(1893) Pterocles exustus erlangeri.
THE COMMON INDIAN SAND-GROUSE.
Pterocles exustus erlangeri Neum. Orn. Monatsb., p, 154 (1909) (Lahadj, South Arabia). Pteroclurus exustus* Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 60.
Vernacular names. Bhat-titar, Bakht-titar, Kuma-tit, Kakar, Dangar, Bowrie (Hind.); Butabar, Batibun (Sind); Popandi (Bhil); Pakorade (Mahr.); Jam polanka (Tel.); Kal-Gowjal-Haki (Can., Mysore); Kal-kandari (Tam.).
Description,—Adult male. Crown to upper tail-coverts isabel-line-grey or isabelline-brown, darkest on the coverts, palest on the crown ; lores, cheeks, chin and throat dull yellow-ochre, often tinged with orange-buff, extending to form a collar round the neck, but shading off into the other parts; scapulars and interscapulars darker and shading into ochreous-buff at the tips, which are edged with brown; greater secondary coverts and inner scondaries buff or ochreous-buff, the latter shaded with olive on the inner webs and inside of outer webs ; inner lesser coverts like the back, gradually changing to buff or ochreous on the remaining lesser, median and greater coverts, which are also margined with paler buff; edge of wing, winglet, primary coverts and primaries dark brown, the inner primaries with broad, oblique bands of white at the ends ; outer secondaries brown ; upper breast vinous-buff, divided from the lower breast by a narrow band of black bordered with white; lower breast dull yellow-buff, changing gradually into the chocolate of the rest of the lower plumage and the black of the centre of the abdomen ; under tail-coverts and tarsi creamy-buff; Central tail-feathers like the back, becoming black on the prolonged narrow portions; outer tail-feathers tipped with pale buff and with some dark freckling next the tip on the outermost pair.
Female. Upper plumage dull buff, streaked with marks of dark brown, on the hind-neck these increase to blotches and on the back and other parts become broad bars ; scapulars, inner secondaries, lesser and median coverts like the back but the feathers broadly tipped with buff and some of the coverts finely edged with brown"; sides of head, neck and breast more vinous and strongly spotted with black; lower breast dull pale ochre-buff; abdomen, flanks and vent rufous-buff closely barred with very dark brown; under tail-coverts creamy-buff.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown ; orbital skin pale yellow to pale greenish-yellow ; bill and feet slaty grey to plumbeous or lavender-blue, claws blackish.
Measurements. Wing, 171 to 193 mm., 161 to 178 mm.; tail 124 to 156 mm.; tarsus 21 to 25 mm.; culmen 11 to 13 mm. Weight, 8 to 10 oz., 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 oz.
Young birds have the whole of the upper parts dull buff, finely vermiculated all over with thin wavy lines of black; chin to breast earthy-buff finely barred with blackish; abdomen and flanks dull black; quills freckled with buff at the tips and inner secondaries freckled all over; greater and median coverts black edged with dark buff.
Nestling in down. Above pale ginger broken by white patterns and lines, pricked out in black; underparts isabelline-white, darkest on the throat; the pattern on the head and on the back assumes the shape of a figure of eight.
Distribution. South Arabia, South and South-West Palestine to Baluchistan and India. In our own area it occurs practically everywhere in the plains where the rainfall is not too heavy. It does not occur in Ceylon but is found in the open parts of Travancore, whilst Blanford shot them near Trichinopoly. East it is found as far as Raneegange and Birbhum. It is common in parts of Sind and in the Punjab and has been killed in Kashmir.
Nidification. This Sand-Grouse breeds wherever there are suitable areas or open waste, desert country, fields with stubble, or fields lying fallow. Eggs have been taken in every month of the year, except perhaps August, but the principal months are March to May in the North and possibly January to March in the Bombay Presidency and the Southern Provinces. Most birds breed twice in the year at least. The eggs, normally three, are laid in slight hollows scratched by the birds, without lining and, generally, with no shadow protection by stone, clod or vegetation. Both parents incubate and during the hot hours of the day the eggs are never left uncovered. In colour they are pale grey-stone or yellowish-stone with numerous small blotches and spots of various shades of brown profusely scattered over the whole surface and with secondary markings of lavender and grey. In a few eggs the underlying grey spots predominate. Two hundred eggs average 36.8 x 26.2 mm.: maxima 40.5 x 26.1 and 34.1 x 28.2 mm.; minima 32.9 x 24.9 and 34.1 x 23.2 mm.
Habits. This Sand-Grouse is very common wherever the country is open, whether it is absolute desert or only semi-desert mixed with cultivated land. It drinks early in the morning, about two hours after dawn, and again early in the evening before sunset. Unless much shot over they are not wild birds, but big docks (they run up to 200) can seldom be approached near enough for a shot and most sport is obtained as the birds flight to and from their drinking - places. Huge bags are some¬times obtained in this nay and, as the birds are very powerful on the wing and have very dense plumage, it takes straight shooting to drop them. They feed on seeds, grain and vegetable shoots and, though dry, are good birds for the table.
* Pterocles senegalensis of Licht., 1823 (Verz. Doubl. p. 64) is preoccupied by senegalensis Shaw & Modder, 1814. We must therefore once more revert co exustus as the specific name.