Pahari bhat-titar, Hindustani.
This is the smallest of our well-known sand-grouse, and of remarkable beauty of plumage, at any rate in the case of the male, whose buff ground colour is diversified above by broad and close-set chocolate bands, about as wide as the interspaces between them. The wings have a few white bands, and the head two bands each of black-and-white; the breast is unhanded, but below this the plumage is coloured with black and buff in narrow equal bands. The orange bill and yellow eye-lids are also characteristic colour-points of this species. There are no long "pin " feathers in the tail.
The hen is of a more ordinary type, barred with buff and black nearly all over, the head being spotted with black, not barred.
This sand-grouse is less short-legged and squatty than the others, and not so long in the wings ; it approaches the partridge type more, in fact, and in accordance with this structure it is found to run much more quickly and freely than other sand grouse, so that it might almost at times be taken for a partridge. It also frequents rather different localities from other sand-grouse, for though, like the rest of them, liking dry soil, it is found in places where there is a good deal of bush and even tree cover. Nor is it typically a bird of the plains, for it especially affects hills and ravines, and likes to frequent the mounds left when a jungle village has been deserted. In the rains it deserts its bushy haunts and lives in the open like the common sand-grouse. "Where such ground as it likes is to be found it is widely spread, but not by any means universally; its chief stronghold is in Guzerat, Cutch, Rajputana, the North-west Provinces and the Simaliks. On the Malabar and Bombay coasts and the Ganges delta and the Carnatic lowlands it is not to be found, nor does it pass westward of the Indus. It is not nearly so gregarious as other sand-grouse, being usually found in pairs or even singly, a flock of ten being exceptional. Owing to its lying very close, at any rate in the day-time, it is seldom seen until startled, when the birds fly strongly and fast, but are not difficult to kill. They do not fly very far at a time, and do not go far from home except in search of water, which they visit much earlier and later than other species, not taking their evening drink till dusk or even after dark, and drinking again before sunrise. They have also often been seen feeding and flying about at night, and observations on specimens in captivity in England have shown them so very lethargic by day that it is probable that they are really night—rather than day—birds, which would no doubt account for the fact of their lying so much closer than other species.
Their note is as characteristic as their other traits; although they call on the wing like other sand-grouse, the note is described by Hume as a " chuckling chirp."
The nest of this bird is, however, the usual sand-grouse " scrape" on the ground, with the scantiest of lining, if any; the eggs, which are usually three in number, but sometimes two or even four, are of the typical long shape, but of a very distinctive colour, salmon-pink, marked with brownish-red and dull purple ; they are much like those of some nightjars.
The weight of these birds is between six and seven ounces, the male exceeding the female but very little. In South India it is known as Handeri, the Tamil word being Sonda polanka. grouse, and resembles a sharp whistle through the fingers, and is " deafening " when the small parties pack in numbers at their drinking-places. As he speaks of them as in enormous multitudes in some places, they must be far more numerous in their African haunts than they ever seem to be in India, and far more so than the painted sand-grouse ever is, for that matter; though, no doubt, scarcity of watering-places causes a great deal of concentration.
The eggs, according to Heuglin, although of the usual long shape of sand-grouse eggs, are " much the colour of dirty and faded peewit's eggs." The highland slopes with a thin covering of scrub were the breeding-grounds, and the time of breeding the beginning of the rains.