8. THE CLOSE-BARRED SAND-GROUSE.
Pterocles lichtensteini, Temminck.
Leg feathered ; toes bare. Middle tail-feathers not elongated. Belly barred. Shaft of the first quill of the wing brown.
Feathers under the tail barred. Feathers of the tarsus unbarred white. Throat spotted.
MALE :— With a black band across the forehead.
FEMALE :— With no black band across the forehead.
Vernacular Names -.— None known.
The Close-barred Sand-Grouse has as yet only been found in Sind, west of the Indus river, from Mehur, where Mr. Hume first met with it, down to Karachi. It has been procured in the months of January, February and March.
This bird occurs in Baluchistan and Arabia, extending into Africa.
The occurrence of this Sand-Grouse in India is so rare that I can find no note on the species by any Indian sportsman, and I am obliged to quote the remarks of sportsmen who have met with it in Arabia and Africa. Major Yerbury, who procured this bird near Aden, has a brief note in which he informs us that when he first met with it, he saw a flock consisting of from eighty to a hundred individuals ; subsequently he found it in small flocks of four or five birds. Dr. W. T. Blanford, who became well acquainted with this species in Abyssinia, has some very interesting information to give about it, and I shall quote the whole of his remarks:—"This bird has precisely the same habits as the closely allied Pt. fasciatus of India. It is rarely if ever seen on open sandy plains; like Pt. exustus, it keeps to bush and thin tree jungle, and is usually found solitary, in pairs, or at the most two or three pairs together. I once came upon a considerable flock in January, and possibly at that time these birds may collect in large numbers; but in May, June, July and August, it was rare to see more than four together, except about watering-places. When disturbed, the Sand-Grouse rises with a sharp cackling cry, affording a very difficult shot. It does not rise high, and usually settles again after a short flight. All kinds of Pterocles, as is well known, fly to water at particular hours in the day, the hours varying with different species. Pt. exustus drinks about 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. In the present case the drinking hours are at daybreak in the morning, and at dusk in the evening, as is also the case with the Indian Pt. fasciatus, the crepuscular habits of which are mentioned by Jerdon ('Birds of India,' vol. II., p. 498), and have been noticed by myself also. In the semi-desert country west and north¬west of Massowah, in which Pt. lichtensteini abounds, and there are but very few places where water is found, the scene at each spring of an evening, after a hot day especially, is very interesting. At Saati, Ailat, and Ain, there was a constant rush of these birds from sunset till dark, and again in the morning before sunrise. Singly and in small flocks, uttering their peculiar ' queep-queep '-like note, they flew up and down the watercourse, on their way to and from the water, keeping only a few feet above the bushes and low trees; the noise of their wings being heard in the dusk before the birds them¬ selves appeared. Like all other Sand-Grouse, they are excellent eating, the flesh being rather hard but of delicious flavour; and our party used generally to shoot a few each evening not an easy matter, for the great swiftness and power of wing possessed by these birds rendered them, in the dusk especially, by no means an easy shot."
I cannot find any note regarding the nesting of this species.
The male has a black band across the forehead with some white in front and behind it. The crown of the head is pale fulvous streaked with black; the throat, the sides of the head and the neck all round pale fulvous spotted with black. The whole upper plumage, and the visible portions of the closed wings and tail are pale fulvous barred with black, the tips of the tail-feathers being bright yellowish buff. The quills of the wing are brown. The breast is yellowish buff with a chestnut band across it. The belly, the sides of the body, and the feathers under the tail are white barred with black, the black bars being much narrower than the white interspaces. The feathers on the tarsus are white without bars.
The female has the whole head and neck pale fulvous spotted with black, the throat whitish spotted with black. The whole plumage is fulvous, darker above and paler beneath, every portion closely barred with black. The quills are dark brown. The feathers of the tarsus are pure white.
Length about 10 1/2; wing about 7; tail nearly 3; legs yellow; irides brown; bill brown. Weight about 8 oz.