(1889) Pterocles Indicus (Gmelin).
THE PAINTED SAND-GROUSE.
Pterocles indicus. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v. p. 264.
This beautiful bird is found over the greater part of Western India and Central India North of about the centre of Bombay. It is common in Kanara, the Deccan, Central Provinces, Rajputana, Cutch, the North-West Provinces and the Punjab. To the East it has occurred as far as the Santhal Parganas, Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Gya. In the North-West Barton records it as occurring every year at Rustem 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 North-West Frontier (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xx, p, 968, 1911).
This Sand-Grouse is a resident bird wherever found except, possibly, on the outer fringes of its ordinary habitat. It is not a desert-breeding bird, although it is essentially one of dry country and is never found in really wet districts. It breeds in broken country, stony hillsides and rocky ravines, but never in those without a certain amount of bush or serub-jungle, while Hume says that during part of the year they are to be found in the forests of the Deccan. Even here, however, Sparrow and others have found them breeding principally in stony ravines more or less covered with scrub-jungle. Adam says that it “is common about the low ranges of hills near the Sambhur Lake and doubtless throughout the Aravalis. Sometimes it is met with under the shade of the 'toi’ (Euphorbia royliana) about halfway up the hills, but as a rule small parties are flushed at or near the base of the hills, where the ground is mostly stony.”
The nest is, as a rule, a mere scratching in among the stones and earth, rarely with a little grass or a few leaves in the hollow, which are most likely only wind-blown. Thompson is the only collecter ever to have found anything more than this. He writes:— "The nest was placed on the ground on a slight rise ; neatly and well put together, saucer-like, made of dried grass, bits of dried leaves of bamboos and other plants. The soil was sandy, with a thin forest growing on it, and the nest was placed under the shadow of a small tree,” Such a nest may be accepted as quite abnormal.
As a rule the eggs are laid under the protection of a bush, tree or some clump of grass or other vegetation, or where a stone or boulder gives some shade during the hottest hours but, even this, is by no means always the case, and sometimes they are placed right out in the open, when shade and protection are easily obtainable in the immediate neighbourhood.
The principal breeding season is probably April, May and June, but eggs have been taken at odd times throughout the year.
The following shows dates and places where taken and by whom:—
January ..... Pythian-Adams and Davidson (Khandesh).
February ..... Pythian-Adams and Davidson (Khandesh), Butler (Guzerat), Bingham (Bombay Pres.).
March ..... Hume, Adam (Aravalis), Pythian-Adams, Bulkley (Cutch), Sparrow (Deccan), Davidson and Wenden (Khandesh).
April ..... Adam (Aravali), Pythian - Adams, Bulkley (Cutch), Sparrow (Deccan).
May ..... Bingham ; Sparrow (Deccan).
June ..... Barnes (Bombay), Felton (N. W. F.).
August ..... Betham (Poona).
November ..... Thompson (Chanda), Davidson (Khandesh).
December ..... Pythian-Adams.
The number of eggs laid is three, sometimes two only. The shape is a true ellipse ; the texture is close and hard and the surface often highly glossed. They are very beautiful and remind one at once of the pink type of Nightjar’s eggs, which they resemble very closely except in size.
The ground-colour varies from pale cream, pale salmon or salmon-buff to a warm salmon or salmon-buff ; a few eggs having a more yellow tinge and still fewer being very dull in tint, almost a grey-salmon. The markings vary considerably also. In most they consist of primary blotches, specks and smudges ofsome shade of light red to brownish-red, with secondary similar marks of inky grey or lavender-grey. In most egga these latter marks are the more numerous and dominate the tint but, in a few, the primary marks are bolder, darker and more numerous.
A remarkable pair taken by Vidal at Nassic has the. ground pale cream, the whole surface covered with munerous hold though small blotches of bright red-brown or chestnut, with equally numerous secondary ones of grey and lavender. Another unusual clutch taken by Sparrow in the Deccan has very few primary markings hut many secondary, one egg looking as if it had been dropped in ink and half washed.
A still more curious pair has the ground-colour a dull pale sea green with a few faded blotches and spots of grey and brown scattered here and there over the surface.
Eighty-eight 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.
Both sexes incubate, and the method by which this species, and apparently all others, obtain moisture to damp their eggs is explained later on under Pterocles alchata caudacutus. I have no certain record of the period of incubation in a wild state, but apparently it takes from twenty-one to twenty-three days. The birds sit very close, and during the heat of the day have been seen sitting on the eggs, the wings outspread and mouth wide open, panting for breath. Doubtless if the eggs were left for long in the heat of the midday sun they would soon be destroyed, but they are sometimes left uncovered after the morning chill has gone and before the cool¬ness of evening falls.
1889. Pterocles indicus
(1889) Pterocles Indicus (Gmelin).