906. Pin-tailed Sand-grouse.
Pterocles alchata (Linn.), Syst. Nat. i. p. 276 (1766) ; Dresser, vii. p. 67, pl. 467 ; (Ogilvie Grant), Cat. B. Br. Mus. xxii. p. 7 ; (Blanf.) F. Brit. Ind. Birds, iv. p. 58 ; P. pyrenaicus (Briss.), Orn. i. p. 195 ; pl. xix. (1760) ; (Ogilvie Grant), Cat. B. Br. Mus. xxii. p. 9 ; P. setarius (Temm.) Pig. and Gall. iii. p. 256 (1815) ; Gould, B. of E. iv. pl. 258.
Ganga, cata, French. ; Corticol, Portug. ; Ganga, Span, and Ital. ; el Guett’-ha, Arab.
Male ad. (Spain). Crown, nape, and hind neck dark brownish ash-grey washed with yellowish ; back and scapulars brownish ash, broadly tipped with golden yellow ; primaries bluish ash externally ; secondaries dull white on inner and ashy brown margined with white on outer web, the elongated innermost dark brown ; smaller outer larger, and median coverts bluish ash at base, then pale dove-blue, then chocolate-red bordered with pale sulphur, and with a narrow black apical border ; inner large coverts dark ash, then golden yellow margined with black ; rump and upper tail-coverts, and tail light yellowish narrowly barred with black, the elongated middle tail-feathers black on the terminal portion, the rest broadly tipped with white ; sides of head warm orange, passing on the neck into olivaceous buff ; chin, upper throat, and a broad line behind the eye jet black ; a broad chestnut-red band bordered with black passes across the upper breast ; rest of under parts white ; under tail-coverts blackish grey barred with yellowish and broadly tipped with white ; beak dull horn-brown, feet greyish brown ; iris dark brown ; bare orbital space dull lead-grey. Culmen 0.65, wing 7.3, tail 5.3, tarsus 1.15 inch. The female has the chin and centre of throat white, not black, the upper parts yellowish barred with black and ashy grey, and there are three black bands across the lower throat and breast.
Hab. Southern Europe ; North Africa ; Asia Minor, east to Central Asia : North-west India in the winter.
In habits this Sand-Grouse does not appreciably differ from P. arenarius, and like that bird is wild and shy, flies very swiftly, and feeds on seeds, and to some extent also on insects. Except during the breeding season it is found in flocks, and its call-note, kaat, kaat, ka, may be heard at a great distance and is generally uttered when the bird is on the wing. The nest is a mere depression in the ground, and the eggs, 2 to 3 in number, are usually deposited in May, and are elongated oval in shape, clay coloured tinged with warm rufous isabelline, with purplish grey underlying shell markings and dark reddish brown surface spots and blotches, and measure about 1.83 by 1.22.
The eastern form has been subspecifically separated from the western form (P. pyrenaicus) as being somewhat less brightly coloured and having the submarginal bars on the chestnut wing- coverts white and not yellowish or buff, but I do not find these characters permanent in a series and consequently do not separate the forms.
906. Pterocles alchata
906. Pin-tailed Sand-grouse.