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TIGHT BINGING 
BOOK 



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OU158708> 



LIBRARY 




the date last marjced below. 



POPULAR HANDBOOK -OF 
INDIAN BIRDS 



All rights reserved 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF 
INDIAN BIRDS 



BY 

HUGH WHISTLER, F.Z.S. 

LATE INDIAN (IMPERIAL) POLICE 



FOURTH EDITION 
REVISED AND ENLARGED BY 

NORMAN B. KINNEAR 

BRITISH MUSEUM (NATURAL HISTORY) LONDON 



llustrated with twenty-four full-page plates of which seven 
. are coloured, and one hundred and eight figures 
in the text, from drawings by H. Gronvold 
and Roland Green 



GURNEY AND JACKSON 
LONDON: 98 GREAT RUSSELL STREET, W.C. 
EDINBURGH: TWEEDDALE COURT 
1949 



FIRST PUBLISHED .... 1938 

SECOND EDITION .... 1935 

THIRD EDITION .... 1941 

FOURTH EDITION .... 1949 



MADE IN GREAT BRITAIN BY 
OLIVER AND BOYD LTD., EDINBURGH 



PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION 

THE Popular Handbook of Indian Birds was first published in 1928, 
followed by a second edition in 1935, and a third in 1941. This 
last edition was becoming exhausted when the author died, and 
Mrs Whistler asked me to prepare this new edition. Mr B. B. 
Osmaston, who has such a wide knowledge of Indian birds and their 
habits, has given very great assistance and, in addition, several 
ornithologists in India, Mr Salim Ali, Mr C. M. Inglis, Mr W. H. 
Mathews, and the Rev. F. S. Briggs, sent to Mrs Whistler their notes 
and suggestions which, as far as possible, have been incorporated. 

In the original edition 250 birds were described, and in each 
succeeding issue the number was increased. In the present edition 
7 more species have been added, and 12 referred to in the text. 
There is also one new coloured plate and five text figures all of which 
are the work of Mr Roland Green. 

When the author of this work was preparing a new edition he was 
taken ill, and died on 7th July 1943. By his death, ornithology, and 
Indian ornithology in particular, has suffered a grievous loss. Hugh 
Whistler was in his prime and had become the recognised authority 
on everything connected with birds in India. During his seventeen 
years' service in the Indian Police he had made himself thoroughly 
acquainted with Indian birds, about which he has written so delight- 
fully in this book. He had a happy knack of putting into words the 
salient characters of a species which enables them to be readily 
recognised in the field. Their habits too, he described in vivid 
word pictures, so helpful to the beginner. 

Hugh Whistler was a scientific ornithologist and his name will 
be handed down as one of the most careful and- teriscigntious workers. 
He had amassed copious notes on every aspect of Indian bird-life 
which were always at the disposal of other ornithologists. But the 
real purpose of these notes was to form a basis for a Handbook of 
the Birds of the Indian Empire, which he and his great friend and 
brother-ornithologist, the late Dr C. B. Ticehurst, had planned 
and, indeed, commenced to write. After the lamented death of 
Dr Ticehurst, Whistler had intended to carry on alone, but increasing 
war-work hindered this. He never let his great love of ornithology 
interfere with his official work, and in India those in authority did 
not discourage his hobby since the search for birds took him into 
out-of-the-way places seldom visited in the ordinary routine of duty, 
v az 



vi PREFACE 

At his home near Battle, Whistler had brought together a wonderful 
collection of bird skins, for the most part beautifully prepared by his 
own hands, and nothing pleased him more than to show his collection. 
He was ready to help others, and his many correspondents in India 
will miss him, since he was the authority to whom they turned for 
advice and guidance. Much of the recent work done there was 
initiated by him, and many casual observers became good ornithologists 
through his enthusiasm. Whatever work he undertook he did with 
the same thoroughness and enthusiasm with which he studied birds, 
and the high standard aimed at made him loved and rfespected by all 
who knew him. 

N. B. KINNEAR 



CONTENTS 

Order PASSERES 
Family CORVIOSE 

PAGE 

Corvus corax Linnaeus. Raven i 

macrorhynchos Wagler. Jungle Crow . ' . . . . . 3 

splendens Vieillot. Common House Crow ..... 5 

monedula Linnaeus. Jackdaw ....... 8 

Urocissa flavirostris (Blyth). Yellow-billed Blue-Magpie . . .10 
Dendrocitt a vagabunda (Latham). Indian Tree-Pie v-*". . . .12 

Garrulus lanceolatus Vigors. Black-throated Jay vx" . . . 1 5 

Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax (Linnaeus). Chough . . . . 17 



Family PARIM: 

Parus major Linnaeus. Indian Grey Tit . . . . . .18 

monticolus Vigors. Green-backed Tit . . . . .21 

Machlolophus xanthogenys (Vigors). Yellow-cheeked Tit ... 22 
Lophophanes melanophus (Vigors). Crested Black Tit .... 24 

sEgithaliscus concinnus (Gould). Red-headed Tit .... 26 



Family SITTID^E 

Sitta castanea Lesson. Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch .... 28 
frontalis (Swainson). Velvet-fronted Nuthatch .... 30 



Family TIMALIIDJE 

Garrulax albogularis (Gould). White-throated Laughing-Thrush . . 32 

Trochalopteron erythrocephalum (Vigors). Red-headed Laughing-Thrush 34 

variegatum (Vigors). Variegated Laughing-Thrush . . -35 

cachinnans (Jerdon). Nilgiri Laughing-Thrush . 37 

lineatum (Vigors). Streaked Laughing-Thrush . . . -38 

Turdoides somervillei (Sykes). Jungle Babbler . ... 40 

striatus (Dumont). White-headed Babbler ..... 42 

Argya caudata (Dume"ril). Common Babbler ..... 43 

malcolmi (Sykes). Large Grey Babbler ..... 45 

Pomatorhinus horsfieldii Sykes. Deccan Scimitar-Babbler ... 47 

erythrogenys Vigors. Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler ... 48 

Dumetia hyperythra (Franklin). Rufous-bellied Babbler . . .50 

Chrysdmma sinensis (Gmelin). Yellow-eyed Babbler . . . 5 1 

Pellorneum ruficeps Swainson. Spotted Babbler . . . . -53 

Alcippe poioicephala (Jerdon). Quaker-Babbler 54 

Rhopocichla atriceps (Jerdon). Black-headed Babbler . . . 56 

Leioptila capistrata (Vigors). Black-headed Sibia .... 58 
vii 



viii CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Siva strigula Hodgson. Stripe-throated Siva . . . . -59 

Leiothrix lutea (Scopoli). Red-billed Leiothrix 61 

JEgithina tiphia (Linnaeus). Common lora . . . . .62 
Chloropsis jerdoni (Blyth). Jerdon's Chloropsis ..... 64 

Family PYCNONOTID^E 

Microscelis psaroides (Vigors). Black Bulbul 66 

Molpdstes cafer (Linnaeus). Red-vented Bulbul '68 

leucogenys (Gray). White-cheeked Bulbul . . . * . .71 
Otocompsa jocosa (Linnaeus). Red-whiskered Bulbul .... 73 
lole icterica (Strickland). Yellow-browed Bulbul 75 

Pycnonotus luteolus (Lesson). White-browed Bulbul .... 76 

Family CERTHIIDJE 

Certhia himalayana Vigors. Himalayan Tree-Creeper ... 77 

Tichodroma muraria (Linnaeus). Wall-Creeper ..... 79 

Family CINCLID>E 
Ctnclus pallasii Temminck. Brown Dipper ..... 82 

Family TURDID^E 

Luscinia brunnea (Hodgson). Indian Blue-Chat . . . . .83 
Saxicola caprata (Linnaeus). Pied Bush-Chat . . . . -85 

torquata (Linnaeus). Stonechat ....... 87 

Rhodophila ferrea (Gray). Dark-grey Bush-Chat .... 89 

(Enanthe picata (Blyth). Pied Wheatear 90 

deserti (Temminck). Desert Wheatear 92 

Cercomela fusca (Blyth). Brown Rock-Chat ..... 94 

Enicurus maculatus Vigors. Spotted Forktail ..... 95 

Phcenicurus ochrurus (Gmelin). Black Redstart ..... 97 

Chaimarrhornis leucocephala (Vigors). White-capped Redstart . . . 98 
Rhyacornis fuliginosa (Vigors). Plumbeous Redstart . . . .100 

Cyanosylvia svecica (Linnaeus). Bluethroat . . . . . 101 

lanthia cyanura (Pallas). Red-flanked Bush-Robin . . . .103 

Saxicoloides fulicat a (Linnaeus). Indian Robin . . . . .104 

Copsychus saularis (Linnaeus). Magpie-Robin . . . . .106 

Kittacincla malabarica (Scopoli). Shama . . . . . .108 

Turdus simillimus Jerdon. Nilgiri Blackbird . . . . .no 

boulboul (Latham). Grey- winged Blackbird . . . .in 

unicolor Tickell. Tickell's Thrush 113 

Geokichla citrina (Latham). Orange-headed Ground-Thrush . .114 
Monticola cinclorhyncha (Vigors). Blue-headed Rock-Thrush . .116 

solitaria (Linnaeus). Blue Rock -Thrush . . . . .117 
Myophonus cteruleus (Scopoli). Whistling Thrush . . . .119 

Family MUSCICAPID/E 

Siphia parva (Bechstein). Red-breasted Flycatcher . . . .121 

Muscicapula tickelliee (Blyth). Tickell's Blue Flycatcher . . .122 

Eumyias tkalassina (Swainson). Verditer Flycatcher . . . .124 

albicaudata (Jerdon). Nilgiri Blue Flycatcher . . . .125 



CONTENTS ix 

PAGE 

Ochromela nigrorufa (Jerdon). Black and Orange Flycatcher . .127 

Culicicapa ceylonensis (Swainson). Grey-headed Flycatcher . . 128 

Niltava sundara Hodgson. Rufous-bellied Niltava . . . .130 

Tchitrea paradisi (Linnaeus). Paradise Flycatcher . . . .131 

Hypothymis azurea (Boddaert). Black-naped Flycatcher . . .133 

Leucocirca aureola (Lesson). White-browed Fantail-Flycatcher . .135 

Family LANIID^S 

Lanius excubitor Linnaeus. Great Grey Shrike . . . . 137 

vittatus Valenciennes. Bay-backed Shrike . . . . .139 

cristatus Linnaeus. Brown Shrike . . . . . .140 

schach Linnaeus. Rufous-backed Shrike . . . . .141 

Hemipus picatus (Sykes). Pied-Shrike 144 

Tephrodornis pondicerianus (Gmelin). Common Wood-Shrike . .145 



Family CAMPEPHAGIM: 

Pericrocotus speciosus (Latham). Scarlet Minivet . . . 147 

brevirostris (Vigors). Short-billed Minivet 148 

peregrinus (Linnaeus). Little Minivet .... 1 49 

Lalage sykesi Strickland. Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike . . .151 

Family ARTAMID/E 
Artamus fuscus Vieillot. Ashy Swallow-Shrike . . . . .153 

Family DICRURIDJE 

Dicrurus macrocercus Vieillot. King-Crow . . . . 155 

longicaudatus Jerdon. Indian Grey Drongo . . . .158 

Dissemurus paradiseus (Linnaeus). Large Racket-tailed Drongo . .159 

Family SYLVIIOSS 

Acrocephalus stentoreus (Hempr. and Ehrn.). Indian Great Reed-Warbler 161 

dumetorum Blyth. Blyth's Reed-Warbler 163 

Hippolais caligata (Lichtenstein). Booted Warbler . . . .164 
Orthotomus sutorius (Pennant). Tailor-bird . . . . .166 
Cisticola juncidis (Rafinesque). Fantail- Warbler . . . .168 

Fran klinia buchanani (Blyth). Rufous -fronted Wren- Warbler . .170 
gracilis (Franklin). Franklin's Wren- Warbler . . . 172 

Sylvia curruca (Linnaeus). Lesser Whitethroat . . . . 173 

Phylloscopus collybita (Vieillot). Chiffchaff 175 

inornatus (Blyth). Yellow-browed Warbler . . . .176 

trochiloides Sundevall. Greenish Willow- Wren . . . . 177 

occipitalis (Blyth). Large Crowned Willow- Wren . . .178 

Seicercus xanthoschtstos (Gray). Grey-headed Flycatcher- Warbler . 179 

Suya crinigera Hodgson. Brown Hill-Warbler . . . . .181 

Prinia gracilis (Lichtenstein). Streaked Wren- Warbler . . .182 

socialis Sykes. Ashy Wren- Warbler 183 

sylvatica Jerdon. Jungle Wren-Warbler 185 

inornata Sykes. Indian Wren-Warbler 187 



x CONTENTS 

Family IRENIDJE 

PAGE 

Irena puella (Latham). Fairy Blue-bird . . . , . .189 

Family ORIOLID/E 

Oriolus oriolus (Linnaeus). Golden Oriole . . . . . .191 

xanthornus (Linnaeus). Black-headed Oriole . . . .192 

Family GRACULIDJE 
Gracula religiosa Linnaeus. Indian Crackle . . . . 194 



Family STURNID^E 

Pastor roseus (Linnaeus). Rosy Pastor . . . . . .196 

Sturnus vulgaris Linnaeus. Starling . . . . . . .198 

Sturnia malabarica (Gmelin). Grey-headed Mynah .... 200 

Temenuchus pagodarum (Gmelin). Brahminy Mynah . . .201 

Acridotfarfs tri ft ** (Linnaeus). Common Mynah .... 203 

ginginianus (Latham). Bank Mynah ...... 205 

dBthiopsar fuscus (Wagler). Jungle Mynah ..... 206 

Sturnopastor contra (Linnaeus). Pied Mynah ..... 207 



Family PLOCEIDJE / 

Ploceus philippinus (Linnaeus). Baya Weaver-bird .... 209 
manyar (Horsfield). Striated Weaver-bird . * . .211 

Uroloncha malabarica (Linnaeus). White-throated Munia^ . . .213 
punctulata (Linnaeus). Spotted Munia . . . . .215 

Amandava amandava (Linnaeus). Red Avadavat . . . .216 

Family FRINGILLIM: 

Perissospiza icteroides (Vigors). Black and Yellow Grosbeak . .218 
Pyrrhula erythrocephala Vigors. Red-headed Bullfinch . . .219 
Carpodacus erythrinus (Pallas). Common Rosefinch .... 220 

Hypacanthis spinoides (Vigors). Himalayan Greenfinch . . . 222 
Gymnorhis xanthocollis (Burton). Yellow-throated Sparrow . . . 224 
Passer domesticus (Linnaeus). House-Sparrow ..... 226 

rutilans (Temminck). Cinnamon Sparrow . . . . .228 

Emberiza stewarti Blyth. White-capped Bunting .... 229 

da Linnaeus. Meadow-Bunting ...... 230 

melanocephala Scopoli. Black-headed Bunting . . . .232 

Melophus lathami (Gray). Crested Bunting * . . . . .233 

Family HIRUNDINID^ 

Riparia paludicola (Vieillot). Indian Sand-Martin . . . .235 
concolor (Sykes). Dusky Crag-Martin 236 

Hirundo smithii Leach. Wire-tailed Swallow . . . . .237 

fluvicola Jerdon. Cliff-Swallow 239 

daurica Linnaeus. Red-rumped Swallow . . . . .241 



CONTENTS xi 

Family MOTACILLID^E 

PAGE 

Motacilla alba Linnaeus. White Wagtail ...... 243 

maderaspatensis Gmelin. Large Pied Wagtail .... 245 

cinerea Tunstall. Grey Wagtail 246 

flava Linnaeus. Yellow Wagtail ...... 248 

Anthus hodgsoni Richmond. Indian Tree-Pipit . . . . .250 
rufulus Vieillot. Indian Pipit 252 

Family ALAUDID^S 

Alauda gulgula Franklin. Little Skylark . . . . . . 253 

Calandrella brachydactyla (Leisler). Short-toed Lark . . . .255 

Mirafra assamica McClelland. Bengal Bush-Lark . . . .256 

erythroptera Blyth. Red- winged Bush-Lark . . . .258 

Galerida cristata (Linnaeus). Crested Lark . . . . .259 

Ammomanes phcenicura (Franklin). Rufous-tailed Lark . . .261 

Eremopteryx grisea (Scopoli). Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark . . . 262 

Family ZOSTEROPIDJE 
Zosterops palpebrosa (Temminck). White-Eye ..... 



Family NECTARINIID^E 

JEthopyga siparaja (Raffles). Yellow-backed Sunbird .... 265 

Cinnyris asiaticus (Latham). Purple Sunbird ..... 268 

zeylonicus (Linnaeus). Purple-rumped Sunbird .... 270 



"Family 

Diceeum erythrorhynchos (Latham). Tickell's Flower-Pecker . . 272 

Piprisoma agile (Swainson). Thick-billed Flower-Pecker . . . 274 

Family PITTIDJE 
Pitta brachyura (Linnaeus). Indian Pitta . . . . . .275 

Order PICI 
Family PICIDJE 

Picus squamatus Gould. Scaly-bellied Green Woodpecker . . . 277 

Dry abates auriceps (Vigors). Brown-fronted Pied Woodpecker . . 279 

mahrattensis (Latham). Mahratta Woodpecker .... 280 

Micropternus brachyurus (Vieillot). Rufous Woodpecker . . . 282 

Brachypternus benghalensis (Linnaeus). Golden-backed Woodpecker . 285 

Family CAPITONID/E 

Megalcema virens (Boddaert). Great Himalayan Barbet . 287 

Thereiceryx zeylanicus (Gmelin). Green Barbet ..... 289 

Cyanops asiatica (Latham).. Blue-throated Barbet .... 290 

Xantholcema hamacephala (P. L. S. Miiller). Coppersmith . . , 292 



xii CONTENTS 

Order ANISODACTYLI 

Family CORACIAD^ 

/ PAGE 

Coracias benghalensis (Linnaeus). Blue-Jay \/ ..... 293 

Family MEROPIDJE 

Merops orientalis Latham. Green Bee-Eater ..... 295 
superciliosus Linnaeus. Blue-tailed Bee-Eater .... 297 
leschenaultii (Vieillot). Chestnut-headed Bee-eater . . . 298 

Family ALCEDINID^E v' 

Ceryle rudis (Linnaeus). Pied Kingfisher ...... 299 

(Linnaeus). Common Kingfisher ..... 301 



'Halcyon smyrnensis (Linnaeus). White-breasted Kingfisher . . 303 

Family BUCEROTID^E 

Dichoceros bicornis (Linnaeus). Great Hornbill ..... 304 
Tockus birostris (Scopoli). Grey Hornbill ...... 306 

Family UPUPIM: 
Upupa epops Linnaeus. Hoopoe ....... 308 

Order MACROCHIRES 
Family MICROPODIDJE 

Micropus affinis (Gray). Indian Swift . . . . ..311 

Cypsiurus batassiensis (Gray). Palm-Swift . . . . .313 

Hemiprocne coronata (Tickell). Indian Crested Swift . . . .314 

Family CAPRIMULGIDJE 
Caprimulgus asiaticus Latham. Indian Nightjar . . . . .316 



Order COCCYGES 
% Family CUCULIM: 

canoriis Linnaeus. -Cuckoo 318 

Hierococcyx varius (Vahl). Common Hawk-Cuckoo . . . .321 

Cacomantis merulinus (Vahl). Indian Plaintive Cuckoo . . .322 

Clamator jacobinus (Boddaert). Pied CrestecT Cuckoo . . . .324 

Eudynamis scolopaceus (Linnaeus). Koel ^< . . . . .325 

Rhopodytes viridirostris (Jerdon). Small Green-billed Malkoha . .328 

Taccocua leschenaultii Lesson. Sirkeer /. . . . .329 

Centropus sinensis (Stephen). Crow-Pheasants' . . . . 331 

Ouler PSITTACI S 
Family PSITTACID^E / 

Psittacula eupatria (Linnaeus). Large Indian Parrakeet J . .332 

krameri (Scopoli). Green Parrakeet . . . \/ . -334 

cyanocephala (Linnaeus). Blossom-headed Parrakeet . . -336 

Coryllis vernalis Sparrman. Indian Lorikeet . . , . 337 



CONTENTS xiii 

Order STRIGES S 
Family STRIGID^E 

PAGE 

Strix ocellatum (Lesson) Mottled Wood-Owl . . . . -339 
Ketupa zeylonensis (Gmelin). Brown Fish-Owl ..... 340 
Bubo bengalensis (Franklin). Rock Eagle-Owl . . . . .342 
coromandus (Latham). Dusky Eagle-Owl ..... 344 
Otus bakkamcena Pennant. Collared Scops-Owl .... 345 

Athene brama (Temminck). Spotted Owlet ..... 347 
Glaucidium radiatum (Tickell). Jungle Owlet ..... 348 

Order ACCIPITRES 
Family GYPIDJE 

Sarcogyps calvus (Scopoli). King Vulture . . . . .350 

Gyps himalayensis Hume. Himalayan Griffon . . . . -352 

Pseudogyps bengalensis (Grnelin). White-backed Vulture . . -353 

Neophron percnopterus (Linnaeus). Neophron . . . . 356 

Family FALCONID^E v / 

Gypaetus barbatus (Linnaeus). Lammergeier . . . . -358 

Aquila rapax (Temminck). Tawny Eagle . . . . . .360 

Spizaetus cirrhatus (Gmelin). Crested Hawk-Eagle . . . .361 

Hamatornis cheela (Latham). Crested Serpent-Eagle . . . .364 

Butastur teesa (Franklin). White-eyed Buzzard 366 

Haliaetus leucoryphus (Pallas). Pallas' Fishing-Eagle .... 367 

Haliastur indus (Boddaert). Brahminy Kite ..... 370 

Milvus migrans (Boddaert). Common Pariah Kite . . . 371 

Circus eeruginosus (Linnaeus). Marsh Harrier ..... 374 

macrourus (S. G. Gmelin). Pale Harrier ..... 375 

Buteo rufinus (Cretzschmar). Long-legged Buzzard .... 378 

Astur badius (Gmelin). Shikra . . . . . . .380 

Falco jugger ]. E. Gray. Lugger Falcon ...... 382 

chicquera Daudin. Turumtee . . . . . . .384 

tinnunculus Linnaeus. Kestrel . . . . . . .385 

Order COLUMB^E 
Family COLUMBIOE; 

Crocopus phoenicopterus (Latham). Common Green Pigeon . . .388 
Sphenocercus sphenurus (Vigors). Kokla Green Pigeon . . .389 
Muscadivora cenea (Linnaeus). Green Imperial Pigeon . . . 391 
Columba livia Gmelin. Blue Rock-Pigeon ..... 392 

Streptopelia orientalis (Latham). Rufous Turtle-Dove . . . 394 
chinensis (Scopoli). Spotted Dove . . . . . .396 

senegalensis (Linnaeus). Little Brown Dove .... 397 

risoria (Linnaeus). Indian Ring-Dove ..... 399 

(Enopopelia tranquebarica (Herman). Red Turtle-Dove . . . 401 
Macropygia unchalla (Wagler). Bar-tailed Cuckoo Dove . . . 402 

Order PTEROCLETES 
Family PTEROCLIM: 

Pterorles orientalis (Linnaeus). Imperial Sandgrouse .... 403 
exustus Temminck. Common Sandgrouse ..... 405 



xiv CONTENTS 

Order GALLING 
Family PHASIANID/E 

PAGE 

Pavo cristatus Linnaeus. Common Peafowl ..... 407 
Callus sonnerati Temminck. Grey Jungle-Fowl . . . .410 

gallus (Linnaeus). Red Jungle-Fowl .... / . .412 

Gennceus leucomelanus (Latham). Common Kalij Pheasant \/ . .415 
Lophophorus impejanus (Latham). Monal . . . . . .418 

Galloper dix spadicea (Gmelin). Red Spur-Fowl / . 420 

Coturnix cotumix (Linnaeus). Common Quail ^y 422 

coromandelicus (Gmelin). Rain-Quail ^< / .... 424 

Perdicula asiatica (Latham). Jungle Bush-Quail . ... 426 

Alectoris grceca (Meisner). Chukor ....... 428 

Francolinus francolinus (Linnaeus). Black Partridge .... 430 

pondicerianus (Gmelin). Grey Partridge . . . . .433 



Order HEMIPODII 

Family TURNICIM: 

Turnix sylvatica (Desfontaines). Little Button-Quail .... 434 

Order GRALL^E 
Family RALLIDJE 

Amaurornis phoenicura (Pennant). White-breasted Waterhen . . 437 

Gallinula chloropus (Linnaeus). Waterhen .... 438 

Porphyrio poliocephalus (Latham). Purple Coot . . . 440 

Fulica atra Linnaeus. Common Coot .... . 441 

Family GRUID;E 

Grus grus (Linnaeus). Common Crane .... . 443 

Antigone antigone (Linnaeus). Sarus Crane . . . 445 

Family OTIDID& 
Sypheotides indica (Miller). Likh Floriken ... . 447 

Order LIMICOL^ 

Family BURHINID^ 

Burhinus oedicnemus (Linnaeus). Stone-Curlew ..... 450 

Family GLAREOLTD^E 

Cursorius coromandelicus (Gmelin). Indian Courser .... 452 
Glareola lactea Temminck. Little Indian Pratincole .... 454 

/ 

Family JACANIDJE 

Metopidius indicus (Latham). Bronze-winged Jacana .... 456 
Hydrophasianus chirurgus (Scopoli). Pheasant-tailed Jacana . . 457 



CONTENTS xv 

Family CHARADRIIDJE 

PAGE 

Lobivanellus indicus (Boddaert). Red-wattled Lapwing . . .459 
Lobipluvia malabarica (Boddaert). Yellow-wattled Lapwing . .461 

Charadrius dubius Scopoli. Little Ring-Plover ..... 462 

Himantopus himantopus (Linnaeus). Black-winged Stilt . . 464 

Tringa hypoleucus Linnaeus. Common Sandpiper .... 466 

ochropus Linnaeus. Green Sandpiper ..... 468 

nebularia (Gunner). Greenshank ...... 469 

Erolia minuta (Leisler). Little Stint . . . . . 471 

Scolopax rusticola Linnaeus. Woodcock . ... 472 

Capella gallinago (Linnaeus). Common Snipe ..... 475 

stenura (Bonaparte). Pintail Snipe ...... 477 

Family ROSTRATULID/E 
Rostratula benghalensis (Linnaeus). Painted Snipe . . . 478 



Order GAVI^E 
Family LARID/E 

LOTUS ridibundus Linnaeus. Black-headed Gull . . . . .481 

Chlidonias hybrida (Pallas). Whiskered Tern 482 

Sterna aurantia Gray. Common River Tern . . . 484 

melanogaster Temminck. Black-bellied Tern .... 486 

Rhynchops albicollis Swainson. Indian Skimmer .... 487 

Order STEGANOPODES 

Family PELECANIDJE 
Pelecanus roseus Gmelin. Spotted-billed Pelican . . . 489 

Family PHALACROCORACID^ 

Phalacrocorax niger (Vieillot). Little Cormorant . . . .491 

Anhinga melanogaster Pennant. Indian Darter ... . 493 

Order HERODIONES 
Family IBIDID/E 

Threskiornis melanocephalus (Latham). White Ibis .... 495 
Pseudibis papillosus (Temminck). Black Ibis ..... 497 

Family PLATALEID/E 
Platalea leucorodia Linnaeus. Spoonbill ...... 498 

Family CICONIIM: 

Dissoura episcopus (Boddaert). White-necked Stork .... 500 
Xenorhynchus asiaticus (Latham). Black-necked Stork . . .502 

Ibis leucocephalus (Pennant). Painted Stork ... -503 

Anastomus oscitans (Boddaert). Open-bill ... 505 



xvi CONTENTS 

Family ARDBID/E/ 

/ PAGE 

Ardea cinerea Linnaeus. Common Heron \/ . . . . 507 

Egretta garzetta (Linnaeus). Little Egret . . . . . 509 

Bubulcus ibis (Linnaeus). Cattle Egret . . . . . .511 

Ardeola grayi (Sykes). Paddy-bird 512 

Nycticorax nycticorax (Linnaeus). Night Heron . . . . .514 

Ixobrychus cinnamomeus (Gmelin). Chestnut Bittern . . . .515 

Order ANSERES 
Family ANATIDJE 

Sarkidiornis melanotos (Pennant). Nukta ^/ . . . . .51? 

Nettapus coromandelianus (Gmelin). Cotton-Teal . . . .519 

Anser indicus (Latham). Bar-headed Goose . . . . .520 

Dendrocygna javanica (Horsfield). Whistling Teal . . . .522 

Casarca ferruginea (Pallas). Ruddy Sheldrake 524 

Anas platyrhyncha Linnaeus. Mallard . . . . . .526 

pcecilorhyncha Forster. Spotbill . . . . . .52? 

Chaulelasmus streperus (Linnaeus). Gadwall . . . . .529 

Nettion crecca (Linnaeus). Common Teal . . . . . .530 

Dafila acuta (Linnaeus). Pintail . . . . . . -532 

Spatula clypeata (Linnaeus). Shoveller . . . . . -534 

Nyrocaferina (Linnaeus). Pochard . . . . . . .536 

nyroca (Giildenstadt). White-eye 538 

Order PYGOPODES 

Family PODICIPIDJE 

Podiceps ruficollis (Pallas). Little Grebe ...... 539 

INDEX ' . 542 



LIST OF PLATES 



PAGE 



PLATE I (Frontispiece in colours) ..... Frontispiece 

Fig. i. Black and Orange Flycatcher (Ochromela nigrorufa) 
2. Fairy Blue-Bird (Irena puella) 
3. Yellow-browed Bulbul (lole icterica) 
4. Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis) 



PLATE II 

Fig. i. Spotted Munia (Uroloncha punctulata) 

2. Red Avadavat (Amandava amandava) 

3. Red-breasted Flycatcher (Siphia parva) 

,, 4. Red-headed Tit (ffigithaliscus concinnus) 

5. Indian Grey Tit (Parus major) 

,, 6. Himalayan Tree-Creeper (Certhia himalayana) 



PLATE III 44 

Fig. i. Variegated Laughing-Thrush (Trochalopteron variegatum) 

,, 2. Yellow-eyed Babbler (Chrysomma sinensis) 

3. Purple Sunbird (Cinnyris asiaticus) 

4. Common Babbler (Argya caudatd) 

,, 5. Streaked Laughing-Thrush (Trochalopteron lineatum) 



PLATE IV (in colours) ........ .66 

Fig. i. Grey-headed Flycatcher- Warbler (Seicercus xanthoschistos} 
2. Nilgiri Blue Flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata) 
3. Orange-headed Ground-Thrush (Geokichla citrina) 
4. Nilgiri Laughing-Thrush (Trochalopterom cachinnans) 
5. Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix luted) 



PLATE V 88 

Fig. i. White-throated Laughing-Thrush (Garrulax albogularis) 

2. Deccan Scimitar-Babbler (Pomatorhinus horsfieldii) 

3- Jerdon's Chloropsis (Chloropsis jerdoni) 

4. Black-headed Sibia (Lioptila capistrata) 

xvii 



xviii LIST OF PLATES 

PAGE 

PLATE VI (in colours) no 

Fig. i. Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassina) 

2. Grey-headed Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis) 

,, 3. Ashy Wren- Warbler (Prinia socialis) 

4. Tickell's Blue Flycatcher (Muscicapula tickellia) 

,, 5. Little Minivet (Pericrocotus peregrinus) 

PLATE VII 132 

- Fig. i. Grey- winged Blackbird (Turdus boulboul) 

2. Whistling Thrush (Myophonus cceruleno) 

PLATE VIII 154 

Fig. i. Black Redstart (Phcenicurus ochrurus) 

2. Plumbeous Redstart (Rhyacornis fuliginosa) 

,, 3. Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 

4. White-capped Redstart (Chaimarrhornis leucocephala) 

5. Brahminy Mynah (Temenuchus pagodarum) 

PLATE IX 176 

Fig. i. Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus) 

2. Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone parodist) 

3. Common Wood-Shrike (Tephrodornis pondicerianus) 

,, 4. Blue-headed Rock-Thrush (Monticola cinclorhyncha) 

5. Brown Dipper (Cinclus pallasii) 

6. Bluethroat (Cyanosylvia svedca) 

PLATE X (in colours) 198 

Fig. i. Green Bee-Eater (Merops orientalis) 

,, 2. Red-vented Bulbul (Molpastes cafer) 

,, 3. Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) 

,, 4. Coppersmith (Xantholcema hcemacephala) 

,, 5. Jungle Babbler (Turdoides somervillei) 

PLATE XI 220 

Fig. i. Black-naped Flycatcher (Hypothymis azurea) 

,, 2. Dark-grey Bush-Chat (Rhodophila f erred) 

3. White-throated Munia (Uroloncha malabaricd) 

,, 4. Spotted Babbler (Pellorneum ruficeps) 

5. Red-winged Bush-Lark (Mirafra erythroptera) 

PLATE XII 242 

Fig. i. Rufous-fronted Wren- Warbler (Franklinia buchanani) 

,, 2. Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) 

3 . Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) 

,. 4, Large (ft-owned Willow- Wren (Phylloscopus occipitalis) 

,, 5. Indian Wren-Warbler (Prinia inornata) 

6. Brown Hill-Warbler (Suya crinigera) 



LIST OF PLATES 



xix 



PLATE XIII (in colours) ...... 

Fig. i . White-Eye (Zosterops palpebrosa) 

,, 2. Baya Weaver-bird (Ploceus philippinus) 

3. Short-billed Minivet (Pericrocotus brevirostris) 

4. Purple-rumped Sunbird (Cinnyris zeylonicus) 

5. Common lora (JEgithina tiphia) 

6. Tailor-bird (Orthotomus sutorius) 



PAGE 

264 



PLATE XIV 
Fig. i. 
2. 
3- 
4- 
>, 5- 
6. 



286 



Indian Pipit (Anthus rufulus) 
Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) 
Red-whiskered Bulbul (Otocompsa jocosa) 
Desert Wheatear (CEnanthe deserti) 
Little Skylark (Alauda gulgula) 
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) 



PLATE XV 



308 



Fig. i. Allied Grosbeak (Furctus) 
,, 2. Great Himalayan Barbet (Megalcema vireus) 



PLATE XVI 
Fig. i. 

,, 2. 

3- 

4- 

5- 



330 



Green Barbet (Thereiceryx zeylanicus) 

Blue-tailed Bee-Eater (Merops superciliosus) 

Brown-fronted Pied Woodpecker (Dryobates aurireps) 

Indian Pitta (Pitta brachyura) 

Common Hawk- Cuckoo (Hierococcyx varius) 



PLATE XVII (in colours) ....... 

Fig. i . Green Parrakeet (Psittacula krameri) 
2. Blue- Jay (Coracias benghalensis) 
3. White-breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) 
4. Golden-backed Woodpecker (Brachypternus benghalensis) 
5. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo at this) ~ 



352 



PLATE XVII 

Fig. i . Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) 
,, 2. Brown Fish-Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis) 



374 



PLATE XIX 

Fig. i. Turumtee (Falco chicquera) 

,, 2. White-eyed Buzzard (Butastur teesa) 

3. Lugger Falcon (Falco jugger) 

4. Spotted Owlet (Athene brama) 



396 



xx LIST OF PLATES 

PAGE 

PLATE XX 418 

Fig. i . Little Brown Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) 

,, 2. Red Turtle-Dove (CEnopopelia tranquebarica) 

,, 3. Rain-Quail (Coturnix coromandelica) 

4. Indian Courser (Cursorius coromandehcus) 

,, 5. White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurorms pnaenicnra) 

PLATE XXI (in colours) % 44 

Fig. i . Common Green Pigeon (Crocopus phcenicopterus) 
2. Blue Rock-Pigeon (Columba livid) 
3. Red-wattled Lapwing (Lobivanellus indicus) 

PLATE XXII 462 

Fig. i . Paddy-bird (Ardeola grayi) 
,, 2. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) 
3. Little Ring-Plover (Charadrius dubius) 
,, 4. Black-bellied Tern (Sterna melanogaster) 
5. Grey Partridge (Francolinus pondicerianus) 

PLATE XXIII 484 

Fig. i . Common Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus) 
,, 2. Jungle Bush-Quail (male and female) (Perdicula asiatica) 
,, 3. Cotton-Teal (male and female) (Nettapus coromandelianus) 
4. Gadwall (Chaulelasmus streperus) 

PLATE XXIV 506 

Fig. i. Pochard (male and female) (Nyroca ferina) 
2. Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) 
3. Ruddy Sheldrake (Casarca ferruginea) 



INTRODUCTION 

(TO THE FIRST EDITION) 

BEFORE proceeding with the actual purpose of this book, which is 
to provide a popular and scientific, but not too technical, account of 
the Common Birds of India, there are a few general observations 
which I should like to make by way of introduction. 

First to explain why the book has been written. 

One of the commonest questions that is put by the new arrival 
in India is jbr the name of a book to teach him or her a little about 
the birds which intrude themselves on every one's notice. There 
are many excellent books on Indian ornithology, but the majority 
are either too advanced and scientific for the beginner or else too 
expensive. One search for a common bird in the volumes of the 
splendid Fauna of India series is enough to send the inquirer away 
frightened by the mere wealth of material and by the technical terms 
in the descriptions. -The few popular books that have appeared of 
recent years have suffered from the necessity of sacrificing fullness 
to cheapness, and in particular the majority lack illustrations. 

Pictures are what the beginner requires ; a few pictures are worth 
pages of description. In Europe and America, where Nature-studies 
have made such vast strides and have now such a general appeal, 
the demand has made it posirble to bring out numbers of cheap 
natural history books with excellent coloured illustrations. 

In India this is not yet possible. The area is so great and the 
fauna and flora so rich and diverse that to describe them requires 
more space and wealth of illustration than in the West, while the 
public to purchase such books is much smaller and at present 
practically confined to the European population. It is, however, 
to be hoped that educated Indians may turn more and more to the 
study of the natural wonders of their land. 

This book is an earnest attempt to supply a well-illustrated guide 
to Indian birds at a price suited to the moderate purse. That the 
illustrations are good is guaranteed by the name of Mr Gronvold, 
who stands in the front rank of living bird-artists. That the price 
is moderate is due to the generosity of three gentlemen, Mr F. 
Mitchell, Sir George Lowndes and Mr W. S. Millard, who have 
taken the publication outside the sphere of commercial profit ; 
whoever buys this work should realise that their public spirit and 
generosity have reduced the price by a very large amount. While 



xxii INTRODUCTION 

Mr Millard in addition has kindly undertaken the work of arranging 
all the details of publication, and promised to see the book through 
the press. 

The nomenclature follows the recognised international usage. 
This may be briefly explained. 

Scientific nomenclature started with the Swedish naturalist 
Linnaeus, who invented what is known as the Binomial System. 
In this each living creature has two Latin names, the first repre- 
senting the genus, the second the species. To take an example 
from the first family in the book we have the Raven (Corvus corax) 
and the Common House Crow (Corvus splendens). 

Now a species is a group in which all individuals resemble each 
other consistently except in such details as are due to age or sex 
or individual variation. Individuals of a species normally breed 
together and produce fertile offspring. 

A genus is a wider term. It embraces one or more species 
which, from the possession of certain characteristics, are clearly 
worth separating from other groups of species. The Raven and 
the House Crow are obviously very nearly related to each other 
as compared with the Blue Magpies, though at the same time they 
are not one and the same species. We therefore place both birds 
together in the genus Corvus, and give them their individual specific 
names of corax and splendens. The Blue Magpies have each their 
own specific name, but their common characterise, ies group them 
together in another genus Urocissa. 

Genera which have certain features in common are similarly 
linked together into families ; Families are combined with other 
families to form Orders ; while the .various Orders together make 
up the great class Aves. It is merely a system of classification or 
labels, made partly for convenience and partly to express the differ- 
ences and affinities that appear amongst birds. No space has been 
devoted in this book to a diagnosis of the Families and Orders, but 
their extent has been indicated in the list of species that precedes 
the main text. 

Increased study has shown that the Binomial System alone is 
not sufficient to express all that is required. Abundant and widely 
spread species vary more or less consistently in different parts of their 
range, chiefly in response to climatic and geographical conditions. 
These geographical races or subspecies require to be recognised, and 
this is done by the addition of a third name after the specific name. 
Thus our Raven in India, which is clearly the same species as the 
European Raven, slightly changed by difference of habitat, is called 
Corvus corax lawrencei, to recognise the fact and to distinguish it 
from the typical race Corvus corax corax of Europe. 

The selection of the Latin name is fixed by the Law of Priority, 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

that the first name published for a species must be used for that 
species irrespective of any names that may have been given to it 
later. The various provisos to this rule need not trouble us here. 
If a species is divided into races the first-named race is known as 
the typical one, and its name gives the specific name ; so that the 
typical race may be recognised as having its second and third names 
the same Corvus corax corax. The surname given after the scientific 
name is that of the writer who originally described the species. If 
this surname is placed within brackets it means that he originally 
described the species with a different generic name to that now 
used. 

In the heading to each species I have given the name binomially, 
the races, if any, being indicated under the paragraph on Distribution. 
Vernacular names have not been given. In my experience published 
lists are of little value, as few species have really established 
vernacular names and local names vary from district to district. 
My aim throughout has been to emphasise the position of our 
Indian birds as part of a wider scheme, and that their range in 
India is almost always part of a wider range. 

