(2056) Glareola lactea.
THE SMALL INDIAN PRATINCOLE or SAND-PLOVER.
Glareola lactea Temm., Man. d'Orn., ed. ii, 2, p. 503 (1820) (Bengal) ; Blanf. & Oates, iv, p, 216.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Lores and a line round the front of the eye velvet-black ; whole upper plumage pale prey, faintly tinged sandy and browner on the forehead; scapulars, inner secondaries and lower and median wing-coverts sandy-grey, the last tipped white; greater and primary coverts black; primaries black, all but the first two or three with a patch of white on the outer webs and sometimes a patch of white on the outer webs of the innermost; secondaries white with black tips broadest on the first, narrowest on the inner; upper tail-coverts white; tail white with a very broad subterminal black band; chin, throat, fore-neck and upper breast sandy-buff changing to pale grey on the breast and flanks ; under wing-coverts and axillaries black; remainder of lower plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black, red at the base and more yellow on the gape; legs and feet dark brown or plumbeous to black.
Measurements. Wing 142 to 160 mm.; tail 50 to 57 mm.; tarsus 20 to 21 mm.; culmen 9 to 10 mm. Siamese and Burmese specimens are very small, wing 136 to 149 mm. and seem slightly greyer, less sandy in colour but there is so much overlapping both in size and colour that I hesitate to separate them.
Young birds have the feathers of the upper plumage obsoletely edged paler sandy and have the throat and fore-neck spotted with blackish.
Distribution. Ceylon, India and Burma. It occurs in Kashmir but not West of the Indies.
Nidification. This beautiful little Sand-Plover breeds almost always on sand and shingle beds in large rivers, selecting the higher sand-ridges for the purpose. Often the eggs are laid on the bare sand with no cover of any kind but occasionally they may be placed among thin grass or equisetum. No nest is made but a hollow is scraped for the eggs in the sand and often the eggs of the various birds are so close together that it is difficult to avoid treading on them. The colonies run from about a dozen to three or four hundred. The birds are most persistent and I have known them washed out three times by the river rising before they desisted from their efforts to bring up a brood. The eggs number two to four; in some colonies the normal clutch is two, whilst in Assam the full clutch is nearly always four. The ground-colour varies from a grey or green-white to a sandy-buff or sandy olive-green, eggs with a pink tinge being rare. The markings consist of primary specks and small blotches of reddish-brown with secondary ones of lavender; these are scattered fairly numerously all over but generally rather denser at the larger end. Two hundred eggs average 25.9 x 20.5 mm.: maxima 29.2 x 21.0 and 28.5 x 22.0 mm.; minima 23.9 X 19.9 and 25.7 X 19.0 mm.
Habits. These little Pratincoles frequent the larger rivers, where there are wide stretches of sand and shingle and even during the breeding-season associate in large flocks, in winter these, combining into still larger flocks of many hundreds. In spite of their short legs they can run with great rapidity, whilst on the wing they are wonderfully fast and most elegant. Their food consists of tiny insects, sand-hoppers, etc., and I have taken very small mollusca from their stomachs. They are common in Kashmir and follow the great rivers up into Kuman and the North-West Himalayas so far as these have suitable sand banks.