(1074) Rhodospiza obsoleta (Licht.).
The LARGE-BILLED DESERT-FINCH.
Rhodospiza obsolela. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 143.
Lichtenstein’s Finch, as this bird has hitherto been named, is found from Palestine to Mongolia breeding South into Baluchistan, where it is very common all round Quetta.
The first record of its breeding in Quetta is that of General R. M. Betham (Journ, Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc, vol. xvi, p. 748, 1906), while later Williams (ibid. xxxiii, p. 604, 1929) gives further details of its nests and eggs. Both these gentlemen have given me fine series of its eggs and abundant notes, from which I compile the following :—
This Rose-Finch is one of the most common birds in Quetta in Spring and Summer, a few birds remaining all the Winter, though the majority seem to leave. They arrive in the end of March and leave again in September, and between these months are to be found at all heights above 5,000 feet in great numbers and in smaller numbers a little below this. They are cheerful, confiding little birds, and Williams says that their note “pink-pink-pink” is to be heard all over the cantonments at Quetta during the breeding season. They nest in the gardens, by the road-sides and everywhere on the Quetta plateau and surrounding hills where there are tall bushes and trees on which to place their nests.
The nests are very easy to find, as no attempt seems to be made to conceal them, though some which are wedged into stoutish forks or placed on larger branches may not be so conspicuous as most of them. They may be placed at any height from the ground between three and fifteen feet, but the majority will be taken from between six and twelve feet up on small trees, those beside roads being especially favoured. Occasionally the nest is placed in a hush with thick foliage low down, but this seems to be quite exceptional.
The nests are rather deep cups, the outside consisting of twigs and small sticks fairly strongly and compactly put together, but not very tidily. In some nests the twigs are mixed with grass, roots, and other materials and, in all nests, there is a wall composed of grass between the outermost twigs and the true lining, which is sometimes mixed with wool, feathers, small leaves etc., and then the final true lining of wool and hair, this being generally well matted together, sometimes almost making it into felt. Feathers, cotton, string and small rags are often well worked into the lining, while Currie found one nest in Persia “made almost entirely of scraps of string, cotton and shreds of cloth, mixed with a large amount of vegetable down to which the seeds were still adhering ; diameter 6" one way, 4" the other and about 2" deep, with a comfortable deep hollow for the eggs.”
Most nests are smaller than this, being about 5 inches only in diameter, the egg-cavities being about 3 inches across by less than 2 deep.
The birds commence to lay during the end of April, and most have laid and are sitting by the third week in May. Eggs may, however, be found until late in July, and some pairs may have two broods. The earliest date recorded is 24th April (Betham) and the latest 17th July (Williams). In Persia Currie found nests with eggs throughout May and June.
The birds lay five or six eggs, occasionally seven, while, on the other band, four eggs only are sometimes incubated.
As a aeries there is not great variation. The ground ranges from white to a pale blue, most eggs being of the colour of skim milk, while the spots, always scanty, run from deep red-brown, which is rare, to black, which is normal. The markings are always small, consisting of spots the size of a pin’s head and sometimes far smaller still ; in most eggs they form an ill-defined ring at the larger end and are sparse or even absent elsewhere. In a few eggs there are also twisted hair-lines, of the same colour as the spots and nearly always confined to the ring.
One hundred eggs measured by myself average 18.9 x 14.2 mm. : maxima 22.2 x 15.0 and 20.4 x 15.1 mm. ; minima 17.4 x 13.0 mm, Williams gives the average of forty eggs as 19.2 x 14.4 mm., and his biggest as 22.8 x 14.7 mm.
1074. Rhodospiza obsoleta
(1074) Rhodospiza obsoleta (Licht.).