(2042) Tetrax tetrax orientalis.
THE EASTERN LITTLE BUSTARD.
Otis tetrax orientalis Hartert, Nov. Zool., p. 339, pl. ii (1916) (Sarepta). Otis tetrax. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 193.
Vernacular names. Chota tilur, Obara (Punjab); Kum-tukosi, Turki, Charaz (Baluchi).
Description. - Male in breeding plumage. General colour above sandy-buff, coarsely vermiculated with black and with black blotches in the centre of some of the feathers; rump greyer than the back and freckled with whitish instead of sandy-buff; upper tail-coverts white or white slightly mottled with black; wing-coverts like the back but with fewer vermiculations; lesser and median coverts white at the tips and freckled with black: external coverts, bastard wing and greater coverts white, the inner slightly speckled with blackish; primary coverts blackish, narrowly tipped with white ; quills white, blackish near the ends and white-tipped; outer primaries blackish with white bases, the white increasing towards the secondaries ; innermost secondaries like the back; tail-feathers white, with four bars of black and speckled with blackish on the terminal half; the outer feathers broadly tipped with creamy-white; crown, nape and hind-neck brown, the feathers streaked and edged with sandy-buff and mixed with a few blue-grey feathers ; lores and sides of crown pale sandy-buff streaked with brown; feathers round the eye creamy-buff; sides of head and throat bluish-grey, bordered by black and then by white, the two bands running down the sides and forming a gorget across the neck; rest of neck black ; a band of white completely circling the lower neck, followed by another pectoral band of black; sides of upper breast sandy mottled with black; remainder of lower plumage pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light yellow to orange, browner in the young ; bill blackish, tinged with grey, green horny or bluish-grey, greenish or yellowish at the base; tarsus yellow or greenish-yellow to yellowish-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 500 mm.; wing 241 to 256 mm. (236 to 252 mm., Hartert); tail 102 to 125 mm.; tarsus about 55 to 66 mm.; culmen about 38 to 40 mm.
Female. Whole upper plumage like the back of the male in Summer but more boldly and regularly marked with black, the "black markings on the crown forming bars; wing-quills like those of the male hut more marked with black; chin and tipper throat dull buff or brownish-white; the fore-neck the same streaked with black and buff, the streaks finer on the sides of the head; breast pale dull buff barred with black; remainder of lower parts white, the flanks with black shafts and a few black spots.
Measurements as in the male. Wing 242 to 260 mm., (Witherby).
Male in Winter. Like the female but with finer vermiculations. The black crescentic markings on the lower breast are ill defined and irregular. The nuptial plumage is assumed by a moult of the body plumage.
Young birds have the breast more heavily barred with black; the wing-quills are more or less freckled and mottled with buff, especially at the tips; white, everywhere else on the wings suffused with buff.
Nestlings. Barred and freckled everywhere with sandy-buff and blackish-brown; a black line down centre of hind-neck and upper back; throat and sides of head and neck more definitely blotched and streaked with black; under parts sandy-buff.
Distribution. Eastern Germany and Italy to Western Siberia, Turkestan and Afghanistan, South in Winter to N. W. China, Egypt etc. In India it is a common visitor in the extreme North-West or Trans-Indus country but rare South and West of this. It has occurred occasionally in Kashmir.
Nidification. The breeding-season of this little Bustard is from the middle of May to the end of June, a few eggs being laid in April and others as late as July, The nest is a rather scanty pad of grass, or grass and weeds, placed on the ground among weeds, long grass or, rarely, in growing crops. The hollow selected may be either natural or one made by the birds. The eggs number three or four, very seldom five, and are in shape almost spheroidal. The ground-colour is olive-green of varying shades, olive-brown or dark buff marked with blotches and smears, ill defined and irregular, of pale yellowish and reddish-brown, often so faint that the eggs appear unicoloured. Seventy-six eggs (58 Witherby) average 50.9 x 38.2 mm.: maxima 57.7 x 35.2 and 51.1 X41.6 mm.; minima 46.5 x 35.8 and 57.7x 35 2 mm.
Habits. In parts of the Frontier Province and British Baluchistan this " Butterfly Houbara" sometimes winters in sufficient numbers to enable bags of ten or a dozen couples to be shot in a day but until recently they were more hunted with Falcons than shot. They are shy, wary birds but in the great heat of mid-day sometimes lie very close in good cover. Their flight is more like that of the Partridge than that of the Great Plover; the wing-beats are very rapid and make a whirring noise in flight. Their food is as varied as that of the Great Bustard but they themselves are better to eat than that bird. Their call has been syllabified as " tree tree."