This leads us naturally to J-the question of Geographical 
Distribution. No student of zoology can fail to observe that the 
fauna of the various portions of the world differ markedly in 
character in different areas. There have been many attempts to 
define the limits of these areas, though their boundaries must 
necessarily be vague. Six regions are now commonly accepted, 
the Hclarctic, with its Palaearctic and Nearctic subdivisions (extending 
across tbs whole Northern Hemisphere and including Europe, a 
small portion of Africa, Northern and Central Asia and North 
America), the Ethiopian (Africa and Arabia), the Indian or Oriental 
(India, China, Ceylon and the Malays), the New Zealand, the 
Australian (including also the Pacific Islands), and the Neotropical 
regions (Mexico to Cape Horn). 

The boundaries of the Western Palaearctic subregion of the 
Holarctic region march with those of the Indian region roughly along 
the line of the Himalayas and the Afghan and Baluchi borders ; and 
it must be remembered that the desert areas of the Punjab, Sind and 
Rajputana are part of the great Palaearctic desert which starts on the 
Atlantic coast of North Africa and reaches the heart of China. 

The Indian region of course needs to be further subdivided, as 
China and the Malays have characteristics that separate them off from 
India. India, Burma and Ceylon are usually considered as 'forming 
an Indian subregion, while the Himalayas are regarded as having 
closer affinities with China than with the Indian plains at their base. 

The student of Indian ornithology must from the beginning 
realise that the avifauna of his area is not homogeneous, spread 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 

over India evenly as butter on a slice of bread. He must obtain 
a conception of it as divided into sections. He must realise that 
the most comprehensive knowledge of the birds of Simla will leave 
him ignorant of the species that he will meet at Ootacamund, that 
the avifauna of the Sind desert has hardly a common feature with 
the avifauna of the forests of Malabar. 

The most recent endeavour to express these differences is that 
of Blanford in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 
(Vol. 194, 1901, pp. 335-436). He divides India, Burma and Ceylon 
into five primary subdivisions as follows : 

(a) The Indo-Gangetic plain, This extends across the whole 

of Northern India from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of 
Bengal. Its boundaries run up the hill ranges from 
Karachi to Peshawar and thence along the outer spurs of 
the Himalayas to Bhutan and thence roughly southward 
to east of the Sunderbunds. The southern boundary 
takes a line from the Rann of Cutch to Delhi and from 
about Agra to Rajmahal whence it goes south to the Bay 
of Bengal. \ a 

(b) The Indian Peninsula, southwards of the above area. 

(c) Ceylon. 

(d) The Himalayas. This subdivision includes the whole area 

of the mountain ranges from their i, jt-hills up to the limit 
of tree-growth. Above forest limits *he fauna becomes 
Palaearctic in character. 

(e) Assam and Burma. . 

These five subdivisions may again be further divided largely in 
accordance with the influence of rainfall, while along the Himalayas 
there are distinct altitudinal zones which affect the fauna. Those 
who are interested in the subject are advised to consult Blanford's 
paper in the original. It is too long to be quoted here, and its 
conclusions may have to be modified when the geographical races 
of Indian birds are fully worked out. 

The races of Indian birds follow some fairly defined lines. 
Himalayan species generally have an Eastern and Western race, 
meeting about Nepal, the Eastern race being generally darker and 
smaller. In the Peninsula the races vary to some extent in correlation 
with the total distribution of the species. If a bird is common and 
widely distributed throughout India and the neighbouring areas of 
the Indian subregion it will often be found to have special races 
in (i) the semi-desert area of the north-west ; (2) the humid area 
of Assam and the Eastern Sub-Himalayan duars and terais ; (3) the 
heavy rain-area of the lower Western Ghats from about North 
Kanara to the southern limit of the Travancore ranges ; (4) Ceylon ; 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

while a more generalised form occupies the intervening mass of the 
Peninsula, grading in turn into each race. 

If, on the other hand, a bird has a more limited range, the 
influence of these areas in the formation of races appears to be less 
strong and the distribution of its races is harder to forecast. Humid 
areas produce dark birds, desert areas pale birds. North and west 
enlarge, south and east dwarf their birds. 

Finally, one must regard the influence of migration. The 
avifauna of India or of any square mile of it is never stationary, 
but changes season by season in response to the great tide of bird- 
life which sweeps across it with the regularity of the tides of the sea. 
The fundamental principle of migration is easy to understand. With 
the changing of the seasons a bird which summers and nests in 
northern latitudes is unable to find food in those latitudes in winter. 
It therefore moves southwards to an area that time and circumstances 
have fixed as its winter quarters. In the north the bird is known as 
a " summer visitor " and in the south as a " winter visitor," while in 
the intervening countries that it travels over it is a " passage migrant." 
The southerly route followed in the " autumn passage " is not 
necessarily the same as the route by which it returns north on the 
" spring passage." 

India lies south of the great mass of Northern and Central Asia, 
where winter conditions are very severe following on a short but 
luxuriant summer. It is not strange, therefore, that a huge wave of 
bird-life pours down to winter in India where insect and vegetable 
food is so abundant. The movement starts as early as July, and 
reaches its greatest height in September ; it crosses the Himalayas 
from both ends, and gradually converges down the two sides of the 
Peninsula spending its strength until it ends finally in Ceylon. In 
spring the wave again recedes, starting at the end of February, and 
all the migrants have gone by the end of May. 

Ceylon is one of the few countries of the world that has no 
summer visitors, for it lies at the end of the migration routes through 
India, with no land of any size to the south of it. 

The Indian winter, luxuriant after the monsoons, is more suit- 
able to the needs of bird-life than the parched Indian summer. 
Geographical position and physical features, therefore, combine to 
account for one of the chief ornithological characteristics of India, 
that it is practically without summer visitors from beyond its borders. 
The few species that fall under this category are confined to North- 
western India, where they are able to take a route round the head 
of the Arabian Gulf to winter in Africa. 

The effect of migration on status is most easily shown by an 
example. I will take a station in the Punjab and indicate the various 
categories of birds to be found in it. 



xxvi INTRODUCTION 

There are first of all the Resident species, which breed there and 
remain the whole year round, such as the Parrakeets and Babblers. 
A few Summer visitors arrive to breed, such as the Purple Honey- 
sucker and Yellow-throated Sparrow. These, if they are late arrivals, 
dependent on monsoon conditions for their food-supply, are known 
as Rains visitors. But both Summer and Rains visitors have this 
in common, for the most part, that they are species which are 
residents farther south in India, i.e., they are summer visitors merely 
in the northern part of their range in India and not, as our summer 
visitors in England, arrivals from distant countries. A very numerous 
class is that of the Winter visitors which breed north of India 
altogether, like the Waders and Ducks. No winter visitor arrives 
from the south. There are two more large classes, the Spring and 
Autumn Passage Migrants, such as Rose-Finches and Red-breasted 
Flycatchers, temporarily abundant on their way to and from winter 
quarters farther south in the Peninsula and Ceylon. 

It must be remembered, however, that Nature is seldom clear-cut 
in her distinctions, and a species may fall under more than one 
heading. The mass of Red-breasted Flycatchers, for instance, that 
pass through in autumn and return again in spring, will leave a few 
of their numbers as winter visitors. Some individuals of another 
species may remain as residents while the remainder migrate. 

The movements indicated above come under the heading of true 
migration, a tide which ebbs and flows year by year in response to 
the annual changes of the seasons. But they are supplemented by 
smaller and more irregular movements known as Local migration. 
These are due to different causes. In India the most frequent cause 
is variation in the rainfall and its consequent effect on food-supply. 
A prolonged drought will drive away the birds from a locality, good 
rains will fill it with birds where previously there were none. 

Along the Himalayas and the neighbouring ranges there is a 
marked seasonal altitudinal movement, which moves the resident 
birds down through the various zones in response to the lowering of 
the snow-line. This, particularly in severe winters, sends a wave 
of stragglers into the plains of Northern India in January and 
February. A plague of locusts or an unusual crop of seeds may 
temporarily upset the usual distribution of several species. And 
finally the rudiments of local migration may be seen in the way 
in which some species shift their ground in a district while breeding. 
This movement may be very slight, merely a matter of a few miles, 
yet it is of interest as showing the evolution of the great migrations 
from hemisphere to hemisphere. 

At present we have practically no detailed knowledge on the 
subject of migration in India, whether true or local ; records and 
observations on it are badly needed. 



INTRODUCTION xxvii 

Hitherto Indian ornithology has fallen into very definite periods. 
The first period revolves around the pioneer work by Hodgson, 
Jerdon and Blyth, and found its expression in Jerdon's Birds of India, 
published in 1862. 

The second period is dominated by Hume (also the founder of 
the Indian Congress) who directed and marshalled the labours of a 
number of notable workers. This period found its fitting expression 
not in a single comprehensive work but in the packed and 
miscellaneous volumes of Stray Feathers, a periodical which 
appeared in parts from 1872 to 1888. 

With 1889 appeared the first volume of the Fauna of British 
India, Birds, by Blanford and Gates, followed at intervals by three 
other volumes. This work completely dominated Indian ornithology 
down to about 1922. 

In 1922 Mr Stuart-Baker produced his first volume of the second 
edition of the Fauna. With this has opened the fourth period of 
Indian ornithology, which will be memorable for its introduction 
of the trinomial system. Its progress is still in the moulding, and 
I can only hope that this book of mine will help more than one 
beginner to take his share in the advancement of Indian ornithology. 

The day is now over in which it was necessary to collect large 
series of skins and eggs in India. Enough general collecting has 
been done ; concentration on filling in the gaps in our knowledge 
is now needed. Those who wish to help in the work should first 
familiarise themselves with what has been accomplished and learn 
what remains to be done. With some species the distribution of the 
different races still needs to be worked out and this implies careful 
collecting in certain areas. Of other species we still need to know 
the plumage changes ; for this specimens collected at certain times 
of the year are required. In other species the down and juvenile 
plumages are unknown. But the greatest need of all is* accurate 
observations on status and migration. In this all can help. Keep 
full notes for a year on the birds of your station, noting those that 
are resident and the times of arrival and departure, comparative 
abundance and scarcity of all the migratory kinds ; and you will 
have made a contribution to ornithology that will in the measure 
of its accuracy and fullness be a help to every other worker. 

The wonderful avifauna of India is still unspoilt and almost in its 
entirety. Let us chronicle and appreciate it while we may and 
endeavour in return to awake an appreciation of its value *and 
interest so that steps to preserve it may advance part passu with the 
destructive influences. These have already started. The irrigation 
of vast tracts has already made considerable changes in the fauna, 
the interesting desert forms giving place to less specialised and widely 
common birds. With the passing away of the Arms Act one of the 



xxviii INTRODUCTION 

greatest barriers to the wasteful destruction of bird-life by ignorance 
and greed has been broken down, at the very moment when the 
opening up of the country by the motor-car has lessened the number 
of natural sanctuaries. So in return for the interest of your study 
of the Indian avifauna, endeavour to protect it and awaken public 
opinion to the task. 

In conclusion, I have to acknowledge my indebtedness on many 
sides in the writing of this book. While I owe something directly 
or indirectly to every naturalist who has worked in Jndia, my 
obligations are very deep to the authors of .both editions of the 
Fauna series, Messrs Blanford and Gates and Mr Stuart-Baker. 
Mr N. B. Kinnear of the British Museum has given me much 
valuable advice and encouragement. And especially I owe much 
to the help and enthusiasm of Dr Claud B. Ticehurst, who has 
kindly read through the text of the book in order to ensure its 
accuracy. 

HUGH WHISTLER 




The Common Mynah. (J nat. size). 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF 
INDIAN BIRDS 




FIG. i Raven 



({ nat, size) 



THE RAVEN 
CORVUS CORAX Linnaeus 

Description. Length 24 inches. Sexes alike. Entirely black, 
glossed with steel-blue, purple and lilac. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

The feathers of the throat are prolonged into conspicuous 
hackles. 

Field Identification. Plains of North-western India. Distinguished 
from all other Crows by the large size, complete blackness, the throat 
hackles, and the distinctive call-note. Only likely to be confused with 
the Jungle Crow, but both species do not usually occur in the same 
locality. 

Distribution. The Raven is found in almost every part of the 
Northern Hemisphere, in Europe, Northern Africa, Asia, and North 
America, and is divided into several races distinguished by size and 
the shape of the bill. We are only concerned with one race, C. c. 
subcoraXy which is the resident bird of Western Asia, Turkestan, 
Baluchistan, and North-western India, though it appears to some 

A 



z POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

extent to be locally migratory. In India it is found in the Punjab, 
North-west Frontier Province, Sind, and the desert portions of 
Western Rajputana and occasionally in British India. No Raven 
occurs in the Himalayas proper until the Tibetan tracts of their 
northern face are reached, and there in the barren wastes above 
10,000 feet is found the so-called Tibetan Raven (C. c. tibetanus), 
a huge bird, perhaps identical with the Greenland form. 

Habits, etc. In North-western India the Raven is a very abundant 
species in the drier and more barren portions of the plains and about 
the low rocky hill ranges which crop up here and there. In the 
irrigated and better cultivated tracts it is scarcer, as also in the more 
thickly wooded districts. 

Although while nesting it prefers solitude, at other times it 
is distinctly social, and fifteen or twenty birds may often be seen 
together on the outskirts of villages, towns, and camps, marching 
sedately about the ground, turning over and examining the refuse 
of man. For in India the Raven is a common scavenger, bold and 
dissolute as any Crow ; though it retains when need arises all the 
wariness that in England is associated with a scarce and shy bird 
that avoids the haunts of man. It is particularly common about 
cantonment stations. 

The food is very varied ; in addition to the scraps collected 
in the course of its scavenging the Raven does a certain amount of 
damage to crops, for instan.ce cutting off and carrying away whole 
heads of millet, and a pair are generally found with the Vultures 
at every carcass. 

The ordinary call-note is a frequently uttered deep pruk, pruk. 
The flight is strong and straight, and the massive head and beak 
project conspicuously in advance of the wings. The birds seem 
to pair for life, though many pairs collect together where food is 
plentiful. Like the other Crows the Ravens roost in companies, 
often fifty or sixty together, flighting to the selected spot towards 
the fall of dusk, flying fast and moderately low over the ground. 

The breeding season lasts from December to March, though most 
eggs will be found in January and February. 

The nest is a large, stout structure of sticks with the cup thickly 
lined with rags, wool, hair, and similar rubbish. It is placed either 
in the fork of a large tree, often close to a well or house, or on the 
ledges of rock and clay cliffs. The birds often exhibit a tendency 
to attack the climber who goes up to secure their eggs. 

The clutch varies from four to six eggs. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, considerably pointed towards 
the smaller end ; the shell is close and firm, with only a slight gloss. 
The ground-colour varies from greenish-blue to dingy olive or pale 
stone-colour. The markings are blackish-brown, sepia, olive-brown, 



THE RAVEN 3 

and pale inky-purple, distributed in spots, speckles, blotches, and 
streaky clouds, the eggs in one clutch usually being all of one type, 
though there is much variety between different clutches. 
In size the eggs average about 1-94 by 1-31 inches. 



THE JUNGLE CROW 
CORVUS MACRORHYNCHOS Wagler 

Description. Length 17 inches. Sexes alike. Entire plumage 
black with a dark blue or purple gloss. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. A typical Crow, entirely black, and inter- 
mediate in size between the ordinary House Crow and the Raven ; 
to be distinguished from the former by the absence of any grey on 
the hind neck and breast, and from the latter by the smaller size 
and the difference in call caw caw, that of the Raven being a hoarse 
bark pruk, pruk. Usually gregarious, except at nest. 

Distribution. India, Burma, Ceylon, extending to South-east 
Asia. It is divided into various races which are separated on minor 
points of size and coloration of the base of the feathers, and are 
distinguished with difficulty except in a series. Three races concern 
us. C. m. intermedius is found along the whole length of the Himalayas 
from Afghanistan to Bhutan and is the familiar Crow of all the 
Himalayan hill stations from Gulmurg to Nepal. It occurs from 
the foot-hills up to 13,000 feet. The smallest race, C. m. culminatus, 
occurs in Ceylon and the whole of the Indian Peninsula up to a line 
through Thar and Parkar, Delhi and Ambala on the west, growing 
gradually in size until about Calcutta it becomes the large bow-beaked 
C. m. macrorhynchos found in Assam and Burma. All these races are 
strictly resident and they may prove to be races of the Carrion Crow 
(Corvus corone) of Europe, which certainly has a race C. c. orientalis 
in Ladakh and Baltistan. The Rook (Corvus frugilegus) which occurs 
in North-west India in winter in vast numbers may be distinguished 
by its finer, more pointed beak and the bare white scabrous patch 
round its base in adults. 

Habits, etc. The Jungle Crow is, as its name implies, and in 
contradistinction to the House Crow, a bird of the forests and jungles 
rather than of the haunts of men throughout the Peninsula of India ; 
though it often visits cities and villages for the sake of scavenging. 
It is not as bold 'as the House Crow in entering verandahs or in 
deliberately stealing food from the actual possession of man. The 
Himalayan race, however, is bolder in this respect than the plains 
bird, and in all the Himalayan sanatoria this Crow replaces the House 



4 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Crow as the common scavenger round houses, though it is never as 
much at home in the bazaars as is the smaller bird. 

Although not actually nesting in rookeries, the Jungle Crow is 
found scattered throughout the extensive sal forests of the U.P. and 
Central India. It is usually the first bird to discover the more or 
less well concealed kill of a tiger or leopard, which it advertises by 
a peculiar loud " caw " recognised by other crows in the vicinity and 
of great assistance to the shikari on the look-out for tiger " Khabbar." 
It is a highly gregarious species, numbers feeding in company or 
collecting together at the scene of any object of interest, whether food 
to eat, a fox or bird of prey to mob, or a disturbing human element to 
swear at. Large numbers collect to roost in special patches of forest, 
though never so many together as in the case of the House Crow. 
In the hills this Crow is very fond of soaring and circling at a great 
height in the air and twenty or thirty often do this in company, 
exhibiting a complete mastery of all the arts of flying. 

Like other Crows this species is omnivorous, scraps of human 
food, refuse, flying ants, fruit, berries, small mammals and birds, 
insects, carrion, all are welcome to it ; while it is particularly destruc- 
tive to the eggs and young of all birds. I have seen it settling on 
the packs of mule trains crossing the high passes, travelling with 
them and tearing holes in the packs to get at the contained corn. 

Its voice is not disagreeable, the ordinary call being a variable 
caw rather reminiscent of that of the English Rook, sometimes harsh, 
sometimes almost melodious in tone, and very often distinctly like 
the quack of a domestic duck ; a harsh allah or ayah is also uttered, 
and in addition as it meditates on a shady bough during the heat 
of the day it indulges in a succession of amusing gurgles and croaks. 
As I write, several are conversing in the trees outside my room, the 
sound recalling memories of early spring in England, with swaying 
elms and rooks preparing to nest. 

The various races of the Jungle Crow throughout our area agree for 
the most part in laying their eggs from March to May, but in the plains 
a few nests will be found with eggs as early as the middle of December. 

The nest is a large, moderately deep cup, composed of twigs and 
small sticks, lined with hair, dry grass, wool, coco-nut fibre and similar 
substances. Some nests are massive and well built ; others are 
somewhat sketchy affairs. 

In the Himalayas they are often placed in deodars or species 
of pine, while in the plains mangoes and tamarinds are said to be 
preferred ; but with these reservations, the nest may be built in any 
species of tree, and it is often surprising how well so bulky a structure 
is concealed from a casual glance. The tree selected is occasionally 
in the midst of a bazaar or garden, but most pairs build away in the 
jungle but in easy reach of some village. 



THE COMMON HOUSE CROW 7 

lower temperature of the Himalayas and the comparative abundance 
there of the stronger Jungle Crow. 

This Crow is highly gregarious, and this trait is nowhere more 
clearly demonstrated than at the roost. Many thousands of birds 
sleep together in company in a selected patch of trees, often acres 
in extent ; and the morning and evening flight from and to the roost 
is a most conspicuous event, as an unending stream of birds arrives 
or departs. In the morning the birds leave in a body, hungry and 
impatient for food, and the flight is soon over, but in the evening 
their arrival is much more protracted. An hour or two before dusk 
the first stragglers appear and their numbers gradually increase, 
until at the end an unbroken line of birds extends across the sky, 
till darkness falls and puts an end to the unceasing clamour that 
accompanies every operation of this bird's life. 

During the flight small parties have the habit, so often seen 
amongst Rooks in England, of swirling suddenly down from a 
height in the sky almost to the ground. The roosting-places are 
always littered with the remains of dead Crows, and their mortality 
is heavy, partly no doubt from disease and partly from the 
depredations of Peregrines and Eagle-Owls. These roosting flights 
show no apparent diminution even during the breeding season, and 
this is due to the fact that this species does not breed during its 
first year. While not nesting in colonies after the fashion of the 
Rook, the House Crow is so numerous that numbers of nests may 
be found within a small radius. 

Familiarity with man has made the House Crow bold and thievish 
to a degree. It sidles into rooms, alert and keen, ready to retreat 
at the least alarm, and with a sudden bounce and dash removes food 
from the table ; it robs the shops in the bazaar if they are left 
unattended for a moment ; it snatches sweetmeats off the trays of the 
vendors* at railway stations. Yet with all this familiarity and boldness 
it retains the wariness and sagacity of the family and is quick to take 
a hint of real danger and evade it. 

And not only man suffers from this impudent Crow ; it mobs 
birds of prey, more especially the Owls and Eagles, on occasions 
actually buffeting them ; and I have seen Vultures sitting gorged 
on the ground much worried by a sort of game of " Tom Tiddler's 
Ground " played by Crows who insisted on hopping on and off their 
backs. They perch on the backs of bullocks and mules pecking 
bits of flesh from raw saddle-galls, though at times their attentions 
are welcome for they also remove ticks and other vermin. They 
rob dogs and fowls of their food, and in general steal and bully 
to the utmost extent of their opportunities. Yet with all their 
manifold villanies there is much that is attractive about the sleek, 
intelligent, shameless bird that is the companion of our daily life 



8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

in India. There is only one living thing that habitually gets the 
better of the House Crow a claim which man certainly cannot 
make ; the KoeFs whole life-history is based on the assumption 
that it can at will circumvent and deceive the Crow, and this it 
does, substituting its own eggs for those of the Crow and making 
the latter bring up its young. 

This bird is absolutely omnivorous ; it will eat anything that man 
will eat, and innumerable things that he will not. 

The ordinary call is a cawing note rather softer in tone than that 
of the larger Crows. 

The breeding season is very regular in the North-west, eggs 
being laid from the middle of June till the middle of July. In the 
rest of India numbers also lay in April and May, and occasionally 
nests are found in November, December and January. 

The nest is built in a fork of a tree, and is a shallow cup of sticks, 
sometimes neat and well made, sometimes sketchy and ragged ; it is 
lined with grass roots, wool, rags, vegetable fibre, and similar miscel- 
laneous substances. Instances are on record of nests built partly or 
exclusively of wire. 

The normal clutch consists of four or five eggs, but six or seven 
are occasionally met with. The egg is a broad oval, rather pointed 
at the smaller end. The texture is hard and fine and there is a fair 
gloss. The ground-colour is any shade of blue-green, and is blotched, 
speckled and streaked with dull reddish-brown, pale sepia, grey and 
neutral tint. 

In size the eggs average about 1*45 by 1*05 inches. 



THE JACKDAW 
CORVUS MONEDULA Linnaeus 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage, wings and tail glossy black ; a broad collar from the sides 
of the head round the back of the neck dusky grey, becoming so pale 
in parts as to be almost white ; chin, throat, and fore-neck black ; 
remainder of lower plumage dull slaty-black. 

Iris whitish ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Extreme North-western India and Kashmir. 
Distinguished from the House Crow by the smaller size, the fact 
that the grey is confined merely to a collar, the white eye, and the 
very musical call. 

Distribution. The Jackdaw is widely distributed in Europe, in 
Algeria, and in parts of Northern and Western Asia. Of its races 



THE JACKDAW 9 

we are only concerned with C. m. monedula, which apparently breeds 
from Scandinavia and Russia to the Yenisei and south to Persia, 
Afghanistan, and Kashmir. In winter numbers appear from the 
middle of October to the beginning of March in the North-west 
Frontier Province west of the Indus, and in the Punjab districts 
along the base of the North-western Himalayas. 

The traveller to Baltistan and Ladakh will find the Magpie (Pica 
pica) common in the sparse groves in the valleys and he will Jbe 
agreeably surprised at its tameness compared with the persecuted 
English bird. It is also found in Baluchistan. 

Habits, etc. No one who has visited the Vale of Kashmir can 
have failed to notice the Jackdaws, which are extremely common 
there all the year round, and with their cheerful, familiar calls 
largely contribute to the extremely English air of the European 
quarters, of Srinagar. Great numbers live in the trees and buildings 
all round Srinagar, feeding in the fields and on the grassy lawns, 
and becoming as tame and impudent in their behaviour as the 
House Crow is in the plains. These birds roost in the willows of 
the Dal Lake, and the morning and evening flight of the Jackdaws from 
and to their dormitory is one of the ornithological sights of Srinagar. 

In winter when it arrives in the Punjab the Jackdaw is found in 
flocks which associate with the immense flights of Rooks (Corvus 
frugilegus) that appear about the same time and in the same 
localities. The flight is strong and fairly fast, but the Jackdaw has 
rather quicker wing-beats than the Rook and can also be distinguished 
in the air by its smaller size. The call is more musical than that of 
most Crows, being a melodious Jack and cae, ringing with cheerful- 
ness and well-being ; these calls are responsible for the English 
name, the first syllable also exemplifying the English practice of 
personifying familiar species, as in Magpie and Jenny- Wren. The 
whole demeanour of the bird is pert and knowing, and it makes 
a delightful pet, some individuals learning to talk ; though the 
irresistible attraction which small bright articles have for the 
Jackdaw often makes it a nuisance about a house when tame 
enough to be allowed out of its cage. 

In Kashmir the breeding season is from April to June. The 
nest is a massive cup of dirty wool, rags, and hair on a foundation 
of sticks and thorny twigs, and it is placed in holes in rocks, buildings, 
and trees. Numbers of pairs breed in colonies wherever suitable 
nest-holes are available. 

The clutch consists of four to six eggs. 

The egg is an elongated oval, somewhat compressed towards the 
smaller end ; the shell is fine and stout but there is only a faint gloss. 
The ground-colour is pale greenish-blue, speckled and spotted with 
deep blackish-brown, olive-brown, and pale inky-purple ; these 



io POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

markings are sometimes fine and close, at other times bold and 
thinly set, but on the whole the eggs of the Jackdaw are more lightly 
marked than those of most of the family of Crows. 
In size they average about 1-40 by 0*98 inches. 



THE YELLOW-BILLED BLUE-MAGPIE 
UROCISSA FLAVIROSTRIS (Blyth) 

Description. Length 26 inches, including tail of about 18 inches. 
Sexes alike. Head, neck, and breast black, with a white patch on 
the nape ; remainder of lower plumage white, faintly tinged with 
lilac ; whole upper plumage purplish-blue, brighter on the wings and 
tail ; flight-feathers tipped with white, the outermost edged with the 
same ; tail long and graduated, the feathers blue, broadly tipped 
with white, all except the very long central pair having a band of 
black in front of the white. 

Iris bright yellow ; bill waxen yellow ; legs bright orange-yellow. 

Field Identification. Purely Himalayan form ; in noisy parties 
amongst trees. A conspicuous long tail, greatly graduated, and at 
the end drooping in a graceful curve. In jungle appears dull greyish- 
blue, with white under surface and white tips to tail-feathers. 

Distribution. The Yellow-billed Magpie is found throughout 
the Himalayas from Hazara to the Brahmaputra. It is divided into 
two races. Of these U. f. cucullata is the better known and is 
found from the Western boundary of the range to Western Nepal, 
being a common species about most of the hill stations of the 
Western Himalayas, breeding in a zone from 5000 to 10,000 feet. 
The typical form is found from Eastern Nepal eastwards and differs 
in that the under parts have a darker lilac tinge ; its zone is slightly 
higher than that of the Western form, as it seldom occurs 'as low 
as 6000 feet. A resident species, but during the winter months it 
usually deserts the higher parts of its summer zone. 

From Simla eastwards the closely allied Red-billed Blue-Magpie 
(Urocissa melanocephala) is often found in the same areas as the 
yellow-billed species ; it is particularly common about Mussoorie, 
Tehri-Garhwal, -Kumaon, and in Nepal, and may be easily 
distinguished by its red beak and the greater extent of the white 
nape-patch. 

The lovely Green-Magpie (Cissa chinensis) is found in forest along 
the lower Himalayas from the Jamna eastwards and in parts of Assam, 
Eastern Bengal and Burma. It is brilliant green in colour (which has 
a tendency to fade to blue) with a black band through the eye and 
red bill, wings and tail. 



THE YELLOW-BILLED BLUE-MAGPIE 11 

Habits, etc. The Blue-Magpies are, as may be judged from their 
handsome tails, essentially arboreal birds ; though, while they are 
most usually to be met with in heavy jungle areas, they also venture 
out into the trees amongst cultivation, and at times on to bare 
mountain sides at high elevations. They frequently feed on the 
ground and then adopt a curious hopping gait, with the tail held 
high to prevent it coming into contact with the ground. They live 
in parties of seven or eight birds and are very partial to particular 
localities, so that once a party has taken up its abode in any particular 




p IGt 3 Yellow-billed Blue-Magpie (i nat. size) 

nullah or patch of forest it will generally be found there. They are 
very active, flying incessantly from bough to bough and not hesitating 
to launch high into the air when flying from ridge to ridge ; a party 
of these bird crossing a nullah out of gun-shot above one's head is 
a curious sight, with their long tails waving in the air and the light 
shining through the feathers. The flight is rather slow, laboured 
and undulating once the bird comes into the open. The food consists 
of small mammals, the eggs and young of other birds, insects, and 
wild fruits and berries of various kinds. This bird is very noisy ; 
the ordinary call is harsh and grating, but it has a wide variety of 
notes, some of which are melodious enough. 

The nest is built in a fork of a tree, usually of moderate size but 



12 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

with dense foliage, and is difficult to find. It is a rather large and 
roughly constructed cup of sticks with a lining of fine grass, roots 
and fibres. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. The ground-colour 
varies from a pale, dingy yellowish-stone colour to a darkish rather 
reddish-stone colour, and there is very occasionally a faint greenish 
tinge. The markings consist of small specks, blotches, streaks, and 
mottlings of various shades of brown, sienna 1 or purple, and they 
generally tend to collect in a cap or zone about the broad end of 
the egg. 

The egg measures about 1-20 by 0*92 inches. 



THE INDIAN TREE-PIE 
DENDROCITTA VAGABUNDA (Latham) 

Description. Length 18 inches. Sexes alike. The whole head 
and neck with the breast sooty brown ; remainder of the body plumage 
bright rufous, darker on the back ; wing-coverts greyish-white ; wings 
dark brown, with a large conspicuous greyish-white patch on the sides 
extending almost their whole length when closed ; tail long and 
graduated with the central feathers elongated, ashy-grey, each feather 
broadly tipped with black. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill slaty horn-colour, albescent at the base ; 
legs dark brown, claws horn-colour. 

Field Identification. A bright rufous magpie with sooty head and 
neck, and impressions of grey, black and white in the wings and tail ; 
a strictly arboreal bird of open forest, often near gardens, usually in 
pairs, with a very musical call. 

Distribution. The whole of India and Burma from the Indus and 
the Lower Himalayas to Travancore, and from Assam to Tenasserim 
and Siam. A strictly resident species. 

Like most widely-spread and common birds the Indian Tree-Pie 
is divided into several races, distinguished by size and the relative 
depth in colouring of the body plumage. There is much intergrading 
between them, and authorities in consequence differ as to their number 
and distribution. The typical race is found in North-east India including 
the outer fringe of the Himalayas from Nepal to Assam and Central 
India, being replaced by D. v. pallida in the North-western Hima- 
layas, North-west Frontier Province, Sind, Punjab, and Rajputana. 
A small dark race, D. v. parvula, occurs in the rain area of the 
Western coast from South Kanara to Cape Comorin, while a small 
pale race, D. v. vernayi, occurs in the rest of Southern and Eastern 
India up to the Godavari River. Although essentially a bird of the 



THE INDIAN TREE-PIE 13 

plains of Continental India this Tree-Pie is found in hill country up 
to about 5000 feet, including the outer fringe of the Himalayas. 

Two closely allied species, the Himalayan Tree-Pie (Dendrocitta 
formosa) and the Southern Tree-Pie (Dendrocitta leucogastra), are 
common in the Lower Himalayas and from Mysore to Travancore 
respectively. The former is grey and brown with no rufous in the 
plumage except below the base of the tail. The latter has a black 
mask in sharp contrast to the white collar and under parts. 




FIG. 4 Indian Tree-Pie (i nat. size) 

Habits, etc. The Tree-Pie is, as its name denotes, essentially 
arboreal, and it is practically never seen to visit the ground ; though 
I have known it come into a verandah and climb about the chicks 
in order to catch the yellow wasp which habitually builds its nest 
in houses. It also climbs about trunks and branches of trees, hanging 
on with the claws and partly supported by the tail as it searches the 
crevices of the bark for insects. It is found not so much in heavy 
forest as in open country where large trees grow in clumps and 
avenues, and it is also very partial to gardens. But although it is in 



14 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

consequence common in the immediate vicinity of man it is a some- 
what shy bird, living amidst the thicker foliage and usually only seen 
in glimpses as it flies from tree to tree in front of the observer. It 
is found in pairs or small parties. The flight is dipping, the bird 
alternately flapping the wings for several beats and then gliding with 
them stiffly outspread. The food consists of fruit, berries, insects, 
caterpillars, lizards, and small snakes, and this bird has the reputation 
of being one of the most destructive enemies in India to the eggs 
and young of other species. 

The Tree-Pie is found throughout the sal forests of Northern 
and Central India and is invaluable to the initiated in pointing out 
the whereabouts of tiger or leopard kills. In the discovery of kills 
the Tree-Pie competes with the Jungle Crow. 

The ordinary call is a loud and most melodious kokli or googeley, 
which is one of the familiar bird-notes of India. But it has a variety 
of other notes, some quite charming and soft, others less pleasant, 
particularly a raucous scolding note which 'is as ugly as the first is 
melodious. 

The breeding season extends from February until the first week 
in August, but the majority of nests will be found in April, May, and 
June. 

The nest is placed in trees or large bushes, in a fork usually 
towards the top of a tree. Mango and babool trees are most 
commonly favoured, though sheeshum and neem trees are also 
often selected, and the nest has even been found in cactus clumps. 
It is a shallow, open cup, sometimes large and loosely constructed, 
sometimes small and compact. There is a foundation of large twigs 
usually thorny in character, and on this is built the nest proper of 
finer twigs and roots, with a lining of grass roots and occasionally a 
little wool or straw. 

The normal clutch is four or five eggs in the north, and generally 
two or three in the south. 

The eggs are typically somewhat elongated ovals, a good deal 
pointed towards the small end ; there is sometimes a slight gloss. 
In colour they are very variable, though there is always a family 
resemblance between the eggs composing one clutch. There are 
two leading types of coloration ; one pale greenish in ground-colour 
with blotches and spots of light and dark grey brown, somewhat 
resembling the eggs of the Grey Shrike ; the other pale reddish-white 
or salmon-colour with blotches of reddish and dark brown and 
underlying markings of lilac and neutral tint, similar in type to the 
eggs of the Drongos. 

In size they average about i* 17 by 0*87 inches. 



THE BLACK-THROATED JAY 



THE BLACK-THROATED JAY 
GARRULUS LANCEOLATUS Vigors 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. Top and sides 
of the head black ; chin and throat black with broad white streaks, 
the black ending in a patch of iron-grey ; body plumage vinous-grey, 
brighter towards the tail ; wings black, closely barred with bright 
blue, a black patch on the coverts being bordered outwardly by a 
white patch ; innermost flight-feathers vinous-grey with a black and 




FIG. 5 Black-throated Jay ( nat. size) 

a white band at the end of each feather ; tail black, broadly tipped 
with white, all but the outermost feathers closely barred with bright 
blue. 

Iris reddish ; bill steely slate, darker at tip ; legs steely grey, 
claws darker. 

The head is conspicuously crested, and the throat-feathers are 
long and pointed. The tail is long and slightly graduated. 

Field Identification. West Himalayan form. A noisy active bird 
found in parties in trees. The black crested head, with untidy 
white streaking on the throat, and the bright blue and black barring 
on the wings and tail contrast sharply with the nondescript body 
plumage. 



16 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Distribution. The Suliman Hills ; the Western Himalayas from 
Hazara and Chitral to Nepal, breeding from 5000 to 8000 feet, 
and occasionally higher to 10,000 feet, and in winter descending 
to 3500 feet. A resident species with no races. 

The Himalayan Jay (Garrulus bispecularis), sometimes considered 
a race of the familiar English bird, is also resident throughout the 
Himalayas. It lacks the black head and crest of the Black-throated 
Jay, and is brighter, more rufous in colour with a squarer tail. 

Loud harsh calls also draw attention to the Nutcracker (Nucifraga 
caryocatactes), another Himalayan species of Crow, which feeds 
largely on pine seeds. It is dark chocolate brown, spotted with 
white. The white of the outer tail-feathers is conspicuous in flight. 

Habits. The Black-throated Jay is a familiar species in the 
outer ranges of the Western Himalayas where it comes freely into 
the various hill stations. When in pairs in the breeding season it is 
quiet and secretive in habits until disturbed in the neighbourhood 
of the nest when it immediately becomes excited and noisy, screaming 
and chattering at the intruder. At other seasons it is found mostly 
in parties of four or five birds which in winter often combine into 
considerable flocks, up to twenty individuals in number, and these 
sometimes join forces with the Himalayan Jay and the Yellow- 
billed Blue-Magpie. These parties keep to trees, whether in forest 
or in the neighbourhood of houses and cultivation, and their where- 
abouts is sooner or later betrayed by the harsh schack, similar to the 
call of the English species. The food consists of grubs, caterpillars, 
beetles, insects, fruits, berries, seeds and the like, and some of it is 
taken on the ground. 

From the hostility that this Jay awakens in other species in the 
breeding season it is obvious that they consider it a danger to their 
eggs and young. 

The breeding season extends from the middle of April to June, 
most eggs being found in May. 

The nest is a moderately shallow cup built of slender twigs and 
sticks and lined with dry roots and fibres, particularly the black 
horsehair-like rhizoids of fungi. It is placed in trees or thick 
bushes, never at any very great height from the ground. An upper 
fork of a small sapling affords a very favourite situation. 

The clutch varies from three to six eggs, four or five being the 
usual number. The eggs are somewhat lengthened ovals in shape, 
and there is little or no gloss. The ground-colour varies from 
brownish-stone to pale greenish-white, and it is very minutely and 
feebly freckled and mottled all over with pale sepia-brown. There 
are usually a few dark brown hair-like lines, more or less zigzag, 
about the larger end. 

The eggs measure about i- 12 by 0-85 inches. 



THE CHOUGH 17 

THE CHOUGH 

PYRRHOCORAX PYRRHOCORAX (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 17 inches. Sexes alike. The whole plumage 
glossy black. 

Iris dark brown ; bill coral-red ; legs dark coral-red ; claws black. 

Bill slender and curved and the feathers at the base of the bill 
short and dense. 

Field Identification. Himalayas and Baluchistan. A very graceful 
black Crow with a pleasant call which is immediately identified by 
the coral-red bill and legs. 

The slightly smaller Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) with 
shorter yellow bill and red legs has roughly the same distribution 
in our area as the Chough. The traveller in Lahul and Ladakh will 
find it a bold scavenger about his camp. It is commonly stated that 
these two Choughs are always found in separate valleys, but this is 
not a fact. 

Distribution. The Chough has a very wide distribution from 
Europe and Africa to China, mostly as a mountain bird. We are 
concerned with the race P. p. himalayanus, separated from the typical 
race on its slightly larger size, and this is found in North-eastern 
Baluchistan, Chitral and the Himalayas from Hazara to Bhutan. 
It is a bird of high elevations, seldom breeding below 8000 feet, most 
commonly in the zone from 10,000 to 12,000 feet, and sometimes 
up to 15,000 feet. It has been recorded up to 20,000 feet in summer, 
an elevation attained by very few species. In winter, stress of weather 
sometimes drives it down as low as 5000 feet or even 3000 feet. 

Habits, etc. Except in Baluchistan, where the Chough visits the 
Quetta Valley in winter, this delightful bird will only be met by the 
observer who leaves the ordinary Himalayan stations and travels a 
little further into the hills. On the outer ranges he will meet it on 
the Pir Panjal and the Duala Dhar, but for the most part he must 
enter the Main Himalayan range before he can expect to see its buoyant 
flight and hear its cheerful call. Once in its haunts, he will find the 
bird common enough in flocks and pairs and parties sometimes in 
the same valleys and in the same ranges as the Alpine Chough and 
sometimes alone. Its local distribution is a little erratic. In some 
places it is common ; in others it is apparently absent and the reasons 
for this are not apparent. 

