1320. Pteroclurus alchata.
The Large Pin-tailed Sand-Grouse.
Tetrao alchata, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 276 (1766). Pterocles alchata; Blyth, Cat. p. 249; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 500; Hume, S. F. i, p. 221 ; Blewitt, S. F. iii, p. 268; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 161 id. Cat. no. 801 ; Hume & Marsh. Game B.. i, p. 77, pl. ; Barnes, S. F. ix, p. 458; id. Birds Bom. p. 297 ; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 174. Pteroclurus alchata, Ogilvie Grant, Cat. B. M. xxii, p. 7.
Coloration. Male. Crown light brown tinged with yellow ; chin, throat, and a narrow line running back from the eye black ; rest of head orange or rufous buff, passing on the neck into olivaceous buff ; back and scapulars pale brown tinged with olive and marked with large subterminal pale ochreous-yellow spots, especially on the scapulars ; primary-coverts and small coverts brown, outer secondary median and greater coverts with a subterminal chestnut band bordered with white; innermost coverts brown washed with yellow and with broad terminal black borders; quills brownish grey outside, the outer web of the first primary dark brown, the shafts and the inner surface of all quills black, inner webs of later primaries blackish externally towards the ends and bordered with white: secondaries white, with a broad outer band of brown extending to the tips of the inner webs ; rump 'and upper tail-coverts narrowly banded pale yellowish and black ; rectrices greyish brown tinged yellow and with partial bars of fawn-colour, the long tips of the middle pair black, the other feathers tipped with white ; two narrow black bars a considerable distance apart across the breast, the space between them pale rufous ; lower breast, abdomen and lower tail-coverts, axillaries and inner under wing-coverts white, larger coverts and the border of the wing brown.
Female. Upper parts barred black and yellowish buff, on the back and scapulars each feather with a band, usually broad and conspicuous, of pearly to slaty grey ; outer secondary-coverts white with a black border ; on the inner coverts there is a ferruginous-red band inside the black; upper tail-coverts with V-shaped bars; chin and middle of throat white ; cheeks, sides of upper neck, and band across throat dull ochreous-buff, followed by a broad black gorget, then an ochreous and then a grey band, after which is a narrow black gorget (the anterior one of the male), so that there are three black bands altogether in the female. Remainder of lower parts, quills, and tail as in the male.
In young birds the upper parts and breast are all narrowly and irregularly barred. Immature males retain some of the bars; immature females have black instead of pearly-grey bars on the back and coverts.
Bill very stout, greenish brown to slate-colour; irides brown; feet dusky green (Hume).
Length about 15; tail in males 5-7, in females 3.75-6 ; wing 8; tarsus 1; bill from, gape .65. The middle tail-feathers are about 2 inches longer than the others in both sexes.
Distribution. South-western and Central Asia; a cold-season visitor to the extreme North-west of India. This Sand-Grouse occurs abundantly from October till March in the Western Punjab and Northern Sind, and has been found as far as Delhi, Sambhar, and Karachi. In North Africa and Southern Europe a more richly coloured race occurs.
Habits, &c. This handsome Sand-Grouse is usually seen in India in very large flocks ; it is shy and wary, flies swiftly, aud frequently utters a loud clanging cry. It does not breed in ludia.