|From Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India.|
The Indian Courser (Cursorius coromandelicus) is a species of courser found in mainland South Asia, mainly in the plains bounded by the Ganges and Indus river system. Like other coursers, it is a ground bird found in dry open semi-desert country.
This courser is widespread in South Asia and overlaps with some other species such as the similar looking Cream-coloured Courser. This species is however brighter coloured than the Cream-coloured Courser and has a broader black eye-stripe that begins at the base of the beak. The crown is chestnut and the breast is rufous. The nape has a dark black patch where the long longer feathers forming the white stripe meet. In flight, the rump appears white and the wing tip is not as contrastingly black as in the Cream-coloured Courser. The sexes are alike.
The long legs are whitish and as in other coursers have only three forward pointing toes.
Distribution and habitat
This species occurs in dry stony, scrubby or rocky country but rarely on sandy terrain from the Indus valley east short of Bangladesh and south to the tip of Peninsular India. It sometimes occurs in the dry zone of northern Sri Lanka. The wet forest zones are avoided. In southern India, the drier zone on the east coast, the Coromandel region, where it is not uncommon gives it the species name. It is also found patchily distributed in other parts of the peninsula. Other areas where they are commonly seen include the Deccan plateau and the desert region of northwestern India in Rajasthan. In Gujarat State, Ali and Ripley (2001) had collected specimens from Kachchh, Bhuj, Kodinar, Dabka (Baroda dist.), Deesa (Palanpur), and Kharaghoda. Earlier, the species was reported Anjar, Rapar, Mundra, Mandvi, Jakhau, Chobari and Narayan Sanctuary in Kachchh. Thus, in Gujarat, distribution range of Indian Courser was extended over Kachchh, Saurashtra and some part of central and north Gujarat. It is resident in some areas but makes local movements.
Behaviour and ecology
These birds are usually seen in small flocks. They are usually found where the grass is not taller than them, since the tall grass blocks their view. They feed on insects mainly beetles, crickets and grasshoppers picked up from the ground in stubbly or uncultivated fields. They run in spurts on the ground but take to flight with a hoarse creaky gwaat call. The flight is strong with rapid wing beats. They fly low and begin to run after landing.
They breed mainly from March to August. Records exist from mid May in southern India and Sri Lanka and mid April in Darbhanga.Bharos, A. M. K. Sahu, M. (2002). "Breeding by the Indian courser Cursorius coromandelicus in winter in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 99 (2): 299–300.</ref> They nest in a scrape on bare stony ground laying 2 or 3 speckled and well-camouflaged eggs that are very spherical. The chicks are protectively coloured and on alarm crouch and remain immobile making them extremely difficult to spot. Adults do not call or display when the nest or chicks are approached. The chicks are able to move upon hatching but are initially fed by the parents and begin to forage on their own after a week.
Globalisation and unplanned developmental activities have affected the occurrence of the Indian Courser in some parts of the country. Pande et al.,(2003) cited that the population of the Indian Courser is declining at an alarming rate in its natural habitat. In Haryana, it has now become a rare breeding resident in Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. In the 1960s, it was common and lived among the scrub and wasteland vegetation of the campus of the National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, India, but now it is rarely sighted there. In Gujarat, once upon a time, the Indian Courser was very common in grasslands and fallow lands. But it seems to be disappearing from some of the areas where it was found. Most of the area has been converted to human habitation and agricultural activity. In Abdasa Taluka of Kachchh district in Gujarat, main foraging habitat of the Indian Courser consists of short and sparse grasslands and fallow lands. This natural habitat is destroyed in some areas and disturbed due to the movement of heavy vehicles and the development of industrial establishments.
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