(1166) Motacilla alba dukhunensis.
The Indian White Wagtail.
Motacilla dukhunensis Sykes, P. Z. S., 1832, p. 91 (Deccan). Motacilla alba. Blanf. & Dates, ii, p. 287 (part).
Vernacular names. Dhobini (Hind.).
Description. - Summer plumage. Forehead, fore crown, sides of head and neck pure white; remainder of crown, nape, hind neck, chin, throat and upper breast black, the latter sharply defined from the white of the remaining underparts; back, scapulars, rump and lesser wing-coverts grey; upper tail-coverts nearly black, edged with white; tail black, the two outermost pairs of rectrices white, with a broad line of black on the edges of the basal halves of the inner webs; wing-coverts and quills blackish-brown ; the primaries and outer secondaries narrowly, the other feathers broadly, edged with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill black, more leaden on the lower mandible ; legs and feet dark horny-brown to black.
Measurements. Total length about 220 mm.; wing 88 to 94 mm.; tail 90 to 98 mm.; tarsus 23 to 24 mm.; culmen about 11 to 12 mm.
In Winter. Forehead, chin and throat white, sometimes faintly tinged with yellowish.
Female in Summer like the male but usually with some dark mottling on the forehead; the chin and hind neck are often marked with grey.
Female in Winter. No black on head, which is grey like the back; the white forehead is narrower and tinged with grey and the black on the breast is more restricted and the feathers fringed with white.
Young birds have the upper parts grey tinged with buff; the forehead and sides of crown darker; lores, feathers round the eye and sides of the head huffish-white, mottled with grey-brown ; breast-band narrower than in the adult and more broken with white.
Distribution. Breeding in Western Siberia to the Yenesei and Atlas ; West to the Caucasus and North Turkestan. In Winter South to Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Persia and the greater part of India, East to Bengal and Upper Assam. Wait has recently obtained specimens in Ceylon, where it was previously unknown.
Nidification. The nests and eggs are said not to be distinguishable from those of the Common White Wagtail. They apparently breed in May and June but there is very little on record which can be definitely attributed to this race. Eggs taken by Smirnoff in the Yenesei district in early June measure 22.3 x 16.0 mm.
Habits. The Indian form of the White Wagtail is as confiding in its ways as is its European cousin : haunting towns, villages and gardens, it may be found pursuing its insect prey across lawns and open spaces, running with great speed and often fluttering into the air when some active titbit takes to wing. All the time its tail wags at regular intervals and even when seated and otherwise motionless, it cannot refrain from a quick flick every now and then. Its graceful, dipping flight is capable of some speed and its cheerful chirrup is uttered both on the wing and when at rest. They arrive early in India, many birds arriving in the second and third week of July, whilst few leave until the end of April.