The Chough usually roosts and breeds in precipitous cliffs though 
in the Chumbi Valley and in Tibet it also uses the numerous holes 
in the walls and under the flat roofs of the houses in the Tibetan 
villages. It feeds for the most part on the alpine pastures where it 
probes and digs in the soil or scatters the yak dung for the beetles 

B 



i8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

and their larvae, the wireworms, the insects and the small seeds which 
form its food. Further down it takes the berries of various mountain 
bushes such as the Ladakh thorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) and robs 
the tillage of its sparse supplies of corn. As a rule it is far from shy 
though it is not the shameless scavenger of the camp like its cousin 
the Alpine Chough. On the ground the loose thigh-feathers are 
conspicuous. 

This Crow is an excellent flier. A party will often obviously fly 
for pleasure, playing and circling in the air currents in front of the 
cliffs where they live, or mounting high to soar in the sky till bird 
after bird comes plunging down again with swift slanting flight, closing 
the wings almost to the body. 

The ordinary call is a melodious kew or jack much like that of the 
Jackdaw ; another note is a high-pitched squeaky chee-o-kah and the 
alarm is a clear quoick or kor-qmck. The voice carries far in the 
mountain valleys and draws attention to birds above almost out of sight. 

Nidification begins in March and eggs are to be found in April 
and May. The nest is built in a crevice of a precipice or a hole in 
the roof of a hill cave and is usually quite inaccessible. In Tibetan 
villages it may be built in a hole in a house. The nest is made of sticks 
and twigs and the cup is lined with wool, though some nests consist 
merely of a pad of wool. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. They are rather variable 
in size and shape but are typically a moderately elongated oval, slightly 
compressed towards the small end. The shell is tolerably fine and 
has a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white with a faint creamy 
tinge and the whole egg is profusely spotted and streaked with a 
pale, somewhat yellowish brown and a pale purplish grey. The 
markings are most dense at the broad end. 

The egg measures about 1-75 by 1-20 inches. 



THE INDIAN GREY TIT 

PARUS MAJOR Linnaeus 
(Plate ii, Fig. 5, opposite page 22) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Head, neck, breast 
and a broad line down the centre of the abdomen glossy black ; a 
conspicuous white patch on the cheek and a fainter one on the nape ; 
remainder of under parts white tinged with vinaceous ; remainder 
of upper parts bluish ashy-grey, with a white bar across the wing ; 
tail black and bluish ashy-grey, with a large amount of white on the 
outer feathers. 



THE INDIAN GREY TIT 19 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs slaty plumbeous. 

Field Identification. A typical Tit ; bluish-grey above and whitish 
below, with black head, neck and broad abdominal stripe, and a white 
cheek-patch. Purely arboreal, generally single or in pairs. 

Distribution. The Great Tit (Parus major) is an interesting species 
of wide range. It extends throughout the whole of Europe, North- 
west Africa and the greater part of Asia to Japan and Southern China. 
But as is to be expected with such a wide range the species has been 
divided into a great number of geographical races or sub-species. 
These fall into two main groups ; the European group with green 
backs and yellow under parts (exemplified by the familiar Great Tit 
of England), and the Asiatic group with grey backs and whitish or 
buff under parts. 

To this latter group belong our Indian birds, and they fall again 
into several races, which differ from each other in the depth and 
purity of their colour and in the relative amounts of black and white 
on the tail-feathers. 

P. m. caschmirensis occupies the Western Himalayas from Kashmir 
to Gahrwal, visiting the Punjab plains in winter. P. m. nipalensis 
extends from Lower Nepal through Behar, Bengal, and the Duars 
into Assam and Western Burma. P. m. stupce is found at Mount 
Aboo, in the Central Provinces and Orissa, and southwards to Cape 
Comorin, while a fourth race P. m. ziaratensis overlaps from Afghanistan 
into parts of Baluchistan and Trans-Indus Punjab. An insular race in 
Ceylon is the true P. m. mahrattarum. A resident species with slight 
local migrations. This species must not be confused with the White- 
winged Black Tit (Parus nuchalis) locally common in Rajputana. 

Habits, etc. The Indian Grey Tit is more properly to be considered 
a hill than a plains bird, and each race breeds throughout the more 
wooded ranges of its area from a height of about 3500 feet to their 
summits, even to 9000 or 10,000 feet when this is possible. But 
above 6000 feet it is usually rather scarce. While not strictly migratory 
it wanders a good deal after the breeding season, and then is found 
commonly in the plains area contiguous to the ranges on which it 
breeds. It is* a bird of the more open types of forest, and while really 
arboreal wanders freely into bushes and scrub-jungle, and frequently 
visits the ground in search of food. 

Although often found in small parties or included in the large 
mixed hunting parties of small insectivorous birds this Tit is more 
usually found singly and in pairs. When feeding it is very methodical, 
carefully examining the branches and twigs for small insects and theii 
caterpillars and eggs, peering into every nook and cranny and bunch 
of leaves, and when necessary for the purpose indulging in a variety 
of acrobatic postures for which its sturdy build and strong legs are 
admirably adapted. At times it holds some article of food between 



20 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

its feet on a branch and hammers at it with pickaxe blows of the 
beak, and the noise thus made is frequently mistaken for the work 
of a small Woodpecker. It is a cheerful bird both in demeanour and 
note, and the loud whistle tsee tsee tsee is always a cheery welcome 
sound. With the spring and the approach of the breeding season this 
is supplemented by a number of louder and clearer calls, of which the 
most familiar is zwink zwink. When disturbed in the nest the bird 
endeavours to frighten away the intruder by hissing and spitting like 
a snake. 

It is interesting to note that the young bird in the juvenile plumage 
is greenish in colour on the back and yellower underneath than the 
adult, a clear indication of the relationship between the two main 
types of Parus major and the fact that the Western birds must be 
considered the older and original type. 

This Tit appears to be double-brooded wherever found. In the 
Himalayas the breeding season is from the end of March to July : 
while in the Peninsula the breeding season is more extended, com- 
mencing in February and lasting until November, but it varies in 
different localities, and the majority everywhere lay before July. 

The nest is a large, shapeless mass of downy fur, cattle hair, 
feathers, and wool, with a foundation of grass roots and moss, the 
whole forming a soft pad with a saucer-like hollow for the eggs. 
The fur is often obtained from the droppings of carnivorse. It is 
placed in a hole of some kind, whether in a wall, bank, tree or rock, 
and sometimes in the old nest-hole of a Woodpecker or Barbet. On 
one occasion I found two nests built side by side touching under 
the coping-stone of a wall, with one and four eggs respectively, both 
apparently the property of the same bird. Similar cases have been 
reported of the Great and Blue Tits in England. Hume has recorded 
two instances in which the nest was built in the open on a branch of 
a tree, but this is very unusual. 

The normal clutch consists of four to six eggs. In shape they 
are a broad oval, somewhat elongated and pointed towards the small 
end, and have a faint gloss. In colour they are white, speckled and 
spotted with reddish-brown and pale purplish, these markings often 
tending to coalesce into a zone round the broad end. 

They measure about 0*70 by 0-54 inches. 



THE GREEN-BACKED TIT 21 



THE GREEN-BACKED TIT 

PARUS MONTICOLUS Vigors 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Tfye whole head, 
neck, breast, and a broad line down the centre of the abdomen 
glossy black : a conspicuous white patch on the cheek and a fainter 
one on the nape ; remainder of lower plumage deep yellow ; back 
greenish-yellow ; rump slaty-blue ; wings mixed slaty-blue and black 
with two white bars ; tail black and slaty-blue, edged and tipped 
with white. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs plumbeous-slate. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form ; the common Tit of all 
Himalayan hill stations. A typical Tit with white cheek-patch, 
black head and breast and abdominal band ; distinguished from the 
Grey Tit by the brighter coloration, greenish back instead of grey, 
yellow under parts instead of greyish- white. 

Distribution. The Green-backed Tit is found throughout the 
Himalayas, and also further eastwards through Manipur, Chittagong 
and the Chin Hills to Yunnan and Formosa. Its normal breeding 
zone lies between 5000 and 8000 feet, but a few may be met with 
up to 10,000 and even 12,000 feet ; during the winter numbers 
descend to the foot-hills below 4000 and a few even to the fringe 
of the plains beyond them. Apart from this seasonal altitudinal 
movement it is a resident species. All birds in our area belong to 
the typical race. 

Habits, etc. This bird resembles other Tits in being a forest- 
loving bird though it wanders a good deal and may be found in any 
type of country in the hills, cultivation or scrub -covered hill-side. 
While properly speaking arboreal it freely descends to undergrowth 
and to the ground. It is occasionally found in small flocks and 
parties, but is more usually found singly or in pairs, and one or 
more of these birds will invariably be found attached to the mixed 
hunting parties of small birds which are such a familiar feature of 
the Himalayan forests. 

The food consists chiefly of insects in their various stages and 
also of fruits, and it is less of a seed eater and less omnivorous than 
the Grey Tit. 

Although without a proper song, this bird has a number of not 
unmusical calls, which are amongst the most penetrating and familiar 
of the bird sounds in a Himalayan station. One note is described 
as a very loud four-syllable whistle which may be written ti-ti-tee-ti> 
the third syllable much prolonged. Its ordinary spring call at the 
commencement of the breeding season is a mewing whistle pheeow 

B2 



22 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

or pawee, while other calls may be syllabilised as peeweet or tweentwee 
and sit-here and teacher. But it must be remembered that most of 
the Tit family have a variety of very similar calls, hard to distinguish 
from one another. This species is very fond of water, bathing more 
regularly than most other Tits. 

Nidification begins in the latter half of March and most clutches 
of eggs will be found in April, though fresh eggs may be still found 
until June ; it is possible that some birds are double-brooded. 

The nest is a shapeless mass, with a hollow on top for the eggs, 
of soft downy fur and feathers with more or less moss by way of 
foundation. It is placed in a hole, either in a tree, wall, bamboo or 
even in a bank, though a hole in a wall is usually chosen. 

The clutch consists normally of six to eight eggs, though some- 
times as few as four eggs are laid. 

The eggs are moderately broad ovals, some almost symmetrical, 
others slightly pointed at one end. In colour they are white, almost 
without gloss, spotted, blotched, and speckled with different shades 
of red and brown ; the markings vary in quantity and intensity but 
tend to be most numerous towards the large end. The eggs of this 
species in a series will be found to be rather longer and more slender 
and more richly marked than those of the Grey Tit. 

In size they average about 0-72 by 0-52 inches. 



THE YELLOW-CHEEKED TIT 

MACHLOLOPHUS XANTHOGENYS (Vigors) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Crown and a long 
pointed crest, a line through the eye and a broad band from the 
chin to the vent glossy black ; a line over each eye to a patch on 
the hind neck, the cheeks and the sides of the body canary-yellow ; 
upper parts yellowish-green ; wings black, the small coverts spotted 
with pale yellow-white, the flight-feathers edged and variegated with 
blue-grey and white ; tail black, washed with blue-grey, the tips of 
all feathers and the outer edge of the outer feather white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs dark slaty-blue. 

Field Identification. A typical greenish and yellow Tit with a 
pointed black crest and a heavy black band down the centre of the 
lower parts ; distinguished from the Green-backed Tit by the crest 
and the yellow cheeks. Strictly arboreal and confined to well-wooded 
country, particularly hills. 

Distribution. This species is confined to India and is divided 
into three races. The typical form occurs in the Western Himalayas 
from Murree to Eastern Nepal, breeding in a zone between 5000 and 



PLATE II 




i. Spotted Munia. 
headed Tit. 
about ^ nat. size.) 



2. Red Avadavat. 3. Red-breasted Flycatcher. 4. Red- 
5. Indian Grey Tit. 6. Himalayan Tree-Creeper. (All 



\Fact ft. aa 



THE YELLOW-CHEEKED TIT 23 

7000 feet, though its distribution is somewhat capricious. M. x. 
aplonotus is found across the centre of the Peninsula from Mount 
Aboo and Mahabaleshwar to Parasnath Hill and the Krishna River. 
M. x. travancoreensis, a larger and duller bird, is confined to the 
Western Ghats and the neighbouring wooded areas from the South 
Konkan to the Asambo Hills. These two races are found at air 
elevations and differ from the typical race in having a shorter crest, 
the spots on the wing-coverts white instead of yellow, and the yellow 
parts of the plumage paler. In these two races the females have 
the black band on the lower plumage replaced with olive green, and 
in M. x. travancoreensis some females also have the crest olive-green. 




f ' 
FIG. 6 Yellow-cheeked Tit (g nat. size) 

Habits. The Yellow-cheeked Tit is a very sociable bird. Except 
when actually breeding it is found in small parties which are apt 
to attach themselves to the mixed hunting parties that are commonly 
found in the woods which they frequent. It is arboreal in habits, 
spending its life in an incessant hunt in the trees for the small insects 
and their eggs and larvae and the various seeds and fruits which 
form its food. Even the largest caterpillars are attacked and torn 
into pieces. Like many other birds it catches flying ants and feeds 
at the flowers of the cotton-tree. The call-notes are loud and joyous in 
tone, being very distinct from and more musical than those of other Tits. 
Those of the Himalayan race may be syllabilised as tyuji tyuja and again 
as teetweenh twit-teetweenh, while the breeding call is a loud towit towit. 
There is also a low jarring note and a chatter like that of the Grey Tit. 



24 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The Himalayan race breeds from April to June. The Continental 
races evidently breed a good deal later, from July to August or even 
September and October, though in the north of the Peninsula some 
pairs start in April. 

The nest is built in holes in trees at any height up to about 20 
feet. The hole may be a small natural cavity or one cut out by the 
birds themselves, a large hollow in a bough or the old nesting-hole 
of a Barbet or Woodpecker. The nest is the usual shapeless pad 
of the family, composed of a mass of wool and hair on a foundation 
of moss and other miscellaneous materials. It varies in size according 
to the circumstances of the hole. 

The usual clutch consists of four or five eggs. These vary in 
shape from elongated to rather broad ovals and have little or no 
gloss. The ground is white and they are moderately thickly speckled 
or spotted all over. Some of the spots are large and blotchy, and 
in some eggs the markings tend to collect at one end. 

The eggs measure about 0-70 by 0-52 inches. 



THE CRESTED BLACK TIT 

LOPHOPHANES MELANOLOPHUS (Vigors) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. The whole head 
including a long pointed crest, neck and breast black, except for a 
large white patch on the sides of the face and another on the nape ; 
upper plumage iron-grey, the exposed parts of the wings and tail 
paler ; two lines of rufous spots across the wing, and the inner 
flight-feathers slightly tipped with white ; lower plumage from the 
breast downwards iron-grey ; patches on the flanks and under the 
wings and tail chestnut. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs dark bluish-grey. 

Field Identification. Purely West Himalayan form, common at 
all hill stations. A small dark Tit with an erect-pointed crest and 
conspicuous white patches on nape and sides of the face. Usually 
found in flocks and in hunting parties in forest. The two lines of 
rufous spots across the wing provide the readiest means of separation 
from another larger and darker species (Lophophanes rufonuchalis) 
which is locally common throughout the whole length of the Himalayas. 

Distribution. The Crested Black Tit is found from the Sufed Koh 
and Chitral along the Himalayas to Garhwal and Naini Tal. It breeds 
in a somewhat high zone between 6000 and 12,000 feet but in winter 
descends also down to about 4000 feet, and even occasionally lower, 
for both the above species L. melanolophus and L. rufonuchalis were 



THE CRESTED BLACK TIT 25 

'found common at Rawal Pindi in January 1907. It is very common 
about Gulmurg, the Galis, Dharmsala, Kulu, and Simla. 

Habits, etc. This Tit is most markedly a forest bird and every 
variety of evergreen tree growth is frequented by it. It is always 
busy in the search for food, preferably high in some moss-grown oak 
or lordly pine, and the soft chee-chee note which forms a running 
accompaniment to all its activities will be heard long before its tiny 
owner is seen in the branches above one's head. Occasionally it feeds 
alone, but more usually two or three join together in a free-and-easy 
bond of companionship, while in winter these parties in turn join 
together in regular flocks numbering often as many as fifty birds. 
These flocks are frequently accompanied 
by Gold-crests, and in the area where this 
Tit occurs it is a leading spirit in all the 
mixed hunting parties. 

It is as active and acrobatic in its move- 
ments as the Red-headed Tit, and both of 
these birds easily surpass the heavier Grey 
and Green-backed Tits in this respect. The 
Crested Black Tit is seldom seen at rest, 
but when the first stirrings of the spring 
turn his thoughts towards a mate, he occa- 
sionally ceases from the hunt for food and 
betaking himself to some lofty twig he 
perches there and proclaims his ardour to FlG 7 _j-j ea( i O f Crested 
the world with a loud clear call, want you, Black Tit (\\ nat. size) 
need you, want you, need you, a sentiment 

that frequently finds an echo in the human heart below. There are 
a variety of other cheerful call-notes ; a favourite song-call is chak- 
cha-bink or kink-ka-jou and also a loud plaintive tyu-tyu slowly re- 
peated. The song is a whirring, reeling trill of the grasshopper type. 

The food consists chiefly of insects . 

The breeding season commences in March and the majority of eggs 
are laid early in April. Nests, however, may be found until June, 
and it is probable that there are sometimes two broods in the season. 

The nest is invariably built in a hole, either of a tree, rock, or 
wall, whether close to the ground or 30 feet up. In the hole a 
substantial foundation of moss obtained from adjacent tree-trunks 
is first collected so as to close in the cavity to a suitable size ; on 
this is built the nest proper which consists of a mass, large and 
shapeless or small and closely felted, of wool and fur, occasionally 
mingled with a little vegetable down and moss. 

The number of eggs is very variable from four to ten, but the 
usual clutch consists of six to eight eggs. 

The eggs are moderately broad ovals though somewhat longer in 




26 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

proportion than those of most Tits ; the ground-colour is white with 
a faint gloss, blotched, spotted, and speckled with bright brownish- 
red, the markings often tending to form a dense confluent cap or 
zone about the larger end of the egg. 

They measure about 0-61 by 0-47 inches. 



THE RED-HEADED TIT 
/EGITHALISCUS CONCINNUS (Gould) 

(Plate ii, Fig. 4, opposite page 22) 

Description. Length including tail 4 inches. Sexes alike. Whole 
top of the head chestnut ; sides of the head and a large round patch 
on the throat deep black ; a broad eyebrow, a broad moustachial 
streak, and the chin white ; remainder of lower plumage ferruginous. 
Upper plumage and wings and tail bluish-grey, the concealed portions 
of the quill-feathers dark brown, and the outer tail-feathers tipped 
with white. The tail is long and graduated. 

Iris pale yellow ; bill black, gape fleshy ; legs buffy-yellow. 

Field Identification. A diminutive Himalayan species invariably 
found in flocks in trees and bushes except when breeding ; very 
small, with a longish tail and most conspicuous head markings of bright 
chestnut, black and white ; no abdominal band. The flocks utter 
a low, harsh churring note. 

Distribution. The Red-headed Tit extends from Chitral and at 
x Cherat all through the Himalayas across the various ranges of Assam 
and Northern Burma into China. There are several races in the 
eastern portion of its range, but in India we are only concerned with 
two. JE. c. iredalei is found from Chitral eastwards to Sikkim, where it 
is replaced by the smaller and more deeply-coloured JE. c. rubricapittus. 
The former breeds at elevations between 5000 and 8,000 feet, occurring 
in smaller numbers up to 12,000 feet and as low as 3000 feet in winter ; 
the latter, however, does not go much above 7000 feet. A resident 
species. 

The Sultan-Tit (Melanochlora sultanea) is found in small parties 
in trees at low elevations in the Eastern Himalayas, Assam and Burma. 
It is larger than the true Tits, heavy in build and glossy blackish save 
for a bright yellow abdomen and crown with a loose crest. 

Habits, etc. This Tit is purely a hill species, and in the main 
occupies a middle zone intermediate between the foot-hills and the 
higher ranges. It is more strictly sedentary than most of the other 
members of the family, only an occasional party descending in winter 
a thousand feet or so lower than the normal zone. It never visits 



THE RED-HEADED TIT 27 

the ground, but is equally at home in the branches of high trees in 
thick forest or amongst the indigo and berberis bushes of open grass- 
clad hill-sides. 

The leading characteristic of this species is its fussy sociability. 
Throughout the year it is found in small flocks, and though while 
actually breeding individual pairs leave the company of their fellows, 
flocks may be met with throughout the breeding season, consisting 
either of late breeders who have not yet settled their domestic 
arrangements, or early family parties of young birds strong on the 
wing. As they feed they utter incessantly a soft gentle tcheck or a 
harsh trree, both notes alternating. And even their own society is 
not sufficient for these sociable little birds ; the parties attach them- 
selves to the mixed bands of Creepers, Willow- Wrens, Flycatchers, 
and other species of Tit which wander through the hill forests, 
suddenly filling with busy activity a glen or group of trees that a 
moment before was empty of bird-life. In these hunting parties 
the Red-headed Tit takes a leading and conspicuous share ; it 
is very active and very fussy, and at the least excitement its harsh 
churring note of defiance and of warning is uttered and taken up by a 
dozen throats ; while its acrobatic feats surpass those of all the other 
species, except perhaps the Crested Black Tit. It investigates every 
leaf and twig, now circling adroitly round its perch, now hanging 
upside down any angle, any position, all are the same inaction 
only is abhorrent to it. The parties are strangely trusting ; one 
has only to stand still and the little gymnasts will climb and 
chatter in a bush a yard away, feeding with no apparent recognition 
of the stranger at their gates ; then a sudden movement on his part 
or a note of warning from a bird and the flock will vanish as quickly 
as it came, like a little flight of arrows sped in relays by a fairy archer 
through the bushes. They seldom venture into the open, and then 
only for short flights between two clumps of trees. The flight is 
weak and practically never sustained for more than a few yards at 
a time, though when disturbed from the nest this bird can fly down- 
hill as fast as any Warbler for a short distance. The food consists 
almost entirely of insects in their various stages, but small seeds and 
fruits are also probably eaten. 

The breeding season commences about the beginning of March 
and continues throughout April and May. The nest is placed in a 
variety of situations ranging from a tangle of matted grass near the 
ground to the bough of a deodar 40 feet up. But the majority will 
be found in stunted hill-oaks and bushes within easy reach, though 
seldom conspicuous. The nests are most beautiful structures, very 
closely resembling and recalling the familiar " bottle " nests of the 
Long-tailed Tit in England. They are large, upright, egg-shaped 
structures of moss and lichen, studded and bound together with 



28 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

cotton-down, cobwebs and similar substances, some 4^ inches in 
height and 3^ inches in diameter, with a small entrance high on 
one side. The walls are thick and closely woven, and there is a 
dense lining of feathers mixed sometimes with seed- down, the whole 
forming as cosy a home as it is possible to imagine. 

The eggs vary in number from three to eight, but the usual clutch 
consists of five or six. 

The tiny eggs are broad ovals, sometimes almost globular, and 
sometimes somewhat pointed at one end. In colour they are pinkish 
or creamy white, almost without gloss, and round the broad end 
there is a conspicuous zone of minute reddish and purple spots almost 
confluent and clouding into one another. 

They measure about 0-56 by 0-45 inches. 



THE CHESTNUT-BELLIED NUTHATCH 

SlTTA CASTANEA LeSSOn 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Upper plumage slaty-blue, 
lower plumage uniform dark chestnut-bay, except for the following 
markings : a black streak through the eye from the nostril to the 
shoulder ; a white patch from the chin below the eye to the ear- 
coverts ; middle tail-feathers ashy-blue, the next two black, with 
ashy-blue tips and edges, the remainder black with white markings ; 
under tail-coverts mixed chestnut and ashy ; under surface of the 
wings black with a white patch only visible from below. 

Female : Under parts paler chestnut, and the white face markings 
less clearly defined. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black, slaty-grey at base ; legs dark greenish- 
plumbeous. 

The hind toe is greatly developed and the inner front toe dwarfed. 
The beak is long, stout and pointed. 

Field Identification. A small bird, slaty-blue above, chestnut-bay 
below, with a heavy pointed beak. Purely arboreal, running like a 
mouse about the bark and twigs of trees, frequently upside-down. 
Most Nuthatches appear very similar in the field. Of common 
species the Himalayan (Sitta himalayensis) and Kashmir (Sitta 
cashmirensis) Nuthatches are much paler, more fulvous below, the 
former differing from all Indian species in a white patch on the 
central tail-feathers. A more conspicuous species the White-cheeked 
Nuthatch (Sitta leucopsis) is found in the higher tree zone of the 
Sufed Koh and Western Himalayas. This is dark blue above with 
a black crown and creamy-white below with rich chestnut on the 



THE CHESTNUT-BELLIED NUTHATCH 29 

flanks and has a very harsh loud note rapidly repeated. Its habitat 
in rocky nullahs amply identifies the large Rock-Nuthatch (S. iranica) 
of Baluchistan, remarkable for its globular mud nest on a rock. 

Distribution. The Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch has a somewhat 
wide distribution throughout India, Assam, and Burma to Siam. 
It is divided into races, of which we are concerned with four. 
Except for the Vizagapatam Hills where S. c. prateri is found, the 
typical race inhabits the plains of India from Ferozepore, Ambala, 
and Khandesh on the west to Calcutta on the east. It is also found 
in the Wynaad and about the base of the Nilgiris. An east (S. c. 
cinnamoventris) and a West Himalayan race (S. c. almorce) have 




FIG. 8 Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch ( nat. size) 



heavier bills and differ in slight details of coloration. A resident 
species. 

Habits, etc. The habits of this species are typical of all the 
Nuthatches. They share with Woodpeckers and Tree - Creepers 
the ability to climb about the trunks and branches of trees in 
order to search the crevices of the bark for the insects and larvae 
that live there secure from the attentions of most insect-feeding 
birds ; but the Nuthatches are by far the most skilful climbers of 
the three classes ; they do not need the support of their taik against 
the bark, and they are infinitely more agile and lively in consequence, 
able to climb in any direction upwards, downwards, upside-down or 
sideways, and they are also able to perch on twigs in the normal 
passerine manner. They are very restless and hard-working. This 
species is purely arboreal and is found singly or in parties, often 
in company with mixed hunting parties, and keeps largely to the 
tops of the highest or oldest trees ; it is more often heard than 



30 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

seen, as in addition to its sharp note the sound of hammering on 
bark and on seeds and nuts, as it breaks into their kernels, betrays 
its whereabouts. 

The main breeding season of the Himalayan races is in April and 
May, and of the typical race in February and March. All races 
nest in holes and hollows of trees, and the hill birds also use holes 
in walls. A Nuthatch's nest may always be recognised by the habit 
of plastering the entrance and sides of the hole with mud and clay 
to adapt it to the needs of the bird, such plaster- work sometimes 
being of considerable extent. In holes of trees the nest is usually 
scanty, consisting largely of flaky material like slips of bark or the 
seed-cases of trees, but in the case of nests built in holes in walls the 
nest is a much more substantial affair including a moss foundation 
and a lining of fur. The nest site is often close to the ground, and 
even when robbed is frequently repaired and used again immediately. 

The clutch varies from two to six eggs. The eggs greatly resemble 
those of Tits ; they are regular broad ovals, fragile and fine in texture 
with very little gloss. The ground-colour is pure white and the mark- 
ings consist of small spots and speckles of brick-red and reddish-lilac. 

In size they average about 0-70 by 0-55 inches. 

The word Nuthatch is believed to be a corruption of an older 
name Nuthack. 



THE VELVET-FRONTED NUTHATCH 

SITTA FRONTALIS (Swainson) 
(Frontispiece, fig. 4) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : A broad band across the 
forehead and a narrow streak above the eye to the nape velvet-black ; 
the whole upper plumage and wing-coverts blue ; wing black, the 
individual feathers more or less edged with blue ; middle tail-feathers 
blue, the others blackish edged and tipped with blue ; ear-coverts 
lilac ; chin and throat whitish shading into the greyish-lilac of the 
rest of the under parts. 

The female is similar to the male but lacks the narrow black 
eye-streak. 

Iris lemon-yellow ; bill coral-red, tipped above with brownish ; 
mouth coral-red ; legs brown with an orange tinge. 

The hind toe is greatly developed and the bill narrow and pointed. 
The body has the same smell as a Woodpecker. 

Field Identification. Outer Himalayas and Peninsular India. A 
small bird blue above and greyish-lilac below with a heavy velvet- 
black band across the forehead and a coral-red bill. Arboreal in 



THE VELVET-FRONTED NUTHATCH 31 

habits, running like a mouse about the trunks and branches of trees 
in hill forest areas. 

Distribution. The Velvet-fronted Nuthatch has two races in our 
area. The typical race is found in Ceylon and in the Indian Peninsula 
south of a line from Khandesh, the Central Provinces and Chota 
Nagpur, being largely confined to the forests of the Eastern and 
Western Ghats. It is particularly common in the Nilgiris. A slightly 
smaller race S. f. corallina is found along the submontane valleys 
of the Himalayas up to about 3800 feet from Dehra Dun eastwards, 
in the hills and plains of Assam up to about 4000 feet and throughout 
the whole of Burma up to about 5500 feet. This species is also found 
through the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo to Java. A strictly 
resident species. 

Habits. The habits of this species are similar to those of other 
Nuthatches and like them it is often found in the mixed hunting 
parties. The Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is one of the most active birds 
imaginable, for ever on the move, nimbly running up and down and 
round the trunks of trees, climbing the moss-covered branches, 
descending head-foremost and running upside down along the lower 
surface of a bough. It does not, as a rule, remain long in one tree 
but darts quickly on from one to another, followed by its companions 
for they are usually found in pairs or parties of four or five individuals 
and alights with a trilling little note which although comparatively 
weak is audible at a considerable distance. This note which is variously 
described as a sharp chick chick chick, rapidly repeated, or a loud 
cheeping whistle is constantly uttered and is one of the latest diurnal 
bird-calls to be heard in the forest, frequently well after dusk. The 
male also utters a short little warble. 

This Nuthatch may be found on occasion in most types of forest 
but is essentially a bird of the evergreen forest, though it has a decided 
preference for the edges of clearings and light patches. Dead trees 
are a favourite hunting ground. It may often be seen running along 
fallen logs or over small dead wood lying on the ground and sometimes 
it even forages in brushwood. Usually, however, it will be seen in 
trees and no tree is too high for it, so that the ear will often announce 
its presence in the head of some lofty giant where the eye has difficulty 
in picking up its tiny shape. 

The food consists exclusively of insects. 

The main breeding season gf the Himalayan race is in May and 
June, but in South India and Ceylon the season is from the middle 
of February until May. The nest is built in a hole in a tree at any 
height from the ground up to about 40 feet but most nests will be 
found below 20 feet. The hole chosen is usually a small natural 
one, but the deserted nest-holes of Woodpeckers and Barbets are also 
used ; and where necessary the entrance hole is modified with plaster- 



32 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

work after the manner of other Nuthatches. The nest is a substantial 
pad of moss, green or dry, which is lined with fur and includes a 
good many feathers, both amongst the moss and in the lining. 

The clutch consists of three to five eggs, which are very similar 
to those of the Tits. They are broad ovals, rather compressed towards 
the small end, fine and compact in texture but devoid of gloss. The 
ground-colour is white and the markings consist of blotches, speckles 
and spots of brick-dust red and somewhat pale purple, sometimes 
gathered in a sort of irregular zone round the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0*65 by 0*50 inches. 



THE WHITE-THROATED LAUGHING-THRUSH 

GARRULAX ALBOGULARIS (Gould) 
(Plate v, Fig. i, opposite page 88) 

Description. Length 12 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
greyish olive-brown, the forehead fulvous, and a black mark in front 
of and below the eye ; throat and upper breast pure white, sharply 
defined and bordered broadly with the colour of the upper parts 
which gradually shades off into the bright rufous of the rest of the 
lower plumage ; four outer pairs of tail-feathers broadly tipped with 
white. 

The tail is rounded and full. 

Iris bluish-grey ; bill horny-black ; mouth yellow ; legs slaty- 
plumbeous. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form. Medium-sized olive-grey 
bird with rufous belly, and conspicuous shining white throat patch. 
Found in noisy parties in heavy jungle ; presence first revealed by a 
curious hissing note. 

Distribution. Throughout the Himalayas from Hazara to Sikkim, 
and in South-west China. The Himalayan birds are divided into 
two races. G. a. whistleri is the better known form and extends from 
the Hazara country to about Eastern Nepal, being particularly common 
at Mussoorie and is very numerous round Naini Tal but rather less so 
about Simla. The typical form is more brightly coloured with more 
rufous in the plumage and is slightly smaller. It is found in Nepal and 
Sikkim and in North Cachar. Both forms are birds of middle 
elevations, occurring from about 5000 to 9000 feet. A resident 
species. 

The closely related White-crested Laughing-Thrush (Garrulax 
leucolophus) common along the Himalayas from Garhwal eastwards 
is easily recognised by its white-crested head and black band through 



THE WHITE-THROATED LAUGHING-THRUSH 33 

the eye. In the Eastern Himalayas the Black-gorgetted Laughing- 
Thrush (Garrulax pectoralis), an olive-brown and fulvous bird with a 
marked black gorget band, is remarkable in having a smaller counter- 
part the Necklaced Laughing-Thrush (Garrulax moniliger). Both are 
common in the same localities, often joining in a mixed flock. The 
only member of this genus found in Southern India is the Wynaad 
Laughing-Thrush (Garrulax delesserti\ which is peculiar to the hill 
ranges from North Kanara to Travancore. 

Habits, etc. This large Laughing-Thrush is a very sedentary 
species and does not move much from its chosen haunts, which 
consist of heavy forest in the deeper and more secluded ravines. 
In such places it lives in large parties which do not entirely break 
up even in the breeding season. They feed a good deal on the 
ground, turning up the dead leaves in search of insects, but they are 
perhaps more often seen up in the trees, searching the crevices of 
the bark and tearing off the lumps of moss which grow on most of 
the oKler trees in the areas that they frequent. 

While thus feeding they keep' up a low murmuring note, teh. 
tehy irresistibly reminiscent of a flock of Tits, though of course 
louder. At the least provocation this is changed into a discordant 
concert of noisy screaming, hissing and chattering, some of their 
calls being of a peculiarly eerie timbre and suited to the gloomy 
surroundings in which they are uttered. In fact there is something 
peculiarly ghostly about these birds, as a flock of them move about 
in the shady recesses of the forest, their white gorgets shining 
conspicuously as erratically moving spots of light and their weird 
voices breaking in upon the silence. Though not particularly shy 
they soon vanish if disturbed, slipping away one by one up the trees 
from branch to branch, and so on up the hill-side with some rapidity. 

The breeding season lasts from the beginning of April to the 
end of June, some birds nesting until August. The nest is a large 
wide cup, not as a rule very deep, and is made of coarse grass, 
creepers, dead leaves, moss, and roots, with usually a lining of fern 
and moss roots. It is built in a bush or small tree, usually about 3 
to 10 feet from the ground, and the usual situation is at the end of 
a bough or between two or three upright shoots on low, horizontal 
branches. 

The clutch varies from two to four eggs, but the normal number 
is three. 

The eggs are long and fairly pointed ovals with a high gloss 
They vary from a deep dull blue to a deep intense greenish-blue, 
and are darker than the eggs of all other Babblers and Laughing- 
Thrushes. They are without markings. 

In size they average about 1-22 by 0-83 inches. 



34 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE RED-HEADED LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON ERYTHROCEPHALUM (Vigors) 

Description. Length n inches. Sexes alike. Upper surface of 
head chestnut ; sides of head and throat black, mixed below and 
behind the eye with chestnut ; lower plumage pale fulvous, lightly 
scaled with black on the throat and breast ; upper plumage olive- 
brown scaled with black about the shoulders ; rump slaty-grey ; wings 
and tail ashy, the feathers brightly edged with golden olive-yellow ; 
a bright ferruginous bar across the wing and behind it a patch of 
golden-red. 

Iris pale brown ; bill black ; legs pale brown. 

The tail is rather long and full. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form. The chestnut crown, 
spotted neck and gilded wings and tail are not conspicuous in the 
forest where the bird appears nondescript in colour ,with a ver/ dark 
head and neck. Very shy, found in thick undergrowth in parties 
which utter a peculiar murmuring note. 

Mention may here be made of the Rufous-necked Laughing- 
Thrush (Dryonastes ruficollis), common along the base of the Eastern 
Himalayas, a dusky-looking bird with chestnut patches on the sides 
of the neck and under the tail. The Rufous-chinned Laughing- 
Thrush (lanthocincla rufogularis), found in the lower Himalayan 
ranges, is rich olive-brown and grey squamated with black. 

Distribution. This fine Laughing-Thrush is widely distributed 
along the Himalayas and in the various mountain ranges which 
extend from them down to the south of Tenasserim. It is divided 
into a number of geographical races, which in several cases are very 
distinct. Two of these concern us. The typical race is common 
in the Western Himalayas from Chamba on the west into Nepal. 
It breeds from about 6000 tc 9000 feet, and in winter works down- 
hill to about 4000 feet. Eastwards of Nepal to the Daphla and 
Miri Hills in Assam it is replaced by T. e. nigrimentum, in which 
the ear-coverts are black with pinkish-white edges ; this race is 
found at similar elevations to the other. Apart from altitudinal 
movements both birds are residents. 

Habits, etc. The Red - headed Laughing - Thrush is a very 
common bird in well-forested areas where there is plenty of under- 
growth. It is, however, very shy and secretive and is therefore 
little known to the majority of people, though once its various 
notes have been learnt evidence of its abundance is surprising. 
In the breeding season a loud, clear, double whistle, pheeou-pheeou, 
a familiar sound in all the thicker forests, is its ordinary call. This 
is easily imitated and the bird readily called up. This ceases in 



THE RED-HEADED LAUGHING-THRUSH 35 

winter, but the presence of a party in the undergrowth is revealed 
as one passes along a path by a soft murmur, curious but 
distinctly pleasant. If a nest is examined the pair that own 
it work backwards and forwards in the bushes a few yards away 
but always evading observation, and as they fuss and flirt their long 
tails, bowing, bobbing, jerking from side to side, now on one bough, 
now on another, they keep up an incessant squeaky murmuring, 
chicky-cree-cree-cree-cree, or a harsh, low chatter, queer-que^ queer-quee, 
very difficult to describe. Rarely the birds come out into the open, 
but when they do so it is only to flutter and skim back into the nearest 
cover at the slightest excuse. 

The nesting season is extended from May to August. The 
breeding zone is that of the Oaks, Q. dilatata and Q. semicarpifolia, 
or say between 8000 and 9000 feet. The nest is a large massive cup 
composed largely of dead leaves bound round with grass and bents, 
fine twigs and long strips of fibrous bark till a very solid wall has 
been made ; moss and maidenhair enter also in the construction and 
the egg cavity is lined with fine grass and fine roots. 

The clutch usually consists of three eggs. These are very long 
ovals, fine and compact in texture with a slight gloss. The ground- 
colour is delicate, pale greenish-blue, with a few spots, streaks, and 
blotches of brownish-red, mostly towards the broad end. 

The eggs measure about 1-2 by 0-82 inches. 



THE VARIEGATED LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON VARIEGATUM (Vigors) 
(Plate hi, Fig. i, opposite page 44) 

Description. Length n inches. Sexes alike. Forehead at base 
of beak fulvous shading into the ashy olive-brown of the whole upper 
plumage ; sides of the face black, broken with a certain amount of 
white behind the eye ; chin and throat fulvous with a black mark 
down the centre ; lower plumage similar to the upper but paler and 
gradually changing into bright tawny-buff posteriorly. Wings brightly 
variegated with black, white and grey, and bright golden-yellow or red. 

Tail rather long and full ; the middle four pairs of tail-feathers 
black for three-quarters of their length, then ashy-grey or ashy-yellow 
and tipped with white ; the other feathers ashy on the inner webs, 
golden or reddish yellow on the outer and tipped with white. 

Iris sage green ; bill black ; legs pale fleshy-brown, claws dusky. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form, found in forest areas ; a 
dull-coloured bird, chiefly conspicuous for black and white markings 
on the face. Shy and elusive, but rather noisy ; generally in parties. 



36 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Distribution. The Variegated Laughing-Thrush is found on the 
Samana and in the Himalayas from Chitral and Gilgit to Nepal. It 
is divided into two races. The meeting ground of these two races is 
about Chamba and Dharmsala. The Eastern and typical race, common 
in the Simla Hills, breeds mainly at higher elevations than the Red- 
headed Laughing-Thrush. The silver fir, birch and rhododendron 
forests at from 9000 to 11,000 feet constitute the breeding area, but 
the two species sometimes overlap in the breeding season in the zone 
of the high level oak. In this race the outer webs of the wing and tail- 
feathers are very variable in colour, ranging from bright golden-yellow 
to crimson. In the Western form, T. v. simile, which is very common 
in the Galis and about Murree, these outer webs are pure french- 
grey and do not vary. This is a forest-loving bird, of high elevations, 
breeding in a zone between 6000 and 11,000 feet ; it is not a migrant, 
but in winter the majority move somewhat downhill and may then 
be found at any height from 4000 feet upwards. 

Habits, etc. Steep hill-sides covered with dense undergrowth 
are the haunts of this bird, and preferably those slopes where the 
undergrowth is further shaded and rendered secluded by the presence 
of large trees. In such situations the Variegated Laughing-Thrush 
is found in small parties or even in flocks numbering about twenty 
individuals, whose presence is betrayed by their noisy behaviour. 
The call-note of the species is a loud clear whistle pitt-zve-weer, 
frequently repeated and ascending in scale, but in addition to this 
it has a variety of squeaky notes in a chattering slightly querulous 
tone ; a curious sort of drumming note is also occasionally uttered. 

