(1229) Mirafra cantillans cantillans.
The Singing Bush-Lark.
Mirafra cantillans Jerd., Blyth, J. A. S. B., xiii, p. 960 (1844) (Bengal); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p.
Vernacular names, Aghun, Aghin (Hind.); Burutta pitta, Aghin pitta (Tel.).
Description. "Whole upper plumage dark brown with rufous lateral margins and very pale sandy or whitish, terminal bands; central rectrices brown with wide rufous edges, the next three pairs with narrow edges, the penultimate pair rufescent white on the outer web and the outermost pair all rufescent white except on the edge of the inner web; wing-feathers brown with rufous edges, very broad on the primary coverts, primaries and outer secondaries; lores and supercilium fulvous-white ; cheeks and ear-coverts rufous tipped with brown; chin and throat white, remainder of lower plumage pale fulvous, darker on the breast and flanks and streaked on the former and on the sides of the neck with black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; upper mandible horny-brown, yellowish on the commissure and lower mandible; legs and feet fleshy or fleshy-yellow.
Measurements. Total length about 155 mm.; wing 74 to 82 mm.; tail 47 to 52 mm.; tarsus 20 to 21 mm.; culmen about 10 to 11 mm.
In Summer the pale edges to the feathers get completely abraded and the upper plumage looks much darker and more rufous.
Young birds are boldly barred above with black and pale fulvous and are more freely and broadly marked with black on the breast.
Distribution. Punjab, North-West Provinces, United Provinces, Central India, Western Bengal, South to Madras on the East and to Travancore on the West. It also occurs in Kashmir. Ticehurst records it as a rare resident in Lower Sind and Whitehead found it " fairly numerous at Kohat in Summer between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.
Nidification. The Singing Bush-Lark breeds practically throughout the area in which it occurs, but is very capricious in its selection of nesting-sites, breeding in numbers in some places and neglecting others to all intents and purposes precisely the same. The nest is placed on the ground and nearly always in plains where there is fairly long grass, sometimes in grass on the sides of ravines and water-ways, very rarely in thin bush or scrub-jungle. The nest is made of coarse and fine grass, lined with finer grass. Sometimes it is a mere fragile cup, more often it is well made, compact and more or less domed, the dome being constructed both with the materials forming the nest and with the growing grass in which it is placed. The eggs number three or four and have an almost white ground, faintly tinged with grey, green, yellow or buff. Most eggs are densely spotted and blotched all over with various shades of brown or yellow-brown, others are speckled in the same manner, whilst a few are rather more boldly and sparsely marked. They have but little gloss and are dull-coloured eggs. Fifty eggs average 20.3x15.6 mm. Hume gives the extremes of length as 22.8 and 19.2 mm. and of breadth as 16.5 and 14.7 mm.
The breeding-season is from the middle of June, after the break of the rains, to the middle of September.
Habits. The Singing Bush-Lark is found in grass-land, cultivation and all open spaces not too arid and parched but it does not frequent stony plains and barren country. It flies better and higher than most of the birds of this genus, though it never soars like the true Sky-Larks. Its song also, though sweet and full, cannot be compared with the song of that bird. It sings both on the wing and whilst seated on some bush or even on the ground and also when in captivity, for which reason it is a favourite cage-bird with Indians; it is also said to be a very fine mimic of the songs and notes of other birds.