OTILE COWANI, Sharpe.
DEANS COWAN'S SAND-MARTIN.
Cotile cowani, Sharpe, Journ. Linn. Sou., Zool. xvi. p. 322 (1882) ; id. Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. x. p. 104 (1885).
Cotyle paludicola, var. cowani, Milne-Edwards et Grandid. Hist. Nat. Madag, xii. Ois. p. 398 (1883).
C. similis C. paludicoloe ex Africa meridionali, sed ubique saturatior : subtus brunnescens, abdomine paullo albicante, et gutture argenteseenti-albo distinguenda.
Hab. in insula ‘Madagascar’ dicta.
Adult female. General colour above dark sooty brown, slightly paler on the lower back and rump ; wing-coverts like the back, the inner greater coverts and inner secondaries rather lighter and with slightly paler margins ; primary-coverts and quills very dark brown ; tail-feathers very dark brown, with narrow paler edgings, the outermost feathers very narrowly fringed with white ; lores blackish ; ear-coverts and sides of face dark sooty brown, the cheeks and throat ashy brown ; remainder of under surface of body dark ashy brown, including the thighs ; lower abdomen whitish ; under tail-coverts pure white ; axillaries and under wing-coverts dark ashy brown like the breast, the edge of the wing with paler assy margins to the feathers ; quills dark brown below, rather more ashy along the inner web. Total length 4.8 inches, culmen 0.25, wing 3.65, tail 1.9, tarsus 0.4.
Adult male. Similar to the female in colour. The male measures—total length 4.7 inches, wing tail 1.9, tarsus 0.4.
Young. Differs from the adult in having rufous margins to the feathers of the upper surface, wing-coverts, and secondaries, while the throat and breast are also suffused with rufous.
On comparing this species with the South-African C. paludicola, it will be found that the difference consists in the darker colour of the Madagascar bird, which is brown underneath, with a well marked silvery shine on the throat and fore neck.
Hab. Betsileo country, Madagascar.
For the discovery of this new species of Sand-Martin we are indebted to the Hew Deans Cowan, an energetic missionary in Madagascar, who occupied his scanty leisure time in collecting objects of natural history in that wonderful island. Mr. Cowan met with it in the forest of Ankalana, in the western part of the province of Betsileo.
The species was discovered too late for it to lie figured in the splendid work on Un¬natural history of Madagascar, published by M. Grandidier, but it is mentioned by Prof. Milne-Edwards and M. Grandidier in the volume devoted to the ornithology of the island. These gentlemen regard Cotile cowani as a variety or subspecies of the African C. paludicola, and this is the view advanced in the ‘Catalogue of Birds.’ They admit the differences of colour exhibited by the Madagascar form, but they consider that these “cannot be regarded as of specific worth, especially if one remembers that in Madagascar animals of the same species exhibit, in the eastern side of the island, a coat or a plumage of a darker tint than in the west.”
The differences between this species and C. paludicola are, however, extremely well marked and constant, and we have no hesitation in recognizing it as a distinct form.
Our friend the Rev. Deans Cowan has given us the following note on this species :— “This bird, with its eggs, was on several occasions brought to me at Ankafana, a small forest about four miles west of the Great Forest in Betsileo. I gathered that these had been taken in holes in some bank, of which there were not a few about the place. The birds were taken at the same time as the eggs. There were a number of Swallows flying about the open glades of the forest, at about 50 to 60 feet from the ground. These I took to be Cotile cowani ; but I never shot any of them, so that I am not positively sure that they were so.
“A small Swallow, perhaps Colile, was very commonly to be seen at certain seasons skimming almost every large pool of water or river.”
The descriptions are copied from the ‘Catalogue of Birds’ and the figures in the Plate represent an adult and a young bird from Captain Shelley’s collection. According to Mr. Deans Cowan the native name is ‘Firiringa,’ the same as that of the Phedina of Madagascar.
OTILE COWANI, Sharpe.