The ordinary demeanour of the bird is fairly bold, but as soon as 
it has reason to suspect the presence of danger it becomes very shy 
and active, skulking in the thickest of the undergrowth, or hopping 
rapidly and silently up the branches of some tree, from the top of 
which it plunges into further cover. It appears to visit the ground 
but seldom, though often in the undergrowth close to it. In Lahul, 
where cover is scarce, the Western form simile which occurs there 
is found in the willow groves taking shelter in the thick-pollarded 
heads of the trees. The food consists both of fruits and berries and 
of insects. 

The breeding season lasts from April to July, most eggs being 
laid in May and June. The nest is a large, massive and rather deep 
cup composed of coarse grass, dry stems and fibres, mixed with a 
few dry leaves ; it is lined with fine grass, roots, or pine-needles. It 
is placed in bush undergrowth or more usually up in some tree, 
preferably a fir, often at a considerable height from the ground. 
Both sexes incubate the eggs. 

The clutch consists normally of two or three eggs but rarely four 
or five are laid ; in shape they are rather long ovals, with a fine texture 



THE NILGIRI LAUGHING-THRUSH 37 

and slight gloss. The ground-colour is a pale rather dingy greenish- 
blue, and the markings consist of blotches, spots, and freckles of 
liver-red and various shades of brown and purple ; the markings 
are generally collected towards the larger end. 
They measure about i-n by 0-78 inches. 



THE NILGIRI LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON CACHINNANS (Jerdon) 
(Plate iv, Fig. 4, opposite page 66) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. A broad white line 
over the eye, bordered above by a narrow black line and below by a 
black line through the eye ; forehead and chin also black ; whole 
upper plumage, wings, and tail olive-brown, the crown narrowly 
scaled with black, and the back of the head suffused with ashy; 
whole under surface bright rufous, duller on the flanks and 
posteriorly. 

Iris red ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Only in Nilgiris ; a dull-coloured bird, olive- 
brown above, rufous below, with black and white markings on the 
face ; noisy and shy, in parties in heavy undergrowth. 

Distribution. Confined to the Nilgiris at elevations over 4500 feet. 
A resident species. A very similar species (Trochalopteron jerdoni) is 
represented by three hill races which are common respectively in the 
Brahmagherries (T. j. jerdoni), North Travancore (T. j. fairbanki) and 
South Travancore (T.j. meridionale). 

Habits, etc. This Laughing-Thrush is extremely common in the 
Nilgiris at all the higher elevations, as for instance at Coonoor and 
Kotagherry. It is found, like most of the genus, in parties which live 
in dense undergrowth and spend a large portion of their time on the 
ground searching for insects and fallen berries. It is particularly 
partial to the berries of the Brazil or Peruvian cherry, which has 
been introduced in the Nilgiris in recent times. This bird merits 
more than most of the family the title of Laughing-Thrush ; there 
is something peculiarly human about the tones of its voice, and its 
call is certainly a laugh a most " maniacal laugh " according to 
Hume. In demeanour the bird is very shy and evades observation. 

The breeding season lasts from February to June. 

The nest is a deep cup composed of fine twigs, moss, grass, dead 
leaves, and similar substances, and it is lined with moss roots, fibres, 
fine grass, wool, and fur. It is placed in the fork of a bush or tree 
at any height from the ground up to about 12 feet. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. They are moderately 
broad ovals, somewhat pointed towards the small end, and of fine 

C2 



38 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

texture with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is a delicate pale blue 
which is speckled and blotched, rather sparingly, with reddish- or 
pinkish-brown, a few eggs having also blackish-brown spots and hair- 
lines, often rather cloudy at the edges. 

The egg measures about i-o by 0-75 inches. 



THE STREAKED LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON LINEATUM (Vigors) 

(Plate iii, Fig. 5, opposite page 44) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Hoary-grey, more 
or less streaked throughout with reddish-brown, the shafts of the 
feathers being particularly conspicuous ; ear-coverts, wings and tail 
bright reddish-brown, the tail with obsolete rayed markings, and each 
feather tipped with greyish-white, defined interiorly by a black 
line. 

Iris brown ; bill dusky, base of lower mandible steely-horn ; feet 
fleshy-brown, claws livid-horny. 

Field Identification. Familiar garden bird in the Himalayas ; a 
smallish bird with a broad floppy tail ; grey and chestnut in colour, 
with pale streaking, appearing dark brown at any distance ; skulks like 
a rat amongst low bush growth ; movements jerky ; utters a variety 
of squeaky notes. It must not be confused with the Striated Laughing- 
Thrush (Grammoptila striata), a bird of very similar appearance but 
larger and more arboreal, found throughout the Himalayas from Simla 
eastwards. 

Distribution. The Streaked Laughing-Thrush is found from the 
mountains of North Baluchistan to Chitral and Gilgit and thence 
along the whole of the Himalayas to Bhutan. Within this range it 
has been divided into five geographical races. Starting from the 
west, the Baluchistan bird, common at Ziarat, is known as T. L 
ziaratensis. In Gilgit, Chitral and Northern Kashmir the race is 
termed T. L gilgit, and this in turn gives place in Southern Kashmir 
to the typical race T. I. lineatum, which extends through the Punjab 
Himalayas to Garhwal and Kumaon. The Nepal and Sikkim birds 
are known as T. L setafer, while the Bhutan bird has been separated 
as T. 1. imbricatum. These races merely differ amongst themselves 
in degree of coloration both of the feathers and of their shafts. A 
resident species. 

Habits, etc. This familiar bird breeds throughout the hill ranges 
that it inhabits between about 5000 and 10,000 feet, occasionally 
ascending even a little higher. While not a migrant in any sense of 



THE STREAKED LAUGHING-THRUSH 39 

the word, it tends to drift downhill during the winter months and then 
may be met with down to about 3000 feet and sometimes lower, as 
at Kohat. It may be described as a bird of the undergrowth, and 
provided that it has tangles of rank grass, thick bushes, or rocks 
combined with herbage in which to thread its secretive way, it is 
indifferent whether these are situated on open hill-sides or in the 
midst of heavy forest. 

About the hill stations of the Western Himalayas, from the 
Galis and Kashmir across to Naini Tal and Almora, it is one of 
the most familiar of the station birds, living in the gardens and 
attracting attention by its chattering antics, and along the forest 
roads coming to notice by shuffling across the roads and up the 
bank sides in front of passers-by ; in Lahul it even intrudes into 
the courtyards of houses. Further east it is much scarcer, and on 
its status there would not merit inclusion in this work. 

This dull-coloured Laughing-Thrush lives both in pairs and in 
small parties of four or five individuals. The greater part of its life 
is lived within a height of 5 or 6 feet from the ground and it is 
practically never away from thick cover. It shuffles freely about on 
the ground after the manner of a large Hedge- Sparrow, working 
amongst the undergrowth and climbing up into the bushes ; 
occasionally it is inspired with ambition and climbs from the bushes 
jnto thick and handy trees ; but so ingrained is its parasitic devotion 
to Mother Earth that if it desires to proceed from one tree to 
another it will not fly across the open, parachuting on open wings to 
its foot like other Laughing-Thrushes ; but it hastily drops from the 
first tree to the ground and thence works " in rushes, taking cover " 
to the base of the second tree and climbs it afresh. A party moving 
along or up and down the hill-side has the same tactics ; one by one 
the individuals composing it " dribble " from cover to cover, now 
hopping rapidly along the ground for a yard or two, then feebly 
fluttering for another stretch. An extended flight must be virtually 
unknown to the bird. Yet with all these skulking ways and excess 
of caution it is in no sense shy until molested, and one may pass 
along a hill-path a yard or two away from an individual sitting on 
the hill-side and it will not bother to leave. In a bush it dips and 
bows, turning this way and that and incessantly flirting the heavy 
tail, as it utters a series of harsh squeaky notes chit-chit-chitrr, chit-chit- 
chitrr, chicker-chicker or witti-kitti-cree, or a soft murmuring churring 
note crrer-r. 

The call-note is a loud, clear whistle pitt-wee-are or titty-titty-we- 
are much like that of other Laughing-Thrushes. This miscellaneous 
assortment of chattering squeaks together with the rustling of leaves 
usually indicate the presence of a party in cover where they are quite 
invisible ; and these are amongst the most familiar bird sounds of 



40 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the Western hill stations. The food is the usual mixture of insects, 
seeds, and small fruits common to most of the family. 

The breeding season is very extended, and the bird is probably 
double-brooded. Eggs have been taken in every month from March 
to September, but most nests will be found in May and June. On 
the nest the bird sits very close, almost allowing itself to be caught. 

The nest is a large, solid structure of dry grass, stems of 
herbaceous plants, fibrous shreds of bark, dead leaves, and similar 
materials. It is nearly circular, with a deep cup-like cavity jn the 
centre, and this is neatly lined with fine grass roots, pine-needles or 
fine grass. It is always well concealed, and is placed in a thick 
branch of a tree, preferably perhaps a deodar, in a thick bush, or 
in heavy herbage on a steep bank ; but it is very seldom higher than 
5 or 6 feet from the ground and usually lower than that. On one 
occasion in Simla I found a nest owing to the strange choice of the 
birds in lining material. There was a coir doormat at the dining- 
/oom door leading into the verandah ; and as we sat at lunch the 
birds kept coming and tearing fibres out of the mat in spite of the 
fact that the servants waiting on us were continuously passing 
backwards and forwards through the door. 

Two to four eggs are laid, but the normal clutch consists of three 
eggs. 

The eggs are regular and moderately broad ovals,' with a slight 
gloss and a very smooth satiny texture. In colour they are a perfectly 
spotless, delicate, pale greenish-blue, of the tint usually known as 
" Hedge-Sparrow blue." 

In size they average about i-oo by 0-73 inches. 

The nests of this species are often selected for the eggs of the 
Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus) and occasionally the Pied Crested 
Cuckoo ( Clamator jacobinus) . 



THE JUNGLE BABBLER 

TURDOIDES SOMERVILLEI (Sykes) 
(Plate x, Fig. 5, opposite page 198) 

Descriptwn.Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage dull earth-brown marked with paler and darker tints of 
the same ; tail broad and full, slightly tipped with white and faintly 
cross-rayed ; lower plumage paler, mixed fulvous and ashy. 

Iris pale yellowish white ; bill flesh-coloured, gape yellowish ; 
feet fleshy-white or yellowish-white. 

Field Identification. Found in noisy squeaking parties, usually 
on or close to the ground ; a moderate-sized dirty-looking brown 



THE JUNGLE BABBLER 41 

bird with a pale yellowish eye and a broad longish tail ; all plumage 
very loose and untidy. One of the best -known birds of India. 

Distribution. The Jungle Babbler is found throughout the whole 
of the Peninsula of India from the Salt Range and Kohat in the 
north-west along the foot of the Himalayas to about the valley of 
the Brahmaputra in the north-east. It is divided into five races. 

T. s. sindianus is a particularly pale race found in the Punjab and 
Sind down to Mount Aboo. T. s. terricolor is found throughout 
north and east India within a line drawn roughly through Meerut, 
Agra, Saugor, and Hyderabad to the Godavari delta. The typical 
race with a rufous tail is confined to a strip of the western coast 
from Bombay and Matheran to Kanara, below that grading into the 
dark T. s. malabaricus of Cochin and Travancore. A paler and 
greyer race, T. s. ortentalis, occupies the rest of Southern India. A 
strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. In the Jungle Babbler we have one of the few 
Indian birds which possesses a recognised popular name in both 
English and Hindustani, in both cases due to the social habits of 
the species. The vernacular name is " Sathbhai," the Seven Brethren, 
while in English for some reason (possibly their loquacity), the birds 
change their gender and become the " Seven Sisters." It is often 
wrongly assumed in consequence that the parties always consist of 
seven birds ; but " sath " is only a reflection of the phrase " panch 
sath " (5 or 7), an approximate phrase like " half a dozen." 

This bird is found throughout the plains and the hill ranges up 
to about 4000 feet in the north and higher in the south, but it is 
usually scarce both in thick forest and in wet marshy country. In 
the more desert portions of Sind and Rajputana it does not occur. 
With these exceptions it is found in all types of country, and 
apparently having a decided preference for the neighbourhood of 
man it is a common bird in gardens both in towns and out in the 
mofussil. 

As indicated above, the Jungle Babbler is an eminently gregarious 
species, even to the extent that the parties in which it goes about do 
not break up in the breeding season. A sitting bird has only to be 
disturbed from its nest and the outcry that it invariably makes at 
once brings to the spot the other members of its clan. For in sorrow 
and in joy these Babblers are not divided ; nor are they quiet. 
Although trees are a necessity for them, for when disturbed they 
immediately fly up into the branches, they feed for the most part on 
the ground, turning over dead leaves with incessant industry, all the 
while moving with a clumsy, hopping gait. As they do so they keep 
up a muttered concert of low remarks which at the slightest excite- 
ment break into a chorus of noisy, squeaking calls that aptly express 
their hysterical temperaments. Yet they are brave birds also, and 



42 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

at* once rally to the support of any one of their number that is in 
difficulties, attacking his assailant. Although not in this respect 
quite as strong as the Large Grey Babbler (Argya malcolmi) they 
generally succeed in rescuing any of their party that falls into the 
clutches of the smaller hawks, who indeed treat them with respect. 
The captured bird grasps the assailant with its big, strong feet, and 
the remainder of the party fall on the latter pell-mell in a noisy, 
struggling mass till he is glad to let go his promised meal and decamp 
with the best grace possible. The flight is clumsy and ill-sustained, 
this species having the family habit of flying one by one for short 
distances from cover to cover. 

The breeding season commences at the end of March and continues 
into September. The majority of nests, however, contain fresh eggs 
in the first week after the setting-in of the rains, which varies according 
to locality and season from ist June to the i5th July. 

The nest is built in thick bushes or small trees at almost any 
height from the ground, though most will be found 4 to 10 feet up. 
Thorn trees are commonly selected, and the nest is usually not 
particularly well concealed. It is a fairly deep cup, sometimes small 
and compact, but more usually rather loosely put together, of grass 
stems and roots. The lining consists of finer roots and occasionally 
of horse-hair. 

The full clutch consists of three or four eggs. 

The eggs are usually rather broad ovals, somewhat compressed 
at one end, of fine smooth texture with a high gloss. The colour is 
" Hedge-Sparrow blue," varying from a pale shade to a deep intense 
colour in different eggs. There are no markings. 

The egg measures about i-oi by 0*78 inches. 

This bird is a favourite foster-parent for the Pied Crested Cuckoo 
(Clamator jacobinus) and the Common Hawk Cuckoo (Hierococcyx 
varius), and it is difficult to distinguish between the eggs of host 
and parasite, so close is the resemblance. 



THE WHITE-HEADED BABBLER 
TURDOIDES STRIATUS (Dumont) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. Upper surface of 
head and neck dingy greyish-white ; upper plumage ashy-brown, 
streaked on the back with brown and white ; wings and terminal 
half of the broad full tail dark brown ; ear-coverts brown ; chin, 
throat, and breast dark brown, the feathers edged with grey ; 
remainder of lower plumage brown, fulvous down the centre of the 
abdomen. 



THE WHITE-HEADED BABBLER 43 

Iris creamy-white ; bill, eye-patch, and legs dead white with a 
yellowish tinge. 

Field Identification. Very similar in habits to the Jungle Babbler, 
but recognisable by its whitish head and dark brown throat and breast. 

Distribution. This species of Babbler is confined to Ceylon and 
Southern India, south of a line drawn through Belgaum, Hyderabad, 
and the lower Godavari Valley. The Indian birds are known as 
T. s. affiniSy while the typical race from Ceylon differs in having the 
head concolorous with the back and the streaks on the back less well 
defined. It is a strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. The White-headed Babbler is a plains species, and 
only ascends the various hill ranges up to a height of about 2000 feet. 
It is the Common Babbler of Madras, and in habits is very similar 
to the Jungle Babbler, going about in noisy, excitable parties that 
feed on the ground and fly up into the trees when disturbed. They 
hop and climb up the larger branches of the tree to the top, and then 
fly off to the next tree singly in extended file, with slow dnd laborious 
flight, a few rapid strokes of the short round wings alternating with 
gliding on outstretched pinions. The alarm forgotten, one bird drops 
again to the ground, followed in succession by the others of the flock, 
and once more they are busy turning over the leaves. 

The call is a loud sibilant or whispering sort of chatter. 

The breeding season is somewhat extended and odd nests may 
be found almost any time in the year. The majority of eggs are, 
however, laid from March to July. The nest is the usual large, 
loosely-constructed cup of the genus, built of roots, fine twigs, and 
grass stems, and is built at no great height from the ground in shrubs 
and bushes, those of a thorny nature being preferred. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs ; they are fairly regular 
ovals, fine and hard in texture and exceedingly glossy. In colour 
they are of a deep unmarked greenish-blue. 

In size they average about 0-99 by 0-75 inches. 

This is a favourite foster-parent for the Pied Crested Cuckoo 
(Clamator jacobinus). 

THE COMMON BABBLER 

ARGYA CAUDATA (Dumeril) 
(Plate iii, Fig. 4, opposite page 44) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. Whole upper plumage 
pale fulvous-brown, each feather streaked with dark brown ; quills 
brown, lighter on the outer webs ; tail long, graduated, and olive- 
brown, cross-rayed, and the shafts very dark ; chin and throat fulvous- 
white ; lower plumage pale fulvous, albescent on the abdomen, and 
the sides of the breast faintly striated. 



44 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill light brown, base of lower mandible 
yellow ; legs olive-yellow, claws dusky. 

Field Identification. A smallish bird, brown with dark streakings 
on the upper surface, and fulvous and whitish below ; tail elongated 
and graduated. In flight looks singularly like a miniature hen Pheasant. 
Lives in parties in every type of open ground with bushes or grass 
clumps ; one of the commonest birds of Northern India. 

Distribution. The Common Babbler extends from Afghanistan, 
Baluchistan, and South-east Persia right through India, from the 
outer fringe of the Himalayas east to Western Bengal and south 
to the Palni Hills and Rameswaram Island. With this wide range 
it has been divided into three races. The large and pale form from 
Afghanistan, Baluchistan, and South-east Persia is known as A. c. 
huttoni ; a dark form with heavy streaking on the upper surface and 
brightly rufous under parts named by Hume A. c. eclipes, inhabits 
the plateau from Rawal Pindi and the Salt Range to Peshawar ; and 
the rest of the range is inhabited by the typical form. 

This species does not occur higher than 4000 feet in the Outer 
Himalayas and it avoids the higher elevations in all the continental 
hill ranges. In Southern India it is less common and very local. 
A strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. This bird avoids swampy ground, where it is 
replaced throughout Northern India by a more richly-coloured and 
larger species, the Striated Babbler (Argya earlii\ in which the chin 
and throat are rufous with dark streaks. It also dislikes heavy 
forest and hill areas except those low elevations within easy reach 
of their bases. It is essentially a bird of open country, and in 
Northern India is one of the most common and familiar of species 
found everywhere alike, in cultivation and in gardens, amongst waste 
rocky ravines studded with bushes, and in the desolate semi-desert 
areas ; ground cover is the only factor that it insists upon, for it is 
somewhat of a skulker and prefers the neighbourhood of the ground, 
seldom mounting into trees or venturing right out into the open. 
It particularly favours those wide open plains where patches of 
cultivation shaded with occasional tamarisk and kikur trees alternate 
with stretches of waste ground on which clumps of sarpat grass and 
bushes of the uck and the wild caper ring their monotonous changes. 

This Babbler lives in small parties of six or eight individuals 
and such parties may be met with throughout the year, even in the 
breeding season. They feed mostly on the ground, hopping rapidly 
about with a bouncing gait, and their long tails trailing. At the 
slightest alarm they take refuge in the bushes or grass near whose 
shelter they have been feeding. When leaving one patch of cover 
for another they fly off singly, one after another, with a weak 
parachuting flight, the wings extended, and the tail partly spread, 



PLATE III 




I. Variegated Laughing-Thrush. 2. Yellow-eyed Babbler. 3. Purple Sunbird. 
4. Common Babbler. 5. Streaked Laughing-Thrush. (All about *$ nat. size.) 



[JPafij.44 



THE COMMON BABBLER 45 

looking for all the world like a number of miniature hen Pheasants 
breaking cover. As they fly they utter a low undertoned warbling 
whistle, first one bird and then another in a sort of rippling chorus. 

The food consists chiefly of insects. 

The breeding season is very extended, and nests have been 
found in every month of the year ; but the majority will be found 
from March until May and again from July to September, as the 
species is double-brooded. The nest is a neat and compact cup, 
rather large for the size of the bird. There is usually a deep outer 
foundation of fine thorny twigs, coarse roots, bents, grass stems, and 
similar materials, while the actual cup is composed of finer grass 
stems and roots, often lined with a few hairs or fine mimosa leaves. 
It is usually built fairly close to the ground at a height of about 
3 feet, in a thick bush or a clump of grass, and is generally well 
concealed. An occasional nest, however, may be found in higher 
and more open situations, as for instance 8 feet from- the ground 
in a fork of a kikur tree. 

The usual clutch consists of three or four eggs, but occasionally 
only two are laid. 

The eggs are a moderately elongated oval, slightly compressed 
towards one end. They are glossy, often brilliantly so, and of a 
delicate pure spotless somewhat pale blue. There is very little variation 
in the colour of these eggs. 

They measure about 0-85 by 0-63 inches. 

This Babbler is frequently selected as a foster-parent by the Pied 
Crested Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus). 



THE LARGE GREY BABBLER 
ARGYA MALCOLMI (Sykes) 

Description. Length n inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dull brown, the feathers of the upper back with dark centres ; forehead 
ashy-grey with fine white shaft-stripes ; wings dark brown, the outer 
flight-feathers hoary brown on the outer webs, the others edged with 
the colour of the back ; entire lower plumage fulvescent grey ; tail 
full and graduated, pale brown, the central pair of feathers cross- 
rayed, the three outer pairs white and the next pair edged with white. 

Iris bright yellow ; bill dark brown, lower mandible fleshy ; legs 
fleshy-yellow. 

Field Identification. In noisy squeaky parties in open cultivation ; 
a typical sandy-brown Babbler easily recognised from the other species 
by its size and the broad white edge to the tail, conspicuous in flight. 

Distribution. This fine Babbler is locally common throughout 



46 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the greater portion of the plains of India from a line roughly through 
Ludhiana, Ferozepore, and Mount Aboo in the North-west to the 
western boundary of Bengal, and south to the Nilgiris and Salem. 
It is a strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. This Babbler does not differ in any material respect 
in habits from the more numerous Jungle Babbler, though it is not 
quite so untidy in plumage. It is particularly a bird of cultivated 
plains where small groves alternate with open fields and it is never 
found away from trees. It appears also in gardens, both in large 
towns and about small villages. Half of its time is spent in the 
trees, the other half on the ground, where it turns over dead leaves 
and investigates low-growing foliage in search of the insect and other 
small forms of life that form the major portion of its diet ; seeds and 
fruits are also eaten. 

This is one of the most gregarious species that it is possible to 
imagine. The birds live in small parties of six to a dozen individuals, 
and these parties do not break up in the breeding season, even 
though members of them may have nests and eggs in the vicinity. 
Woe to any enemy that falls foul of one of the party ; the remainder 
fall on it tooth and nail, and in this respect the species is more 
valiant even than the Jungle Babbler, a fact that the smaller hawks 
recognise, generally not attempting to molest them. These Babblers 
are very noisy, with the hysterical squeaky calls typical of the family 
uttered on the slightest provocation. 

The nest may be found in any month in the year, though the 
majority of the birds breed from March until August. Possibly 
more than one brood is reared. The nest is built at a height of 
some 4 to 10 feet from the ground and is usually ill-concealed, 
depending for its protection more on the fact that it is generally 
placed in some thorny tree of the mimosa type. It is a large, 
loosely-woven but fairly neat, cup-shaped structure, made of fine 
roots, small sticks, and dry grass, with generally an outer casing of 
thorny twigs. The cup is sometimes lined with fine grass and roots 
or horse-hair. 

Two to five eggs are laid, but the normal clutch consists of four. 
The eggs are indistinguishable from those of the Jungle Babbler, 
rather broad ovals, compressed at one end, very glossy and smooth 
in texture, and an unmarked " Hedge-Sparrow blue " in colour. 

They measure about 0-99 by 0-77 inches. 

This Babbler is frequently selected as a foster-parent by the Pied 
Crested Cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus). 



THE DECCAN SCIMITAR-BABBLER 47 



THE DECCAN SCIMITAR-BABBLER 

POMATORHINUS HORSFIELDII Sykes 
(Plate v, Fig. 2, opposite page 88) 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dark earthy-brown tinged with rufous and darker on the head ; a 
white eyebrow-line edged above with black over the eye ; sides of 
head and neck and a band bordering the breast and abdomen 
blackish-brown ; chin, throat, breast, and abdomen white ; flanks 
and a patch under the tail slaty-brown. 

Iris brown or crimson ; bill yellow, dusky at base of upper 
mandible ; legs greenish-plumbeous. 

Bill long, curved and compressed, recalling a scimitar in shape ; 
short rounded wings ; long graduated tail ; shape rather ungainly. 

Field Identification. Lower India only. Scimitar-shaped bill, 
dark plumage with the conspicuous white eyebrow and white plastron 
with its dark edging are distinctive. 

Distribution. Confined to the Indian Peninsula and Ceylon. This 
Scimitar-Babbler is divided into a number of races distinguished by 
small details of coloration of the plumage and size of the bill. A 
greyish form P. h. obscurus is found in Mount Aboo, the Central 
Provinces and the area round Khandesh. The typical race is found 
from Khandala to Goa, in Mysore and in Orissa and the Upper 
Eastern Ghats. The rich olive-brown form P. h. travancoreensis 
occupies the Lower Western Ghats from North Kanara to Travancore, 
including the Nilgiris. P. h. maderaspatensis is confined to the Lower 
Eastern Ghats from the Krishna Valley southwards. P. h. melanurus 
of the low country wet zone, S.W. Ceylon, is a bright ferruginous 
bird, while P. h. holdsworthi is a more olivaceous brown and inhabits 
the dry zone of both low country and hills. 

This species occurs both in the plains and in the hill ranges up 
to at least 8000 feet. It is strictly resident. 

Habits, etc. This Scimitar-Babbler is common in evergreen 
jungle, in bamboo thickets, in thorny scrub or in dense bush jungle 
on hill-sides. It is usually found in pairs or in small parties of four 
or five birds and sometimes double this number collect together or 
join the mixed hunting parties. 

Individuals keep in touch with each other by a variety of mellow 
bubbling and whistling calls and when excited break into the torrent 
of loud shrieks and whistles which are used by all the Scimitar-Babblers. 
In the case of pairs the male acts as leader and is followed about 
from one bush or tree to another by the female who acknowledges 
every one of his musical whistles with a subdued kroo-kroo or kro-kant. 



48 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Although very shy and seldom showing themselves they readily 
respond to a decoy whistle and may be called long distances by such 
an imitation. When disturbed the birds hop along the branches 
with great agility as if to get under way before taking to wing. 

The food consists of grubs, worms, insects and the like and in 
search of it the birds descend a good deal to the ground where they 
turn over the dead leaves in typical Babbler fashion. They cut and 
dig vigorously with their shapely bills in the earth, cling to the face 
of banks and probe the moss and bark of the trees, and when the 
cotton-tree is in flower they join the many species that rifle the 
blossoms for insects and nectar. 

The breeding season extends from December to May. 

The nest is a loosely-constructed globular structure, with the 
entrance at one side, placed on the ground in thick herbage or low 
in a bush. It is composed of grass or moss mixed with leaves, bracken, 
and roots, and is so flimsy in build that it falls to pieces on removal. 
There is no lining to the egg cavity. 

Three to five eggs are laid. 

The egg is an elongated oval, slightly compressed towards the 
small fend. It is very fragile, smooth, and satiny in texture, with very 
little gloss. The colour is pure white. 

The egg measures about 1-08 by 0-77 inches. 



THE RUSTY-CHEEKED SCIMITAR-BABBLER 

POMATORHINUS ERYTHROGENYS Vigors 

Description. Length n inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage, 
tail, and the exposed part of the closed wings olive-brown ; centre' of 
whole lower plumage white, striped with very pale grey on the chin 
and throat ; forehead, sides of head and neck and sides of lower 
plumage chestnut, washed with olive on the sides of the breast and 
flanks. 

Iris yellowish-white ; bill light horny ; legs brownish-fleshy. 

Bill long, curved, and compressed, recalling a scimitar in shape. 
Tail long and graduated ; wings small and rounded ; general build 
rather ungainly. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form. Curved bill, olive-brown 
upper parts and chestnut and white under parts distinctive, combined 
with shy habits in undergrowth and melodious call. 

Distribution. The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-Babbler has a wide 
distribution, being found along the whole length of the Himalayas 
through Assam, Burma, and Tenasserim to Yunnan and China. 
It is divided into several races, of which two are found in the 



THE RUSTY-CHEEKED SCIMITAR-BABBLER 49 

Himalayas and come into our area. The Western race is the 
typical one and is found from the Murree Hills to about Mussoorie. 
The Eastern race is known as P. e. haringtoni and differs in its 
slightly smaller size and in having the whole chin, throat, and upper 
breast dark ashy mingled with white. It is found from Garhwal to 
Sikkim, but the birds from the western edge of this range are very 
intermediate in character. 

In the Western Himalayas this Scimitar- Babbler is found most 
commonly between 3000 and 7000 feet, though it certainly occurs 
down to 2000 feet and up to 10,000 feet. The Eastern form 
occupies a slightly lower zone between 1000 and 7000 feet. It is 
a strictly resident species and appears to change its elevation very 
slightly with the season. 

The Slaty-headed Scimitar-Babbler (Pomatorhinus schisticeps) is 
another Himalayan species found at low elevations from Kangra to 
Assam and into Burma. The upper parts are olive-brown with the 
top of the head dark-slate ; a white line over the eye and the rich 
maroon-chestnut sides with white streaks are distinctive. 

Habits, etc. This bird is a dweller in dense undergrowth, whether 
in the form of thick grass and bushes on treeless hill -sides, or forests 
with heavy secondary growth. The greater part of its life is spent 
in the bushes, but it feeds a good deal on the ground under cover, 
shuffling amongst dead leaves, and when disturbed in this occupation 
it can make off at a good speed with a succession of long, bounding 
hops like a rat. It is a social species, usually found in small parties, 
whose presence would not be suspected from their skulking habits 
were it not for their noisiness. The call of the male consists of a 
pair of notes, the second rapidly following the first and being about 
an octave lower. If the female is within earshot, as she usually is, she 
replies with a single note immediately after the second note uttered 
by the male, so that the three notes together make a mellow whistle 
kor-quee-oh, which to the uninitiated sounds like the call of a single 
bird. This familiar duet, varied with a clear quoip, is audible some 
distance away. They have also a hard, scolding note reminiscent of 
that uttered by many of the Babblers and the Tree-Pie. A faint 
feeding-note tep-tep is only heard when the birds are close at hand. 
These birds respond readily to an imitation of their calls and may 
be decoyed in this manner. They seldom leave cover and come 
into the open, but when they do take to wing the flight is swift and 
strong, though the short wings combined with the heavy bill and 
tail give the bird a curious, ungainly appearance. This species is 
said to indulge in a habit of dancing like other members of the genus. 

The food consists of grubs, beetles, earthworms, and various 
insects mostly obtainable on the ground, but berries are also eaten. 

The breeding season lasts from April to June. 

D 



50 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The nest is a domed structurewith a broad opening high on one side ; 
it is loosely constructed of coarse grass, dry ferns, dead leaves, and fern 
roots, and there is no particular lining. It is placed on the ground in 
thick herbage near the edge of clumps of brushwood or scrub-jungle. 

Two to four eggs are laid ; they are long, narrow ovals, fine in 
texture with a fair gloss and pure white in colour. 

In size they average about i 1 1 by o- 8 inches. 



THE RUFOUS-BELLIED BABBLER 

DUMETIA HYPERYTHRA (Franklin) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Front half of crown 
reddish-brown ; upper plumage, wing, and tail olive-brown, the tail 
cross-rayed ; sides of the face and entire lower plumage bright fulvous. 

Iris light-brown ; bill livid pale horny ; legs very pale fleshy. 

The feathers of the forehead have stiff shafts. The tail is much 
graduated, the outer feather only reaching to the middle. 

Field Identification. A small olive-brown bird with bright rufous 
under parts ; a white throat-patch in one race. Found in small parties 
skulking in thick cover. 

Distribution. Confined to India and Ceylon and divided into 
three races. The typical race is found in a wide area east of a line 
from the Kumaon Bhabar through Jhansi, Mhow, the Satpuras, 
Jalna, and Hyderabad to the Krishna River. It occurs as far east 
as Midnapore. To the west and south of this area, from Sambhar 
and Mount Aboo on the north down to the extreme south, it is 
replaced by D. h. albogularis. This race differs in its lighter coloration 
and in having a well-defined white patch on the chin and throat and 
a tinge of white on the centre of the abdomen. D. h. phillipsi of Ceylon 
is similar to the latter but has a larger bill and paler under parts. 

The closely allied Red-capped Babbler (Timalia pileata) is common 
in the extensive grass plains along the terais and duars of the north-east, 
extending also into Assam and Burma and a considerable part of 
Bengal. The deep rufous crown, white streak over each eye, olive- 
brown upper parts, deeply-graduated tail, and the white breast with 
fine black streaking are distinctive. 

Habits, etc. The Rufous -bellied Babbler is a bird of thick cover. 
It may be found in scrub-jungle, in tall grass interspersed with 
thorn bushes, or in the patches and hedges of tall euphorbia plants 
which are a feature of many parts of Southern India. In such cover 
it is found in small parties of four to eight birds, which keep up a 
low cheep cheep, varied by harsh tittering notes. It is a most 
inveterate skulker, keeping as far as possible out of sight, one bird 



THE RUFOUS-BELLIED BABBLER 51 

following another from bush to bush. On taking alarm the members 
of a party promptly dive into the thickest portions of the undergrowth 
and disperse in all directions, though they soon reassemble when the 
alarm is over. 

The breeding season of the typical race is well defined throughout 
its range, being in the monsoon from June to August. Most eggs 
are laid in July. In the other Indian race it varies from the middle of 
April to the middle of October, irrespective of locality. 

The nest is built on, or very close to, the ground, either amongst 
dead leaves, in coarse grass, or in small bushes. A favourite situation 
is in amongst the roots of a bamboo clump. The nest is a loosely- 
constructed ball of bamboo leaves or broad blades of grass, sometimes 
incorporating a few dead leaves. It is occasionally unlined. Usually, 
however, there is a slight lining of fine grass roots, fine grass stems, 
or a few hairs. The entrance is in the side. An unfinished nest is 
deserted on very slight provocation. 

The usual clutch consists of four eggs, but often there are only 
three. The eggs vary in shape from short and broad to moderately 
long ovals. The texture is fine with a variable amount of gloss. 
The ground-colour is pure white, spotted and speckled with shades 
of red, brownish-red, and reddish-purple. These markings vary in 
character, but tend to collect in a cap or zone on the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-70 by 0-53 inches. 



THE YELLOW-EYED BABBLER 

CHRYSOMMA SINENSIS (Gmelin) 

(Plate iii, Fig. 2, opposite page 44) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage rufescent-brown, changing to cinnamon on the exposed 
portions of the wings ; a patch in front above and below the eye, 
and the whole lower plumage white, tinged with fulvous on the flanks, 
abdomen, and under the tail. The tail is long and graduated, and 
the feathers are faintly cross-rayed. 

Iris yellow, eyelids deep orange ; bill black, yellowish behind 
nostrils ; legs pale orange-yellow. 

Field Identification. A small rufous bird with white under parts 
and a rather long full tail ; orange eyelids are conspicuous. Found 
in parties in undergrowth. 

Distribution. The Yellow-eyed Babbler is a bird of very wide 
distribution occurring throughout India, Burma, and Siam, and in 
China, but is rather local. As is to be expected with this wide range 
it has been divided into several races, of which three occur within 
our area. They are distinguished by depth and tint of coloration. 



52 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The typical race, originally described from China, is found through 
Yunnan, Siam, Burma, and Assam to Bengal, and apparently also in 
Madras, the Central Provinces, and Belgaum. 

A dark form, P. s. saturatior, occurs in Nepal, Sikkim, and the 
Bhutan and Buxa Duars. 

A pale form, P. s. hypoleucus, is found in Sind, Jodhpur, the 
North-west Frontier Province, portions of the Punjab, the United 
Provinces, Khandesh, and Kathiawar. While strictly speaking a 
plains bird, the Yellow-eyed Babbler is found along the outer 
Himalayas to a height of 4000 feet, and in the Nilgiris it is 
found up to 5000 feet. A resident species everywhere. 

Habits, etc. While occasionally met with in pairs this pretty 
little bird usually goes about in parties. It avoids forest and wanders 
about in open country frequenting tall grass, low scrub, and patches 
of bushes, being also a familiar garden bird. In habits it is a typical 
Babbler, and while rather inclined to skulk in thick cover is apt to be 
noisy. It appears to visit the ground very seldom. Some of its notes 
are quite sweet, and might almost be dignified by the name of song. 

Small birds that live in parties in thick cover have all much the 
same habits. The individuals work from stem to stem unseen down 
in the thicket, picking insects, caterpillars, and their eggs from the 
leaves and twigs. Then one bird works to the top and suns itself 
for a few seconds and utters a snatch of song before plunging again 
into the cover below, while another bird in turn emerges for his breath 
of air and sunlight. 

I have seen a bird at the nest feign m a most realistic manner to 
be wounded, swaying with wings and tail outspread on a twig, as if 
about to topple over and fall at any moment. 

The breeding season is from June to September. 

The nest is a very compact and beautiful structure, made of broad 
blades of grass and long strips of fine fibrous bark, coated exteriorly 
with cobwebs and gossamer threads and lined with fine grass stems 
and roots. It is generally built in gardens about 4 to 6 feet from the 
ground in upright forks in hedges or trees, or suspended in thick grass 
sterns after the fashion of a Reed-Warbler's nest. 

The normal clutch consists of five eggs. 

The egg is a very broad oval, rather obtuse at the smaller end. 
The texture is fine and smooth with a slight gloss. The ground- 
colour is pinkish-white, and the markings are of two main types ; in 
one the egg is so thickly and finely mottled and streaked all over 
with brickdust-red that the ground-colour is almost concealed ; in 
the other the egg is sparingly and boldly blotched and streaked with 
the same colour, besides exhibiting a number of pale inky-purple 
clouds. Combinations of both types occur. 

The egg measures about 0*73 by 0-59 inches. 



THE SPOTTED BABBLER 53 

THE SPOTTED BABBLER 

PELLORNEUM RUFICEPS Swainson 

(Plate xi, Fig. 4, opposite page 220) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
dull rufous ; a whitish line over the eye ; remainder of upper plumage 
including wings and tail olive-brown, the tail-feathers tipped with 
white ; sides of the head pale rufous marked with black and brown ; 
lower plumage white somewhat tinged with fulvous and becoming 
olivaceous on the flanks, boldly streaked with black on the breast 
and sides ; a patch under the tail olive-brown and white. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill dark brown, lower mandible whitish ; 
legs fleshy-white. 

Field Identification. A small olive-brown bird, whitish below, 
with a rufous cap and heavily streaked breast. Very shy and found 
skulking in thick undergrowth. Attention usually attracted to it by 
the loud call-note. 

Distribution. Widely distributed throughout India, Assam, and 
Burma, eastwards to the Malay Peninsula, Annam, and Cochin-China. 
It is divided into several races, of which we are concerned with four ; 
these vary only in depth and tone of coloration and the boldness of 
marking on the sides of the neck. P. r. punctatum occurs in the Western 
Himalayas from Dharmsala to Garhwal. It is common in the Tea 
gardens and in the ravines around Dehra Dun, where it also breeds. 
From Nepal eastwards along the Himalayas into Assam and Burma 
there is P. r. mandellii. The species appears to be wanting across 
the plains of Northern India, but the typical form is found in Peninsular 
India south of Khandesh, Pachmarhi, and the hills of Chota Nagpur, 
until in Travancore it is replaced by P. r. granti. All the races are 
found at elevations from 1500 to 4000 feet, and occasionally higher, 
and are resident birds. 

Habits, etc. The Spotted Babbler is more often heard than seen. 
Except in the breeding season it is a social species, and usually goes 
about in small parties which keep to low brushwood and bamboo- 
jungle. It never ascends into trees, and spends much of its life on 
the ground searching for food amongst fallen leaves and tangles of 
grass. In such localities it is hard to approach and observe as it 
is very shy, and the sound of footsteps sends it hastening away through 
the bushes with a harsh, churring alarm note kraa. But feeding at 
their ease the parties are rather noisy, and keep up a continuous 
chatter, and the loud call is a familiar sound of the jungles where they 
live. The call is a clear mellow whistle, wheat-eeer or three-cheeer, 
the first syllable short, the second long and emphasised. This call 

D2 



54 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

may also be expressed by the words pretty-dear. It is easily imitated, 
and the bird responds freely to the imitation. There is also a sweet 
song in the breeding season consisting of a number of loud whistling 
notes rambling up and down the scale. The food consists chiefly 
of insects. 

