3. THE COMMON PIN-TAILED SAND-GROUSE.
Pteroclurus exustus, (Temminck).
Leg feathered; toes bare. Middle tail-feathers elongated. Belly more or less dark-coloured. Dark colour of the belly extending to the sides of the body.
MALE:—Belly uniform chocolate-brown.
FEMALE:—Belly barred with chocolate-brown and fulvous.
Vernacular Names -.—Bur-titur, Bukht-titur, Kumar-tit, Kuhar, Hind.; Butabur, Batibun, Sind; Popandi, Bhil; Pakorade, Pokurdee, Pokundi, Marathi; Palki, Belgaum ; Jam polonka, Telugu ; Kal gowjal haki, Canarese; Kal-Kon¬ dari, Tamil.
The Common Pin-tailed Sand-Grouse is a permanent resident over a very large portion of the Indian Peninsula extending from the Punjab and Sind to Behar and Chutia Nagpur on the east (and even to Calcutta as a straggler), and down to Mysore on the south. Throughout this large area it is found in all suitable localities, namely those in which the rainfall is small, the climate dry, the country open and more or less sandy, with ploughed land and fallow fields interspersed. It apparently shuns the hills.
Out of India this bird has a wide distribution over South- Western Asia and a portion of Africa.
Dr. Jerdon thus speaks of this bird. "It feeds chiefly in the morning, and between 8 and 9 a.m. goes to drink at some river or tank, at which, in some parts of the country, thousands assemble, and they may be seen winging their way in larger or smaller parties from all quarters at a great height, uttering their peculiar loud piercing call, which announces their vicinity to the sportsman long before he has seen them. They remain a few minutes at the water's edge, walking about and picking up fragments of sand and gravel, and then fly off as they came. In the hot weather, at all events, if not at all seasons, they drink again about 4 p.m. When they are seated on bare sandy or rocky ground they are most difficult to observe, from the similarity of their colour to the ground; sometimes they can be approached with ease, near enough to get a good shot, at other times, especially if in large flocks, they are shy and wary. A small flock or single birds can often be approached very close by walking rapidly, not straight, but gradually edging towards them; and, in this way, I have often walked up to within two or three yards of them."
The nesting places of these birds are in the drier and barer portions of the plains they frequent, but Colonel Butler observed them nesting near Deesa in grass beerhs, sometimes in the open, at other times under a tussock of grass. As Mr. Hume observes, the nests may be found in greatest numbers in scattered fallow or stubble or newly-ploughed fields dotted about on, and surrounded by, large semi-desert plains. They seldom make a nest, but lay their eggs, usually three in number, in a depression on the bare ground. They appear to breed at all seasons of the year, and probably rear two broods.
The eggs are regular ellipses, with a fine gloss. The ground-colour varies a great deal, but is generally of various shades of buff with sometimes a tinge of green. As usual, the eggs have two kinds of marks, the shell-marks being of a pale purple and the superior or surface-marks being olive-brown. These marks are Of various sizes and shapes. The eggs average 1.45 by 1.03.
The male bird has the sides of the head, the throat and a ring round the neck yellowish buff; the crown and upper plumage fulvous brown. The visible portions of the closed wings are a clear buff with a few narrow chestnut-brown bars; the first five quills of the wing are black, the next five black tipped with white. The middle tail-feathers are fulvous with the prolonged portions black; the others more or less brown with pale fulvous tips. The chest and upper breast are pinkish buff followed by a narrow black band, and the lower breast is yellowish buff turning to chocolate-brown on the belly and the sides of the body. The feathers under the tail are creamy white.
The female has the throat and the sides of the head yellowish buff; the crown, the whole neck, the upper part of the mantle, the chest and the upper breast fulvous streaked or spotted with black. The remaining upper plumage and the visible portions of the closed wings are fulvous barred with black. The tail-feathers are black, barred and broadly tipped with fulvous, except the terminal portions of the middle feathers, which are wholly black. The first five quills of the wing are blackish, and the next five are black tipped with dull white. The lower breast is occupied by a broad unspotted fulvous band, the belly is fulvous barred with chocolate-brown, and the feathers under the tail are fulvous.
Length, up to 13 ; wing about 7 ; tail up to about 5 1/2; legs bluish; irides brown; bill bluish. Weight up to nearly 10 oz.