4. THE SPOTTED PIN-TAILED SAND-GROUSE.
Pteroclurus senegallus, (Linnaeus).
Leg feathered; toes bare. Middle tail-feathers elongated. Belly more or less dark-coloured. Dark colour of the belly confined to a large central patch, not extending to the sides of the body.
MALE :—Whole plumage unspotted.
FEMALE:—Nearly the whole plumage spotted.
Vernacular Names :—Nandoo Katingo, Gutu, Sind.
The Spotted Pin-tailed Sand-Grouse is confined to the north-western portion of India, being found commonly in winter in Sind and Jeysulmere, and less commonly in the Punjab and Rajputana.
The most northerly locality where it has been procured is Shahpur on the Jhelum river, and the most easterly, Jodhpur. To the south it extends to Cutch and Northern Guzerat. In the British Museum there is a specimen which is said to have been obtained by Colonel Swinhoe at Mhow, probably by mistake, as this naturalist does not include this bird in the list of birds of Central India which he wrote conjointly with the late Lieut. H. E. Barnes, in the Ibis for 1885.
This Sand-Grouse extends through S. W. Asia to Northern Africa.
Mr. Hume observes :—" Numerous as the Spotted Sand-Grouse are in certain localities in Sind, they are, as a rule, only met with within a comparatively narrow zone: that within which the inundation tracts abut on the dry uplands, and cultivation and desert inosculate. In the immediate neighbourhood of the hills themselves I never saw them, except in parties, coming up for a few minutes to drink at some perennial stream, close to where it debouches from the hills; and again I equally missed them well down into the heart of the cultivated area …….Their note is peculiar, and has been happily described as a gurgling sound, not unlike that produced by blowing through a small tube, one end of which is immersed in water. It has been syllabled as quidle, quidle, quidle, and this really does recall the note to a certain extent."
There can be little doubt that this Sand-Grouse breeds in Sind; and it probably breeds in other localities in India, for Mr. R. H. C. Tufnell informs us that these birds were extremely plentiful in the August of one year at Rajanpur on the Punjab frontier.
Mr. Hume thus writes of a single egg of this species, which I regret to say is no longer in his collection :—" A single egg of this species I owe to Mr. William T. Blanford, who extracted it from the body of a female which he shot on the 20th March, 1875, in the desert west of Shikurpur, Upper Sindh. In shape and size the egg is similar to that of P. exustus, but the markings are much more sparse than in any egg of that species that I have ever seen. The egg is of course cylindro-ovoidal, the ground-colour is a pale yellowish stone-colour, and the markings, which are thinly distributed over the surface of the egg, consist of olive-brown spots and tiny blotches with a few crooked and hooked lines; besides these, a few pale lilac-purplish or inky grey spots, streaks and smears having a sub-surface appearance are scattered irregularly about the surface of the egg. Having been extracted from the body of the bird, the egg has of course but little gloss. It measures 1.5 by 1.05."
The male has a broad grey band on each side of the head, the two bands meeting behind the crown. The whole upper plumage is fulvous brown tinged with ochraceous yellow over the tail; and the visible portions of the closed wing are a mixture of bluish grey and buffy yellow, this last forming margins and tips to the feathers. The quills of the wing are pale fulvous brown with black shafts and a broad blackish band near the tip of each feather which is narrowly whitish. The throat, the sides of the head and a portion of the sides of the neck are rather bright saffron-yellow. The whole lower plumage is pale fulvous brown with a large black patch on the middle of the belly. The middle tail feathers are fulvous ending in black and the others are greyish brown broadly tipped with whitish. The feathers under the tail are white.
In the female, the whole upper plumage, the visible portions of the closed wing, the sides of the neck, the foreneck and the chest are pinkish brown thickly covered with round black spots. The throat, the sides of the head and a portion of the sides of the neck are pale yellow. The band surrounding the crown, which in the male is grey, is, in the female, a much paler grey marked with a few black spots. The lower plumage is pinkish brown with a large black isolated patch in the middle of the belly. The tail resembles that of the male.
Length about 13; wing about 7 1/2; tail about 5 ; legs bluish; irides brown; bill bluish. Weight up to 12 oz.