(509) Oenanthe leucomela leucomela Pall.
THE SIBERIAN PIED CHAT.
Oenanthe leucomela leucomela, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 45.
The breeding range of this Chat extends from South Russia, the Caucasus, Trans-Caspia, Turkestan, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and Eastern Siberia into Northern China in the East and into Gilgit and Kashmir on the West.
Like other Chats, this bird haunts open places, both cultivated tracts and deserts and the rocky bare sides of hills and mountains. The only account of its nidification within our limits is that of Biddulph (Ibis, 1882, p. 277), quoted by Hume:—“I took a nest of this Chat in Astor on the 26th June, at an elevation of 7,000 feet, containing five hard-set eggs. It was placed about a foot deep in a wall of loose stones supporting a built-up read on the mountain side, over which was constant traffic.” Wardlaw-Ramsay, writing of this bird in Afghanistan, says:—“The nest is very difficult to find, and I have sat sometimes for half an hour or more hoping that the bird would give some indication of its whereabouts. The only nest secured contained but one egg. The nest was placed under a collection of small rocks piled up by the torrent in the then dried-up bed of a mountain stream. A considerable number of huge stones had to be removed before the nest could be got at.”
Rattray found them common round Parachinar in July 1898 and saw several pairs about with young birds but was, apparently, too late for eggs.
This Chat in Russia seems to breed sometimes in open grass¬lands, though even in these it selects a hole under a boulder in which to place its nest. Elsewhere over the whole of its range it builds almost invariably in clefts in rocks, in loose piles of stones, less often in stone walls or under stones and boulders on the ground.
Oates says that it breeds commonly in Northern Kashmir and Gilgit but I cannot trace the grounds on which the statement is made, for Biddulph, Scully etc. all state that it breeds, if at all, only in small numbers.
They are common in Ladak, and Ludlow (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxvii, p. 143, 1920) records taking two nests :— “Two clutches taken, each containing four eggs. First nest taken on 25th May, 1919, in a hole in a rock on the Ooti plain near the Tso-Morari Lake at an altitude of 15,500 feet. Second nest taken in a Manx wall at Thugji on the Tsoke Chumo Lake on 2nd June, 1919, at an altitude of 14,000 feet. Nests of dried grass with a mixture of wool, hair and feathers. In both instances the eggs were hard set, with embryos about a week old. Eggs light blue, with brownish- red spots at the broad end, measuring 21.22 x 15.5-16 mm.” Meinertzhagen (Ibis, 1927, p. 582) found them at 6,800 and 8,000 feet, and says that “they were common all the way from Kargil to Skardu and had bred, many broods still being fed by parents.”
The breeding season appears to be late May and June and four to six eggs are laid.
In appearance these are typical Chats’ eggs. Compared with a series of the Siberian Chat, the eggs of the present bird are duller as a series ; many have a distinct greenish tinge and they are much more heavily marked ; the freckles in some instances become definite spots and small blotches, and the pale red, though still the prevailing colour, is sometimes a dark reddish-brown. The spots are dis¬tributed in the usual manner and often form zones at the larger end. Individual clutches may be indistinguishable from those of picata but I have seen no eggs of that bird with the dark green tinted ground, nor so heavily marked as are many eggs of leucomela.
Forty eggs measured by myself average 19.6 x 15.1 mm. : maxima 20.3 x 15.8 and 19.7 x16.1 mm. ; minima 17.9 x 14.6 and 20.1 x 14.3 mm. These are all eggs taken in the East of this Chat’s range. Jourdain gives the average of forty-one eggs, as 19.29 x 15.08 mm. : maxima 20.8 x 15.2 and 18.8 x 16.0 mm. ; minima 17.1 x 14.9 and 18.5 x 13.5 mm. ; the last measurements might almost be consigned to the abnormal.
509. Enanthe leucomela leucomela
(509) Oenanthe leucomela leucomela Pall.