554. BLACK LARK.
Melanocorypha yeltoniensis (Forst.), Phil. Trans, lvii. p. 350 (1767) ; Dresser, iv. p. 377. pl. 241 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. Br. Mus. xiii. p. 559 ; M. tartarica (Pall.), Reis. B. Beichs, ii. Anhang. p. 707 (1773) ; Gould, B. of E. iii. pl. 161.
Male ad. (S. Russia). Entire plumage jet black the feathers on the upper parts with narrow sandy margins here and there. Culmen 0.7, wing 5.3, tail 3.0, tarsus 1.0 inch. In the autumn the black is obscured by tolerably broad sandy margins to the feathers. The female has the upper parts pale sandy brown marked with dark brown, the rump and lower back rufescent ; rectrices and remiges blackish brown with narrow buffy white margins ; under parts white, the lower throat and breast spotted, the flanks striped with blackish brown. The young male resembles the female, but the upper parts are darker and the under parts, boldly blotched with black.
Hab. Southern Russia, Transcaspia, Western Siberia ; east to Turkestan and north to Indirsk ; is stated to have occurred in Belgium, Austria, and Pomerania.
Frequents the desert steppes and feeds on seeds of various kind, especially those of saline plants. In the winter it collects in large flocks, and is then often seen on roads, and near houses. Its call-note is low and piping, and its song somewhat resembles that of the Skylark, and is usually uttered when the bird is on the wing. Its nest is a careless structure placed on the ground, usually most carefully concealed, and the eggs 4 to 5 in number resemble those of M. calandra but are more boldly marked, and the ground colour is usually white. In size they measure about 0.91 by 0.75.
554. Melanocorypha yeltoniensis
554. BLACK LARK.