The breeding season is from March to May, though second 
broods may be found until August. The nest is placed on the 
ground under the shelter of a stone or bush, or occasionally 2 or 3 
inches above it in the base of a clump of bamboo. It is generally 
amongst fallen leaves and similar rubbish, and is a large globular 
structure composed of leaves and grass and slightly lined with moss 
roots. 

The clutch consists of two to four eggs. In shape they are broad 
regular ovals, compact and fine in texture, with a slight gloss. The 
ground-colour is a very pale greenish- or yellowish-white, profusely 
speckled and spotted all over with reddish-brown and with secondary 
spots of pale grey and neutral tint. 

The average size is about 0-88 by 0-65 inches. 



THE QUAKER-BABBLER 
ALCIPPE POIOICEPHALA (Jerdon) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Top of head ashy- 
grey ; remainder of upper plumage olive-brown, becoming ferruginous 
on the wings and tail ; sides of the head and neck ashy-brown ; lower 
plumage creamy fulvous, darker on the breast and flanks and under 
the tail. 

Iris slaty-grey ; bill horny brown ; legs greyish-fleshy. 

Field Identification. A small olive-brown bird with paler under 
parts and a greyer head. Found in small parties in undergrowth 
and forest chiefly in the hills of Peninsular India. 

Distribution. Widely distributed in several races through India, 
Assam, Burma, and Siam. The typical and most richly-coloured 
form is found along the Western Ghats from about Goa down to the 
south of Travancore, occurring at elevations from 2000 feet to 600 feet. 
A paler and greyer race, A. p. brucet, occurs irregularly in the rest of 
the Peninsula south of a line from Kathiawar, Pachmarhi, and Parasnath 
Hill at much the same elevations. A resident species. 

The smaller Nepal Babbler (Alcippe nepalensis), common in the 
lower Eastern Himalayas, Assam, and Burma, is easily distinguished 
by a white ring round the eye and a blackish line over it. 

Abbott's Babbler (Malacocincla sepiaria) is found in the Eastern 
Himalayas and Assam at low elevations. The plumage is dark brown 



THE QUAKER-BABBLER 55 

with the under parts paler, the throat white and a rufous patch under 
the tail. Although a forest bird and a skulker it is confiding and tame. 

Habits, etc. There is very little to say about the habits of the 
Quaker-Babbler. It is an undistinguished little bird which goes 
about in parties of four or five individuals up to twenty or more 
which are confiding enough when undisturbed but shy and wary 
once their suspicions are aroused. They keep principally to patches 
of forest, but may also be found in bush-jungle, orange groves, and 
similar localities. They seldom or never visit the ground, and prefer 
as a rule to keep to undergrowth. They frequently, however, climb 
higher into the trees, ascending even to the topmost branches. The 
members of a party act independently of each other, but keep up a 
general communication amongst themselves by continually calling 
and answering as they move about. The song is of four or five 
quavering whistling notes of the tone-quality of the Magpie Robin's 
effort ; it is repeated every few seconds as the bird moves about the 
foliage. Little seems to be recorded about their food, but the parties 
spend all their time searching the leaves for insects. 

The breeding season seems to be very poorly defined, and nests 
of the typical race are said to have been found in every month of the 
year. The Quaker-Babbler may be double-brooded, as January to 
April and again July, August and September are the principal months 
in which nests have been recorded. 

The nest is usually built in the depths of forest, and in such shady 
spots is built in small trees or bushes at a height of some 4 to 8 feet 
from the ground. It is deep and cup-shaped, composed externally 
of moss and dead leaves, and lined with the fine roots of mosses and 
ferns. The nest is usually fixed in a fork or suspended from two or 
three twigs, and is as a rule quite conspicuous, little effort at conceal- 
ment being attempted. 

The clutch consists of two or occasionally three eggs. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, somewhat compressed towards 
the small end. The shell is fine and somewhat glossy. The ground- 
colour is pale salmon marked with primary blotches and broad smudges 
of deep purple-brown or purple-black, with secondary markings of 
pale grey, inky-grey or purplish-grey. There is a good deal of variation, 
the markings often being reduced in size to specks and spots, while 
short lines and hieroglyphs are common. 

The egg measures about 0-80 by 0*60 inches. 



56 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE BLACK-HEADED BABBLER 
RHOPOCICHLA ATRICEPS (Jerdon) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. The whole of the 
top and sides of the head black ; the whole upper plumage fulvous 
brown ; wings dark brown with the exposed parts fulvous brown ; tail 
brown ; lower plumage dull white, changing to olivaceous on the 
flanks and under the tail. 

Iris yellow ; bill dull greyish flesh-colour, the upper surface black ; 
legs pinkish-grey to pale plumbeous. 




FIG. 9 Black-headed Babbler (i nat. size) 

Field Identification.Hilh of South-western India. A small bird, 
brown above and whitish below with a more or less black cap, which 
is found in parties in dense forest undergrowth. 

Distribution. The typical form with a black head is found along 
the Western Ghats from Belgaum to the Nilgiris, being replaced in 
the Cochin and Travancore Hills by another race R. a. bourdilloni 
which has the black largely replaced by sooty-brown. A third race 
R. a. nigrifrons is found in Ceylon. This has the top of the head the 
same colour as the back and the black is confined to a broad band 
through each eye joining across the forehead. All three races occur 
from sea-level up to 6000 feet and are strictly resident. 



THE BLACK-HEADED BABBLER 57 

Habits, etc. This quaint little bird must soon be known to all 
who spend much time in the forests of Coorg and the Wynaad, the 
Nilgiris and Travancore. It is very common in the dense marshy 
jungles or in the heavy green thickets that border the streams, in cane- 
beds and in bamboo-jungle and it is also a bird of the evergreen forest. 
It does not as a rule ascend the trees but keeps to the undergrowth 
and no thicket is too dense for it, though it has something of a preference 
for the edges of roads and paths and clearings. In such cover the 
Black-headed Babbler goes about in parties of five to ten birds or even 
in troops of anything up to a couple of dozen individuals. The flocks 
are found throughout the year and their members are exceedingly 
active. As they move about the birds utter a continual low chattering, 
a harsh rather subdued chur-r chur-r and a characteristic habit is for a 
bird that has ventured too high in the vegetation to drop perpendicu- 
larly like a falling leaf into the thickets below at the slightest hint of 
an alarm. The food consists of insects and their larvae. 

This species is remarkable for the habit of building " cock-nests " 
which are apparently intended for roosting purposes. Dozens of such 
nests may be found at all times of the year in the jungles where the 
birds are common, for no effort is made to conceal them. They are 
very loosely and untidily constructed, thick masses of bamboo leaves 
with the entrance at the side and they never seem to be lined. 

The true nest is much smaller and more tightly and neatly woven 
and it has a lining of black rootlets or fine grass. It is also much more 
carefully concealed, being placed in tangles of reeds and grass, in thick 
creepers or in bushes, usually only a foot or two from the ground. 
These nests also may be found in any month of the year, but the 
breeding season proper is said to be from May to July in the Nilgiris 
and a little earlier in Travancore. 

The clutch consists of two eggs. 

The egg is a moderately broad, very regular oval, only slightly 
compressed towards the smaller end. The shell is fine and satiny but 
has only a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white or faintly greyish- 
white, profusely speckled with minute dots of brownish and purplish- 
red, the dots being slightly more numerous towards the larger end. 

It measures about 0-75 by 0-55 inches. 



5 8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE BLACK-HEADED SIBIA 
LEIOPTILA CAPISTRATA (Vigors) 

(Plate v, Fig. 4, opposite page 88) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. Top and sides of 
the head black with a bushy crest ; the whole of the body plumage 
bright rufous except the back between the wings which is greyish- 
brown ; wings variegated bluish-grey, black and rufous with a white 
bar across the coverts ; tail long and graduated, black with a broad 
sooty-grey tip, all feathers with a rufous base diminishing rapidly 
from the centre to the sides. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill black ; legs fleshy-brown. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form. A graceful rufous bird 
with dark crest, wings, and tail ; purely arboreal and, except when 
breeding, in small parties ; active and noisy. 

Distribution. This species is found throughout the Himalayas 
from the Hazara country to the Dafla Hills. It is divided into three 
races. The large and pale typical race is found in the western portion 
of this range to about Naini Tal. In Nepal it is replaced by L. c. 
nigriceps which is more rusty-red in tone and has the back reddish- 
brown. It is also somewhat smaller. This form grades through 
Sikkim and the Chumbi Valley into L. c. baileyi of Bhutan and Southern 
Tibet. This has the back sooty-brown tinged with grey. It is a strictly 
resident species except for some seasonal altitudinal movements. 
It breeds about 6000 to 9000 feet and in winter wanders down to 
4000 feet. 

Habits, etc. The Sibia is a very common bird in portions of its 
range, as for instance at Simla and Darjeeling, where its striking 
appearance and ringing call attract the attention of many who are 
not naturalists. It is a purely arboreal species, spending most of 
its time at heights of 20 to 50 feet from the ground, and only rarely 
descending to the undergrowth. Out of the breeding season it is 
commonly found in parties of half a dozen birds, which usually keep 
to themselves but sometimes join the mixed hunting parties temporarily. 

They are very active birds, running and gliding through tangles 
of creepers, and are also accomplished gymnasts, clinging to slender 
stems, head downwards, to probe the blossoms for insects. Super- 
ficially they greatly resemble the Laughing-Thrushes. They have 
the same habit of flitting very rapidly up a tree from branch to branch, 
keeping close to and partly hidden by the trunk, but they are more 
ready to fly from bough to bough and tree to tree and are by no means 
such skulkers. They come freely into the open and often launch into 
mid-air in open spaces amongst the trees to catch insects on the wing ; 
but being naturally shy they disappear again into cover at the least 
alarm. 



THE BLACK-HEADED SIBIA 59 

The plumage is not quite so loose and fluffy in appearance as 
that of the Laughing-Thrushes. The crest is generally held raised. 
The flight is heavy with a hard noisy beat of the wings, and is rather 
erratic and jerky as if the bird had difficulty in keeping straight. 
There is a characteristic habit of flying to a tree-trunk and clinging 
to the bark while picking some insect or larva from it. 

The Sibia has a variety of notes. In winter when the birds are 
in parties they converse continuously with a faint ti-te-te note, or a 
little chittering sound similar to that of a Tit, uttered in concert by 
several of the party, some concealed in the foliage, others exposed 
to view on open boughs where they perch, jerking their tails suddenly 
up and down and occasionally flicking the wings, turning from side to 
side, eternally restless. A loud scolding note tchaa-tchaa appears to 
be an alarm note. During the breeding season the woods resound 
with their loud ringing whistle titter ee-titteree-tweeye, which has an 
astonishing thrill of joy and gladness in it. 

The breeding season lasts from May to August, but most birds 
do not nest till the rains have commenced. 

The nest is a neat cup of green moss lined with black moss roots, 
grass, pine-needles, or fibres. It is built at heights from 10 to 50 
feet from the ground in deodars, hollies, and other trees, and is often 
well concealed close to the trunk or in foliage ; a favourate situation 
is also in briers and creepers overgrowing a tree. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. They are rather broad 
ovals elongated at one end ; the texture is fine and there is very little 
gloss. The ground-colour is pale greenish-white or pale bluish-green. 

The markings consist of splashes, smears, and blotches of pale 
and dark brownish-red with a few defined spots and hair-lines of 
reddish-black. 

In size they average about 0*98 by 0-68 inches. 



THE STRIPED-THROATED SIVA 

SIVA STRIGULA Hodgson 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Head orange-brown ; 
upper plumage slate-green ; below bright yellow, the chin pale yellow 
separated from the breast by a band of white feathers with narrow 
crescentic cross bars ; moustachial streak and patch on either side 
of the neck black, wings black, the first primaries edged with yellow 
turning to orange near the base, inner feathers broadly marked with 
grey on outer edge and tipped with white ; a black patch at base of 
the primaries ; tail black, middle pair with chestnut-red at base, 
outer feathers edged and broadly tipped with yellow. 



60 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill dark brown above, paler below ; tip 
white ; legs grey. 

Field Identification. A bird about the size of a Bulbul, frequenting 
rather open forest or woodland (not conifers) in small parties or pairs, 
in the spring. General colour yellowish with several narrow crescentic 
black cross-bars on the throat. These cross-bars are characteristic 
of the bird. 

Distribution. The Striped-throated Siva extends from Duala Dhar 
in the Kangra district of the Punjab Himalayas to Assam and Yunnan, 
south through Burma to Siam and the Malay Peninsula. This species 
has been divided into several races and, in addition to the typical 
Siva s. strigula of the Eastern Himalayas from Nepal to Assam, there 
is a western race, S. s. simlcensis, with paler head, greyer back and the 
chestnut on the tail more restricted. Another small babbler of similar 
size and habits is the Blue-winged Siva (Siva cyanuroptera) in which 
the head is bluish-grey streaked with dark blue, back, wing coverts 
and rump ochraceous, wings and tail appear blue and are tipped with 
white, throat and breast vinous grey merging into yellowish-white 
on belly. It is not so widely distributed, inhabiting the Himalayas, 
Naini Tal to the Chin Hills in Burma, breeding between 3000 and 
8000 feet and moving rather lower in winter. It nests in thick 
evergreen forests of oak, pines and rhododendrons. 

Habits, etc. This beautiful bird breeds from 7000 to 10,000 feet 
and possibly even 12,000 feet and in autumn most birds are met with 
between 4000 and 9000 feet. They go about in small parties hunting 
amongst the tops of broad leaves and shrubs for insects which are their 
principal food. There is no song except a three-noted rather 
melancholy call note uttered at fairly regular intervals. In the 
Eastern parts of the range they are sometimes met with in the pine, 
as well as evergreen forests. In autumn, when the leaves of trie 
deciduous trees change colour, the yellow plumage of this Siva blends 
extraordinarily well with the leaves, and their subdued call notes 
are reminiscent of a party of babblers. 

The breeding season is May and June, and the nest is generally 
placed in a bush or small tree, some 4 to 12 feet from the ground. 
It is cup-shaped of moss roots and leaves and lined with roots. 

The eggs resemble a miniature Song Thrush's. 

The average size is about 0-85 by 0-63 inches. 



THE RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX 61 

THE RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX 
LEIOTHRIX LUTEA (Scopoli) 

(Plate iv, Fig. 5, opposite page 66) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : The whole upper plumage 
dull olive-green, the throat and breast bright orange-yellow ; remainder 
of lower plumage mixed olive-green and yellowish ; a ring round the 
eye extending to the beak dull yellowish ; the edges of the wing- 
feathers are brightly variegated with yellow, orange, crimson, and 
black ; tail olive-brown, blackish at tip ; the upper tail-coverts extend 
two-thirds of the length of the tail and terminate in a fine white line. 

The female is duller in plumage and has no crimson on the wing. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill orange-red, base blackish in winter ; 
legs brown. 

The tail is slightly forked with the feathers curved outwards at 
the tip. 

Field Identification. Himalayan species ; usually in parties in 
undergrowth ; dull olive coloration ; coral-red bill, yellow eye-patch 
and bright shining yellow patch on throat and breast are conspicuous. 

Distribution. This species extends through the Himalayas and 
eastwards into China, and southwards into Southern Burma and 
Siam. There are several geographical races, and that inhabiting the 
Himalayas from Nepal to Eastern Assam, the Khasias and Chin 
Hills and in Arakan is L. 1. callipyga, while it is replaced by L. I. 
kumarensis from Kumaon to Simla. This last form is a greyer tinge 
of green with more restricted golden colour on the crown and the 
red on the outer edge of the primaries reduced or absent. In the 
western Himalayas it is not very common, nor does it occur except 
at low elevations of 2000 to 5000 feet in the outer ranges ; about 
Darjeeling it is common from 3400 to 7400 feet. It is a strictly 
resident bird. Of similar size and habits is the Silver-eared Mesia, 
Mesia argentauris, a striking bird with a black head, grey back, golden 
throat, and a dark red spot on the golden-edged wings. It occurs 
from Garhwal eastwards to Assam. 

A common garden bird in Darjeeling is the Yellow-naped Ixulus 
(Ixulus flavtcollis), a small olive-brown bird with whitish under parts, 
a dark brown crest and a fulvous nape. It is found throughout the 
Himalayas from Dharmsala eastwards, usually in parties in trees. 

Habits, etc. The Red-billed Leiothrix (or Pekin Robin of the 
aviculturists in England) is a bird of the hill forests, found in every 
type of jungle, but by preference in fir and pine forests with secondary 
undergrowth. It is a very lively, cheerful little bird, and except in the 
breeding season is eminently gregarious, going about in small parties 
which hunt the undergrowth for insects and occasionally move up 



62 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

into the trees. The ordinary call-note is tee-tee-tee-tee-tee. In the 
breeding season the cock has a delightful song of some variety and 
compass, which is sung from the top of a bush to the accompaniment 
of quivering wings and fluffed-out feathers. 

The breeding season lasts from early April to September, the 
majority of nests being found in May and June ; there are probably 
two broods. For breeding, the birds largely affect well- watered and 
jungle-clad valleys and ravines. 

The nests are cups of varying depth and solidity, and as a rule 
they are not well hidden. They are composed of dry leaves, moss, 
and lichen, some nests being entirely of moss, others of bamboo 
leaves, so that there is a good deal of variety in their appearance ; 
there is a lining of fine black hair-like rhizomorphs of a fungus. The 
site of the nest is likewise somewhat variable, though all are placed 
within 10 feet of the ground. Some are suspended in a horizontal 
fork like an Oriole's nest, others in an upright fork such as a Bulbul 
would choose ; others again are built between several upright shoots 
like the nests of the Reed- Warblers. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs. 

The eggs are rather broad and blunt in shape, with a hard and 
close texture, and a certain amount of gloss. The ground-colour 
varies from white to a very delicate pale green or greenish-blue. 
They are speckled, spotted, and blotched, often very boldly, with 
various shades of red-brown and purple, mingled with streaks and 
clouds of neutral tint and pale lilac. The markings tend to form 
a zone round the broad end. 

The eggs average about 0-85 by 0-62 inches. 



THE COMMON IORA 

/EGITHINA TIPHIA (Linnaeus) 

(Plate xiii, Fig. 5, opposite page 264) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Adult male in full summer 
plumage : whole of the upper plumage black, except the rump which 
is greenish-yellow, but the head and back are usually mixed with 
yellow to some extent ; two white bars across the wing, and the 
quills narrowly edged with yellow ; entire lower plumage deep 
yellow, duller and greenish below the breast. In winter the black 
on the body-feathers is almost all lost, and the yellow becomes paler. 

Female at all seasons : greenish-yellow throughout, yellow pre- 
dominating on the lower surface and green on the upper ; wings 
dark greenish-brown with greenish-white edges to the feathers and a 
broad white bar across the shoulder. 



THE COMMON IORA 63 

Iris yellowish-white ; bill slaty-blue, black along oilmen ; legs 
slaty-blue. 

The feathers of the rump are remarkably soft and copious. 

Field Identification. A quiet little greenish-yellow bird, with 
dark wings and tail and a broad white bar across the wing, and in 
some cases much black on the upper parts, which creeps about in 
garden trees. Has a curious breeding flight. 

Marshall's lora (/Egithina nigrolutea), common in lower Con- 
tinental India from Delhi to Khandesh, may be distinguished by the 
bright golden collar and large amount of white in the wings and tail. 

Distribution. The lora is found over a very wide range of country 
throughout India, east of a line through the head of the Gulf of 
Cambay to Mount Aboo and Gurdaspur, Ceylon, Burma, Siam, and 
the Malay Peninsula to Borneo. It is divided into several races, of 
which three occur in India proper, JR. t. multicolor, the darkest race 
with most black in the plumage, is confined to Ceylon and 
Rameswaram Island. JE. t. humei, an intermediate race which also 
grades into Marshall's lora, occupies the whole of India south of a 
line roughly from Mount Aboo through Central India to Orissa. 
The typical race occupies the rest of the Indian range merging into 
/E. t. septentrionalis in the Punjab. In this the black on the upper 
parts of the male in breeding plumage is largely obsolete, diminishing 
in extent from east to west. All races are found in the plains and 
lower hills up to about 3000 feet, or locally even to 5500 feet, and 
are resident birds. 

The lively and acrobatic Red-tailed Minla (Minla ignotinctd) 
found in the Eastern Himalayas and the hills of Assam is fairly well 
known at Darjeeling. The black and white head, brown back and 
yellow under parts are well set off by brilliant scarlet in the wings 
and tail. 

Habits, etc. The lora is a familiar garden bird in the greater 
part of India, frequenting the outskirts of villages and cultivation 
and the edges of forests and scrub -jungle. It is usually found in 
pairs, although occasionally two or three may be hunting in the 
same tree for the insects that form their food. It has a variety of 
notes, of which the most striking is a long-drawn wail we-e-e-e-tu, 
with a sudden drop of an octave on the last syllable. 

In the breeding season the lora has a striking display in which 
it flies up into the air and then spirals down to its perch again, with 
all the feathers, especially those of the rump, spread out until it looks 
almost like a ball ; while descending it utters a strange protracted 
sibilant sound, recalling the note of a frog or cricket. Arrived on 
the perch it spreads and flirts the tail like a little Peacock, drooping 
its wings and still uttering the sibilant note. Then, too, the rump- 
feathers are arched and fluffed-out. 



64 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The breeding season is from April to July. 

The nest is a very neat, delicate cup of fine, soft grasses, well 
plastered externally with cobwebs and spiders' cocoons. It is placed 
in a fork, either horizontal or vertical, of a bush or tree at heights 
from 3 to 30 feet from the ground. 

The clutch varies from two to four eggs. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, slightly pointed towards 
the smaller end, fine in texture but with practically no gloss. The 
ground-colour is pale creamy or greyish white, with streaky 
longitudinal markings of grey and neutral tint, mostly at the broad 
end. Some eggs are erythristic in character with the ground-colour 
pinkish and the markings reddish. 

The egg measures about 0-70 by 0*55 inches. 



. JERDON'S CHLOROPSIS 
CHLOROPSIS JERDONI (Blyth) 

(Plate v, Fig. 3, opposite page 88) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male, entire plumage bright 
green except for the following markings : a black mask extending 
from the nostril to the eye and thence to the lower throat broken 
by a broad moustachial streak of bright purplish-blue ; forehead 
and a broad band behind the black mask greenish-yellow ; a patch 
of very bright malachite-blue by the bend of the wing. 

The female resembles the male, except that the black mask is 
replaced by pale bluish-green with a bright greenish-blue moustachial 
streak. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs pale blue. 

Field Identification. An active arboreal bird, particularly fond of 
feeding at the parasitic Loranthus flowers. Bright green, a black 
throat-patch broken by a purplish-blue moustachial streak in the 
male, a bluish-green throat-patch in the female. In both sexes the 
throat-patch is faintly bordered with yellow. 

Distribution. The genus Chloropsis, for which there is no English 
name, except the somewhat misleading one of the Green Bulbuls, 
contains a number of species of bright plumage, in which green 
predominates. They are found in India, Ceylon, Burma, Siam, the 
Malays, and China. Except for a large area in North-western India 
at least one form is found in every part of India, though no one form 
is predominantly familiar. To represent the genus, which is well 
known, I have selected Jerdon's Chloropsis. This occurs throughout 
the Peninsula of India from Sitapur, Fyzabad, and Basti in the north, 
Baroda and the Panch Mahals on the west, the Rajmahal Hills and 



JERDON'S CHLOROPSIS 65 

Midnapore on the east, down to and including Ceylon. It is a 
strictly resident species. 

Two other species occur in India. The Gold-fronted Chloropsis 
(Chloropsis aurifrons) may be distinguished by the orange-yellow 
crown and by having the throat between the blue moustachial streaks 
also blue. It is widely distributed along the Outer Himalayas from 
the Jumna eastwards, in the Chota Nagpur area, and in Southern 
India and Ceylon. The Orange-bellied Chloropsis (Chloropsis 
hardwickii), which has orange under parts and most of the wing dark 
blue, occurs along the outer Central and Eastern Himalayas. 

Habits. All members of this genus have the same habits. They 
are arboreal birds, keeping as a rule to the tops of trees where they 
very often frequent the bunches of the parasitic Loranthus, but they 
also occasionally descend into low bush growth and even tall grass. 
Many of them prefer heavy forest, but Jerdon's Chloropsis is generally 
found in open country, in gardens, orchards, and groves, or in the more 
open patches of forest. It lives in pairs which often join the mixed 
hunting parties and is a very active and restless bird. It is also some- 
thing of a bully and drives other birds away from the flowers of the 
Coral-tree at which it is a regular attendant. At the nest it is very 
watchful and noisy and indeed often betrays the secret of its 
whereabouts by over-anxiety. 

A particular characteristic of Jerdon's Chloropsis, and indeed of 
other members of the group, is a remarkable proficiency in mimicry. 
It is said to have a distinct call of its own of several notes, but this is 
merely an item in a very varied repertory of other bird call-notes in 
which those of the Drongos hold a leading place. 

The food consists of fruit, seeds, insects, and the nectar of various 
flowers. 

The members of this genus are favourite cage birds in the East 
and have been successfully kept in aviaries in Europe. 

The breeding season is from April to August. 

The nest is a small, rather shallow cup composed of fine roots, 
grasses, and tamarisk stems without lining, but covered exteriorly 
with soft vegetable fibres. It is placed on a bough or in a fork of 
the end twigs of a branch of a tree at heights of 15 to 24 feet from 
the ground. 

The clutch consists of three eggs. 

The egg is a rather elongated oval, fine and delicate in texture 
with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white or creamy-white, 
sparingly marked with spots, specks, blotches, and hair-lines of 
blackish, reddish, or purplish-brown, with a tendency for the markings 
to collect at the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-85 by 0-60 inches. 



66 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



THE BLACK BULBUL 

MlCROSCELIS PSAROIDES (Vigors) 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. Ashy-grey through- 
out, darker above, and albescent below the abdomen ; a loose 
untidy crest black, with black marks at the base of the beak and 
encircling the ear-coverts. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs bright coral-red ; claws horny- 
brown. 

Tail bluntly forked, with the outer feathers slightly curved 
outwards. 




FIG. io Black Bulbul (J nat. size) 

Field Identification. A dark-looking ashy-grey bird with coral- 
red beak and black straggling crest ; blunt forked tail creates a rough 
resemblance to a King-Crow : a bold, noisy bird with unpleasant 
squeaky calls. Purely arboreal in habits. 

Distribution. The genus Microscelis is of somewhat wide distribu- 
tion from India to Japan, but only one species is found within the 
Indian Empire. This is divided into several races, of which two come 
within the area treated in this work. Both are mountain forms. 
The typical race is Himalayan, extending from Chitral and Hazara to 
Bhutan ; the exact limits of this range are not fully known, but on 
the west it has been observed at Kohat in winter, and on the east it 
apparently extends into Assam. In Southern India south of Matheran 



THE BLACK BULBUL 67 

the race M. ps. ganeesa, distinguished by the absence of the black 
line round the ear-coverts, breeds in the various ranges at elevations 
over 4000 feet. In Ceylon there is a large billed race M. p. humii. 

In "the Western Himalayas it breeds from about 4000 to 7000 
feet ; in the Eastern Himalayas from 2000 feet ; in both areas a small 
number breed up to 10,000 feet. While not migratory in the true 
sense of the word, flocks of this Bulbul wander a good deal in the 
non-breeding season and may then be found in the plain areas 
contiguous to the mountains in which they breed, on occasion 
wandering even farther afield. 

The Rufous-bellied Bulbul (Ixos mcclellandii) is found along the 
Himalayas from Naini Tal eastwards, and in the Assam Hills and 
Burma. It has the general build of a Black Bulbul with a similar 
crest but is bright olive green above and rufous below. The throat is 
untidily streaked with white. Another Bulbul which is not uncommon 
but rather local is the Himalayan Brown-eared Ixos flavala. It 
extends along the Himalayas from Mussoorie into Assam and North 
Burma. The general colour is grey, whiter below, and wings edged 
with yellowish- white. 

Habits, etc. The Black Bulbul is a bird of high forest trees, 
and except when breeding it is found in parties and large flocks, 
consisting sometimes of as many as a hundred individuals. These 
never descend to the ground, and seldom even to the undergrowth, but 
keep to the tops of the trees and fly from one to the other in loose, 
irregular order. They are very restless and seldom remain long in one 
place. Owing to its weak feet this Bulbul does not climb or hop about 
the boughs, but as compensation it is certainly one of the finest flyers 
in the family, being both swift and agile on the wing. In consequence 
this Bulbul is often mistaken for a Drongo by the inexperienced. 

It is a very noisy, bold bird, and the whereabouts of a party is 
invariably revealed by the noise that they make ; their calls are in 
consequence amongst the familiar bird sounds of the hills. A 
common note is a long-drawn nasal weenk, resembling the distant 
squeal of a pig. There is also a pretty whistle which may be 
syllabilised as whew-whe or whee-whe, something like the musical 
creaking of a rusty gate-hinge ; this is often preceded by a couple 
of notes squeaky-squeaky, very similar to a call of the Drongo. 
Another less common note is geagluck. 

The food consists mostly of berries of various shrubs and trees, 
but insects are also eaten ; mulberries and bukain berries are 
particularly attractive to them. In the evening the birds may often 
be seen fly-catching from the tops of trees. They are said also to 
sip nectar from flowers, and certain it is that they may often be seen 
at the flowers of the rhododendron and other blossom-bearing trees, 
but it is more probable that they are taking insects from the cups. 



68 POPULAR HANDBOOK OP INDIAN BIRDS 

During the breeding season, from April to the end of June, the 
pairs are very affectionate, feeding together, and the male remains in 
the vicinity while the female is on the nest. 

The nest is a rather neat cup of coarse-bladed grass, dry leaves 
and moss, lined with fine grass stems or pine-needles and moss roots, 
and bound exteriorly with spiders' webs. It is placed in a fork of a 
tree often at a considerable height from the ground. 

Three or four eggs comprise the clutch in the Himalayas, and two 
in the NiJgiris. 

The egg is a rather long oval, a good deal pointed towards the 
small end, fine in texture with little gloss. The ground-colour is a 
delicate pinkish-white, varying in depth of colour, and it is profusely 
speckled, spotted, blotched, or clouded with various shades of red, 
brownish-red, and purple ; there is a tendency for a heavy zone or 
cap of markings at the broad end. 

The egg measures about 1-05 by 0*75 inches. 



THE RED-VENTED BULBUL 

MOLPASTES CAFER (Linnaeus) 
(Plate x, Fig. 2, opposite page 198) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. The whole head 
and throat glossy-black ; the whole body and closed wings brown, 
the feathers of the wings, upper back, and breast edged with whitish, 
giving a scaled appearance, the lower abdomen and upper tail-coverts 
so pale as to be almost white ; tail brown at base, darkening till it is 
almost black before the white tips of the feathers ; a crimson patch 
under the tail. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Throughout India. A common garden bird, 
cheerful and rather noisy in demeanour ; earthy-brown in colour 
with a black, slightly crested head, white-tipped tail, and a bright red 
patch under the base of the latter. 

Distribution. The Common or Red-vented Bulbul is a very 
widely-spread species, occurring throughout the Indian Empire 
and extending to the east as far as China. With such a large 
and varied range it is inevitably divided up into several races 
which with their intermediate forms and areas are somewhat difficult 
to define ; but the main difficulties occur in the forms that are 
found east of Assam. In the area covered by this work the division 
of the races is easily understood so long as it is recognised that the 
boundaries of the races about to be mentioned are not clearly defined, 



THE RED-VENTED BULBUL 69 

and in the intermediate areas between them birds will be found which 
cannot be clearly referred to one or other form. 

Along the Himalayas together with the plains country about 
their base, we have an Eastern and a Western form meeting 
somewhere about Kumaon and Western Nepal. The Western 
bird is M. c. intermedius t found through Kashmir and the extreme 
North-west from Kohat down to about the Salt Range and along 
the Himalayas to Kumaon ; its range steadily narrows as it pro- 
gresses eastwards taking in less and less plains country. It is found 
commonly up to about 4000 feet and in smaller numbers a little 
higher to 5500 feet. 

The East Himalayan bird from Nepal to Assam is M. c. bengalensis, 
and this, while not occurring so high in the hills, only exceptionally 
above 4500 feet, has a wider distribution in the plains through the 
Eastern United Provinces, Northern Bihar, Eastern Bengal, up to 
North-west Cachar and Eastern Assam. South of the area occupied 
by these two forms, M. c. pallidus extends on the west down to 
Ahmednagar and Khandesh, and M. c. saturatus on the east down to 
the Godavari. Southern India and Ceylon are occupied by M. c. 
cafer, which, while occurring normally up to about 2000 feet, follows 
the progress of man higher into the hills, even up to 8000 ftet in the 
Nilgiris. 

These races are distinguished by the amount of black in the plumage 
and also in some cases by size. A strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. The Red-vented Bulbul is, in its various local forms, 
one of the best-known birds of India, as it is very common and very 
attached to the haunts of man, being essentially a garden bird. It 
is, however, found in all types of country, though by preference 
it eschews both heavy forest and barren plains. It is arboreal, the 
short weak legs not being adapted to progression on the ground 
though the bird sometimes descends to it to pick up food. The 
flight is quick and strong, though seldom sustained for any distance, 
and the beat of the wings is distinctly audible. 

The Bulbul is usually met with in pairs and has a very evident 
affection for its mate ; this fact, together with its sprightly demeanour, 
boldness, handsome coloration, and cheerful call-notes, contributes 
to make it a general favourite. It is one of the birds that everyone 
notices, Indian and European alike. Indians frequently tame it 
and carry it about the bazaars, tied with a string to the finger or to 
a little crutched perch, which is often made of precious metals or 
jade ; while there are few Europeans who do not recollect Eha's 
immortal phrase anent the red patch in the seat of its trousers. 

Occasionally small parties of this Bulbul are met with, and 
numbers often collect together at a spot where some particular 
food is plentiful or for the purpose of roosting ; but normally the bird 

E2 



70 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

cannot be described as gregarious. At times, generally in the evenings, 
Bulbuls indulge in " fly-catching," sitting on the top of a bush or small 
tree, launching out continuously for short flights in the air, and 
returning again and again to the same perch. 

But our friend has two vices. He is very quarrelsome and a 
plucky fighter, and this is part of the secret of his attraction as a pet 
for his Indian owners ; for one of the essential ingredients of a pet 
in the East is that it should be a vehicle for gambling, and the owner 
of a good-fighting Bulbul may pocket many a small bet. Our friend 
is also apt to be destructive in the garden, damaging fruit and flowers 
and spoiling many a promising row of peas ; though the unseen 
good that he does in the way of keeping down insect pests probably 
outweighs this more obvious damage. 

There is something extremely cheerful and attractive about the 
voice of this Bulbul, though he has only one or two call-notes and 
no song. Yet forall time he will be credited with the reputation of 
a famous songster owing to the association in Persian literature 
between the song of the Bulbul, and the scent of roses, and the 
amorous delights of Persian gardens. The Bulbul of Persian literature 
is, however, as a matter of fact, another bird, a race of the Nightingale 
(Daulias philomela africand). 

The breeding season lasts, according to locality, from February 
to August, but most nests will be found in May and June. Two 
broods are probably reared. 

The nest is a neat cup composed of dry grass stems and the finest 
twigs and shoots of tamarisk, lined with fine roots and horse-hairs, 
and intermingled with dry leaves and scraps of lichen. It is placed 
usually in a bush or shrub between 4 and 10 feet above the ground, 
but is often found in a variety of unusual situations as high as 40 feet. 

Two to four eggs are laid. 

The egg is a rather long oval slightly compressed towards the 
smaller end ; the texture is smooth and fragile and there is very 
little gloss. The ground-colour is pinkish- or reddish- white, marked 
with red, brownish-red, and purplish-red, with secondary markings of 
pale inky-purple. The markings take every conceivable form of 
spot, speck, blotch, and streak, and are usually so thick as practically 
to conceal the paler ground, but in many eggs they collect into zones 
and caps about the broad end. 

The average measurement is about 0-90 by 0*65 inches. 



THE WHITE-CHEEKED BULBUL 



THE WHITE-CHEEKED BULBUL 
MOLPASTES LEUCOGENYS (Gray) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Forehead and a 
long crest, curved forwards, hair brown narrowly edged with white ; 
a patch round the eye to the beak, chin, and throat, and portions of 
the side of the neck black ; a conspicuous white patch on the ear- 
coverts ; the whole btfdy and wings olive-brown, darker and greener 
above and paler below, becoming whitish on the lower abdomen ; 
tail brown on the basal half, blackish on the terminal half, all feathers 
except the central pair Broadly tipped with white ; a bright sulphur- 
yellow patch below the base of the tail. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. A sprightly, cheerful bird found in gardens 
and open country ; appears dull brown with a conspicuous crest, 
black markings about the head, and a large white patch on the face 
and a patch of yellow under the tail. In the typical race the crest 
is long and curved forwards 
over the beak like Punch's 
cap. Usually in pairs. 

Distribution. The White- 
cheeked Bulbul extends 
throughout the Himalayas 
from Afghanistan to the hills 
of Assam, north of the 
Brahmaputra River, and in 
the north-west of the Pen- 
insula down as far as Central 
India ; out of India it extends 
west to Mesopotamia. There 
are three races of the bird in 
India. The typical form with 
the highly-developed " Punch 
cap " crest is confined to the 
Himalayas where it occurs 

from the foot-hills at about 2000 up to 6000 feet in the east 
and from 3000 to 9000 feet in the west. Through the plains of 
the Punjab south of the Salt Range, Sind, Cutch, Guzerat, 
Rajputana, the North-western Provinces south to Etawah, and Central 
India as far east as Jhansi, Saugor, and Hoshungabad, the typical 
race is replaced by M. I. leucotis in which the crest is short and black, 
the under tail-coverts saffron-yellow, and the olive-brown of the upper 
parts is without the greenish tinge found in M. I. leucogenys ; the bill 
is stouter and blunter in this form. A third race, M. I. humii, is found 




FIG. 1 1 Head of White-cheeked Bulbul 
(] 1 nat. size) 

2OOO Up tO 



7* POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

connecting these two races in the Salt Range and the elevated plateau 
north of it about Rawal Pindi and Campbellpur, and west of this to 
Bannu and Kohat. This is a truly intermediate form, the crest in 
colour and size and the bill in shape being intermediate between 
those of M. 1. leucogenys and M. /. leucotis. 

Habits, etc. Throughout its range and under its different names 
the White-cheeked Bulbul has the same characteristics ; it is a bird 
of open country not of forest, a dweller amongst bushes rather than 
a bird of the trees, a familiar and cheerful companion by the % paths 
of man. In the Himalayas it is one of the conspicuous birds of 
the hill stations, coming freely into gardens and disporting itself on 
the open spaces that fringe the roads ; it is common round the hill 
villages with their cultivation. But in Kashmir its sociability reaches 
its apex ; there it comes freely into verandahs and rooms, and hops 
about in the house-boats with its cheery note and quaintly-cocked 
crest, suspecting no harm and receiving none ; and many a picnic 
party on the shores of the Dal Lake in the historic gardens of 
Shalimar and Nishat Bagh have found their number added to 
by a pair of Bulbuls who have hopped about their table-cloth and 
gratefully swallowed the crumbs of cake thrown to them. 

While not in any true sense a migrant, this Bulbul is subject 
to a certain amount of local movement. In the hills, while the 
majority are strictly stationary, a small proportion move down a 
little from their breeding zone in the winter; and in the plains 
leucotis is known to shift its quarters according to season, though 
usually not to any great distance. 

These Bulbuls are generally met with in pairs or small parties of 
five or six individuals, but occasionally numbers are attracted together 
into a small area by the abundance of some special food-supply. 
They are very lively birds, incessantly bowing and posturing oh 
the summit of a bush or flying from tree to tree ; and as they do so 
they keep on uttering their cheery call Quick-a drink with you, which 
is a pleasant and welcome sound in a land where melodious bird-voices 
are scarce, and a sentiment that aptly fits the jovial roysterer that 
utters it. For the Bulbul is a jovial soul and companionable, ready 
for the fun of the day, whether it be a plentiful hatch of flying-ants 
to chase and devour, or a hapless sun-dazed owl to bully and torment. 

It feeds chiefly on insects and fruits. It is often seen on the 
ground collecting ants, grubs, beetles, and the like, and in the evenings 
it has a habit of flying into the air like a clumsy Flycatcher in pursuit 
of insects. Of fruits it devours many kinds ; in the hills the Berberis, 
in the plains the Ber and the Boquain, furnish it with a plentiful 
supply of berries ; and a row of green peas frequently suffers badly 
from its attentions. 

Attention must be drawn to the fact that these Yellow-vented 



THE WHITE-CHEEKED BULBUL 73 

Bulbuls hybridise frequently in a wild state with the Red-vented 
Bulbuls ; a fine series of these hybrids were collected by the late 
Major Whitehead at Kohat, and other cases have been observed at 
Rawal Pindi, Jhang, and Karachi. 

The breeding season commences both in the hills and plains 
towards the end of March and continues until August, though few 
nests will be found after June. Apparently two or more broods are 
reared in the year. 

The nest is a well-constructed cup, light and fragile in appearance 
but strong ; it is composed of fine dry stems of herbaceous plants, 
generally rather rough in texture, mixed with dry grass stalks and 
shreds of vegetable fibres ; there is a neat lining of some finer material, 
dry grass stems or grass roots for preference. The usual situation is 
in some thick bush at a height of 4 to 6 feet from the ground, but it 
is occasionally built in trees at a greater height than this. 

