514. Cenanthe deserti oreophila

(514) Oenanthe deserti oreophila Oberholser.
Oenanthe deserti oreophila, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 52.
The present form of Desert-Chat breeds in parts of Kashmir, Ladak and Tibet between 10,000 and 16,000 feet but, apparently, very seldom under 11,000 feet.
Meinertzhagen describes it as “a bird of the wildest regions but disliking steep slopes.” He obtained nests in Ladak, one on 7th June near the Pangkong Lake at 14,300 feet and two other nests with four eggs each at Debring at 15,700 feet. The first was placed in a “mani” wall, the others on the ground under huge boulders.
Ludlow (Ibis, 1928, p. 59), in writing of the birds of Gyantse, notes that these Chats “arrive about the middle of April in Southern Tibet and are fairly numerous between 13,000 and 15,000 feet. They seem to prefer waste land and are generally met with at the mouths of stony barren nullahs. They breed towards the end of May, either in the mud ‘chortens,’ stone walls or in holes in reeky hill-slopes. One nest that I found was placed in a hole under a rock. I was unable to reach the nest properly, so pulled it out, when, to my disgust, I found it empty. I replaced it clumsily but, on visiting it a few days afterwards, I found it contained four eggs. This seems to be the usual clutch. The nest is a fairly biggish structure of grass and straw interwoven with wool and feathers and lined with a mixture of wool and hair.”
Ludlow also took a nest at Upshi, 40 miles from Leh, on the 6th June, at about 11,800 feet.
Osmaston found them breeding commonly in Ladak and writes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxxi, p. 981, 1927):—“This bird is found at high elevations only in Ladak. They frequent rocky, sandy desert country, both plateaux and steep hill-sides, from about 10,000' up to 17,000', where they are often the only birds to be seen. They are nowhere numerous.
“They are early breeders, nidification commencing in May. Nests are placed under rocks or stones or in the ‘mani’ walls, and are composed of small sticks and dry grass, lined with hair and feathers.”
I have had numerous nests and eggs sent me from Tibet taken from 12,000 feet upwards. In Tibet the favourite site seems to be a hole in one of the “mani” or boundary walls, tucked away well inside the wall and often built under a pile of stones where the wall has half fallen. At other times it is placed in holes in the sides of ravines, rocks or precipices or just on the ground under rocks, boulders and piles of stone. The nest is a very rough structure, generally made principally of small twigs, grass and roots mixed up with wool and hair and often with such oddments as feathers, scraps of rag, straw etc. Outwardly it is of no particular shape and is just a pad of all these materials mixed together, but there is always a fairly well-shaped cavity for the eggs which is thickly or thinly lined with wool and hair, sometimes mixed with feathers.
Osmaston obtained a very fine series of eggs in Ladak on the Taklang Pass, 16,500 feet, the Tsor Chumo Lake, 15,000 feet, and the Tso Kar Lake at 15,400 feet, all his nests being taken in June, which seems to be the normal breeding month. The eggs always seem to number four or five, the former much more often than the latter.
The ground-colour is a bright pale blue, varying a good deal in depth, perhaps depending considerably on the time they have been incubated. In markings they agree with the preceding subspecies, though I have seen none quite so richly or boldly blotched as are one or two clutches of that bird.
Thirty-two eggs average 22.1 x 16.3 mm. : maxima 23.9 x 16.7 mm. ; minima 20.1 x 16.0 and 20.8 x 15.0 mm.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 2. 1933.
Title in Book: 
514. Cenanthe deserti oreophila
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Tibetan Desert Chat
Oenanthe deserti oreophila
Vol. 2
Term name: 

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