(1891) Pterocles coronatus atratus.
Pterocles coronatus atratus Hartert, Bull. B. O. C, xii, p. (1902) (E. Persia). Pterocles coronatus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 57.
Vernacular names. Katinga (Sind).
Description. Centre of forehead white; on either side a patch of black, carried down the base of the bill and down the centre of the throat; crown dull vinous-grey or vinous-bun2 surrounded by pure French-grey ; lores and next the black patch whitish ; sides of head and ear-coverts deep ochre, produced as a collar round the hind-neck; rest of upper plumage isabelline, the feathers with pale centres and the scapulars with a bar of dark grey colour below and on the sides of the grey spots; lesser wing-coverts vinous-buff, gradually changing to rufous-buff on the median coverts with pale centres and grey oblique patches on the outer webs ; primary coverts and winglet brown ; primaries brown, the fifth edged pale buff on the tip of the inner web, the buff tip increasing on each inner primary and forming a broad buff band running obliquely across the inner primaries; plumage below buffy greyish on the upper breast and more ruddy-buff on the abdomen ; vent chestnut-brown ; thighs and tarsi buff, the latter often marked with chestnut-brown; tail isabelline, the central feathers faintly tipped paler, the others rufous-buff, broadly tipped with white and sub-tipped with dark brown; under greater wing-coverts brown; remaining coverts and axillaries white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill slaty-blue; legs and feet dull pale fleshy-grey; " bill lavender-grey, feet white" (Ticehurst).
Measurements. Wing 178 to 193 mm.; tail about 120 to 132 mm,; tarsus about 25 mm. ; culmen 12.5 to 13.5 mm.
Female. Has no black and white on the head; the grey and buff crown are replaced by the colour of the back, the ochre of the sides of the head is reduced in extent and depth of colour; the tail is marked like the back ; the whole of the underparts are marked with crescentic black bars which become less defined on the abdomen and thighs and disappear on the under tail-coverts and tarsi.
Colours of soft parts as in the male.
Measurements. Wing 170 to 189 mm.
Distribution. Arabia (? Palestine), Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and N.W. India. In the last it is found West of the Indus all along the North-West Provinces to the South of Sind. Swinhoe obtained three specimens from Mhow in Dhar.
Nidification. Barnes found this Sand-Grouse breeding at Chaman in Afghanistan; shooting a pair of birds off three eggs which he says measure 38.1 x 27 mm. Another egg taken by him and now in the British Museum measures 41.0 x 27.3 mm. and is a pale yellowish stone-colour with primary markings of vandyke-brown and secondary blotches of pale lavender distributed sparsely all over the egg. Two oviduct eggs in my collection from birds shot in Baluchistan measure 40.4 x 27.6 and 39.3 x 26.2 mm. One egg is pale grey very lightly blotched with brown and lavender-grey, the other is darker yellow-stone, more profusely marked and with a dense ring of brown spots at one end. There is no doubt that these birds breed wherever found but they haunt such inhospitable deserts that it may be long before eggs are actually taken on Indian soil. May and June are apparently the months during which they should be looked for.
Habits. The Coronetted Sand-Grouse is common in many parts of Sind, frequenting the most arid and stony deserts, more especially those which are broken up by ravines and rocky and stony hillsides. Vegetation is almost nil, yet they pick up enough food in the way of grass-seeds etc. to keep in plump condition and provide an excellent dish for one's table. They can fly with immense speed but often flutter about quite slowly with a vacillating flight and they are very tame, confiding birds easy to approach and easy to kill compared with most Sand-Grouse. They drink in the mornings between sunrise and 9 A.M., coming to the water in small flocks of half a dozen or twenty or so until great numbers collect. They alight some distance from the water and drink like chickens, many entering the water and soaking their breasts with it, possibly to take to their young.