The eggs are somewhat variable in shape, size, and colour. 
Typically they are a rather long oval, somewhat pointed at one end ; the 
ground-colour is pinkish- or reddish-white with little or no gloss, thickly 
speckled, freckled, streaked, or blotched with red of various shades, with, 
in addition, tiny spots and clouds of underlying pale inky-purple. 

They average about 0-88 by 0*65 inches in size, the eggs of M. L 
leucotis being slightly smaller than those of M. L leucogenys. 



THE RED-WHISKERED BULBUL 

OTOCOMPSA JOCOSA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xiv, Fig. 3, opposite page 286) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. A conspicuous 
white patch on the sides of the face, above which is a small crimson 
tuft springing from the lower eyelid ; crest, top, and sides of the head 
and a narrow line below the white patch black, merging into a broad 
blackish-brown gorget, which is interrupted in the centre by the white 
of the breast ; remainder of upper plumage brown, darker on the 
wings and tail, the latter tipped with white except on the central 
pair of feathers ; lower plumage white, washed with brown on the 
sides of the body ; a crimson patch under the base of the tail. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. A sprightly and common garden bird; 
appears dark brown above, white below, with a white patch on the 
cheeks, and a broken gorget across the breast ; a crimson tuft below 
the eye, and a similar patch of colour below the tail. 

Distribution. The Red-whiskered Bulbul is another of those 



74 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

common species which have a wide distribution from India to 
China. It is, however, local and scarce in some parts of its range. 
Within our area there are five races. Three have white tips to the 
tail-feathers. These are the typical race, large and dark, which 
extends from outside India into the Duars and Sikkim foot-hills : 
O. j. provincialis^ a paler form found in the United Provinces, the 
valley of Nepal and Bihar ; and O. j. emeria, a small dark form, which 
extends from Lower Bengal to Madras and Gingee. The other two 
races lack the white tips in the tail. O. j. abuensis, found at tylount 
Aboo and in Rajputana, is extremely pale. O. j. fuscicaudata, a 
darker bird with the gorget unbroken, extends from the Tapti to 
Cape Comorin and Salem district, and also into the Central 
Provinces. This Bulbul breeds up to an elevation of 7000 feet ; 
but on the whole the northern race is more of a plains bird, while 
the southern prefers the hills. Both, however, are strictly resident. 
The Black-crested Yellow Bulbul, Otocompsa flaviventrts, is found 
along the Himalayas from the Sutlej Valley eastward into Assam 
and Burma, and south to the Central Provinces. It is readily 
distinguished by the black head and yellow breast. 

HabitSy etc. The Red-whiskered Bulbuls have very much the 
same habits as the Red-vented Bulbuls, avoiding thick forest and 
preferring the haunts of men, gardens, bamboo clumps, orchards, 
cultivation, low scrub-jungle, and the neighbourhood of villages. They 
are very cheerful, lively birds with much the same calls as the Red- 
vented Bulbuls but louder and more musical in tone. Where they occur 
they are often extremely abundant. In the Nilgiris and in the hill 
stations of the Bombay Presidency they are amongst the commonest 
birds and familiar to everyone. In Port Blair, Andaman Islands, 
this Bulbul is common and extremely tame and takes the place to 
some extent of the house sparrow, a bird not found in the Andamans. 
The flight is strong and well sustained, but slow and jerky in character. 

Their diet is both insectivorous and vegetarian ; they are 
particularly fond of fruit, attacking the larger kinds while immature, 
and the smaller when ripe, and as numbers often collect to the feast 
they are responsible for a good deal of damage. 

The breeding season is from February to May. The nest is cup- 
shaped, loosely but strongly built of grass bents, roots, fibres, and 
thin stalks, and is lined with finer grass stems and roots ; a certain 
amount of dry leaves and ferns are worked into the bottom and are 
characteristic of the nests of this species. They are placed in bushes 
at heights below 6 feet from the ground. 

Three or four eggs are usually laid in the north and two or three 
eggs in the south. 

The egg is a broad, somewhat lengthened oval, fine in texture 
with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is pinkish- or reddish-white, 



THE YELLOW-BROWED BULBUL 75 

very thickly freckled, mottled, streaked, and blotched with red of 
various shades, and a few secondary markings of pale inky-purple ; 
there is a tendency for the markings to collect at the broad end. 
The eggs measure about 0-85 by 0-65 inches. 



THE YELLOW-BROWED BULBUL 

IDLE ICTERICA (Strickland) 

(Frontispiece, Fig. 3) 

Description, Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage bright yellowish-olive ; wings dark brown, the outer webs 
olive-yellow, the inner edged with yellow ; tail yellowish-olive, the 
shafts below and the inner edges of the feathers yellow ; a line through 
and round the eye, the sides of the head and the whole lower plumage 
bright yellow, the flanks washed with olive. 

Iris brownish-red or blood-red ; bill horny-black ; legs and feet 
pale blue or slate-blue. 

Field Identification. A very sprightly Bulbul, bright olive above 
and bright yellow below with a yellow line over the eye. Found in 
melodious parties in the forests of the Western Ghats. 

Distribution. The Western Ghats from Khandala to Travancore, 
extending inland to the Nilgiris and Palnis at all heights from the 
foot of the hills to 6500 feet ; most numerous about 3500 feet. Also 
found in Ceylon. 

Another yellowish bird is the White-throated Bulbul (Criniger 
gularis) which is found at low elevations in the Eastern Himalayas, 
Assam, and extreme South-east Bengal. The upper plumage is 
yellowish-olive and the lower parts bright yellow with a white throat. 
It is a noisy, gregarious bird found in humid forest with thick 
undergrowth. 

Habits, etc. The Yellow-browed Bulbul is one of the commonest 
forest birds of the Western Ghats where its normal habitat is the 
heavy evergreen forest which covers so many of the slopes of the hills. 
Here it keeps much to the undergrowth though it is often found 
about the edges of the forest and occasionally ventures into neighbour- 
ing gardens ; the shade and solitude of the forest are, however, its 
proper home. 

This species will be observed both in pairs and in noisy parties 
of five or seven birds which often join on to the mixed hunting parties. 
It is very restless in character, hopping actively about the boughs 
of the trees and then descending to i'he sapling undergrowth and 
then again flying on to some bare bough to give out its quiet little 
warble. The low-toned varying notes are difficult to describe, but 



76 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the adjectives sweet and soft and mellow will at once occur to the 
hearer. Some of them resemble the sounds cty eye, te white up, 
te whit up and these three modulations are continuously repeated 
for no small space of time. An alarm-note is somewhat harsh and 
jarring. In India this Bulbul is said to be largely frugivorous, feeding 
not only on the forest berries and fruits but on the more valuable 
domesticated guavas, loquats, pears, peaches and the like. In Ceylon, 
at any rate, it is also to some extent insectivorous. 

The breeding season extends from February to May. The nest is 
usually built at a height of 6 to 10 feet from the ground in a small 
sapling or evergreen shrub in dense dark forest where the light is 
very poor. Occasional nests are higher, even in a branch of a large 
tree. The nest is not as a rule particularly well concealed. It is very 
distinctive in character, being a shallow cup made almost entirely of 
green moss or fine grasses and bents, bound with cobwebs and lined 
with black rootlets or fine grass and slung as a rule between two twigs 
in a horizontal fork. The construction is firm and compact though 
some are so thin that the eggs can be seen through the bottom. 

The usual clutch consists of two eggs though three are sometimes 
found. The egg is a moderately long and rather perfect oval, almost 
devoid of gloss. The ground-colour is dull white or pinkish-white 
and sometimes even warm salmon-pink, speckled more or less thickly, 
and often heavily, with pale reddish-brown or pink ; these markings 
are usually more numerous at the broad end and occasionally form 
a cap. 

The eggs average about 0-9 by 0^65 inches. 



THE WHITE-BROWED BULBUL 
PYCNONOTUS LUTEOLUS (Lesson) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dull brownish olive-green, palest on the head where it is slightly 
ashy and brightest on the wings ; rump yellowish ; two dull whitish 
streaks from the beak over and under the eye ; chin pale clear yellow ; 
lower parts pale asny-whitish tinged with yellow, brightest towards 
the tail, the breast faintly streaked with brownish-grey. 

Iris red ; bill black ; legs dark plumbeous. 

Field Identification. An inconspicuous but noisy bird, olive- 
coloured above and paler below, with a white eyebrow, which skulks 
in cactus and bushes in gardens and scrub-jungle. 

Distribution. Confined to Ceylon and India south of a line from 
Baroda on the west to Midnapur on the east. While common in 
Western Bengal and Orissa, in the Tributary Mahals, along the 



THE WHITE-BROWED BULBUL 77 

Eastern Ghats and about Bombay, it is rare or absent on the Deccan 
tableland and throughout the Central Provinces. A resident species. 
The Ceylon race, P. I. inmlce, is smaller and darker. 

The Striated Green Bulbul (Alcurus leucogrammicus) is fairly 
common in the Eastern Himalayas, the hills of Assam and in Burma. 
It is crested, olive-green above with white shaft streaks and yellow 
below streaked heavily with olive-brown. The pleasant song will be 
familiar to many at Darjeeling. 

Habits, etc. This Bulbul avoids actual forest, and prefers scrub- 
and bush-jungle in that netherland which is neither forest nor 
cultivation. It frequents the outskirts of villages, and is a great lover 
of the thick clumps and hedges of cactus and thorny bushes which 
are found round every hamlet. In such cover it is a skulker, and 
from the heart of its retreat it is prone to burst into a loud clear 
volley of whistling notes which seem to tumble over each other, so 
quickly are they produced. The sound is a lively, rowdy chatter 
with no attempt at harmony just a burst of not unpleasing notes, 
ending in a frightened whistle. In Bombay and Madras it is a 
common garden bird. It is a plains species, and though found in 
the lower hills does not ascend those of any elevation. The food 
consists of various fruits and berries. 

This bird may be found breeding according to locality in almost 
every month of the year, but about Bombay the main breeding season 
is from April to July. Apparently two broods are reared. The 
nest is a loose, rather untidy, and straggling cup of small twigs, lined 
with fine grass stems, coir, or hair. It is built in thick bushes at no 
great height from the ground, generally from 2 to 4 feet. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. They are decidedly 
elongated ovals, fine and smooth in texture, and moderately glossy. 
The ground-colour is reddish- white, thickly speckled and blotched 
with reddish-brown, these markings mixed with clouds and spots 
of pale greyish-lilac. In some specimens these markings coalesce 
into a zone round the broad end. 

The eggs average in size 0-9 by 0-6 inches. 



THE HIMALAYAN TREE-CREEPER 
CERTHIA HIMALAYANA Vigors 

(Plate ii, Fig. 6, opposite page 22) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
a streaked mixture of blackish-brown and fulvous, the feathers at 
the base of the tail strongly tinged with ferruginous ; a short streak 
above the eye fulvous ; wings dark brown with a broad fulvous 



78 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

band running through all the flight-feathers except the four outer- 
most ; tail brown, regularly cross-barred with black ; chin and upper 
throat pure white ; remainder of lower plumage pale smoky-brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black, lower mandible fleshy-white ; legs 
fleshy. 

The bill is long, slender, and curved ; the toes and claws are very 
long ; the tail is graduated and composed of stiff, pointed feathers. 

Field Identification. A very small bird, mottled brown above 
and whitish below, with a long, curved beak- and stiff tail, invariably 
found climbing up the bark of tree-trunks. This species is 
distinguished from all other Indian Tree- Creepers by the black 
cross-bars on the tail. 

Distribution. The Himalayan Tree-Creeper is generally dis- 
tributed in the mountain ranges that encircle North-western India. 
The typical form is found in the Central Himalayas about Simla, 
Garhwal, and Kumaon. It is commonly said to occur farther 
east to Sikkirn and Bhutan, but this is not the case. In Turkestan 
there is a very grey race with a long bill which is known 
as C. h. tceniura. Between the areas occupied by these two forms, 
in Kashmir and the North-western Himalayas and the ranges running 
down south along the North-west Frontier Province in Afghanistan and 
Baluchistan, the Tree-Creepers are intermediate in character between 
the above two races and have been given the name of C. h. limes. 

The best known species in the Eastern Himalayas is the Sikkim 
Tree-Creeper (Certhia discolor) a more richly coloured species with 
the lower plumage earthy-brown. 

Habits, etc. During the breeding season the Himalayan Tree- 
Creeper is found throughout the mountain forests between 5000 
and 10,000 feet. It is perhaps most numerous in the areas of the 
big spruce firs, but is sufficiently common wherever it is found. It 
is an early breeder and very hardy in spite of its delicate-looking 
appearance and small size, and as early as March its song is a familiar 
sound in the snow-bound forests of the northern slopes at a time 
when they are half empty of bird-life. During the winter months 
from November to March large numbers drift downhill and wander 
into the plains at the foot of the ranges, occurring at that season as 
far afield as Jhang, Lahore, and Saharanpur. 

The Tree-Creeper cannot fail to be identified by the veriest 
beginner in the study of small birds. It is as much a parasite on 
the tree-trunks as the vegetable creepers that cover many of them. 
Except for an occasional scramble on a rock or the face of a steep 
bank the Tree-Creeper spends its entire life in a monotony of 
climbing, rather like a jerky brown mouse, from the bottom of a tree- 
trunk up to the thicker portions of the boughs, and then sweeping 
down through the air with a cicada-like flight to the base of a 



THE HIMALAYAN TREE-CREEPER 79 

neighbouring tree where it repeats the performance. It invariably 
climbs upwards, neither jerking backwards and downwards like a 
Woodpecker may on occasion, nor running in all directions and 
positions like a Nuthatch, though from its habit of rather preferring 
the underside of a bough it is frequently moving with its back 
parallel to the ground. It never perches on a twig, though it 
sometimes climbs along the thicker ones in continuation of its 
progress along a bough, and it is never still longer than the interval 
necessary to dislodge some tightly ensconced insect. For its food 
is obtained entirely from the bark of the trees that it climbs, picked 
out from amongst the crevices and holes with the long, curved beak, 
and the progress of the little bird is often interrupted by a parabola 
of flight after a small moth which has escaped it for the moment by 
taking wing from its diurnal resting-place. The Creeper, while living 
solitary or in pairs as regards its own kind, is very social with other 
species, and one or two are invariably found with the mixed hunting 
parties of Tits and Warblers, working the trunks while they hunt the 
leaves and twigs, so that tree after tree undergoes a thorough scrutiny. 

The ordinary call of the Tree-Creeper is a long-drawn squeak, 
meaningless in tone and ventriloquial in character, which comes 
from nowhere in particular amongst the trees, so that the bird is 
difficult to locate. The song is loud, but brief and monotonous, 
quis-quis-quis-quis uttered now and again in the depth of the forest, 
and chiefly remarkable as holding the field alone before most species 
in the hills have started their breeding song. 

The breeding season is from March to early May. 

The nest is a cup composed of fine grasses, dry leaves, moss, 
chips, and miscellaneous debris with a lining of feathers and fur ; it 
is placed in a hole or crevice in a tree-trunk, and very frequently 
behind a loose bulging section of bark and between planks in wooden 
buildings. The same site is often used for many years in succession. 

Four to six eggs are laid ; they are regular broad ovals, fine in 
texture without gloss. The ground-colour is white, profusely spotted 
with various shades of red and brown, the markings tending in many 
eggs to collect in a zone about the broad end. 

They measure about 0-68 by 0-50 inches. 



THE WALL-CREEPER 

TlCHODROMA MURARIA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Summer plumage : 
the whole of the body plumage ashy-grey, except the chin and 
throat which are black ; a large crimson patch on the wings, 
including the coverts and edges of the flight-feathers ; flight-feathers 



8o POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

black, the four outer feathers each with two conspicuous white 
spots ; tail black tipped with ashy which gradually changes to white 
and increases in extent towards the outer feathers. 




FIG. 12 Wall-Creeper (i nat. size) 

In winter plumage the chin and throat are white and the top of 
the head is brownish. 

The bill is long and slender, the wings rounded and the hind 
claws very large. 



THE WALL-CREEPER 81 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Can be confused with no other species ; a 
french-grey bird with a long slender bill and crimson patches and 
white spots in the wings, which spends its life climbing on banks, 
walls, and rocks. 

Distribution. The Wall-Creeper is found in the mountain ranges 
of Central and Southern Europe, and eastwards to Mongolia, 
Turkestan, and the Himalayas. Breeding under very similar Alpine 
conditions in these widely-distant areas it has not been influenced 
by climate towards the formation of geographical races. 

In the Himalayas it breeds at great elevations between 12,000 
and 16,000 feet, and also apparently in the neighbouring ranges 
between the North-west Frontier Province and Afghanistan. In 
winter it descends to the outer ranges and the foot-hills, individuals 
wandering well out into the plains. 

The stumpy little dark brown Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) with 
its cocked-up tail is found in the Sufed Koh, Kashmir and the Himalayas 
generally in the high forest zone, descending lower in winter. There 
are two different races but their habits are the same as those of the 
British bird. 

Habits, etc. This beautiful bird can scarcely escape notice 
where it occurs. In the Alpine fastnesses, where it breeds, it spends 
its life on the faces of stupendous precipices, but in winter when it 
comes lower down to the milder haunts of men it may be found 
wherever small cliffs, steep-cut banks, walls, rocks, or boulders 
provide the vertical surfaces on which it lives. For as the Tree- 
Creeper is to the tree, so is the Wall-Creeper to the stone, and it is 
equally rare for the one bird to invade the haunt of the other. The 
Wall-Creeper progresses up the vertical face of stone in a curious 
jerky fashion with a continual downward flick of the outermost 
wing-feathers ; occasionally it flutters out into the air and endeavours 
on the wing to capture some insect disturbed by its progress, and 
the curious butterfly effect of this action has given the name of 
" Butterfly-bird " in many languages from Switzerland to Tibet. 
Unlike the Tree-Creeper, the Wall-Creeper has perforce to undertake 
long flights in the air as it passes from cliff to cliff. Then it is 
curiously reminiscent of a Hoopoe, the same hovering, uncertain 
flight as if the bird was wondering where to go, the same rounded 
spotted wings, the same general build, the long curved beak too, a 
curious case of parallelism still unexplained. 

In its occasional wanderings into the plains it is often hard put 
to find the conditions necessary to its life and is in consequence 
sometimes found in curious places. Every winter one or two live 
on the structure of the Khalsa College at Amritsar. 

The breeding season in the Himalayas is about May and June. 

F 



82 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The nest is a pad of moss and wool, more or less mixed and lined 
with wool, fur, hair, and feathers, placed in some crevice in the face 
of a precipice, almost invariably in an inaccessible situation. 

The clutch consists of four to six eggs ; they are broad ovals, 
compressed and pointed towards the smaller end. The colour is a 
rather dull white sparsely freckled with deep reddish-brown, chiefly 
towards the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-85 by 0-55 inches. 



THE BROWN DIPPER 

CINCLUS PALLASII Temminck 
(Plate ix Fig. 5, opposite page 176) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Entire plumage dull 
chocolate-brown ; the eyelids covered with white feathers. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs pale brown, soles yellow. 

The young bird is paler and greyer with the plumage squamated. 

Field Identification. A sombre dark-brown bird, squat in shape, 
with a short tail and sharp beak like a large Wren, found on running 
open water in the Himalayas ; flies very swiftly low over the water 
with a shrill call. 

Distribution. This sombre species of Dipper is found throughout 
the greater part of Northern Asia from Siberia and Manchuria to 
the Himalayas and Japan ; it is divided into several races, of which 
we are only concerned with one (C. p. tenuirostris). This is found 
in Afghanistan and Turkestan, and throughout the Himalayas to 
Eastern Assam north of the Brahmaputra. It is a resident species 
breeding mainly from the foot-hills up to about 6000 feet, but it 
occurs also at all heights up to 12,000 feet. 

A race of the Common Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) of Europe is found 
at high elevations of the Inner Himalayas, being best known from 
Kashmir to Gurhwal. It is easily recognised by the pure white throat 
and breast. 

Habits y etc. The Brown Dipper is entirely aquatic in its habits, 
and is found commonly on all the open perennial streams and 
rivers of the Himalayas, both amongst the wooded ranges of their 
southern slopes and amid the arid, stony mountains of their central 
and inner ranges. It obtains from the water all its food, consisting 
mainly of aquatic insects and their larvae, and these it captures 
by wading, swimming, and diving, having also the faculty of walking 
about on the bed of the stream under water. For these methods 
it is admirably adapted in structure. It is short, rotund, and 
stoutly built, the plumage is everywhere very dense and incapable 



THE BROWN DIPPER 83 

of penetration by water, and even the eyelids are clothed with 
feathers ; the head is narrowed in front and the feathers of the 
forehead are very short and lie flat. 

It is a most active bird, never still and always busy. The harsh 
call dzchit-dzchit is a familiar sound along hill streams, shrill enough 
to be heard easily above the roar of the waters ; it heralds the approach 
of the small plump brown bird that flies swiftly along a foot or two 
above the surface of the water, swaying from, side to side amongst 
the boulders and only making a detour over land to avoid some 
intruder at the water's edge ; the wings appear rather small for the 
stout body, and to make up for this they are vibrated very quickly 
in flight in sustained beats followed by a pause. 

Settling on a stone the bird bows and jerks from side to side, 
or immediately starts feeding, keeping its foothold easily on slippery 
stones and disappearing under water either diving or walking. It 
swims freely on the broader pools, looking like a miniature Water-hen, 
now and again diving and disappearing for a while. 

The breeding season is from December to May. 

The nest is a large globular structure of moss and grass, stoutly 
constructed with massive walls, and the entrance placed at one side 
is comparatively large. The egg-chamber is lined with moss, roots 
and leaves. 

The situation chosen is always close to or above the water, and 
the nests are wedged into hollows and clefts of rocks and boulders 
overgrown with mosses and ferns and damp with moisture. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. In shape they are rather 
elongated ovals, very soft and satiny in texture, and almost without 
gloss. The colour is pure white, and the average size is about i-oo 
by 0*72 inches. 



THE INDIAN BLUE-CHAT 

LUSCINIA BRUNNEA (Hodgson) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : The whole upper plumage, 
including the exposed parts of the wings and tail, dull blue, the 
hidden parts of the wing- and tail-quills brownish-black ; a conspicuous 
white line over the eye ; the sides of the face and neck black ; throat, 
breast and sides of the body bright chestnut, paler on the chin ; 
thighs ashy-grey ; remainder of lower plumage white. 

Female : The whole upper plumage and the exposed parts of 
the wings and tail olive-brown, tinged with russet on the sides of 
the wings and above the tail ; sides of the face russet flecked with 
paler ; middle of chin and throat, the abdomen and a patch under 



84 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the tail white ; remainder of lower plumage warm fulvous-brown or 
olive-brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black in male, dark horny-brown in female ; 
legs steely-brown. 

Field Identification. A spry looking bird found on or near the 
ground in thick undergrowth in forest in the Himalayas in summer 
and in South India in winter. Male looks very dark blue above and 
chestnut below with a conspicuous white line over the eye ; female 
an inconspicuous olive-brown bird, more fulvous and white below. 
Has a characteristic song. 

Distribution. The typical race of the Blue- Chat breeds in a zone 
between 6500 and n,ooo feet in the Sufed Koh, through Kashmir 
proper and in the Himalayas to Bhutan ; also in the Lichiang Range 
of North Yunnan. It winters mainly in the hills of South-west India 
between 2000 and 5000 feet from the Wynaad to South Travancore 
and in the central hills of Ceylon. On passage from August to October 
and from March to mid May it may be found here and there throughout 
the Peninsula except west of a line from Delhi to Agra and Baroda. 
A slightly smaller race L. b. wickhami breeds in Burma and is apparently 
resident. 

Habits, etc. During the breeding season the Indian Blue- Chat 
is a common bird in the forests of the Western Himalayas, being 
particularly numerous about the hill stations of Murree and the Galis, 
in the ranges of Kashmir proper and at suitable elevations about 
Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Simla and in the Gahrwal ranges. In these 
forests it affects patches of undergrowth and scrub and the sheltered 
sides of nullahs. By the ordinary passer-by it is seldom seen, being 
a skulker of secretive habits ; but its commonness is vouched for by 
the rich though quite short song, and a good way to observe the singer 
is to creep quietly into the centre of a patch of cover and sit there 
till his alarm has been forgotten. The male may then be seen at 
quite close quarters as he hops warbling and whistling through the 
cover, or sings from a perch in the undergrowth or on the lower 
bough of a tree. The sombre female is still more difficult to observe. 

The song consists of three or four rather monotonous notes 
jerri- jerri- jerri or phwee-phwee-phwee in an ascending scale, followed 
by a rapidly repeated trill, tre-tre-tre-tretre, the last rather reminiscent 
of an English Robin's song. Once learnt it cannot be mistaken. The 
alarm-note is a harsh tack-tack like that of the Stonechat and in 
the close neighbourhood of the nest a faint, anxious squeak is uttered. 
A very characteristic habit is the fanning of the tail and the jerking 
of it slowly downwards from the level of the back, every fifth or sixth 
movement bringing it up again. 

In its winter quarters the Blue-Chat is still a bird of shady thickets, 
marshy spots and banks of streams and it may also be found under 



THE INDIAN BLUE-CHAT 85 

coffee bushes and cardamum plants. Here it is usually found singly, 
flitting about the undergrowth, alighting on the ground and hopping 
along easily and swiftly in search of the insects that make up its food. 
The alarm-note and the faint squeak may be heard, but the song is 
not uttered in the winter quarters. 

The breeding season lasts from the end of May till the end of July. 

The nest is a cup of lichens and dead or skeleton leaves, lined 
with a little wool, pine-needles, hair or a few feathers. It is built 
on the ground, either in a hollow on a steep bank or between the 
roots and buttresses of trees, particularly large firs. 

The clutch consists normally of four eggs. In shape they are 
true ovals, fine and close and silky in texture but without gloss. The 
colour is a uniform pale blue, unmarked. 

They measure about 0-80 by 0-60 inches. 

This species is a favourite foster parent for the Common Cuckoo 
(Cuculus canorus). 



THE PIED BUSH-CHAT 

SAXICOLA CAPRATA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Deep black all over, with 
the exception of a large patch at the base of the tail, the lower abdomen, 
and a conspicuous wing-patch, which are white. In fresh autumn 
plumage the feathers are sometimes margined with rusty-brown. 

Female : Upper plumage greyish-brown, with a rufous patch at 
the base of the tail ; wings and tail dark brown, the feathers with 
pale edges ; the lower plumage brownish-grey, gradually darkening on 
the breast and becoming more fulvous towards the tail. In fresh 
autumn plumage the feathers have broad grey margins which make 
the bird look paler in colour. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Abundant in the plains and lower hills in 
every type of open country ; the male is a conspicuous little black 
and white bird, the female dark brown with a rusty patch at the base 
of the tail. They perch on the tops of grasses and bushes and at 
intervals fly down to the ground to pick up insects. 

Distribution. Transcaspia, Afghanistan, Persia, India, Burma, the 
Philippines, and Java. The Pied Bush- Chat occurs practically 
throughout India, and three races are found within our limits though 
their detailed distribution is not very accurately known. P. c. 
bicolor, with the abdomen largely white, breeds in considerable 
numbers from the plains up to 5000 feet and locally higher, 
from the extreme North-west, Baluchistan, and Sind, along the 

F2 



86 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



Outer Himalayas and the neighbouring plains. It is here largely 
a summer visitor, arriving in February and March and leaving in 
September and October. In winter it appears as far south as 
Hyderabad State. P. c. caprata, with the abdomen black, is found 
from Vizagapatam to Salem and across Mysore to Malabar as well as 
in Burma and farther afield. It grades through S. c. nilgiriensis 
(Nilgiris, Palnis and Travancore ranges) to the huge billed S. c. air at a 
which is confined to the higher ranges of central hill zone of Ceylon. 
Habits i , etc. This Bush- Chat is one of the most familiar birds of 
the plains of India, the pied plumage of the male and its habit of 
perching on the tops of bushes and clumps of grass attracting the 

attention of all who are observant of 
wild creatures. It avoids heavy forest 
but is common about cultivation, in 
grasslands and in scrub-jungle, and is 
particularly partial to the riverain areas 
of Northern India where cultivation 
and tracts of tamarisk scrub and grass 
alternate. 

It takes practically all its food from 
the ground, flying down to it from some 
favourite vantage point which commands 
a view of bare ground in the vicinity, and 
to which it returns after the capture of 
each morsel with the self-satisfied spread 
and jerk of the tail that is common to 
most of the family. On occasion it 
launches out into the air and captures 
flying insects on the wing. 

In the breeding season, as a display, 
the male drops and quivers the wings and 
raises the scapulars to show the white 
wing-patches ; there is also a very pretty 
love flight in which he flies up singing 
from the top spray of a bush with tail outspread and wings slowly 
beating the air above the head, and descends again to settle on another 
bush. In this flight, also, prominence is laid on the displaying of the 
wing-patches. 

The ordinary note is the harsh chipping sound of two stones 
knocked together, common to the Chats and from which they derive 
their name. The song is short but very sweet and pleasing. 
The food seems to consist entirely of insects. 
The breeding season extends from March until August, but the 
majority of nests will be found from April to June. 

The nest is a cup of small grass roots, bents, and the like, lined 




FIG. 13 Pied Bush-Chat 
(J nat. size) 



THE PIED BUSH-CHAT 87 

with hair, fur, and wool. It is placed in hollows in the ground, either 
on the level under tufts of grass and herbage or in the face of banks ; 
occasionally holes in buildings and rocks are utilised, but the bird is 
normally a ground builder and the nests are always well concealed. 

The clutch varies from three to five eggs. 

The eggs are short, broad ovals with a fine texture and a faint 
gloss. The ground-colour is pale bluish-white or occasionally pale 
stone or pinkish-white, and the markings, which tend to collect towards 
the broad end, are freckles, specks, and small blotches of pale reddish- 
brown. 

They measure about 0-67 by 0-55 inches. 



THE STONECHAT 

SAXICOLA TORQUATA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xiv, Fig. 2, opposite page 286) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Upper plumage including 
the wings and tail brownish-black, with a conspicuous white patch 
of white on the wings and at the base of the tail ; the sides of the 
head and the chin and throat black with a large patch of white 
bordering the sides of the neck ; breast orange-rufous merging into 
the paler rufous of the under parts. In fresh autumn plumage the 
feathers are broadly edged with fulvous, which greatly obscures 
the above scheme of coloration, and changes the whole aspect of 
the bird ; the edges gradually wear off revealing the true coloration. 

Female : Upper plumage, wings and tail brown with smaller less 
conspicuous white patches on the wings, and a rufous patch at the 
base of the tail ; line over the eye, the chin and the throat pale 
fulvous ; remainder of the lower plumage pale orange-rufous. In 
fresh autumn plumage the feathers are slightly edged with fulvous, 
but not sufficiently for abrasion to change the plumage markedly. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. In open country, in both hills and plains, 
perching on tips of grass and bushes. Males recognised by black 
head, white collar, reddish breast, and white shoulder-patch. Female, 
a small dull brown bird similar to female of Pied Bush-Chat, but 
rather paler in colour with the rusty rump -patch less marked, and 
with traces of a white shoulder-patch. 

Distribution. The Stonechat is very widely distributed in Europe, 
Africa, and Asia, and is divided into a number of races, of which we 
are chiefly concerned with the Himalayan breeding form, known as 
S. torquata indica. This breeds in Western Siberia, Russian Turkestan 
to the South Urals, and throughout the Himalayas ; also in the ranges 



88 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

that extend down the North-western Frontier to Baluchistan. In the 
Himalayas the majority breed between 5000 and 7000 feet, but a few 
nest even higher, and stragglers nest in the foot-hills, and even the 
plains of North-western India. In winter, from about September to 
April, the Stonechat migrates to the plains of India, and may then 
be found everywhere except in the extreme south. A resident race 
S. t. leucura, with much white in the tail, breeds in the riverain jungles 
and swampy areas of the terais and dunes and the Indo-Gangetic plain. 

S. t. przewalskiiy the dark breeding race of Tibet, and S. t. stejnegeri, 
the broad-billed race of North-eastern Asia, visit Northern and Eastern 
India in winter. 

Habits, etc. The Stonechat is never found in forest country. 
During the summer months, whilst breeding in the Himalayas, it is 
found on the open hill-sides, either amongst the terraced cultivation 
or on the bare waste slopes where rough grazing alternates with 
rocky screes. In winter in the plains it is largely a bird of open 
cultivation, being particularly partial to fields with standing crops of 
cotton, sugar-cane, or the various cereals. Under all circumstances 
its characteristics are the same. It invariably perches on some 
vantage-point, either a large stone or more generally the topmost 
twig of a bush or plant, and thence makes short flights in all directions 
on to the ground to capture some insect, either devouring it on the 
spot, or taking it back for the purpose to its perch. It is very restless 
and fairly shy, and is incessantly flirting its wings and tail. It does 
not move about on the ground, but the flight is fast and strong, and 
once alarmed the bird is difficult to approach. The alarm-notes, hweet- 
chat, hweet-chat, somewhat resemble the noise made by clinking two 
stones together, and are responsible for the bird's trivial name ; they 
are uttered at the least provocation, as the bird is rather fussy and 
suspicious. The song is a short low trill, and is quite pleasant though 
it is audible but for a short distance. 

The breeding season lasts from March to July, but most eggs will 
be found in April and May. Two broods are reared in a season. 

The nest is a cup composed of rather coarse grass and roots, 
sometimes mixed with moss or dry leaves, and lined with fine grass, 
hair, fur, and occasionally a few feathers. It is built in holes in 
terrace walls, under rocks and boulders, in banks and under tufts 
of foliage, and is well concealed, so that it is best found by watching 
the parents with field glasses. 

The normal clutch consists of four or five eggs. 

They are rather broad ovals with little or no gloss. The ground- 
colour is dull pale green or greenish-white, very finely and faintly 
freckled with pale brownish-red ; the markings are very delicate in 
character and tend to collect towards the broad end. 

They measure about 0*70 by 0*55 inches. 



PLATE V 




. White-throated Laughing-Thrush. 2. Deccan Scimitar-Babbler. 3. Jerdon's 
Chloropsis. 4. Black-headed Sibia. (All about T ^ nat. size.) 



[Face p. 88 



THE DARK-GREY BUSH-CHAT 89 



THE DARK-GREY BUSH-CHAT 

RHODOPHILA FERREA (Gray) 
(Plate xi, Fig. 2, opposite page 220) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Upper plumage dark 
ashy-grey mixed with black ; wings black edged with grey, and 
with a white patch on the inner coverts ; tail black, the feathers 
increasingly margined with white outwards ; a broad white streak 
above the eye ; sides of the head black ; entire lower plumage white 
sullied with ashy along the flanks and on the thighs. In fresh autumn 
plumage the upper parts have rusty margins to the feathers but these 
soon wear off. 

Female : The whole upper plumage rufous-ashy ; tail brown, 
broadly edged with chestnut matching the upper tail-coverts ; wings 
brown, the feathers narrowly edged with rufous ; a pale grey streak 
above the eye ; sides of the head reddish-brown ; chin and throat 
white ; remainder of lower plumage pale rufous-ashy. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs dark brown. 

The tail is rather longer and more graduated than in the true 
Chats of the genus Saxicola. 

Field Identification. Common Himalayan form. Male pied black 
and white with the under surface white ; female rufous-brown, paler 
below with a chestnut tail ; sits conspicuously on bushes and trees 
on the more open hill-sides ; tail comparatively long. 

Distribution. This Bush-Chat breeds throughout the Himalayas 
from the borders of Afghanistan and Chitral to Eastern Assam at 
elevations between 4000 and 10,000 feet. While not migratory in 
the true sense of the word, it moves to a lower zone in the winter 
months ; at that season it is common along the waterways of Assam 
and Eastern Bengal, but in the west only a few straggle to the plains 
along the base of the Himalayas. 

HabitSy etc. This is a familiar bird in Himalayan hill stations, 
frequenting all types of country provided that they are moderately 
open ; it is fond of gardens and the immediate neighbourhood of 
man. It has the family habit of perching in conspicuous positions 
on the tops of bushes, but differs from the Chats of the genus 
Saxicola in its fondness for situations at the tops of trees. In such 
places the male sings his rather pretty but unsatisfactory little song, 
Tttheratu-chak-lew-titattt always just that length but with a few 
variations, and with a rising inflection that ends suddenly. It captures 
insects and caterpillars on the ground, and also sallies into the air to 
take insects on the wing. While bold and familiar in an ordinary 
way, it develops a very anxious demeanour during the nesting season, 



90 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

flirting its long tail and making a noise which has been aptly described 
as " geezing," recalling the winding of a watch. The nearer one 
approaches to the nest or fledged young the more excited become 
the birds, so that their very anxiety betrays the spot on the principle 
of the children's game of " hot and cold." 

The breeding season lasts from the beginning of April to the 
end of July and two broods are reared, occasionally from the same 
nest. 

The nest is the usual cup characteristic of the Chats, a structure 
of coarse grass, fine twigs, and moss, lined with fine roots and grass 
stems, horse-hair, and fur. It is placed in a hollow either on some 
grassy bank, beneath a stone, amongst the roots of a tree, or occasionally 
amongst the stones of a rough terrace wall. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. In shape they are a 
broad oval, with a stout and fine texture and little gloss. The ground- 
colour is variable from bluish-white to bluish-green ; the markings 
consist of faint reddish speckles which may either cover the whole 
egg so completely that it appears rufous rather than blue, or collect 
into a zone or cap about the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-72 by 0-57 inches. 

This Bush-Chat is commonly victimised by the Cuckoo (Cuculus 
canorus), and a large proportion of its nests are destroyed by other 
enemies. 



THE PIED WHEATEAR 
(ENANTHE PICATA (Blyth) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male : Black throughout except 
a patch on the rump and upper tail-coverts, and the lower plumage 
from the breast downwards which are pure white ; the tail is white 
except for a broad black band across the end, widening on the central 
pair to nearly half of the feathers. 

Female : Upper plumage brown ; a white patch on the rump 
and upper tail-coverts ; wings dark brown ; tail as in the male but 
black replaced by brown ; chin, throat, and breast dark ochraceous- 
brown ; remainder of lower plumage pale buff y- whitish. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. In dry open country sitting on walls, stones, 
and posts ; male black with white rump and under parts, and a white 
tail banded with black which is conspicuous in flight ; female brown 
with similar tail ; flies low and fast over the ground when disturbed. 

Distribution. Breeds in South - east Persia, Baluchistan, 
Afghanistan, the neighbouring areas of the North-west Frontier 



THE PIED WHEATEAR 91 

Province, and Baltistan. In winter migrates to India where it is 
abundant in Sind, Rajputana, and portions of the United Provinces, 
and in smaller numbers in the Punjab. Two very closely allied 
species, the White-capped Wheatear (OSnanthe capistratd) and 
Strickland's Wheatear (CEnanthe opisthokuca) winter in some numbers 
in North-west India, the latter breeding along the Suliman Hills. 
They closely resemble the Pied Wheatear, and by some writers have 
been erroneously considered polymorphisms of that species. The first 
named has the top of the head and nape greyish-white. Strickland's 
Wheatear has the lower parts black almost to the vent. 

Habits, etc. This handsome Wheatear is amongst the earliest of 




FIG. 14 Pied Wheatear (J nat. size) 

the winter visitors to arrive in India, appearing in Sind about the 
middle of August ; it leaves again in February and March. This, 
like other Wheatears, avoids forest and damp areas. It prefers 
open desert, thin scrub-jungle, and the drier stretches of cultivation ; 
and in such places is particularly fond of the neighbourhood of 
native huts and cattle-folds, attracted no doubt by the insects that 
gather in their vicinity. It perches comparatively seldom in trees, 
but sits on low mud walls, well-posts, and similar situations where 
it watches for food, and thence flies down to the ground to pick up 
wandering beetles, ants, and other insect life. The flight is strong 
and fast and always low over the ground, and, perching or hopping, 
the carriage of the bird is very spry and upright. Each individual 
has its own beat with a series of observation-posts, and resents the 
arrival within it of intruders of the same species, chasing them 
away : it is however rather a shy bird, as regards man. During 
the midday heat it rests quietly in some shady spot, and at night it 



92 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

roosts in the roofs of buildings by preference. The male has a very 
sweet, low warbling song, which is sometimes uttered in winter. 
In this species, as in the allied species mentioned, there is a marked 
preponderance of males in India in winter, somewhat in the pro- 
portion of twenty to one female, and no explanation of the fact is 
known. 

In Baluchistan and the Kurram it breeds from late April to June 
at heights from 5000 to 8000 feet and even higher. The nest is a 
large structure of roots, bents, and feathers, the cup being lined 
with wool and hair. It is placed deep in a hole in a bank, rock, or 
wall. The clutch consists of four or five eggs. 

The egg is a blunt, broad oval, fine and close in texture, with a 
fair gloss. The ground-colour varies from white to pale skim-milk- 
blue, sparsely marked with tiny freckles and a few small blotches of 
reddish-brown, the markings tending to gather in a zone round the 
broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-8 by O'6 inches. 



