Pterocles exustus, Tem.
802. :- Jerdon's Birds of India, Vol. II, p. 502 ; Butler, Guzerat; Stray Feathers, Vol. IV, p. 4; Deccan, Stray Feathers, Vol. IX, p. 421; Murray's Vertebrate Zoology of Sind, p. 210; Game Birds of India, Vol I, p. 69 ; Swinhoe and Barnes, Central India; Ibis, 1885, p. 131.
THE COMMON SAND GROUSE.
Length, 11 to 13.75 ; expanse, 21 to 22.5 ; wing, 6.5 to 7.5 ; tail, 4 to 5.9; tarsus, 0.8 to 1; bill from gape, 0.6 to 0.7 ; weight, 7 1/2 to 10 oz.
Bill pale slaty-grey to pale plumbeous or lavender-blue ; irides dark brown; feet same as bill.
Male, general colour fulvous-isabelline, brighter and more yellow about the lores, face, and chin, and mixed with dusky-greenish on the back, wing and upper tail-coverts; primaries black, the tips of all, except the first three, white, broader on the inner web ; a longitudinal median line on the wing, formed by some of the coverts and secondaries being brighter buff; tail with the central pair of feathers elongated and highly attenuated, isabelline-yellow, the lateral feathers deep brown; edged and tipped with pale fulvous; a narrow black band on the breast ; abdomen deep chocolate brown (burnt or singed color, hence exustus), paling on the vent, as are the tarsal plumes.
The female has the whole upper plumage, including the tail feathers (except a plain bar on the wing formed by the greater-coverts) fulvous, closely barred with deep brown, also the space between the pectoral band and the abdomen; neck and breast unspotted dingy isabelline; abdomen as in the male; the central rectrices are not elongated.
The Common Sand Grouse occurs abundantly throughout the region. It does not affect hilly or rocky districts, nor is it found in forest or swampy places. It is very partial to fallow or ploughed land. It is a permanent resident, breeding pretty near all the year through. The eggs, three in number, are deposited in a slight depression on. the ground; they are of the usual shape peculiar to Grouse, long and cylindrical, equally blunt at both ends ; in color they are greyish or greenish-white or even light olive-brown, thickly streaked, blotched and spotted equally over the whole surface with darker or lighter shades of olive-brown and with pale underlying clouds of very pale inky-purple.
They average 1.45 inches in length by about 1.03 in breadth.
The following key, published in Stray Feathers, Vol. VII, p. 159, may prove useful: :-
Key to the Indian species of PTEROCLES.
A. Without pectoral band.
a. Stripe on each side of forehead from nostril to above the eye, chin and centre of throat, black……………….1. P. coronatus.
b. Lores and band encircling back of head pearly-grey; cheeks, ear-coverts and
throat orange-yellow ; centre of abdomen black……………….2. P. senegalus.
B. With pectoral band.
a. Without black bar on the forehead.
a1 Median rectrices not lengthened much beyond the rest; upper part of throat and sides of neck rufous; lower portion of throat black ; band on lower part of breast; abdomen
and flanks black……………….P. arenarius.
b1 Median rectrices greatly lengthened beyond the rest.
a2 Throat yellow; black band across breast; abdomen and flanks chesnut……………….P. exustus.
b2. Throat and stripe behind the eye black ; sides of throat rufous; centre of breast chestnut, border¬ed above and below with black ; rest of under parts white……………….P. alchata,
b. With black across forehead.
a1. Breast uniform greenish-buff.
a2. Lower part of breast bordered with a chesnut band, succeeded by a white one; rest of under parts yellowish white, barred narrowly with black; wing-coverts with two black bands, margined on the upper side only with white……………….P. fasciatus.
b1 Throat pale buff; upper part of breast. buff, crossed with numerous narrow black bars; middle of breast uniform buff, crossed in centre by a narrow black bar, and another of the same hue on its lower edge ; rest of under parts yellowish-white, barred narrowly with black……………….P. lichtensteini.