(506) Aenanthe picata.
The Pied Chat.
Saxicola picata Blyth, J. A. S. B., xvi, p. 131 (1847) (Sind); Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 71.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description.— Male. The whole head and neck all round, back, scapulars and wings, under wing-coverts and axillaries deep black; remainder of lower plumage with the rump and upper tail-coverts white; tail white, except the terminal half of the middle pair of feathers and a broad band at the tip of the others, black; there is hardly any difference between the summer and winter plumage.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill and legs black.
Measurements. Total length about 170 mm.; wing* 89 to 99 mm., but 73 per cent, are between 91 and 94 mm.; tail about 65 to 70 mm.; tarsus about 25 mm.; culmen about 13 mm.
Female. Upper plumage brown; rump and upper tail-coverts white; tail as in the male but the black replaced with brown; wing brown, all the feathers broadly edged with rufous: chin, throat and breast dark ochraceous brown to dark brownish black ; remainder of the lower parts very pale buff or pinkish white.
Measurements. "72 per cent, measure, wing 87-89 mm." (Ticehurst).
The young resemble the female but have the feathers of the breast and flanks edged with dark brown ; the crown and back are concolorous.
Distribution. Breeding occurs throughout South-East Persia, Baluchistan, Afghanistan and the Afghan-N.W. Frontier of India boundaries as far North as Sam an a and possibly as far North as Chitral and Gilgit. In winter it is found abundantly over extreme South-Bast Persia,Baluchistan, Sind and Rajputana, less frequently but regularly and in some numbers in the West and South-West of the United Provinces; in the Punjab it is much less common, its place being taken by the next bird, though Whitehead records this as breeding there. In Kashmir proper apparently only picata breeds and not capistrata, though the latter is also found there occasionally.
Nidification. The Pied Chat breeds in considerable numbers in the Quetta district and both Whitehead and Rattray found it breeding in the Kurram Valley at about 5000 feet, whilst Lieut. Kinchin took its nest about 1,000 feet lower. Betham describes the nests as being made " of roots and bents and lined with hair, wool or any soft material that may be handy and says that the favourite nesting-sites are holes in "steep river-banks or under rocks and stones on the hills ; it also sometimes nests in old stone walls or in ruined and deserted mud and stone buildings. Barnes found its nest in Afghanistan built in a hole in a tree. The eggs number four or five and vary from almost white to a pale skim-milk blue sparsely marked with tiny freckles arid a few small blotches of reddish brown. These are nearly always confined to the larger end where they sometimes form a faint ring. The texture is fine and close, fairly glossy but fragile and the shape is a broad blunt oval. Forty eggs average 20.0x 15.6 mm.: maxima 21.5 x 16.4 mm.; minima 18.0x14.4 mm. They breed principally in late April and May and Betham found no eggs after the third week in the latter month.
To what extent this bird breeds in Persia I do not know: Ticehurst says that it is " the breeding bird of Eastern Persia ,f but Currie in three seasons at Kerman and Shiraz never came across it, though he often obtained it during the cold weather at Bunder Abbas.
Habits. This Chat is normally a bird of comparatively low-levels, i.e. from 4,000 to 6,000 feet. In winter it is found throughout the plains of the North-"West. They are typical Wheatears in their habits, keeping entirely to open desert country, preferably to areas that are particularly stony and rough. Where cultivated country adjoins waste lands the Pied Chat will resort to it for the sake of the ample insect-food it there obtains but it is apparently never found in thick scrub or heavily grassed lands. It has a very sweet, but low, song.