THE DESERT WHEATEAR 

(ENANTHE DESERTI (Temminck) 
(Plate xiv, Fig. 4, opposite page 286) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Upper plumage rich 
buff turning to a white patch at the base of the tail ; wings black, 
the feathers margined with white or buff, and with a patch on the 
inner coverts white ; tail black, the basal half of the feathers white ; 
a pale buff streak over the eyes ; sides of the head and neck, chin, 
and throat black, the feathers edged with buff ; remainder of lower 
plumage buff, brightest on the breast. 

Female : Resembles the male, but is duller and the black is 
replaced by brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. A typical Wheatear perching on the ground 
or on low bushes in arid open country ; sandy in colour with dark 
wings, and black throat-patch in male ; a white patch in the base 
of the tail ; flies low and fast over the ground when disturbed. 

Distribution. The Desert Wheatear has a wide distribution as 
a breeding species in Northern Africa, Palestine, Arabia, and South- 
western Asia to Tibet. It is divided into several races, of which we 
are only concerned with two. CE. d. atrogularis breeds in Western 
Central Asia, the Kirghiz Steppe, the South Caucasus to Eastern 
Persia and Afghanistan. In winter it migrates to the plains of North- 
western India, becoming very common in the North-west Frontier 



THE DESERT WHEATEAR 93 

Province, the Punjab and Sind, and reaching the latitude of Bombay 
to the south and Nagpur in the east. CE. d. oreophila, slightly larger 
with more white in the wing-quills breeds in Baltistan, Ladakh and 
Lahul but winters south-west of our limits. This species must not 
be confused with the Isabelline Wheatear (CEnanthe tsabellina), also a 
winter visitor to North-western India, in which both sexes closely 
resemble the female of the Desert Wheatear but have the black bar 
on the end of the tail narrower. 

The Red-tailed Wheatear (CEnanthe xathoprymna), common about 
broken land in North-western India, has the tail chestnut with a black 
terminal band that is much as in the Blue-throat, but its habits 
which are like those of the Desert Wheatear distinguish it from the 
skulking Bluethroat. 

Habits, etc. This is a true denizen of the desert, being generally 
distributed and common in the wide arid plains of North-western 
India, where it prefers the more barren and sandy wastes, though it 
comes also into cultivation where this is interspersed with barren 
patches. It is particularly fond of broken ground, either sandy or 
rocky, and of old cultivation which has reverted to desert. It spends 
most of its time on the ground, perching on stones and little eminences 
or on the wild caper bushes and uck plants that are common in the 
localities it inhabits ; from such spots it hops or flies to the ground 
to capture beetles and other insects, occasionally darting up into the 
air to take insects on the wing. It arrives in India later than most 
of the Wheatears, about the middle of October, and leaves again in 
February and early March. It flies well but keeps low above the 
ground and practically never perches on trees. 

This species, in the race CE. d. oreophila, just nests in Indian terri- 
tory in farther Kashmir and Lahul on the barren hillsides and sandy 
plains at elevations of 10,000 to 12,000 feet. 

The nest is placed in burrows, under bushes, and in holes in 
walls. It is a shapeless mass pf grass, fine roots and twigs, wool, 
hair, and other materials, in which a shallow hollow is lined with 
hair and a few feathers. 

The clutch consists of three to five eggs ; these are pale bluish- 
green speckled and spotted with rusty-red. 

In size they average about 0-80 by 0-56 inches. 



94 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE BROWN ROCK-CHAT 

CERCOMELA FUSCA (Blyth) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. The whole plumage 
dull rufous-brown, redder on the sides of the head and lower parts ; 
tail very dark brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Plains species, frequenting ruins, outskirts 
of towns, old brickyards and low rocky hills ; a plain dark-brown 
bird familiar in demeanour, coming into occupied buildings. 

Distribution. This is purely an Indian species and is confined 
to a patch of country in the centre of the Peninsula, including the 
Southern and Eastern Punjab, the United Provinces, Chota Nagpur, 
the extreme North-east of the Central Provinces, and Rajputana as 
far east as Cutch. 

Habits , etc. The Brown Rock-Chat is a common and /familiar 
species found both in arid stony wastes, in deep ravines and earthy 
cliffs, on rocky hills, and in and about villages and towns. It is a 
great frequenter of buildings, flitting in and out of the empty 
chambers and gaping windows of ancient palaces and forts, 
perching in the cornices of tombs and mosques, and living even 
in the more frequented houses and offices of the work-a-day world, 
the friend alike of rich and poor. It comes into rooms even when 
there are people moving and talking within ; it is a regular Wheatear 
in its habits, flying from ground to roof-ridge, from window to cornice, 
with the strong direct flight of those birds ; its food consists of insects, 
beetles, ants, and the like, which it captures on the ground, flying down 
from the elevated situations where it perches. During the breeding 
season it becomes rather pugnacious and readily attacks squirrels, 
rats, lizards, and birds in the neighbourhood of the nest. 

The breeding season lasts from February to August, but most eggs 
will be found in March and April. Two or three broods are reared 
in a year, sometimes in the same nest. 

The nest is a shallow, loosely-constructed cup of grass-roots, 
wool, hair, and similar materials, sometimes separately lined with 
wool and hair ; occasionally it is supported by a little heap of small 
stones and fragments of -clay. It is built in holes in rocks, buildings, 
and stone walls, and when in buildings may be placed on shelves and 
rafters without any attempt at concealment. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs, but four or five are 
sometimes laid. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, rather pointed towards the 
small end ; the texture is fine with a good deal of gloss. The 



THE SPOTTED FORKTAIL 95 

ground-colour is a most delicate pale pure blue ; the markings 
consist of tiny specks and spots of reddish-brown, which tend to 
collect in a zone round the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-82 by 0-62 inches. 



THE SPOTTED FORKTAIL 
ENICURUS MACULATUS Vigors 

Description. Length n inches, including a long, deeply-forked 
tail of 6 inches. Sexes alike. A patch on the forehead and crown, 
a large patch on the rump, and the lower plumage from the breast 
downwards white ; remainder of body plumage black, with round 
white spots on the hind neck, and lunate white spots on the back ; 
feathers of the lower breast spotted with white ; a broad white bar 
across the wing ; the inner flight-feathers marked with white ; tail 
black, the feathers white at the base and broadly tipped with white, 
and the two outer pairs entirely white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs white. 

Field Identification. A Himalayan bird with a peculiar loud call, 
found on mountain streams in forest ; pied black and white, with a 
deeply-forked tail which droops at the end, and is incessantly swayed 
up and down. The markings on the upper surface form in life a 
white St Andrew's-Cross on a black ground. 

Distribution. The Spotted Forktail is found throughout the 
Himalayas, and farther eastwards through Assam and Siam to China. 
It is divided into several races, of which two are Himalayan. The 
typical race is found throughout the Western Himalayas from 3000 
to 12,000 feet from the extreme North-western Frontier to Nepal. 
From Nepal eastwards to Sikkim and Assam, and still farther east, 
it is replaced by E. m. guttatus which has no white spots on the breast. 
This race is found in the Himalayas between 2000 and 8000 feet. 
A resident species, though it probably changes its elevation slightly 
at different seasons. 

The Slaty-backed Forktail (Enicurus schistaceus), common in the 
Eastern Himalayas, is of the same type with a long forked tail. 
The crown to the lower back are slaty blue-grey. The Little Forktail 
(Microcichla scouleri\ however, found throughout the Himalayas, has 
a very short tail, but little more than half the wing in length. 

Habits, etc. The Forktail is a water-bird, strictly confined to 
running streams in hill ravines, preferably those that flow under 
fairly thick forest. It feeds on insects which it obtains from the 
water and the stream-bed ; it walks sedately over the stones along 
the margins of the water, feeding with a quick pecking motion, 



9 6 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



rather similar to that of a chicken ; and as it goes the black and 
white plumage blends marvellously with the glint of flowing water 
and the dark shadows amongst the stones so that it is seldom noticed 
till it takes to flight. It has a habit of frequently and unexpectedly 
turning at right angles or from side to side, and now and again it 
advances with little tripping runs, the white legs passing over the 
slippery stones with a sure-footed celerity. Standing and moving, 
the beautiful forked tail is always a characteristic feature, slowly 
swaying upwards and downwards. 

The call is a loud, rather plaintive cheeer, uttered both on the 




FIG. i ^Spotted Forktail (I nat. size) 



ground and in flight, and it is usually the first intimation of the 
presence of the bird that flies up from the bed of a stream that one 
is slowly climbing and settles again by the water some fifty yards 
or so above ; again one disturbs it and the manoeuvre is repeated. 
Then as one reaches the limit of its territory it leaves the stream, 
and slipping through the neighbouring forest regains the water below 
one and starts to feed again ; occasionally for a few minutes it perches 
on a bough of a tree, but this is seldom. 

The breeding season lasts from April till June. 

The nest is a most compact and heavy cup of green moss mixed 
with fine roots and a good deal of clay ; the cavity is lined with 
skeletonised leaves. It is placed near the water, in a niche of rock 
or a hollow of the bank, or amongst the roots of a tree. 



THE SPOTTED FORKTAIL 97 

The clutch usually consists of three eggs, but four are sometimes 
laid. The egg is a rather elongated and pointed oval, fine in texture 
with very little gloss. The ground-colour is pale greenish or pale 
stone-colour, and the markings consist of fine spots and freckles of 
yellowish- or reddish-brown, evenly and often thinly distributed. 

The egg measures about O'68 by 0-75 inches. 



THE BLACK REDSTART 

PHCENICURUS OCHRURUS (Gmelin) 
(Plate viii, Fig. i, opposite page 154) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male in fresh autumn plumage : 
Body plumage black, more or less concealed by grey fringes which 
wear off as the winter progresses so that the bird gradually becomes 
blacker in appearance ; the hinder parts from the rump and abdomen 
orange chestnut, except the central pair of tail-feathers which are 
brown ; flight-feathers and the larger coverts brown edged with rufous. 

Female : Brown tinged with fulvous, paler below and suffused 
with orange from the abdomen downwards ; a pale ring round the 
eye ; rump and tail chestnut, the central pair of feathers brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Abundant winter visitor to the plains, easily 
distinguished from all other birds by its habit of shivering the reddish 
tail at short intervals. 

Distribution. The Black Redstart is a widely-spread species 
occurring almost throughout Europe and Asia and in portions of 
Africa. In this immense range it is divided into a number of races all 
very similar in appearance, of which two are to be found in our area. 
P. o. phosnicuroides breeds in Persia, Turkestan, and Afghanistan, 
and in the mountains of Baluchistan ; it also breeds in the high 
mountain areas, over 10,000 feet, of Kashmir, Ladakh, and Western 
Tibet north of the Central Himalayan range, where forest country 
has given place to the desolate barren valleys and mountains beyond 
the reach of the monsoons. In the winter, from September to April, 
it migrates to the plains of North-western India, extending south as 
far as Northern Guzerat. P. o. rufiventris occupies a more eastern 
range, breeding from Tibet to China and wintering in South-western 
China, Burma, Assam, and North-eastern, Central, and Southern India. 
This form was noticed as high as 20,000 feet on migration by the 
Everest Expedition. 

The Blue-fronted Redstart (Phomicurus frontalis), easily recognis- 
able amongst the members of its genus by the black terminal band 

G 



98 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

to the chestnut tail, breeds in a high zone about 10,000 feet in the 
Himalayas. In winter it is common about the hill stations. 

Habits, etc. Those who are fortunate enough to travel in the 
high Himalayas in summer in the barren uplands of Kashmir and 
Ladakh, Tibet, Spiti, and Lahul, will recognise in the Black 
Redstart one of the most familiar of the roadside birds all the 
more conspicuous because of the general scarcity of bird-life. They 
flit about the stones and boulders and roadside walls, now indulging 
in a pleasing song with wheezy jingling notes and trills, now indicat- 
ing the neighbourhood of eggs or young by the low anxious alarm 
note ; and all the time amongst their restless movements the charac- 
teristic shiver of the tail is seen. There up on the breeding grounds 
the bird is very shy and cautious, but in the winter when it descends 
to the Indian plains this trait is lost and it becomes one of the most 
pleasant and friendly of our garden birds ; in fact its whole character 
appears to change and only the shiver of the tail remains to recall 
our friend of the barren heights. In India it is essentially a bird 
of open smiling cultivation and pleasant fertile gardens : it haunts 
the shade, not of deep groves and jungles but little patches of shade 
amongst the sunshine, perching on the lower branches of trees and 
flying down ever and anon to the ground to pick up its insect food. 
The call then is a curious little croak. 

As in most birds that breed at high elevations the breeding season 
is late, eggs being laid in June. The nest is a large substantial cup of 
fine twigs, bents, roots, grass stems, moss, and similar materials, lined 
with shreds of grass, hair, and feathers. It is placed in walls (which 
are built of loose stones and without mortar in countries where this 
species breeds) or under stones on the steep hill-sides. 

The clutch consists of four to six eggs. The eggs are of two types, 
very pale greenish-blue or almost pure white, with a slight gloss but 
no markings. 

They measure about 0-80 by 0-60 inches. 



THE WHITE-CAPPED REDSTART 

CHAIMARRHORNIS LEUCOCEPHALA (Vigors) 
(Plate viii, Fig. 4, opposite page 1 54) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
shining white ; rest of the head, neck, back, breast, and wings black ; 
the rump and lower plumage from the breast downwards bright 
chestnut ; tail chestnut, a black band across the tip. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. A bird of the Himalayan streams and rivers 



THE WHITE-CAPPED REDSTART 99 

where they are not closed in with trees. Quite unmistakable with 
shining white cap, black and chestnut plumage, and chestnut tail 
ending in a black bar. 

Distribution. The White-capped Redstart is found from the hills 
of Baluchistan and the Afghan frontier right along the Himalayas 
and farther east to Western China, occurring in all the higher mountain 
systems of this area. It breeds at elevations between 6000 and 16,000 
feet, individuals wandering even higher, but the majority of nests 
are certainly to be found between 8000 and 13,000 feet. During 
the winter it descends from high altitudes and is common along all 
the rivers of the foot-hills to the edge of the plains. 

Habits, etc. This lovely Redstart is familiar to all who have 
done much travelling in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas. It 
is strictly a water-bird dwelling on rivers and mountain streams, 
whether they flow amongst the verdant slopes and wooded precipices 
of the Outer Himalayas or through the barren valleys of the Inner 
and Central Himalayas where stony scree and tortuous glaciers wind 
down from the snow-clad peaks. In the desolation of the latter 
surroundings the beautiful plumage and the cheerful ways of the 
bird readily attract the attention of the traveller. 

It is pre-eminently a bird of the boulders amongst rushing water, 
and often drifts of snow, flying swiftly from bank to bank or fly- 
catching with little erratic flights from stone to stone, its loud plaintive 
squeak t-e-e-e-e being easily heard amongst the roar of the waters. 
During the breeding season different pairs have their territory defined 
along the torrents where they live. 

As with most Redstarts, the tail is an expressive organ. Con- 
tinuously the bird beats it up and down from well above the line 
of the back, almost to touch the stone on which it is sitting, and the 
action is frequently accompanied with a low bow ; this is done with 
the feathers closed or only partly spread ; but as the bird launches 
into flight or settles the tail is spread into a fan for a moment, a glorious 
glimpse of chestnut and black. 

This species is stronger in flight than the Plumbeous Redstart, 
and profits by the fact to leave the stream-beds and pay hasty visits 
to wet, mossy cliffs, steep marshy hill-sides, and similar situations. 

The breeding season lasts from May till August, but most nests 
will be found in July. The nest is a rather deep and massive cup 
of moss, leaves, roots, and grass, with a thick lining of wool and hair. 
It is placed in a hole of a wall or bank beside the water, or more rarely 
under a stone or amongst the roots of a tree. 

The eggs vary from three to five in number, but the ordinary 
clutch consists of four eggs. 

In shape they are broad ovals with only a slight gloss ; the ground- 
colour is a pale blue or blue-green, sometimes tinged with pink, and 



ioo POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the markings consist of specks and spots of reddish-brown, with 
underlying markings of grey and neutral tint. These markings vary 
in number and intensity, occasionally collecting into a cap at the 
broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-96 by 0*65 inches. 



THE PLUMBEOUS REDSTART 
RHYACORNIS FULIGINOSA (Vigors) 

(Plate viii, Fig. 2, opposite page 154) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : The whole plumage dull 
plumbeous-slate except the tail which is bright chestnut. 

Female : The whole upper plumage dull bluish-brown, the tail 
white with a large triangle of brown at the end ; wings brown, edged 
with pale rufous ; lower plumage ashy-brown squamated with ashy- 
white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs dark brown. 

Field Identification. Himalayan species. Never seen away from 
running water, perching on the boulders and fluttering from them 
into the air. Male, blackish-slate with a chestnut tail ; female, grey 
with a white tail, tipped triangularly with brown. 

Distribution. The Plumbeous Redstart is found throughout the 
whole length of the Himalayas, where it breeds commonly from 4000 
to 9000 feet and in smaller numbers up to 13,000 feet, though it is 
certainly unusual to find it above 10,000 feet. During the winter 
it leaves the higher portion of its habitat and is then found from 
6000 feet right down to the foot-hills. Apart from this altitudinal 
movement it is a resident species. 

Habits, etc. The Plumbeous Redstart is purely a water-bird, 
closely wedded to the streams and rivers of the Himalayas, eschewing 
their wider and more placid reaches, and preferring tumultuous waters 
rushing down the steeper slopes and broken by large boulders. 

These graceful little birds strike the notice of even the least 
observant. No stretch of stream is without its pair, which spend 
all their time on the boulders in the middle of the rushing water, 
with occasional excursions to the bank or to the bough of some 
adjacent tree. They flit from stone to stone and continuously make 
erratic little fluttering darts into the air after some passing insect, or 
snatch some morsel from the water's brim ; as they settle, the con- 
spicuously-coloured tail, chestnut in the cock, brown and white in 
the hen, is slightly fanned and wagged up and down, the two move- 
ments being simultaneous and repeated at intervals until the next 
incursion into the air. This movement of the white tail has been 



THE PLUMBEOUS REDSTART 101 

aptly compared to the scintillations of light on water slightly disturbed. 
They are as quarrelsome as restless, and appear to have sharply- 
defined territories, for the male with a provocative little snatch of 
song is always launching attacks at the intruder from some other 
territory, dashing at it regardless of sex and chasing it back to its 
own borders. The short song is rather sweet and jingling and may 
be heard occasionally in winter as well as in the breeding season. 
It is remarkably similar to that of the White-throated Fantail 
Flycatcher (L. albicollis) and easily confused with it. It is uttered 
either from some rock in midstream or in the air as the little bird 
slowly flies with even movement but rapidly vibrating wings in a 
short parabola from rock to rock. This species always feeds very 
late into the dusk. 

The breeding season lasts from April to July and two broods 
appear to be raised. 

The nest is a neat cup of moss mixed with a few leaves and roots 
and lined with fine roots and fibres or wool and hair. It is placed 
in any sort of hole or hollow provided that it is close to running 
water, in ivy on a tree, in a hole in a trunk, in a hole of a rock or 
bank or wall, or on a small ledge. Two nests will occasionally be 
found a few inches apart, but these merely represent successive 
occupations of a favoured site. 

The eggs are three to five in number, but four is the normal clutch. 

They are more or less broad ovals in shape, rather pointed towards 
the small end, of a fine texture and with a slight gloss. The ground- 
colour is a pale greenish-white or sometimes a faint stone-colour, 
almost entirely obscured by the markings, which consist of a mottling 
and freckling of somewhat pale and dingy yellowish- or reddish-brown. 
These markings have a tendency to collect in a cap at the broad end. 
The eggs greatly resemble miniatures of the eggs of the White-capped 
Redstart. 

They measure about 0-76 by 0-60 inches. 



THE BLUETHROAT 

CYANOSYLVIA SVECICA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate ix, Fig. 6, opposite page 176) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Fully adult male in breeding 
plumage : The whole upper plumage and wings brown ; tail brown, 
a conspicuous chestnut patch in the base broken by the central pair 
of feathers ; a fulvous line over the eye ; chin and throat bright blue, 
with a chestnut spot in the centre of the blue ; below the blue a 
blackish band and below this a broader band of chestnut ; remainder 

G2 



102 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

of lower plumage buffish-white. The blue and chestnut of the lower 
plumage vary according to age, season and race and in some speci- 
mens are almost absent. Occasionally the chestnut spot is entirely 
absent or is replaced by a white spot. 

Female : Differs from the male in having the whole lower plumage 
buffish-white with a gorget of brown spots across the breast. 

Iris brown ; bill black, fleshy at base of lower mandible ; legs 
yellowish-brown . 

Field Identification. A brownish bird, found on the ground in 
herbage, preferably in damp localities ; rises at one's feet with a 
conspicuous flash of the bright chestnut patches in the tail and dives 
into cover again a few yards ahead. Males have a varying amount 
of blue and chestnut on the throat and breast. 

Distribution. The Bluethroat is a very widely distributed 
Palaearctic species, occurring in different forms through the greater 
part of Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. The exact number of 
races and their distribution has- not yet been satisfactorily worked 
out, but the majority of birds met with in India belong to the form 
C. s. pallidogularis, which certainly breeds from West Turkestan to 
East Transcaspia and to the Southern Urals, and in winter migrates 
to almost the whole of India and Ceylon. Two other races certainly 
occur in India ; the dark Central Siberian bird, C. s. robusta, is a 
winter visitor to the north-east, while C. s. abbotti migrates through 
the north-west ; this is the form which breeds in Ladakh and is 
distinguished by the brilliant blue of the throat and by the fact that 
the chestnut throat spot is often lacking or replaced by white. In 
this race the female in breeding plumage is similar to the male. 

The allied Rubythroat (Calliope calliope) , with the upper plumage 
olive-brown and a brilliant patch of ruby-scarlet on the throat, is 
common in winter in North-east India down to the Godavari. It ' 
breeds in Northern Asia. 

The much darker Himalayan Rubythroat (Calliope pectoralis) in 
which the ruby throat is set in a deep black breast breeds along the 
whole of the Himalayas at high elevations. It is common on open 
hill-sides in Kashmir. 

Habits, etc. From September until May the Bluethroat is a 
common species in India either as a passage migrant or a winter 
visitor, but its movements have not yet been properly worked out. 
It does not breed nearer than Ladakh. Although extremely 
common at certain times and places it escapes observation through 
its skulking habits. It is a bird of the ground and heavy cover, 
preferring dampish spots, such as reed-beds on the edge of jheels, 
tamarisk thickets in river-beds, heavy standing crops and similar 
situations. In these it feeds on the ground, only occasionally 
ascending to the top of the bushes to look around. Ordinarily it is 



THE BLUETHROAT 103 

only seen when one walks through cover, as it dashes up at one's 
feet and flies a few yards before diving headlong again into obscurity, 
where it runs rapidly along the ground in short bursts ; at the end 
of each course of running the tail is elevated and slightly expanded ; 
the dark brown tail with its bright chestnut base is very conspicuous 
in flight and readily leads to identification. The alarm-note and 
ordinary call is a harsh tack, but on its breeding grounds this Blue- 
throat is a fine songster and mimic. 

C. s. abbotti breeds in Ladakh in June and July. The nest is 
well concealed on the ground at the base of thorny bushes, and is 
a cup composed of dry grass. The usual clutch consists of three 
or four eggs. 

The egg is a rather broad oval, fine in texture with a slight gloss. 
In colour it is a dull, uniform sage-green, with or without pale reddish 
freckling, which sometimes almost obscures the ground-colour. 

It measures about 0-75 by 0-55 inches. 



RED-FLANKED BUSH ROBIN 

IANTHIA CYANURA Pallas 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Head and upper parts, 
edges of wings, sides of head and throat down to breast dark blue ; 
forehead and a line extending above the eye to the neck, the angle 
of the wings and upper tail coverts bright blue ; tail black on inner 
webs, suffused with blue on the outer ; middle of the throat and a 
line down to the lower breast and abdomen dusky white. A very 
conspicuous patch of orange chestnut on either side of the body. 

Iris brown ; bill dark brown, paWr at base ; legs brown. 

The males at first are indistinguishable from the females and 
some breed in that dress. 

Female : Dark brown above and on sides of neck, upper tail 
covert duller than in the male ; tail brown with blue edges on outer 
webs of feathers ; the chin, middle of throat and abdomen white, 
breast brownish. An orange chestnut patch on either flank as in male. 

Field Identification. The blue coloration in the male and the 
brown back and blue upper tail coverts of the female, together with 
the patches of orange chestnut on the flanks in both sexes, are 
characteristic of this bird. 

Distribution. This bird has a wide distribution from the Urals 
right across Siberia to Japan, and southward to China, the Himalayas 
and Indo- China. It has been divided into a number of races and 
two occur in the Himalayas. From Gilgit to Garhwal the form is 
/. c. palltdiora, and Nepal eastward it is replaced by a darker bird, 
/. c. rufilata. 



io 4 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Habits, etc. The Red-flanked Bush Robin breeds in the higher 
Himalayas in open forest of Kharshu oak, birch, silver and other 
firs, from 6000 to 12,000 feet. In autumn most birds move down to 
a level from 5000 to 8000 feet, occasionally to the edge of the plains, 
but a few pass the winter in their breeding haunts. This is a shy 
bird even in the breeding season and its habits are rather similar to 
the Continental Robin. In the non-breeding season it delights in 
open spaces surrounded by trees or other cover, and scrub jungle 
skirting roads. It feeds chiefly on the ground. There is no song, 
only a monotonous three-noted call uttered at regular intervals, in 
which the middle note is lower than the other two. 

It breeds from May to June. The nest is constructed of dry 
grass with finer pieces and ofteja Musk Deer hair. It is placed in a 
variety of situations, among the roots of a fallen tree, on a steep slope, 
in a hole in a bank, or under a fallen tree. At lower levels the nests 
are usually in fairly thick cover, but at all times it is well concealed 
and protected by herbage or roots. 

The clutch consists of from three to five eggs. They are broad 
ovals, sometimes rather pointed, pure white with a faint tinge of 
green and fine small specks of reddish-brown at the larger end, 
occasionally without any markings. 

The eggs measure 0-7 by 0-55 inches. 



THE INDIAN ROBIN 

SAXICOLOIDES FULICATA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male : Glossy black with a blue 
sheen ; a white patch on the shoulder ; flight-feathers brown ; centre 
of abdomen and a conspicuous patch under the tail deep chestnut. 

Female : Upper plumage dark brown, the front and sides of the 
face paler, the tail much darker, almost black ; centre of abdomen 
and a conspicuous patch under the tail deep chestnut. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

The bill is slender and rather curved ; the tail is rather long and 
rounded at the end. 

Field Identification. A familiar plains bird, coming freely round 
houses and spending most of its time on the ground. Easily identified 
by the habit of holding the long tail erect so as to exhibit a bright 
Chestnut patch below its base ; the male has a conspicuous white 
shoulder-patch and much black glossed with steely-blue in its plumage. 

Distribution. The Indian Robin is found throughout the whole 
of India from the Himalayas southwards to Ceylon. The typical 
black-backed race with a very dark, almost black female is found 



THE INDIAN ROBIN 



105 



in Ceylon. S. f. cambaiensis occurs throughout Northern India from 
the hills of the North-west Frontier Province along the fringe of the 
Outer Himalayas to Eastern Bengal and southwards. In this race 
the male has the back brown while the female is grey and brown in 
colour. Between the two, races connecting them may be recognised. 
These are first S. f. intermedia which occurs in a broad belt right 
across the centre of the Peninsula, bounded on the north by a line 
from the River Tapti to Vizagapatam district and on the south by 
the Krishna River ; and secondly S. f. ptymatura which occupies 
the rest of South India. They 
bridge the colour differences 
between the first two forms. 
All four races are strictly resi- 
dent. 

Habits, etc. Those who like 
to dilate on the theme that the 
East is topsy-turvy often quote 
the Indian Robin amongst their 
numerous illustrations, pointing 
out that he wears his red under 
his tail instead of on his breast ; 
for this bird, while in no sense 
a- true Robin, somewhat occupies 
in India the place of the Robin 
in the West. It is a familiar 
bird, hanging round the haunts 
of men, the outskirts of villages, FIG. 16 Indian Robin (i nat. size) 
buildings both great and small, 

brick-kilns and similar situations, and it nests in a variety of curious 
places after the fashion of the English bird. In addition it is also 
partial to stony, barren hill-sides and dry ravines ; in fact, the 
essential conditions for its presence are dryness and open country ; 
in damp areas and in heavy forest it is wanting. 

In character it exhibits the curious mixture of boldness and 
suspicion that is found in so many Indian birds. So long as 
unmolested, it hops about in the close vicinity of men and women 
busy at their own tasks, apparently heedless of them ; but at the 
first hint of danger it becomes shy and unobtrusive. In the same 
way, though the nest may be built in a hole in a stable wall or similarly 
public spot, it is readily deserted if attention is paid to it. 

In demeanour the bird is very sprightly, hopping about with the 
head held stiffly high and the tail cocked well forward over the 
back ; in fact its normal poise is that of the English Wren, and the 
bird being larger with a longer tail the attitude appears more 
exaggerated. It feeds for the most part on the ground, and perches 




io6 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

by preference on walls, posts, roofs, and large gnarled tree-trunks, 
rather than on the boughs of trees. The food consists chiefly of 
insects and their larvae. 

It has only an apology for a song, which is used while courting 
is in progress. 

The breeding season is from March to August and two or three 
broods are reared, often in the same nest though the lining is usually 
replaced. The nest is placed in holes in all sorts of situations on the 
ground, in walls and buildings, and in plants. It is a pad of grass 
lined with miscellaneous soft materials, roots and fibres, wool and 
hair, varying in depth and neatness of construction according to the 
circumstances of the hole. A large proportion of nests contain a 
fragment of snake's slough. 

Three to five eggs are laid. The egg is a rather elongated oval, 
more or less pointed towards the small end ; the texture is fine 
and strong with a moderate gloss. The ground-colour is white, 
faintly tinged with green, pink, or brownish ; the general character 
of the markings is a fine close speckling and mottling of different 
shades of reddish- or yellowish-brown, underlaid with a few secondary 
markings of pale inky-purple ; there is a tendency for the markings 
to be thicker about the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-79 by 0-59 inches. 



THE MAGPIE-ROBIN 
COPSYCIIUS SAULARIS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Male : Head, neck, breast, and 
upper plumage glossy black ; remainder of lower plumage white ; ' 
wing black, a white patch close to the body ; tail long and graduated, 
the two central pairs of feathers black, the remainder white. 

Female : The whole upper plumage uniform dark brown, glossed 
with bluish ; wings and tail dark brown, with white distributed as in 
the male. Chin, throat, breast, and sides of the neck and face dark 
grey, the last mottled with white ; remainder of lower plumage whitish 
washed with fulvous on the flanks and under the tail. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs dark plumbeous. 

Field Identification. Common plains species, found in gardens 
and familiar in habits, with a beautiful song ; the male conspicuously 
pied black and white with a longish rounded tail, the female with a 
duller version of the same pattern. Carries the tail rather elevated. 

Distribution. The Magpie-Robin or Dayal-bird extends throughout 
India and Ceylon to China and the Malay Islands, and in this wide 
range is divided into a number of races. 



THE MAGPIE-ROBIN 



107 



Within our area, however (except in the extreme south, from the 
Nilgiris and Bangalore to Travancore, where the birds grade into 
the Ceylon race C. s. ceylonensis), all birds are referable to the typical 
form. ' 

This bird is found alike in the plains and in the hills up to 
about 4000 and occasionally to 6000 feet. It occurs in the Outer 
Himalayas, but is virtually absent from Sind, Cutch, and large 




FIG. 17 Magpie-Robin (J nat. size) 

portions of the Punjab and desert Rajputana. Although said to be 
only a winter visitor to Mount Aboo and Northern Guzerat, it is 
usually regarded as a strictly resident species ; except that in the 
Himalayas it ascends a couple of thousand feet in the breeding season, 
and also penetrates then into some of the inner valleys. 

Habits, etc. While never particularly abundant the Magpie- 
Robin is very generally distributed in India, avoiding both dense 
forest and open bare plain. It is essentially a bird of groves, and 
delights to move about on the ground under the shelter of low trees ; 
thick undergrowth it dislikes. Naturally, therefore, it is a familiar 
garden bird, delighting in the mixed chequer of sunshine and shade 
that is the characteristic of an Indian garden ; it hops about under 



io8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the orange and pomegranate trees, pauses for a moment to sip the 
water running along the irrigation channels, and then flies across 
amongst the trees to settle on some lower bough or on the garden 
wall before returning to its quest for insects on the ground. It is 
both confiding and unobtrusive, and as the lady of the house 
moves about her garden in the shade, whether she be Burra- 
Memsahib or some humble menial's wife, she will see the little pied 
bird watching her from wall or bush with friendly and attentive 
scrutiny. And by way of gratitude for shelter and protection (or so 
we like to think in spite of prosaic fact), the cock bird early in the 
morning and again in the evening mounts to the topmost bough of 
one of the garden trees and pours out his delicious song. For the 
Magpie- Robin is one of the best songsters in a land where singing 
birds are somewhat scarce. 

The tail is carried very high over the back, though not usually as 
high as in the case of the Indian Robin ; it is frequently lowered and 
expanded into a fan, then closed and jerked up again over the back. 

The food is obtained for the most part on the ground and con- 
sists of insects, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, beetles, and the like ; a 
little vegetable matter, and an occasional earthworm vary this diet. 

The breeding season lasts from the end of March to the end of 
July, but most eggs will be found in April and May. The nest is 
placed in holes in tree-trunks, in banks and walls, and in the roofs of 
houses. It is a cup composed of roots, grasses, fibres, and feathers, 
with very little definite lining, and varying a good deal in depth and 
compactness of construction, according to the circumstances of the 
hole. 

The clutch usually consists of five eggs. 

The egg is a typical oval, hard and fine in texture with a fair 
amount of gloss. The ground-colour is some shade of green but is* 
rather variable. The markings consist of streaks, blotches, and 
mottlings of brownish-red, usually densely laid on and with a tendency 
to be thicker about the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-87 by o* 66 inches. 



THE SHAMA 

KlTTACINCLA MALABARICA (Scopoli) 

Description. Length n inches, including a long graduated tail 
of 6 inches. Male : A patch above the base of the tail white ; 
remainder of upper plumage, wings, and lower plumage to the lower 
breast glossy black ; remainder of lower plumage bright chestnut 
except the thighs which are whitish ; tail black, all but the two central 
pairs of feathers broadly white at the ends. 



THE SHAMA 109 

Female : Resembles the male, but the black is replaced by slaty- 
brown, and the chestnut by rufous ; feathers of the wings narrowly 
edged with rufous. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs pale flesh-colour. 

Field Identification. A forest bird, found in thick jungle about 
ravines and remarkable for its beautiful song ; the male is black 
with chestnut belly and much white about the long graduated tail ; 
the female plumage is a duller version of the same pattern. 

Distribution. The Shama is widely distributed in India, Ceylon, 
Burma, Siam, the Malays and China, and is divided into various races. 

The typical race of the Shama is found along the western side of , 




FIG. 1 8 Shama (J nat. size) 

India, from Bombay to Travancore, and up the eastern side as far as 
Orissa and the Rajmehal Hills ; also in the submontane tracts of 
the United Provinces as far west as Ramnagar below Naini Tal. 
The Burmese race K. m. indica, with a shorter tail, extends through 
Assam into the Duars and in the jungles of South-eastern Bengal. 
K. m. leggd in Ceylon is very different in that the female is similar 
to the male in colour. It is a resident species, occurring in warm 
well-watered jungles up to a height of 4000 feet. 

Habits, etc. The Shama is well known by repute and in story 
as one of the famous singing birds of India, but owing to its forest 
habitat and its shyness it is probably known by sight to 
comparatively few people. It lives in jungles and forest wherever 
broken ravines and low hills supply a sufficiency of the, small streams 
and open glades to which it is partial ; and the spots that it 
frequents generally contain a good deal of bamboo growth. It feeds 
mostly on the ground, searching for insects, worms and fallen fruits, 
but when disturbed flies up into the trees. In short, this species may 
be considered as taking in forest the place occupied by the Magpie- 
Robin in open and inhabited country. 



no POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The song is loud and beautiful with a varied range of notes, and 
it is chiefly uttered in the mornings and evenings, continuing late in 
the evening until darkness has practically fallen. 

This bird has a curious habit, chiefly in the breeding season, of 
striking the wings together above the body as it flies across open 
ground. 

The breeding season is from April to June. The nest is usually 
placed in the base of bamboo clumps amidst the mass of rubbish 
which collects in such situations and which forms a shelter over the 
nest ; the nest itself is a slight cup of dead leaves and moss lined 
with grass. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, rather pointed and 
compressed towards the smaller end, fine and compact in texture 
with a fair gloss. The ground-colour is dull greenish-stone, finely 
and densely freckled all over with raw sienna-brown and dull purplish, 
the general effect recalling the eggs of the Larks. 

The egg measures about 0-85 by 0-65 inches. 



THE NILGIRI BLACKBIRD 
TURDUS SIMILLIMUS Jerdon 

Description. Length 10 inches. Male : Top of the head black ; 
remainder of upper plumage dark ashy-plumbeous ; wings and tail 
black washed with ashy ; the whole lower plumage dark ashy-brown, 
the edges of the feathers slightly paler. 

Female : The whole upper plumage dark ashy-brown ; the whole 
lower plumage brownish-grey, streaked on the chin and throat with 
dark brown. 

Iris brown, eye-rims yellow ; bill reddish-orange ; legs orange- 
yellow. 

Field Identification. Abundant in the Nilgiris and Palni Hills. 
A typical forest Blackbird but paler in colour than the English birds, 
so that a black cap shows up in the male. 

Distribution. Mount Aboo : Peninsular India, south of a line 
from Khandesh through Pachmarhi to Sambalpur : Ceylon. The 
well-known Nilgiri Blackbird gives its name to a group of five 
closely-allied sub-species, which differ chiefly in depth of coloration. 
T. s. mahrattensis, in which the pale collar is most conspicuous, is 
found at Mount Aboo, perhaps as a summer visitor only, and in the 
Western Ghats from Khandesh to Malabar, wandering in winter as 
far south as Travancore. The typical form is found in the Brahma- 
gherries and Nilgiris, probably extending also to the higher ranges 



THE NILGIRI BLACKBIRD m 

of Western Mysore. T. s. bourdilloni is found in the Palnis and 
Travancore ranges while T. s. kinnisii is confined to Ceylon. The 
identity of the form reported in certain areas of the Central Provinces 
is still in doubt but a distinct race T. s. spensei is found along the 
Eastern Ghats. These Blackbirds occur up to the highest points in 
the various hill ranges and are mainly resident birds. 

Habits, etc. The Nilgiri Blackbird, to treat more particularly of 
the best-known form, is one of the commonest birds at Ootacamund 
and its vicinity, being found chiefly in the Sholas on the tops of the 
ranges, but also in other types of country. It enters orchards and 
gardens, and on the whole is a tame familiar species though shy 
when nesting. It feeds chiefly on the ground, hopping with active 
movements and turning over dead leaves for insects, worms and fallen 
fruits, but when disturbed flies up into the trees, flitting from tree to 
tree with powerful flight. Small berries and fruits are eaten in the trees. 

The breeding season is somewhat extended, from March to 
August, though most nests will be found in April and May. At this 
period the males sing very beautifully, perching high up in the trees : 
they may be heard at all hours but especially in the evenings. 

In the details of its breeding this bird recalls the familiar English 
Blackbird. The nest is a massive, well-built cup made of moss, roots, 
grass, and leaves largely plastered together with mud, while the egg- 
cavity is neatly lined with grass and roots. It is placed in a fork 
of a tree or shrub at any height up to about 20 feet from the ground. 

The usual clutch consists of two to four eggs but five are some- 
times found. The egg is a broad oval, pointed towards the smaller 
end ; the texture is fine with a slight gloss. The ground-colour 
varies from bright blue-green to dull olive-green ; the markings 
consist of spots, speckles, mottlings, and streaks of brownish-red, 
with secondary spots and clouds of purplish-pink or grey. 

The egg measures about i- 17 by o86 inches. 



THE GREY-WINGED BLACKBIRD 

TURDUS BOULBOUL (Latham) 
(Plate vii, Fig. i, opposite page 132) 

Description. Length 1 1 inches. Male : Entire plumage deep 
glossy black, paler and duller beneath ; a wide ashy-grey patch 
across the upper sides of the wings. 

Female : Entire plumage olivaceous ashy-brown, the wing-patch 
being pale rufous. 

Iris brown, eye-rim orange-yellow ; bill coral-red to deep orange, 
dusky at the tip ; legs brownish-yellow. 

Field Identification. Himalayan forest bird with a good song ; 



H2 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

resembles the corresponding sexes of the English Blackbird with 
the addition of a broad patch on the wing, silvery in the male, rufous 
in t her female. 

Distribution. The Grey-winged Blackbird is a common Hima- 
layan species extending from Hazara and Kashmir on the west 
to the extreme east and south of Assam and Manipur. It breeds 
chiefly in an intermediate zone between 7000 and 8000 feet and 
in smaller numbers up to 10,000 and down to 4500 feet. It is 
in the main a resident species, but during the winter months tends 
to leave the higher portions of its range and drift down towards 
the foot-hills, stragglers at this season even venturing into the 
neighbouring plains districts. 

The White-collared Blackbird (Turdus albocincta) is common in 
the Himalayan forests, breeding from 7500 to 10,000 feet, lower in 
winter. The male is black in colour with a broad white collar round 
the neck. 

