1416. Sypheotis aurita.
The Lesser Florican or Likh.
? Otis indica, Gm. Syst Nat. i, p. 725 (1788). Otis aurita, Lath. Ind. Orn. ii, p. 660 (1790). Sypheotides auritus, Lesson, Rev. Zool. 1839, p. 47; Blyth, Cat. p. 259; Jerdon, B. I. iii, p. 619 ; King, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 216; McMaster, J. A. S. B. xi, pt. 2, p. 215; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xli, pt. 2, p. 250; Hayes-Lloyd, Ibis, 1873, p. 415; Hume, S. F. i, p. 228; id. N. & E. p. 561; Adam, S. F. i, p. 393 ; ii, p. 339 ; Ball, S. F. ii, p. 428 ; vii, p. 226 ; Le Mess. S. F. iii, p. 380 ; Moryan, Ibis, 1875, p. 323; Blyth, Birds Burm. p. 152; Butler, S. F. iv, p. 10 ; v, p. 231; ix, p. 424; x, p. 161 ; Davidson & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 87; Hume & Marsh. Game B. i, p. 33, pl.; iii, p. 425, pl. i (eggs); Hume, Cat. no. 839 ; McInroy, S. F. viii, p. 491; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 77 ; Davidson, S. F. x, p. 318 ; Hume, ibid. p. 412 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 322; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 57 ; vi, p. 13 ; Littledale, op. cit. i, p. 199. Sypheotis aurita, Swinh. & Barnes. Ibis, 1885, p. 132; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 380; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xxiii, p. 313.
Likh, Chota Charat, Barsati or Kala, H.; Ker mor, Guzerat; Tan-mor, Mahr.; Chini mor, Belgaum ; Khartitar, Bhil; Charas, Chulla Charas, H. (S. India); Niala Nimili, Tel.; Kannoul, Can.; Warragu Roll, Tam.
Coloration. Female and male in winter plumage.— Crown black, more or less streaked with buff, and generally with a pale mesial band; back of neck finely vermiculated or speckled buff and black; sides of head and neck buff, with coarser black marks ; back, scapulars, and tertiaries black mottled with sandy buff, and with a V-shaped buff streak, more or less distinct, near the margin of each feather; wing-coverts chiefly sandy buff, with irregular black bars ; first two or three primaries uniform dark brown, the other primaries becoming more and more banded with ochreous yellow, which is mottled with black towards the tips of the feathers; secondaries dark brown, with broad mottled bands throughout; tail yellow-buff with black bars, and mottled with black towards the tips, middle feathers mottled throughout; chin and throat white; fore neck and upper breast buff, with black streaks that become fainter on the latter ; lower breast, abdomen, and lower tail-coverts buffy white ; axillaries black.
Male in breeding-plumage.— A few (usually three on each side) narrow ribbon-like feathers about 4 inches long, spatulate towards the ends and curved upwards from behind the ear-coverts. Head, neck, and lower parts black, except the chin and a varying portion of the throat, which are white ; band across the hind neck at the base white; back, scapulars, and tertiaries black, with fine whitish mottling and V-shaped marks, the black disappearing on the wing-coverts, which are mainly white ; the larger primary and the tips of the larger secondary coverts black ; quills as in the female ; rump and upper tail-coverts black finely speckled with white; tail pale, whitish and mottled with black at the end, buff towards base, with distant black bars throughout.
The male, after the breeding-season, moults into the female plumage, but retains some white on the shoulder of the wing.
Bill dusky above, the edges of the upper and all the lower mandible yellowish; irides pale yellow, clouded with dusky in the male ; legs dirty whitish yellow (Jerdon).
Length of male 18 ; tail 3.5 ; wing 7.75 ; tarsus 3.5 ; bill from gape 2. Females are considerably larger: length 20 ; tail 4.5 ; wing 9.5 ; tarsus 3.75.
Distribution. This Florican may be found at times in suitable places throughout India from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, but it chiefly inhabits the Peninsula south of the Godavari in winter, whilst it breeds in the Deccan, Western Central Provinces, Central Indian Agency, Rajputana, South-eastern Punjab, Guzerat, Cutch, and even in Southern Sind. Some birds are permanent residents almost throughout the Peninsula. Stragglers have been met with near Gwadar in Biluchistan, and in Oudh and the N. W. Provinces, Nepal, Bengal, Chutia Nagpur, Orissa (I once shot a bird not far from Cuttack), and on the Malabar coast. One specimen is on record shot at Sandoway, Arrakan ; but the bird is not found in Ceylon, nor, with the exception mentioned, is it known to occur east of the Bay of Bengal.
Habits, &c The smaller Florican or Likh is, as a rule, found solitary or in pairs in grass of moderate height, or occasionally in growing crops; it keeps to plains and open country, and is very rarely met with on the hills. Although a migrant to a certain extent, its migrations are confined to India. It feeds, like other Bustards, on seeds and insects. It flies well, with a quicker flight than other Bustards, having, when flying, a slight but peculiar resemblance to a Duck. Floricans pair and breed iu grass, their presence being betrayed in the breeding-season by the males jumping above the grass every now and then with a peculiar croak. The breeding-season is from August to November, chiefly in September and October to the northward ; but earlier, even in April or May, in parts of Southern India. The eggs, usually 3 or 4 in number, deposited in a hollow in the ground, are light greenish olive to olive-brown in colour, variously mottled and blotched, and measure about 1.88 by 1.6.
The numbers of this bird are being greatly reduced by the unsportsmanlike practice of shooting it in the breeding-season. It is excellent eating, though inferior to S. bengalensis.