Pied Chat (Oenanthe leucomela leucomela)

(509) Oenanthe leucomela leucomela .


The Pied Chat.


Motacilla leucomela Pall., Nov. Comm. Petrop., xiv, p. 534 (1770) (Samara, Kussia). Saxicola pleschanka.   Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 73. Saxicola vittata.   Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 75.


Vernacular names. None recorded.


Description. -  Male in summer. Forehead to nape white, tinged with rufous to a varying extent, sometimes pure white; rump and upper tail-coverts pure white; rest of head, throat and upper breast, back, scapulars and wing-coverts black; quills dark brown edged black; central tail-feathers black with white bases, lateral tail-feathers white, marked with blackish brown in a band, or in patches, at the tip, the outermost pair nearly always with a broad band of black; below from breast to under tail-coverts pure white.


In winter, after the autumn moult, the feathers of the head are fringed with dall rufous, obscuring the white ; the upper black parts are broadly fringed with rufous and the throat, breast and sides of neck very narrowly fringed with white or very pale rufous.

Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel or brown; legs and feet black.


Measurements. Total length about 160 to 170 mm.; wing 92 to 99 mm.; tail 58 to 61 mm.; tarsus 24 mm.; culmen 12.5 to 13.5 mm.


Female in summer. Upper parts brown, slightly rufous, rump and upper tail-coverts white; tail as in the male but brown instead of black, an indistinct pale rufous supercilium; ear-coverts brown; lower plumage dull greyish white, darker and rather buff on the chin, throat and breast.


In winter the upper parts are more broadly fringed with rufous; the wing-feathers have broad rufous edges and the lower parts are paler, almost white on the abdomen.


Distribution. ' South Russia, the Caucasus, Transcaspia, Turkestan, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, Bast Siberia, North China and into Gilgit and North Kashmir.


Nidification. Biddulph took this Chat's nest at Astor on the 2dth June, Oates records it as breeding numerously in N. Kashmir and "Ward states that it breeds in the " side valleys " of Kashmir. Beyond this there is nothing on record of its breeding within Indian limits and probably it is only a casual and not regular breeder in N. Kashmir and Gilgit.
The nest is the usual cup of grass and roots, lined with grass often mixed with hair, fur or wool and sometimes wholly of one or more of these materials. It is placed in a hole in a wall or in amongst loose stones, more rarely in a hole in a trunk of a tree and is generally well concealed. The eggs number four to six and differ from those of any of the preceding species of Oenanthe in being a much darker blue in ground-colour and also in being more boldly marked. The average size according to Dresser is 18.1 x 14.2 mm. but a series in my own collection from Russia, Asia Minor and Transcaspia average a good deal bigger, i.c. 18.8 x 14.8 mm.


They appear to breed in late May and June.


Habits. This Chat is said to differ from others in its habit of frequenting bushes and even small trees as well as perching on rocks and stones. It captures its insect-prey in the usual manner by making little dashes to the ground and then returning to its observation-point.  Its song is sweet and low but not strong.
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