Pterocles arenarius, Pall.
799. :- Jerdon's Birds of India, Vol. II, p. 496 ; Butler, Guzerat ; Stray Feathers, Vol. IV, p. 4 ; Murray's Vertebrate Zoology of Sind, p. 209; Game Birds of India, Vol. I, p. 47 ; Swinhoe and Barnes, Central India ; Ibis, 1885, p. 131.
THE LARGE SAND GROUSE.
Length, 13.25 to 14.75 ; expanse, 27 to 30 ; wing, 9 to 10 ; tail, 4 to 5 ; tarsus, 1 to 1.25 ; bill from gape, 0.6 to 0.7 ; weight, 15 oz. to 1 1/4 lbs.
Bill pale bluish-grey to dark plumbeous; irides brown; feet earthy-grey to dark greyish plumbeous.
Male, crown and middle of the nape brownish-grey with a pinkish tinge; rest of the upper parts mingled ashy and fulvous, each feather being bluish-ashy in the middle, edged with fulvous, giving a mottled appearance ; greater wing-coverts plain ochreous or orange-buff, and the median-coverts also broadly edged with the same; quills and primary-coverts dark slaty, with black shafts ; tail as the back, fulvous with black ashy bands; all the lateral tail-feathers tipped with white; beneath, the chin is deep chesnut, passing as a band under the ear-coverts to the nape, and below this, on the middle of the throat, is a small triangular patch of black; the breast and sides of the neck dull ashy, tinged with fulvous, with a narrow band of black on the breast; abdomen and vent deep black ; under tail-coverts black, with white margins to the feathers ; tarsal plumes pale yellowish.
The female differs in having the whole head and upper parts with the breast fulvous, banded with brown; the pectoral band is narrower, and between that and the black of the abdomen is unspotted ; the chin is fulvous with a narrow black edging and a few black specks ; the under tail-coverts pale fulvous.
The Large or Black-bellied Sand Grouse is found during the winter months, in Sind, Guzerat, and Rajputana. They frequent open sandy plains, and are, if they have been much worried, very difficult to shoot. They go regularly to drink every morning, and native shikaries, taking advantage of this, lie in ambush and often succeed in slaughtering great numbers of them.
They do not breed in India, but at Chaman, Southern Afghanistan, I found them breeding freely during May and June. They lay in slight depressions in the soil, and the eggs, three in number, are similar to those of P. exustus, but are of course much larger. They average 1.8 inches in length by about 1.25 in breadth.