(1894) Pterocles senegallus Linn.
THE SPOTTED SAND-GROUSE.
Pterocles senegallus, Fauna B. I,, Birds, 2nd ed, vol. v, p. 273.
This Sand-Grouse is found from Algeria, through North Africa and part of the Sahara, North and South Nubia and Egypt, Arabia and Mesopotamia, to Afghanistan, Baluchistan, the North-West Indian frontier and Sind.
In India it is a common resident bird in Sind and doubtless elsewhere on the North-West Baluchistan frontier. It occurs, not very uncommonly, in the Runn of Cutch and has also been recorded from Jamboghora, West of Ahmedabad ; from Poharan between Jesalpore and Jodhpore and from Shapur in the Punjab.
Mr. Percy Hyde, in writing to me, said he had seen flocks about 18 miles from Karachi, and the farthest East record seems to be a bird shot near Nagar in Jodhpore.
This Sand-Grouse probably breeds in some numbers in Sind if one could hit on exactly the right place at the right time. K. R, Eates, who has done exceptionally good field-work with the Sand- Grouse in Sind, tells me that the birds are so numerous that he is sure that somewhere they must breed in great numbers. The difficulties of transport etc. and the appalling heat make the search for their breeding grounds a most difficult matter, Eates had many heart-breaking journeys without result before one was attended finally with success, when in Khonju, in the Sakkur District, he at last came on nests, though even this he believes can only be an outlying post of some area where they breed in far greater numbers. With his usual generosity be has presented me with two clutches, one of three eggs and one of two, with which he supplies the following notes :—“I have ascertained that this Sand-Grouse breeds sparingly but regularly in Ubauro taluka, Sakkur District, and I have taken eggs at Goh-jo-pat and Khmja, a tract of more or less bare plain with a scattered thin growth of stunted ‘kundi’ scrub and kandaro thorn. The nests consist of mere scratchings in the ground, unlined and unprotected in any way, right out in the bare plain.”
Pearson obtained two clutches of three eggs each near Kotri in Sind during May. In addition to these, oviduct eggs, now in my collection, were taken by Dr. G. C. McMullen near Kotri on the 24th April, 1907, and two more by Fletcher (Journ. Bomb., Nat. Hist. Soe. vol. xiii, p. 304, 1901) 14 miles North of Khargora, Sind. There was also another soft-shelled egg, unblowable, taken from a third female on the same date, the 19th. February.
Pitman, Cox, Cheesman, Tomlinson and others took many eggs in Mesopotamia, and the first-named told me, in epistola, that “They are fairly common and breed round Kut and Sinn, though I was not lucky enough to find any clutch of eggs I could keep and clean. The birds seem to prefer the same bare ground for breeding purposes as that normally frequented by them at other seasons, and which is Well away from human habitation. At the end of June I found a clutch of three eggs laid on the ground ; there was no sign of any nest and the eggs were laid on the bare hard 'pat' (dried mud) of a dried up marsh. Unfortunately they were on the point of hatching, and it was quite impossible for me to clean them.”
Cox and Cheesman took two clutches of three eggs each, one at “Aggur Qaf near Bagdad” on the 14th August and one “Near Bagdad” on the 25th July.
Single eggs were preserved out of hard-set clutches which were taken by Pitman on the 27th June and 3rd July, while Tomlinson in the Bussorah District also took eggs in June and Aharoni a single egg on the 15th May.
It seems, therefore, that in Mesopotamia they breed from early May to the end of August, while in India eggs have been taken from the 19th February (Fletcher) to the 16th May (Pearson and Eates).
In shape the eggs are typically cylindrical. In colour they are pale stone-buff or creamy cafe-au-lait, in one instance a rich cream and in another faintly greenish. They are marked all over with small blotches, spots and speaks of pale rather reddish-brown and a few smaller spots of dark umber-brown. The secondary marks are fewer than the primary in most eggs and are of pale grey- brown or lavender. As a series the eggs give one an impression of dull grey-buff. Most eggs are dull and dully marked, only exceptional eggs being at all richly coloured.
Forty-six eggs average 40.9 x 28.4 mm. : maxima 48.5 x 28.0 and 41.8 x 30.2 mm. ; minima 36.2 x 23.1 and 38.1 x 26.6 mm.
1894. Pterocles senegallus
(1894) Pterocles senegallus Linn.