621. Saxicola pleschanka *.
The Siberian Chat.
Motacilla pleschanka, Lepech. Nov. Com. Fetr. xiv, p. 503, pl. xiv, fig. 2 (1770). Motacilla leucomela, Fall. Nov. Com. Petr. xiv, p. 584, pl. xxii, fig. 3 (1770). Saxicola morio, Hempr. et Ehr. Symb. Phys. fol. aa (1833) ; Blanf. & Dresser, P. Z. S. 1874, p. 225 (part.); Wardlaw Ramsay, Ibis, 1880, p. 55 ; Seebohm, Cat. B. M. v, p. 372; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 58; Scully, Ibis, 1881, p. 443 ; Biddulph, Ibis, 1882, p. 276. Saxicola hendersoni, Hume, Ibis, 1871, p. 408; Hume Henders. Lah. to Yark. p. 206, pl. xiii ; Hume, S. F. ii, p. 526; Scully, S. F. iv, p. 144; Hume, Cat. no. 492 bis ; id. S. F. ix, p. 326 note. Saxicola pleschanka (Dep.), Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. ii, p. 53.
Coloration. Male. After the autumn moult the feathers at the base of the upper mandible, lores, a narrow line above the eye, sides of the head, chin, and throat black, most of the feathers with fawn-coloured fringes; forehead, crown, nape, and hind neck greyish brown, with the bases of the feathers white; a pale buff supercilium ; back, scapulars, and upper rump black, very broadly fringed with rufous, the black being nearly invisible; lower rump and upper tail-coverts white; tail white, except the terminal two-thirds of the middle pair of feathers and a band at the tips of the others, which are black; wings black, all the feathers margined with rufous; lower plumage from the throat downwards rufous-fawn, deepest on the breast; under wing-coverts and axillaries black, with very narrow white fringes. In spring and summer the plumage, by a course of abrasion of the tips of the feathers, becomes quite different to that of the autumn and winter. The forehead, crown, nape, and hind neck become pure white; the feathers at the base of the upper mandible, sides of the head, chin, throat, back, scapulars, wings, under wing-coverts, and axillaries uniform deep black; the remainder of the lower plumage pure white ; the rump, upper tail-coverts, and tail undergo no alteration.
Female. In the autumn the forehead, crown, nape, hind neck and sides of neck, back, and scapulars are rufous-brown, with narrow paler fringes; wings dark brown, with broad rufous margins; rump and upper tail-coverts white; tail as in the male; a pale rufous supercilium; ear-coverts darker rufous ; lower plumage rufous-brown, varying in different individuals, darkest on the breast, a few feathers of the breast and flanks with dark streaks; under wing-coverts and axillaries blackish, with narrow whitish fringes. In spring and summer all the margins to the feathers are lost. The chin, throat, and fore neck become dusky, and the remainder of the lower parts nearly white; the upper plumage is earthy brown, with a fulvous tinge.
Bill, legs, and feet black ; iris probably brown.
Length about 6 ; tail 2.4; wing 3.7; tarsus .9; bill from gape .65 ; second primary longer than sixth.
A perfectly connected series of this Chat in the British Museum conclusively proves that S. hendersoni is merely the present species in freshly-moulted plumage.
Distribution. This Chat has a very extensive range, and is migratory, but the materials for tracing its movements are very imperfect. The only part of India in which it occurs is Gilgit and the extreme northern portions of Kashmir, where it is very common throughout the summer and breeds. At this season of the year this species is found in Turkestan and throughout Central Asia to Siberia and Western China. To the west it ranges in summer to Afghanistan, and it is said to breed in Persia and Southeastern Europe. The winter-quarters of this Chat are said to be Abyssinia and Arabia, but I have seen one specimen killed in Gilgit in December.
Habits, &c. Breeds in May and June, building its nest in a hole of a stone wall or in a pile of stones. The eggs are described as being pale blue, with small dusky red freckles, and one measured .72 by .56.
* As the names leucomela and morio have been frequently misaplied, especially by Indian ornithologists, it is a matter for congratulation that Lepechin's name is available for this species.