(1209) Melanocorypha maxima.
The Long-billed Calandra Lark.
Melanocorypha maxima Gould, B. of A., iv, pi. 72 (1867) (Sikkim); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 322.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Upper plumage brown tinged with rufous on the head and rump, each feather darkest in the centre and edged with pale fulvous; the nape is often rather grey; central tail-feathers dark brown edged with tawny, lateral feathers edged and tipped with white, the white increasing in extent until the outermost have only the base and basal half of the edge brown;, primaries brown, the first nearly all white on the outer web, the others narrowly edged with white ; coverts and secondaries brown edged with fulvous, the latter also broadly tipped with white; lores, supercilium and cheeks mottled white and rufous, ear-covert golden rufous; lower plumage dull white tinged with ashy on the breast and washed with fulvous on the flanks; the breast sometimes shows a few ill-defined spots of brown, perhaps a. sign of youth.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill whitish-horny or yellow, black at the tip; legs and feet dark brown or "black mottled with dull red " ( Walton).
Measurements. Wing 143 to 154 mm.; tail 83 to 93 mm.; tarsus 29 to 30 mm.; culmen 21 to 24 mm.
Young birds are blackish-brown above, each feather edged with yellow or yellowish-white; the lower plumage is washed with yellow and the breast heavily spotted with dark brown; the chin and throat are very yellow.
Distribution. From the Koko-lSur to Kansu, South through Tibet to Sikkim.
Nidification. Two eggs sent to me from Tibet with the nest and a skin of one parent resemble very large eggs of Sky-Larks, measuring 30 x 19.0 and 29.0 x 19.0 mm. In shape they are very long ovals, in ground-colour very pale yellowish-stone freckled all over with yellowish-brown which, in one egg, coalesce and form a ring at the larger end. The nest appears to have been a very roughly made cup of grass and a few roots and is said to have been placed in a tuft of coarse grass and furze on the sun-baked mud shores of the Rhamtso Lake at an elevation of about 13,000 feet. They were taken on the 25th of July.
Habits. Very little recorded. This Lark is said to be very common in Tibet between 12,000 and 15,000 feet, breeding wherever found and not descending much lower in Winter. It is a bird of open bare plains and also of pasture-land surrounded by stony wastes as well as of marshy country. It is a favourite cage-bird with the Tibetans and is said to have a fine song with a great range of notes.