(505) Aenanthe alboniger.
Saxicola alboniger Hume, S. F., i, p. 2 (1873) (Sind). Saxicola albinigra. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 70.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Head, back and scapulars, sides of breast, flanks, axillaries and under wing-coverts black; wings dark brown, the coverts edged with black; central tail-feathers white at the base, brownish black on the terminal three-quarters; lateral tail-feathers white with broad brownish-black tips.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 175 to 180 mm.; wing 94 to 106 mm.; tail 55 to 71 mm.; tarsus about 28 mm.; culmen about 16 mm.
The tail seems to vary in an extraordinary way, several specimens in no way abraded or in moult having it under 60 mm.
The nestling seems to be barred with dark brown; it moults the first autumn into the adult plumage, though the black is replaced by deep chocolate-brown.
Distribution. Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan to Kashmir and Sind.
Nidification. This fine Chat breeds in some numbers from Kerman Westwards to Shiraz, principally between 5,000 and 6,000 feet but, possibly, also a good deal higher. It lays as early as March but second broods are reared in the end of May and June. The site generally selected is said, by Mr. A. T. Currie, to be a crevice or hole in a rock, sometimes high up and inaccessible without ropes, at other times quite low down yet equally unobtainable, being placed at the end of deep clefts, too small and too deep for an arm to enter. At Kerman, however, Mr. Currie found it building in the rafter-holes in deserted mud-buildings. Wherever built the nest is always guarded by a fortification of small fiat pebbles sloping gradually from the outside of the hole up to its highest point just in front of the nest. In the cavity inside this a nest of stones is made with a rather poor lining of grass, feathers and hair. A large number of stones are often used in these ramparts and one such weighed 2 lb.
The full clutch of eggs is five. In colour they are very pale skim-milk blue, some spotless or nearly so, others with a fairly well-defined ring of faint reddish-brown spots and freckles at the larger end. One egg in a clutch seems often to be darker and better marked than the rest.
Twenty eggs average 22.5 x 16.8 mm: maxima 25.0 x 17.1 mm.; minima 20.3 X16.5 and 22.3 x 16.1 mm.
Habits. In Persia Hume's Chat seems to be found frequenting rocky hills, often of limestone, especially in the vicinity of culti¬vation. It is quite the most common of all the Chats in Persia from Kerman and Shiraz extending right down through the hills to our North-West Frontier but decreasing rapidly in numbers from Shiraz southwards. It is said to have a loud melodious song, although not a very varied one. The call-note is described by Mr. Currie as " a short, sharp, high-pitched whistle, rapidly uttered three or four times and if its nest or young are threatened it gives a harsh grating note."
It is very bold and fearless; tame with human beings but resenting and at once driving away bird-intruders to its domain whether of its own or other species.