617. Saxicola albinigra.
Saxicola alboniger, Hume, S. F. i, p. 2 (1873); Blanf. & Dresser, P. Z. S. 1874, p. 226; Blanf. Fast. Pers. ii, p. 153, pl. xi; Seebohm, Cat. B. M. v, p. 366; Hume, Cat. no. 489 bis; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 202; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 58; Scully, Ibis, 1881, p. 442. Dromolaea alboniger (Hume), Hume, S. F. i, p. 185.
Coloration. The sexes are alike. The whole head, neck, back, scapulars, sides of breast, axillaries, and under wing-coverts deep black ; wings dark brown, the coverts edged with black; remainder of the plumage white, except the terminal half of the middle tail-feathers and a terminal band on the laterals, which are black.
Bill, legs, and feet black (Hume Coll.).
Length about 7 ; tail 2.8 ; wing 4 ; tarsus 1; bill from gape .9.
Distribution. The hills dividing Sind from Khelat, ranging west to Sehwan and Larkana; Gilgit at 5000 feet; extending east to Persia.
This species is no doubt resident in Sind and Gilgit, as it probably is in the other parts of its somewhat limited range. I have seen specimens killed on the following dates :—Gilgit, January and June; Sind, November to January ; Baluchistan and Mekran Coast, February, April, August, and November; Afghanistan, August and December; Persia, May.
The next two species are united by Hume and some other ornithologists, but I consider them distinct on the following grounds :— S. picata, a species with the crown black, visits the plains of India only in the winter, and retires for the summer to the mountains of Afghanistan and Kashmir. S. capistrata, a species with the crown white, is a constant resident in the plains of India and the lower parts of Afghanistan, and is never found on the mountains. The females of both species when in good plumage, from September to April, are quite distinct, and may be recognized without difficulty by their colour.
A few birds obtained in Gilgit have the crown largely white, but they were shot just before the autumn moult, when the feathers of that part are extremely worn and ragged, and this may be the result of bleaching. I do not think too much importance should be attached to the occurrence of these abnormal specimens among a very large series of typical S. picata. In the same way a few specimens from the plains of India exhibit some black among the white feathers of the crown. These variations are no doubt puzzling, but their cause will probably be solved hereafter without having recourse to the theory of interbreeding, which in this instance is singularly inapplicable, since the breeding-areas of the two species are totally distinct one from the other. One point is quite clear from the immense series of these Chats in the National Collection: the white or the black crown, or the intermixture of black and white, is not due to age.