(2123) Chettusia leucura.
THE WHITE-TAILED LAPWING.
Charadrius leucurus Licht., in Eversm.. Reise. av. Orenb. nach. Buchara, p. 137 (1823) (Kuwan). Chettusia leacura. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 233.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Upper plumage light brown, suffused with a purple pink, except on the head and hind-neck ; forehead and indistinct supercilia pale greyish-white; upper tail-coverts and tail pure white; median and greater wing-coverts with broad black bars and white tips forming four wing-bars; primaries black; outer secondaries white, with broad black bars gradually decreasing until the central feathers are white and thence grading into the innermost, which are like the back ; chin, throat and fore-neck ashy-grey ; breast purer grey; abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts rosy-white or rosy-buff; axillaries white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or blood-red: bill black; legs pale yellow.
Measurements. Wing 169 to 178 mm.; tail 73 to 78 mm. tarsus about 72 to 77 mm.; culmen 28 to 31 mm.
Young birds have the upper parts very dark brown, the feathers with broad fulvous edges ; the underparts like the adult but pale and looking very washed out.
Distribution. Breeding throughout Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkestan and Transcaspia. In Winter South to India and North Africa.
Nidification. The White-tailed Plover breeds in large colonies in Mesopotamia wherever there are extensive swamps or lakes. Pitman found one colony of some hundreds of pairs breeding at Museyib in the Euphrates Valley. Here they were making their nests, the usual Plover's scratching unlined or lined with grass, weeds or small shells etc., either at the edge of the swamps or in the numerous little islands. So many were the birds that often on islands of a few feet across four or five pairs were breeding together. The eggs were either three or four in number, three as often as four and, in appearance were like small dull-coloured Plovers' eggs, rather narrow and less peg-top in shape than most Peewits' eggs. In the majority the ground-colour is a pale dull clay, in a few more olive-grey. The markings consist of fairly bold blotches and spots of blackish- or red dish-brown, the secondary marks of lavender, few or absent altogether. Eighty eggs average 39.5 x 28.3 mm.: maxima 43.2 X 29.0 and 41.3 X 29.2 mm.; minima 37.5 x 28.1 and 38.8 x 27.0 mm.
The breeding-season is from the middle of May to the middle of June but Cox and Cheesman took some eggs in July, possibly second layings, as many of the early nests are lost in floods.
Habits. The White-tailed Plover is common in the Punjab, Sind, Rajputana and most of Northern India, straggling South to Mysore and East to Calcutta and Dacca, from which latter place I have seen specimens. It is essentially a marsh-loving bird and will not be found any distance from large swamps and lakes but otherwise it is much like the Peewit in flight, food and its actions generally. It occurs in fairly large flocks in Sind and the Punjab but only as odd stragglers in the extreme East and South of its wanderings. Pitman says that it is a very noisy bird and the colonies create a tremendous outcry when disturbed in their breeding-haunts.