2. THE EASTERN PIN-TAILED SAND-GROUSE.
Pteroclurus alchatus, (Linnaeus).
Leg feathered; toes bare. Middle tail-feathers elongated. Belly entirely white.
FEMALE :—Throat white.
Vernacular Names :—None known.
The Eastern Pin-tailed Sand-Grouse visits India in the winter, and is found at that season principally in the Punjab and Sind. In the former province it has been found as far east as Delhi, and in the latter as far south as Karachi. It has also been procured near Sambhar. A few birds apparently remain in Sind throughout the year.
This bird occurs in Turkestan and through the countries of South- Western Asia to Palestine. .To the west of this, it is replaced by a very closely allied species. Mr. Hume writes of this species:— "Of all the Sand-Grouse that inhabit or visit India .... none habitually associate in such enormous flocks as the Pintail does during the cold season. Near Mardan I have seen flocks of at least ten thousand, and in Northern Sind I know that they similarly occur at times in countless numbers."
Mr. Dresser, speaking of the nearly allied species which occurs in Europe, says :—" In its habits the Pin-tailed Sand-Grouse does not appreciably differ from the Black-bellied Sand-Grouse. ... It is shy and very wild, lives in large flocks except during the breeding season, and feeds on seeds, insects and the leaves of various wild plants. . . . When in flocks they frequently traverse great distances on the wing in search of water; and during their flight they utter their loud note, Kaat, kaat ka"
As before remarked, some of these birds remain in Sind perhaps as permanent residents, or if not, for a sufficient time to permit of nesting operations to be completed. In the Hume Collection there is a single egg of this species, on which it is recorded that it was found at Jeempoer (? Jhimpir) in Sind on the 10th July, 1878. This egg, as is usual with the eggs of all the Sand-Grouse, is perfectly elliptical and glossy; the groundcolour is a warm buff; the shell-markings are pale purple and the egg is covered pretty evenly all over with dots and marks of reddish brown. It measures 1.7 by 1.15.
The male of this species has the chin, throat and a line behind the eye black ; the crown grey; the sides of the head bright buff, and the forehead and neck greyish buff. The back and the feathers springing from the shoulder are olive buff with yellowish patches. The outer part of the closed wing is chestnut with white margins, the inner part yellowish fringed with black. The first ten quills of the wing are grey, the outer web of the first being black; the next quills having much white on them. The rump and the tail-coverts are barred with black and yellow. The tail-feathers are more or less dark grey tipped with white, the prolonged portions of the middle feathers being black. The chest is pale rufous bounded above and below by a black band, and the belly and sides of the body are white.
The female has the whole upper plumage rather bright yellowish buff barred with black, many of the feathers of the back, shoulder and wing with oval pale blue marks. The throat is white, and a streak passing over the eye and the sides of the head, and surrounding the throat, is yellowish buff. A black band proceeds from either eye down the neck, gradually widening and meeting the other in a broad band across the foreneck. This broad band is succeeded by a narrow buff line, and again by a broad grey band, which is again succeeded by a narrow black line. The chest is occupied by a very broad rufous band, margined below by black. The belly is white; and the tail resembles that of the male.
Length about 15 ; wing about 8 1/2; tail about 6 ; legs dusky green ; irides brown; bill brown or greenish. Weight up to 12 oz.