quite typical of the family, loosely built shallow cups of grass, but they may generally be distinguished by the lining, which is often of materials other than fine grass, so universally used by other Larks.
Butler describes a nest taken by him near Karachi “com¬posed of coarse dry grass, roots, etc., and lined with lumps of raw cotton, bits of rag, thread, etc., the exterior being encircled with a slight embankment of hard incrustated earth which had peeled from the surface of the ground that had been inundated.”
Marshall (G. F. L.) says that in Saharunpoor he found a nest placed “in the middle of a village cart-track near a low bush, between the wheel-tracks, formed by lining a hollow with grass, roots, fibre, and little bits of straws, dry wheat-leaves, and stringy bark neatly put together.”
Hume also writes:—“Exteriorly the nest is always composed of more or less fine grass, but the nests have generally a more or less regular lining of very fine grass, cotton, wool, soft vegetable fibre, hair, and even a few feathers. I think that, as a rule, the nests of this species may be distinguished at a glance by the lining.” Inglis says “nests often lined with wool and other oddments.” Lindsey Harvey again notes : lined “often with wool, vegetable fibre, flowering ends of grass etc.”
The breeding season over the whole area of this Lark is principally April and the first half of May ; many birds, however, breed in March and a few even in February, while, where the site is above flood-level, a few continue to lay as late as the middle of June.
In this subspecies the eggs number three or four, one number as often as the other.
The ground is almost white, faintly tinged with grey, yellowish or, according to Hume, greenish. The markings consist of specks, spots and blotches of pale yellowish-brown to deep vandyke-brown, with secondary markings, similar in character, of neutral tint, often rather conspicuous. These markings vary considerably in density but are never thick enough to obscure the ground or make the eggs look unicoloured. In all they are most numerous at the larger end, where they form rings or caps in many eggs but, else¬where, they may be quite scanty. In a few eggs there are a good number of freckles with a few comparatively big blotches scattered here and there.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, a few rather pointed at the smaller end. Moderately long ovals may be also met with and every now and then a clutch of long, blunt ovals. The surface is less glossy than in the arvensis group of Sky-Larks, though the eggs bear a strong family resemblance to these. They are also of a rather coarser texture and more fragile.
Fifty eggs average 21.5 x 16.4 mm. : maxima 23.5 x 16.2 and 22.0 x 17.3 mm. ; minima 19.8 x 16.1 and 22.0 x 15.3 mm.
1237. Galerida eristata ehendoola
(1237) Galerida cristata chendoola Franklin.