(1889) Pterocles indicus.
THE PAINTED SAND-GROUSE.
Tetrao indicus Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p. 575 (1789) (Coromandel Coast). Pterocles fasciatus. Blanf, & Oates, p. 55.
Vernacular names. Pahari Bhat-titur, Bhat-ban, Dongar kavri (Hind., N. W. P.); Chapka (Saugur) ; Gutila Titur (Mirzapur); Palki (Belgaum) ; Handeri (S. India); Kal-gowjal-haki (Can., Mysore); Sonda Polanka (Tam.).
Description.— Adult male. Forehead white, followed by a black band and then another white one; crown reddish-buff spotted with black or deep chocolate-brown; hind-neck olive-yellow or olive-buff; back to tail chestnut-buff, barred with black, the bars V-shaped on the tail-feathers, which are tipped with yellow-buff; scapulars like the back but more boldly barred, some of the bars grey and the feathers broadly tipped with yellow-buff:; wing-coverts buff, those next the scapulars marked like them; the innermost tinted like the nape, changing to ochreous-buff on the outer; winglet, primary coverts and primaries dark brown, the last with paler edges; inner secondaries like the scapulars, their coverts barred white and slate-colour with buff edges and the margins of the slate bars black; sides of head and chin to upper breast ochreous-buff, bordered by a broad chocolate band and then by a band of bullish-white; under tail-coverts banded buff and black, abdomen and remaining underparts banded chocolate-brown and white, the latter bars more or less obsolete next the broad white breast-band.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; orbital skin lemon-yellow to bluish- or greenish-yellow ; bill reddish to reddish-brown or reddish-horny; legs and feet dingy yellow or orange to dingy brown or orange-brown.
Measurements. Wing 158 to 184 mm.; tail 80 to 101 mm.; tarsus about 22.5 to 24.5 mm.; culmen about 12.5 to 14.5 mm. Weight 6 to 8 oz.
Female. Crown as in the male but no white and black bars on the forehead; whole upper plumage reddish- or chestnut-buff barred with deep brown or black bars; tail rather paler; lores and sides of head fawn with small black streaks; chin and upper throat fawn-buff, remaining lower plumage barred buff and deep brown, the buff bars paling to white on the abdomen and the brown deepening to blackish.
Young males are like the female but more closely vermiculated or barred. Chicks in. down are uniform earthy-brown.
Distribution. Most of the Western Peninsula of India excluding the South-West coast from Bombay southwards. It is common in the Deccan, Central Provinces,, dutch, Rajputana, North-West Province and the Punjab. It has occurred East as far as the Santhal Parganas, Ranchi, Hazaritagh and Gya, In the North-West Barton records it as occurring every year at Rustom, near Mardan—it has been shot near the Orakzai and Whitehead records one of a pair being shot at Shinauri, 3,800 feet, on the N. W. Frontier.
Nidification. Except on the extreme outskirts of its range the Painted Sand-Grouse is resident and breeds. Eggs have been taken in every month of the year except during the heavy rains of July, August and September. April to early June are however the favourite months. The eggs are laid on the ground in scratchings made by the birds in ravines, broken ground and stony hills where there is some bush or scrub-jungle, whilst in the Central Province it often breeds in actual forest. The eggs, three in number, occasionally two and once four, are the most beautiful of all the Sand-Grouse eggs. The ground-colour varies from a pale cream to a warm salmon and they are sparingly spotted with light to dark purple-red with secondary blotches of lavender or reddish-grey. Eighty eggs average 35.8 x 25.0 mm.: maxima 40.0 x 27.0 mm.; minima 33.0 X 24.6 and 35.0 x 23.4 mm.
Habits. This is a resident bird, frequenting dry broken country, stony hillsides and rocky ravines but a certain amount of bush-or scrub-jungle is essential, whilst it also is sometimes found in cultivated country or patches of waste land. It collects in small flocks of four or five to a dozen, rarely in much larger flocks, though Pythian-Adams records 200 in one patch of jungle. It drinks later than other Sand-Grouse and seldom before the sun is well below the horizon. Its voice is a soft low note like the words " yek, yek, yek," rapidly repeated. The plumage is less dense than that of other Sand-Grouse and though they fly low and fast, they are easier to kill than most on this account. Their food is almost exclusively vegetarian—seeds, berries, grain and shoots of plants.