White-capped Bunting  Emberiza stewartia 

Etymology :

  • Emberiza : Old German name Embritz for a bunting
  • Stewarti : named after Surgeon-Gen. L. C. Stewart (1819–1888) 

Vernacular Names : Pun: Chitta sir boli, Guj: Sweth shir gandam

Distribution in India: winter visitor in North India .

Description: Size of 15 cm; wt. of 13–21 g. The male breeding (worn plumage) has light buffy grey crown and nape, side of head and upper breast, becoming whitish with wear and contrasting with blackish bib extending from throat to submoustachial area and back beneath ear-coverts, and prominent ­blackish eyestripe. The upperparts are chestnut, upper­wing-coverts are brown with paler edgings, tail is dark with extensive white in outermost two feather pairs. The sides and narrowly centre of breast and flanks are chestnut, lower underparts are off-white, washed pinkish-buff; iris is dark brown; bill is dark grey; legs are greyish-pink. The male in non-breeding (fresh plumage) is duller, buff-grey feather tips making black of throat and eyestripe sullied dark brown, and grey of head and breast washed sandy. The upperparts are duller and browner, with some streaking on mantle. The female has rufous rump, in contrast to overall dull brown and narrowly streaked remainder of plumage; head pattern relatively plain, with slightly darker border of ear-coverts, highlighted by pale spot in lower rear corner. It has more white in outermost two pairs of tail feathers than most buntings. The older females show indications of male-like plumage, such as dusky throat or chestnut patches at sides of breast, or chestnut scapulars. The juvenile resembles female, but paler buffy brown overall, with head very finely streaked and breast speckled, rather than streaked.

Habitat: It is found in rocky gulleys in dry, lightly wooded hills and mountains; in juniper scrub and stands of chilgoza pine . it is found between 1200 m and 2500 m. In winter it descends to dry foothills, scrub-jungle, poor agricultural land and edges of plains with scattered bushes.

Food habits: It eats grass seeds, augmented by berries in autumn and winter. The young are fed with variety of invertebrates, mostly insects and spiders. It forages in bushes, as well as on ground, hopping with flat-backed, hunched posture. In winter it mixes freely with other buntings and finches, especially at favoured drinking locations, which it visits first thing in morning and again in late afternoon. In heat of day, it takes shelter in bushes, sitting quietly with ruffled “crest” of raised crown feathers.

Breeding habits: They breed in Apr -Jun. Many pairs are double-brooded. They are monogamous. The nest is built by female alone. The nest is a cup of rootlets and grasses, lined with finer materials, placed on ground, usually concealed by small bush or overhanging rock on steep dry slope. They lay a clutch of 3–5 eggs. The incubation is done by female only. The incubation period is 11–14 days. The young leave nest after 8 or 9 days and are able to fly after 14 days.