Habits, etc. This is one of the finest and best -known songsters 
of the Himalayas, being frequently caged and sold under the name 
of Kastura. It is a typical Blackbird in its habits, and is more 
particularly a forest bird, feeding on the ground amongst the under- 
growth, and turning over dead leaves and digging with its beak 
in places where the soil is soft. From the ground it obtains worms, 
grubs, insects, and fallen seeds and fruits, and it is also accustomed 
to eat large quantities of the various hill fruits and berries from the 
trees. At any time of day in the breeding season, but more particularly 
in the mornings and evenings, the males may be heard singing, usually 
from the top of a tall tree commanding a wide view around. The 
song is very pleasant, recalling that of the English Blackbird, but 
individuals vary a good deal in the merits of their performance. It 
is otherwise a quiet and rather shy bird, especially in the neighbour- 
hood of the nest when it sits motionless on the bough of a tree watching 
the intruder. 

The normal breeding season is from May to July. 

The nest is a rather massive cup of roots and grasses usually 
stiffened with mud and liberally coated externally with green moss 
and similar materials, and lined with fine dry grass. The majority 
of nests are built in trees, some 10 or 20 feet from the ground, 
but others are placed on ledges of rock or on steep banks or 
amongst the roots of trees. 

The eggs vary from two to four in number. They are of the 
usual Blackbird type. The ground-colour, where visible, is a pale 
dingy green, but it is thickly streaked, mottled and clouded with dull 
brownish-red sometimes so heavily as to obscure the ground-colour. 

The eggs measure about 1*20 by 0-85 inches. 



TICKELL'S THRUSH 113 

TICKELL'S THRUSH 

TURDUS UNICOLOR Tickell 

Description. Length 9 inches. Male : The upper plumage 
including the wings and tail ashy-grey ; lower plumage slaty-grey, 
paler on the chin, and becoming white towards the tail, the under 
wing-coverts chestnut-brown. 

Female : Upper plumage olive-brown, the wings and tail darker ; 
chin and throat white, streaked on the sides with black ; breast 
olivaceous with a gorget of black spots across the upper part ; flanks 
ochraceous ; abdomen to the tail white ; under wing-coverts chestnut- 
brown. 

Iris brown ; eye-rim greenish -yellow ; bill and legs yellow. 

Field Identification. A quiet, dull-coloured Thrush which feeds 
on the ground and flies up into the trees when disturbed. Most 
familiar as the bird that feeds on the lawns at Srinagar, where it is 
particularly common. 

Distribution. This species is only found in the Indian Empire. 
It breeds commonly but locally in the Himalayas from Chitral to 
Eastern Nepal. It is migratory, and in winter moves down into 
the plains of India, being found at that season as far south as 
Khandala, Raipur, and Vizagapatam, travelling eastwards also to 
Sikkim, Cachar, and Manipur. 

A rather larger species, the Black-throated Thrush (Turdus 
atrogularis), in which the male has the chin, throat and breast black, is 
a very common winter visitor to the Himalayas and Northern India. 

Habits, etc. This Thrush is known to everyone who has visited 
Kashmir, and it is one of those birds which contribute to the very 
English atmosphere of Srinagar. 

The song may be heard from April to July and it sings at all 
hours of the day but more especially in the mornings and evenings, 
and on cloudy days with rain impending. This Thrush, in combination 
with the Kashmir Golden Oriole, is responsible for the dawn chorus 
which is so remarkable in April and May in and around Srinagar in 
Kashmir. The song recalls that of the English Thrush though less 
full and varied, and is something as follows : chellya-chellya-chirrali, 
chellya-chellya-chellya, chellya-chellya-jalia ; and it further recalls 
that familiar bird by its presence round houses and in gardens, and 
its habit of hopping about the lawns of the English quarter in search 
of worms and snails, uttering often a juk-juk which at other times 
is used as an alarm-note. Pairs are to be found in every grove round 
the villages, and it is a tame and familiar bird, haunting their neigh- 
bourhood in preference to the forests, where also, however, it is found 
in smaller numbers. At the nest, on the other hand, it is rathery shy. 

H 



ii4 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

It breeds in May and June. The nest is a large deep cup, some- 
times neat and compact, at other times loose and untidy ; it is 
composed of moss, either dry or green, roots, dry grass and a few 
leaves, and is lined with fine roots. It is placed usually at heights 
between 6 and 20 feet from the ground, in the heads of pollard 
willows or in the forks of trees or on branches close to the trunk. 
A few nests are found close to the ground in banks. 

The number of eggs varies from three to five. They are rather 
variable in shape, round, elongated, or pyriform ovals. The texture 
is fine but there is very little gloss. The ground-colour is greenish- 
or reddish-white, and the whole surface is more or less thickly 
speckled or boldly blotched with dull reddish-brown, in some eggs 
the ground-colour predominating, in others the reddish tint of the 
markings ; in all, however, the markings are thickest towards the 
broad end. 

The eggs average about 1-06 by 0-78 inches. 



THE ORANGE-HEADED GROUND-THRUSH 

GEOKICHLA CITRINA (Latham) 
(Plate iv, Fig. 3, opposite page 66) 

Description. Length 9 inches. The whole head, neck and lower 
parts as far as the vent orange-chestnut, rather darker on the crown 
and hind neck ; the rest of the upper parts bluish-grey ; wings and 
tail brown, washed with bluish-grey, a conspicuous white spot on 
the shoulder and another on the underside of the quills ; vent and 
under the tail white. 

Female : Similar to the male but the orange-chestnut is paler and 
the ashy-grey of the upper parts, wings and tail is replaced by brownis'h 
olive-green. 

Iris dark hazel ; bill very dark brown, base of lower mandible 
flesh-colour ; legs fleshy-pink. 

The tail is comparatively rather short. 

Field Identification. A typical Thrush in bearing, bright chestnut 
in colour with the back, wings and tail bluish-grey in the male and 
olive in the female. In the Southern race the sides of the face are 
curiously banded with brown and white and the throat is white. 
A forest species usually found feeding on the ground in damp and 
shady places. 

Distribution. The Orange-headed Ground-Thrush has a wide 
distribution with several races in India, Burma, the Andamans and 
Nicobars, the Malay States and Siam. We are concerned here with 
two. The typical race breeds throughout the foot-hills and lower 
ranges of the Himalayas from Murree to Assam and Burma, and 



THE ORANGE-HEADED GROUND-THRUSH 115 

still farther eastwards ; also in Lower Bengal. In the Western 
Himalayas and Nepal it is a summer visitor. In the Eastern 
Himalayas and Assam it appears to be largely resident in the foot- 
hills, moving up in summer into some of the inner valleys. The 
north-western migrants evidently winter anywhere from the Dun to 
Chota Nagpore and Calcutta, stragglers wandering as far afield as 
Ratnagiri and Ceylon. G. c. cyanotus has a ring round the eye, the 
sides of the face and the chin and throat white ; the white of the 
sides of the face is broken by two short oblique dark brown bands 
which run down from the lower border of the eye. This race is 
found as a resident south of a line roughly from Western Khandesh 
through Pachmarhi to Sirguja, occurring up to an elevation of 4000 feet. 

Habits. This Ground-Thrush is essentially a forest-loving species 
and it will always be found by preference in damp and shady thickets 
or in thick bamboo-brakes. In such places it feeds solitary on the 
ground under thick tangles of roots and stems of brushwood. It 
rummages amongst the leaves and fallen debris, tossing and turning 
them over in a constant search for slugs, insects, snails, caterpillars, 
berries, and such like, and so constant is this habit that the beak 
is nearly always muddy, a fact remarked by many writers. It is shy 
and quiet and when disturbed promptly flies up into a bough where 
it sits silent and motionless waiting to resume its quest for food. 
Living thus in the shade it is crepuscular in habits and at dusk moves 
out to roads and open spaces. 

In the breeding season the male has a pleasant and energetic, 
though not very powerful, song which is uttered from a perch well up 
in a tree. This is only heard in the early mornings and late evenings 
and the bird is something of a mimic, introducing the calls of other 
species into its song. It has also a peculiar note or loud whistle, 
something like the noise of a screeching slate-pencil, which is used 
apparently as an alarm-note. 

The breeding season in the Himalayas is from the end of April 
until nearly the end of June. In Peninsular India it is later, from 
June to August and even September. 

The nest is a rather broad solid cup of moss, grass, stalks, bents 
and similar materials. Inside it is lined with fine roots and the 
black hair-like roots of moss and ferns. A good deal of mud and 
clay is usually built into the foundations. The nest is placed in a 
fork of a moderately sized tree, usually at no great height from the 
ground. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs, and five have been 
recorded. The egg is a moderately broad oval, a good deal pointed 
towards the small end. The shell is fine and fairly glossy, some 
eggs having a really fine gloss. The ground-colour is a pale bluish- 
or greenish-white and it is thickly freckled, blotched and streaked 



n6 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

with brownish- or purplish-red. Some eggs have the markings fine and 
very thickly spread over the whole surface. Others have them thick, 
bold and blotchy all over the larger half with only a few small spots 
scattered over the rest of the egg. Intermediate varieties also occur. 
The egg measures about i-oo by 0-75 inches. 



THE BLUE-HEADED ROCK-THRUSH 

MONTICOLA CINCLORHYNCHA (Vigors) 
(Plate ix, Fig. 4, opposite page 176) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male : Whole head bright cobalt- 
blue, divided by a broad black line from the beak through the eye 
to the back and shoulders, which are also black ; rump and the lower 
plumage chestnut ; wings black washed with blue, and with a con- 
spicuous white patch on the inner quills ; tail black washed with 
blue. 

Female : Upper plumage, wings and tail olive-brown tinged with 
ochraceous ; chin and throat whitish ; lower plumage whitish, tinged 
with ochraceous on the breast and largely barred with dark brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black, gape yellow ; legs dusky brown. 

Field Identification. Familiar song bird in summer along the 
lower Himalayas in light open forest, perching on trees and railings ; 
male easily recognised by the blue head and throat, chestnut rump 
and lower plumage and white patch in the wings ; female brown 
with a scaled appearance, and a rather conspicuous dark eye. 

It must not be confused with the larger Chestnut-bellied Rock- 
Thrush (Monticola rufrventris\ also found throughout the Himalayas, 
whose male lacks the chestnut rump and white wing-patch. 

Distribution. This bird breeds in the hills along the boundary 
of the North-western Frontier Province and throughout the Himalayas 
to East and Southern Assam and the Chin and Kachin Hills. The 
majority breed between 3500 and 6000 feet, but a few range up to 
9000 feet. 

It is a migratory species, passing down from about October to 
April into the plains and continental ranges of India and portions 
of Burma. It avoids Sind and the plains of the Punjab and becomes 
most common in winter in the hill ranges of the Western Ghats from 
Khandala to South Travancore. 

Habits, etc. The Blue-headed Rock-Thrush is in the breeding 
season a bird of the more open hill forests, being especially typical 
of the areas in the lower Himalayas which are clothed with the 
Cheel pine (Pinus longifolid). Here the song of the male is a very 
familiar and pleasant feature ; it is a pretty three-note warbling 



THE BLUE-HEADED ROCK-THRUSH 117 

song of tew-ti-di, tew-ti-di, tew-ti-di, tew (the tew descending in 
the scale and getting louder at each repetition), and it is commonly 
sung in the mornings and evenings. The bird itself is by nature 
secretive and not often seen until one is familiar with the alarm-note 
ee-tut-tuty a low, pleasant sound which soon gives away its where- 
abouts on a tree bough ; then the bird is found to be confiding and 
to allow a near approach. It feeds both on insects and on berries, 
and in pursuit of the former sometimes flies out from a tree into 
mid-air, hovering with wings outstretched, after the capture gliding 
down again to its post amongst the branches. Similarly, it often 
floats with wings outstretched, singing as it goes, from the top of a 
tall tree down to a lower one. In winter it is a solitary species. 

The breeding season proper is from April to June, but occasional 
nests may be met with until August. The nest is a neat shallow 
cup of moss, grass, fir-needles and dead leaves, and is lined with 
fine roots or a little hair. The favourite situation for it is in a hollow 
in a bank by the side of a road or path, but it is also placed in hollows 
amongst the roots of trees. 

The clutch consists of four eggs. The egg is a rather long oval, 
very blunt at the small end, of slightly coarse texture with a little 
gloss. The ground-colour is pinkish-white, very closely and minutely 
freckled and mottled all over, but most densely at the large end, with 
pale dingy salmon-colour. 

The eggs measure about 0-92 by 0-72 inches. 



THE BLUE ROCK-THRUSH 
MONTICOLA SOLITARIA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Male : Whole plumage dull dark 
blue, rather brighter over the eye, on the sides of the head and on 
the throat, the feathers of the upper parts with brown fringes and the 
feathers of the lower plumage more or less barred with blackish and 
fringed with white ; wings and tail dark brown washed with dark 
blue, most of the wing-feathers tipped with creamy white. 

In summer the wearing off of the fringes on the body makes the 
plumage a brighter, more uniform blue with the wings dark in contrast. 

Female : Whole upper plumage, wings and tail similar to the male 
but the colour is much duller, almost ashy-brown in tint ; chin, 
throat and upper breast creamy-buff the feathers margined with 
sooty-black, giving a scaled appearance ; remainder of lower plumage 
creamy-buff barred with sooty-black. 

Iris hazel ; bill blackish-horn, mouth yellow ; feet black, claws 
dark horn. 

H2 



n8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Field Identification. A dark looking bird, the male bluish, the 
female speckled with buff and brown, invariably found perching 
solitary on rocks, brick-kilns or buildings and rather shy if approached. 

Distribution. A widely distributed species found in South Europe, 
Africa and the greater part of Asia. It is divided into many races. 
Of these we are chiefly concerned with the Central Asian and Hima- 
layan race M. s. pandoo which breeds in our area from Chitral and 
Gilgit along the Himalayas to Sikkim at all elevations from 4500 to 
15,000 feet. From September and early October until April it spreads 
over the greater part of India and Burma, stragglers also reaching 
Ceylon. It also winters in Siam, Indo-China, the Malay States 
and Sumatra. A greyer race M. s. longirostris breeds along the North- 
west Frontier of India from the Samana to North Baluchistan and 
winters in Africa. Another form M. s. affinis with faint traces of 
chestnut on the lower plumage of the male is a winter visitor to the 
Eastern Himalayas and Assam. 

Habits, etc. The Blue Rock-Thrush is one of those birds that is 
strongly attached to a particular type of terrain. In the breeding 
season in the hills it is very much a bird of the rocks, frequenting 
boulder-clad hill-sides, open rocky ground or if it is breeding down in 
the tree zone, rocky screes, gorges or cliffs in open ground between the 
forests. With this insistence on the letter of its needs it is able to occupy 
a very much wider altitudinal range for breeding than most species. 

In winter, too, its special propensity is to the fore. Rocks it must 
have to live on and if they are not available in the shape of hills and 
boulders it finds a substitute in quarries, ruined forts and unoccupied 
buildings, rocks on the sea-shore or even at the worst it takes refuge 
on brick-kilns and piles of stone. In all these places the habits and 
demeanour of the bird are the same. It perches up on a point of 
vantage be this boulder or cornice sitting very erect and solitary, 
reminding the observer that it is the Sparrow that sitteth alone on 
the house-top as Canon Tristram pointed out long ago in his studies 
of the Holy Land. Always shy and wary, if approached it bows and 
flirts the tail nervously before flitting to another vantage point some 
distance away. In winter it frequently roosts under the roof of a house. 

The male has a fine song, a soft melodious but rather short whistle 
reminiscent of that of an English Blackbird, which is uttered both 
from a perch and on the wing and this may be heard occasionally 
also in the winter. When courting the male indulges in slow vol- 
planing flights which show off his blue plumage to advantage in the 
sunlight. 

As to food the bird is fairly omnivorous. Insects are taken from 
the ground and on the wing ; larvae, worms, snails, lizards, berries 
and seeds all are grist for its mill. 

The breeding season is from April to July. 



THE BLUE ROCK-THRUSH 119 

The nest is placed in a hole or cleft of the rocks on steep precipitous 
ground and is usually partly screened from view, difficult to reach 
and often inaccessible. It is a shallow cup of roots and dry grass, 
lined with fine roots. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. The egg is a regular oval 
very smooth in texture with a fine gloss. The ground-colour is an 
excessively pale, slightly greenish-blue, sometimes unmarked, at other 
times speckled mostly at the large end with very minute brownish-red 
spots. 

It measures about i- 10 by 0-75 inches. 



THE WHISTLING-THRUSH 

MYOPHONUS C^ERULEUS (Scopoli) 

(Plate vii, Fig. 2, opposite page 132) 

Description. Length iz inches. Sexes alike. Entire plumage 
deep blue-black, becoming brighter and bluer on the wings and tail, 
and duller and browner on the abdomen ; a velvety black patch in 
front of the eye ; all the body-feathers more or less tipped with deep 
shining blue ; some of the wing-coverts tipped with white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill yellow, blackish along top ; legs black. 

Field Identification. A large, strong " Blackbird," bright prussian- 
blue in favourable lights, found near water in the Himalayas ; noisy 
with harsh whistling calls ; bold and conspicuous ; black legs and 
black eye-rim at once distinguish it from the true Blackbirds, which 
have those parts yellow. 

Distribution. This Whistling-Thrush, found in Turkestan, China 
and southwards, is represented in our area by the race M. c. temminckii, 
which extends throughout the Himalayas from the hills of Baluchistan 
and the Afghan Frontier to the extreme east of Assam and to the 
neighbouring hill tracts, being replaced by another (M. c. eugenei) 
from Eastern Burma to Cochin-China. It breeds from the foot-hills 
at about 2000 feet up to "12,000 feet, though the majority of nests 
will be found between 5000 and 9000 feet. Although strictly 
speaking a resident species, its fine powers of flight tend to make 
it wander a good deal, and in the winter months numbers move 
down into the foot-hills while stragglers even appear in the plains 
far out of sight of the hills. There are records from as far south as 
Jhang and Rhotak. 

An allied species, the Malabar Whistling-Thrush (Myophonus 
horsfieldii) y which has a bright blue forehead and a brilliant patch of 
cobalt-blue on the wing, is common in the vicinity of Pachmarhi in 
Central India and in South-western India, especially in the Nilgiris, 
and it is known as the " Whistling- Schoolboy." 



120 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Habits, etc. This very common and typical Himalayan bird may 
be considered in some senses as a water-bird, a bird of rivers and 
mountain streams. True it is that it may be found anywhere in the 
mountains, dashing across the face of some precipitous crag, flitting 
through the trees of the gloomiest pine forest or feeding on an open 
hill-side, but a little observation will invariably show that its head- 
quarters are in some gorge watered by purling stream or rushing 
torrent. And further proof may be found in its song and calls ; the 
call is a loud, melodious whistle, and the song is loud and[ well 
sustained, of the type of most of the Thrush family ; but in both 
call and song there is something of harshness and unpleasantness, 
a squeaky, eerie timbre, which prevents either from being beautiful, 
but which are clearly intended to carry them above the roar of 
rushing waters ; in this they succeed, and the voice of this bird 
heard in some deep nullah where the water's roar stills all lesser 
sounds is appropriate in the extreme, and matching its surroundings 
attains to beauty. 

There is something very tight-trussed and neat about the Whistling- 
Thrush as it hops and flies from boulder to ledge, from wall to branch ; 
its hard, shiny feathers are pressed close to the body, and as the long 
tail sways slowly upwards above the long legs the bird seems the 
living embodiment of all the qualities of vitality and fitness that 
one associates with nature and the hills. 

The bird lays commonly from the end of April to June, but nests 
may be found until August, as apparently two broods are often reared. 

The nest is a very massive and heavy cup of moss dragged up by 
the roots with mud still adhering to them ; there is a thick lining 
of fine grass roots and moss. 

It is placed in the near vicinity of water, and is generally well 
protected, either by concealment or by difficulty of access ; for the 
bird is very cunning in its arrangements. Sometimes it builds in 
a mossy bank or in some rocky crevice where the structure of the 
nest and overhanging foliage protect the site from wandering eyes ; 
at other times the nest stands out patent to view, conspicuous in the 
extreme, on the face of some precipitous cliff, or in a hollow on a 
giant boulder encircled by rushing water or otherwise inaccessible. 
An occasional nest may be found in a tree. 

The clutch consists of three to five eggs. 

The eggs are typically very long and pointed, fragile, and rather 
rough in texture. The ground-colour is french-grey, greyish-white 
or pale greenish, speckled and freckled with minute pink, pale 
purplish-pink or pinkish-brown markings. These markings are 
generally rather thin, and there is a curious faded appearance about 
these eggs which is most unusual. 

They measure about 1-40 by i-oo inches. 



THE RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER 121 

THE RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER 

SIPHIA PARVA (Bechstein) 
(Plate ii, Fig. 3, opposite page 22) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Adult male : Upper plumage 
brown, ashy on the head ; sides of the head bluish-ashy with a 
white ring round the eye ; wings dark brown ; tail blackish-brown, 
the basal two-thirds of the feathers white, except of the central pair ; 
chin, throat and breast reddish-buff ; remainder of lower plumage 
white washed with buff on the sides. 

Female and immature male : The whole upper plumage brown, 
the wings and tail darker brown, the basal portions of all the tail- 
feathers except the central pair white as in the adult male ; a whitish 
ring round the eye ; whole lower plumage dull white, washed with 
buff on the sides. 

Iris dark brown ; bill brown ; legs blackish-brown. 

Field Identification. A small brown bird with whitish under parts, 
and in some individuals with the throat and breast red, which fly- 
catches in trees ; easily recognised by the habit of jerking the tail 
upwards at intervals, thus exhibiting the white patches in its base ; 
quiet in demeanour. 

Distribution. The Red-breasted Flycatcher is widely spread as 
a breeding species throughout Europe, Siberia, and Northern and 
Central Asia generally, and is divided into two races which migrate 
southwards in winter. Both races are winter visitors to India and 
differ merely in slight details of coloration. The typical race breeds 
in Europe and Western Siberia, and is a most abundant winter 
visitor to India from October until May. It arrives in India, via 
the north-west corner, and extends down to Malabar and the Nilgiris 
in the south, and east as far as Behar and Assansole in Bengal. The 
breeding bird of North-eastern Asia (S. p. albicilla) winters mostly 
in North-eastern India, Burma, and China, but has occurred also as 
far as Belgaum, the Nallamallais, and Travancore. 

The Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher (Siphia hyperythra) of very 
similar coloration, but with a more chestnut-red breast bordered with 
black, breeds commonly in Kashmir between 6000 and 8000 feet 
and winters in Ceylon. 

Another Flycatcher with white in the tail is the Orange-gorgeted 
Flycatcher (Siphia strophiatd). It has the throat and breast sooty 
with a central orange patch. Common in the Sikkim area from 9000 
to 1000 feet. 

Habits, etc. The main requisite of the Red-breasted Flycatcher 
is trees, and provided that there is a sufficiency of such cover it is a 
matter of indifference to it whether it is in forest, in open cultivation, 



122 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

or in the neighbourhood of towns and villages. Although often 
descending to the ground to capture an insect it is an arboreal 
species and a true flycatcher in its habits, frequenting chiefly the 
shady places within the boughs of large trees in which it sedately 
hawks and flits from bough to bough. It is rather shy and secretive, 
and is jerky and restless in its movements, constantly flirting the tail 
over its back so that the white patch in the base of the feathers 
catches the eye sooner even than the red breast of the adult male. 
There is a very distinctive, harsh, jarring note which is commonly 
uttered, while a plaintive piping call, phwee-phwee-phwee, repeated at 
short intervals, is used to express anger or alarm. It has a sweet 
and rather varied song in the breeding season, but this is not heard 
in India. For its size this is a very pugnacious little bird, and fights 
freely with others of its own species. 

The Red-breasted Flycatcher does not breed in our limits, but 
the breeding season in Kashmir of the allied species, S. hyperythra, 
is in May and June. The latter nests in holes in trees at any height 
from 6 to 40 feet from the ground. The nest is a neat little cup of 
moss and dead leaves mixed with grass, chips and hair and lined 
with hair and feathers. The clutch consists of four or five eggs. 
These are rather broad ovals, pale sea-green or pale pinkish-stone 
in colour, freckled closely with rusty-brown. 

They measure about 0*65 by 0-50 inches. 



TICKELL'S BLUE FLYCATCHER 

MUSCICAPULA TICKELLI;E (Blyth) 
(Plate vi, Fig. 4, opposite page no) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : The whole upper plumage 
dark blue, still darker on the sides of the face, and brighter in a 
line from the nostril over each eye ; wings and tail black, washed 
with blue ; throat, breast and upper abdomen bright ferruginous ; 
remainder of lower plumage pure white. 

Female : A duller replica of the male. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs greyish-brown. 

The bill is wide and flattened at the base and fringed with long 
hairs. 

Field Identification. Peninsular India. A dark blue bird with 
the throat and breast reddish and the rest of the lower parts white. 
No white line over the eye. Flits about the inner side of trees and 
bushes in shady woods and groves and continually sings a merry 
little song. 

Distribution. Widely distributed through India, Ceylon, Burma, 



TICKELL'S BLUE FLYCATCHER 123 

Malay Peninsula, Siam, and Annam. The typical race is found 
practically throughout India at all elevations except north-west of 
a line through Mussoorie, Sambhar, Mount Aboo, and Kathiawar. 
It extends eastwards into Assam and Burma. In Ceylon it is replaced 
by M. t. nesea which is decidedly darker above. A resident species 
except for short local migrations. 

This species may very easily be confused with the Blue-throated 
Flycatcher (Muscicapula rubeculoides) which breeds throughout the 
Himalayas and wanders into many parts of the Peninsula and to Ceylon 
in winter. The male has the chin and throat dark blue, whereas in 
Tickell's Blue Flycatcher the ferruginous of the breast comes up to those 
parts, leaving only a tiny patch on the chin at the base of the beak 
blue. Another and very common Himalayan species breeding from 
7000 to 9000 feet, which also winters down in India as far south as 
the Deccan, is the White-eyebrowed Blue Flycatcher (Muscicapula 
super ciliaris). The male has the whole of the upper parts and an 
interrupted collar across the breast blue, and in the West Himalayan 
race there is a conspicuous white line above the eye and a white patch 
in the side of the tail. Lower parts white. 

At a higher level 9000 to 10,000 feet is yet another common 
Himalayan species, best known in Kashmir, the Slaty-blue Flycatcher 
(Muscicapula tricolor). The upper parts are slaty-blue, lower parts 
whitish and there is a white patch in each side of the tail. 

Habits, etc. Tickell's Blue Flycatcher is another forest-loving 
species which is found in thick cover and shade, and particularly 
haunts the banks of wooded streams. In such localities it flits 
about amongst the boughs and hunts for insects, particularly in the 
network of aerial roots and creepers which are a feature of some of 
the southern jungles. It is a wary bird and not always easily observed. 
When one is walking quietly througn the jungle this Flycatcher will 
usually, when first met, come up close within a few yards and give 
vent to its short song as if challenging the intruder. Then it disappears 
and is not easily approached again. 

The short metallic song is quite pleasing. It consists of a couple 
of sharp " clicks," followed by a little tune of five or six notes, which 
recall the song of the White-browed Fantail-Flycatcher, but are 
harsher and not so loud. The song is incessantly repeated. 

The breeding season lasts from March to August, but the majority 
of nests are to be found in June and July. 

The nest is a small cup of moss or dry leaves lined with fine 
roots and a little hair placed in a small hole or hollow in a variety 
of situations in banks or rocks, in brickwork, on the window-ledges 
of ruined houses. A very favourite situation is one of the numerous 
hollows formed by the roots of a wild fig-tree, banyan, or peepul, 
where they have anastomosed with the trunk of some enclosed tree. 



124 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The usual clutch consists of three or four eggs. The egg is a 
moderately elongated oval, somewhat blunt at the small end. The 
texture is fine with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is dingy 
greyish-white, freckled with dingy olive-brown. The freckling is so 
excessively fine that the egg appears a dull olive-brown, rarely tinged 
with rufous or reddish, more especially towards the broad end. 

In size the egg measures about 0-75 by 0*56 inches. 



THE VERDITER FLYCATCHER 

EUMYIAS THALASSINA (Swainson) 
(Plate vi, Fig. i, opposite page no) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : A black patch in front of 
the eye ; the whole plumage bright verditer-blue, concealed portions 
of the wings and tail blackish-brown ; under tail-coverts broadly 
fringed with white. 

Female : Resembles the male, but is duller in colour throughout, 
and the chin and sides of the throat are mottled with white. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

The bill, which is flat, and viewed from above almost forms an 
equilateral triangle, is fringed with hairs. 

Field Identification. Familiar summer bird about houses and 
gardens in the Himalayas ; a conspicuous verditer-blue in colour, 
perching on exposed situations and hawking insects in the air with 
active flight. 

Distribution. The Verditer Flycatcher breeds throughout the 
Himalayas, in Assam, the Burmese Hills, Yunnan, Shan States, 
Siam, Annam, and Western China. It is divided into races, of which 
only the typical one concerns us. This breeds in the Himalayas from 
4000 to 10,000 feet, and during the winter migrates down into 
Peninsular India, missing out most of the Punjab, Sind, and desert 
Rajputana, and extending as far as Travancore. 

The small and very dark looking Sooty Flycatcher (Hemichelidon 
sibiricd) is common throughout the length of the Himalayas. It 
perches higher than most species, often at the tops of the largest trees. 

Habits, etc. The Verditer Flycatcher in summer is one of the 
few birds of the Himalayan hill stations which attract the notice of 
even the least observant. It is a bold and confiding bird, frequenting 
jungle and garden alike, and perching in open exposed positions, 
where its brilliant colouring catches the sunlight and renders it 
conspicuous. Like other Flycatchers, it swoops into the air from 
its perch to take insects on the wing ; but while other species often 
return to the same perch with the captured insect, the Verditer 



THE VERDITER FLYCATCHER 125 

Flycatcher continues its flight and perches in a new place, thus 
continually changing its ground and bringing itself more to notice. 
The flight is very strong and swift. During the breeding season it 
affects forest areas rather than the more open hill-sides ; during the 
winter it appears in any type of country where there are large trees. 
Its usual perch is a bare twig at the top of a tree, but it is also 
partial to telegraph wires ; it does not as a rule perch on buildings, 
though it enters verandahs and porches in search of a nesting site. 
Normally it is found solitary or in pairs, but small parties collect on 
migration. 

There appears to be no call-note, but the male has a loud and 
fairly good song. 

It breeds from April till the middle of July, and probably two 
broods are reared. 

The nests are remarkably true to type, fairly solid cups of green 
moss, lined with fine black moss roots. The majority are built 
under the overhanging crests of banks where the action of water 
and the binding qualities of tree-roots combine to form a gloomy 
hollow, in the side of which the nest placed in a hole is distinguished 
with difficulty. Banks by the side of roads and paths are especially 
affected. Other sites are under the small hill bridges, amongst the 
timber-work, or in the rafters and eaves of buildings. As the bird 
is very shy at the nest and always dashes out of it at the approach 
of passers-by and in front of them, it continually brings itself and 
its nest to notice. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs, though three or five 
may occasionally be found. The eggs closely resemble those of 
the English Robin. In shape they are a moderately broad oval, 
somewhat compressed towards the smaller end. The shell is 
fragile and with little gloss. The ground-colour is pinky-white, in 
some entirely devoid of markings, in others with a more or less con- 
spicuous reddish-pink zone or cap of mottled or clouded markings, 
not defined specks or spots, which are generally nearly confluent. 

In size the egg averages about 0-78 by 0-57 inches. 

THE NILGIRI BLUE FLYCATCHER 
EUMYIAS ALBICAUDATA (Jerdon) 
(Plate iv, Fig. 2, opposite page 66) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : The whole plumage dull 
indigo-blue, becoming ultramarine-blue on the forehead and above 
the eye and duller and whiter towards the vent ; a black spot in 
front of the eye ; wings and tail dark brown, all feathers edged with 
blue, and the tail-feathers, excepting the central pair, pure white at 
the base. 



126 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Female : The whole upper plumage dull greyish-olivaceous with 
a dull blue patch above the base of the tail ; wings dark brown, all 
feathers edged with rufescent ; tail blackish edged with blue, all 
feathers, except the central pair, pure white at the base ; lower 
plumage dull bluish-grey, tinged with olivaceous on the throat and 
with white about the vent. 

Iris dark brown ; bill horny-black ; legs blackish-brown. 

The bill is rather wide at the base and slightly flattened and fringed 
with hairs. 

Field Identification. A rather sombre-coloured Flycatcher with 
white patches in the base of the tail, found commonly in forest in the 
hills of extreme South-west India. The male has a good song and is 
dull dark blue in colour, rather brighter on the crown. 

Distribution. A resident species, confined to the hills of extreme 
South-west India where it is common in the Nilgiris, Biligirirangams, 
Nelliampathies, Palnis and Travancore ranges. It is most common at 
an elevation of 4000 to 7000 feet but may be found somewhat lower. 

Habits, etc. The Nilgiri Blue Flycatcher is essentially a forest- 
haunting species and is abundant enough in those hills where it is 
found. It frequents overgrown hill streams and nullahs, the under- 
growth which flanks paths and tracks through the sholas and cardamum 
plantations and the edges of forest clearings. It also often visits gardens. 

This species ordinarily perches in a somewhat upright position on 
a twig and utters the typical Flycatcher click click as it twitches its 
tail up and down. The song is very sweet, somewhat feebler than 
but very similar in character to that of the Pied Bush-Chat. Heard 
in a shola it has a somewhat penetrating quality. It lasts from five 
to ten seconds and is constantly uttered from some exposed twig on 
the top of a tree and it may be heard in most months of the year. 
The female also sings on occasion. The food consists almost entirely 
of insects but a certain amount of small fruit is also apparently eaten. 

The breeding season lasts from March till June but most eggs 
will be found about April. The nest is usually built in a cavity in a 
bank, more particularly on the inner sides of the paths which intersect 
the hill-jungles and sholas ; but it may also be found in holes in rocks 
and walls and trees, under the eaves of houses and in the wood-work 
of bridges. The nest itself is a soft mass of fine moss on a slight 
foundation of coarse moss and lichen or a few twigs. The egg-cavity 
can hardly be said to be lined, but a greater proportion of very fine 
black moss-roots enter into the composition of the nest here than 
elsewhere. One or two feathers are occasionally added. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. These vary a good deal 
in shape, size and colour, but are normally an elongated oval in shape 
with little or no gloss. The ground-colour varies from creamy-white 
to a pretty, warm cafe-au-lait colour. In some eggs there are no 



THE NILGIRI BLUE FLYCATCHER 127 

discernible markings ; only the tint grows deeper and brighter towards 
the large end, becoming pale reddish-brown, brownish-red or red as 
the case may be. In other eggs there is a regular zone of minute 
spots, or very rarely blotches, round the broad end. Taken, however, 
as a series the eggs of this species average a rather deeper, warmer 
salmon-pink colour than those of the Verditer Flycatcher. 
In size they measure about 0-8 by 0-6 inches. 



THE BLACK AND ORANGE FLYCATCHER 

OCHROMELA NIGRORUFA (Jerdon) 
(Frontispiece, Fig. i) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Top and sides of the head 
and hind-neck black ; wings black ; remainder of plumage rich 
orange-chestnut, somewhat paler on the throat and abdomen. 

Female : Similar to the male but the black of the head and neck 
is replaced by greenish-brown, mottled with rufous in front of the eye. 

Iris brown ; bill blackish-brown ; legs greyish-brown. 

The coarse broad bill is fringed with long hairs. 

Field Identification. Hills of South-west India. A small orange- 
coloured bird with blackish head-cap and wings but tail also orange. 
Found flitting about near the ground in the undergrowth of shady 
woods where its presence is revealed by an incessant chirruping note, 
easily mistaken for that of an insect. 

Distribution. Confined to the hill ranges of South-west India 
and resident at elevations from 2500 to 7000 feet and probably most 
common about 5000 feet. It is recorded from the Wynaad (scarce), 
the Nilgiris and Biligirirangams, the Palnis and the Travancore ranges, 
but is curiously local and patchy in its distribution. 

Habits, etc. The Black and Orange Flycatcher must very soon 
become well known to all observers at Ootacamund and Kodaikanal. 
It is a bird of dense woods and thickets, preferring the most retired, 
shady and damp, swampy patches in the breeding season though at 
other times it ventures into the lighter woods and sholas. In such 
places it flits about the undergrowth singly or in pairs, reminding the 
English observer of a Robin in its ways. At one moment it is seated 
motionless on the low branch of a tree or a fallen stump or some thick 
tangle of dead branches. The next it makes a short swoop at an insect 
in the air or descends to the ground for a second to pick one up ; but 
whatever it does or wherever it goes you will notice that it seldom 
leaves the neighbourhood of the ground, usually keeping within a 
foot or two of it. In spite of its preference for dark woods and secluded 
spots this Flycatcher is by no means a shy bird and it does not resent 
observation from close quarters provided that one keeps motionless. 



128 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

There is no true song, but the male is far from silent, uttering a 
somewhat metallic high-pitched chirrup chiki-riki-chiki or chee-r-ri-ri 
every few seconds which gives away its whereabouts, though the 
chirrup might easily be mistaken for that of an insect. 

The breeding season proper is from March to May and a few eggs 
may still be found in June. The nest is a very remarkable structure for 
a Flycatcher, a large and regular ball of dry sedge and coarse grass, 
with a small entrance hole at one side near the top. It is entirely 
devoid of lining but is placed on a foundation of dead leaves. These 
are usually wedged into the centre of a small bush or clump of foliage, 
but the bird is also fond of building in the cluster of new shoots that 
rise from the stump of a tree that has been felled. The nest is normally 
built at a height of two to three feet from the ground and occasionally 
lower. 

The clutch consists of two eggs. 

The egg is a long oval in shape and the shell is very fine and 
delicate with little or no gloss. The ground-colour is pale greyish- 
white or buffy-white, faintly but profusely freckled all over with pale 
pinky-grey or reddish and these markings sometimes form indistinct 
caps or zones on the large end of the egg. 

The egg measures about 0-70 by 0*52 inches. 



THE GREY-HEADED FLYCATCHER 

CULICICAPA CEYLONENSIS (Swainson) 
(Plate vi, Fig. 2, opposite page no) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Head, neck and 
breast ashy, darker on the crown ; remainder of plumage greenish- 
yellow, duller and greener above and brighter and yellower below ; 
concealed portions of wings and tail dark brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill brown ; legs yellowish-brown. 

The bill, viewed from above, is triangular in shape and thickly 
fringed with long hairs. 

Field Identification. A forest bird ; very small, greenish-yellow, 
with an ashy head and neck ; very active and erratic in its movements 
amongst shady trees and rather noisy. 

Distribution. Generally distributed throughout India, Ceylon, 
and Burma, extending also eastwards to Siam, Cochin-China, Java, 
and Borneo, this common Flycatcher is divided into several races. 
We are concerned only with two of these, which breed in the 
Himalayas and other hill ranges from 3000 to 8000 feet and are 
locally migratory, moving down into the plains after the breeding 
season. C. c. pallidior breeds along the Himalayas from Hazara to 



THE GREY-HEADED FLYCATCHER 129 

Bhutan, and is found in winter in the North-west Frontier Province, 
Punjab, United Provinces, Central Provinces, and the Bombay 
Presidency as far as Northern Kanara. It is only a straggler in the 
dry and more open plains of the North-west. In the Nilgiris and 
Travancore ranges it is replaced by the more richly-coloured typical 
race, also found in Ceylon. 

The Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa latirostris), a small brown and 
white species with a spotted breast, will catch the eye of anyone 
who knows the English Spotted Flycatcher, which it much resembles 
in habits and appearance. It is found throughout the whole of India 
except the Punjab plains, North-west Frontier Province, Sind, and 
Rajputana, being known to breed at low elevations in the Himalayas, 
in the Vindhyan Hills, and North Kanara. 

Habits, etc. On its breeding grounds this Flycatcher is a bird 
of heavy forest, preferring those ravines and hill-sides where the age 
and the size of the trees provide wide shady arcades chequered with 
occasional patches of sunlight ; in such places as it hawks insects 
in the air it flits incessantly from bough to bough, now catching 
the gleams of sunlight, now hidden in the gloom, eternally restless, 
eternally cheerful. Its call or song is a long, loud, clear trill, 
che-tut-tut-teee or wit-tweet-chitat-chitat, which sounds through the 
glades, occasionally becoming harsher and louder with something 
in it of the " stone on ice " note of the common Indian Nightjar, 
though rather hurried and different in tone ; or it might be described 
as tyu-jit followed by a prolonged twittering note. Except when in 
family parties after breeding it is solitary in disposition, though one 
or two individuals invariably accompany the mixed hunting parties 
of small birds which are such a feature of the hill jungles. 

The breeding season lasts from April to June. The nest is a 
most charming little structure of bright green mosses, lichens, and 
cobwebs, in shape half a cone or quarter of a sphere, and it is applied 
to the perpendicular side of a tree-trunk or rock on which there is 
plenty of moss with which it assimilates. The cavity is usually unlined, 
but occasionally moss roots are used. It is placed at all heights from 
the ground. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, very blunt in shape with very 
little gloss. The ground-colour is white or dingy yellowish-white, 
and the markings consist of spots and blotches of grey and yellowish- 
grey, the majority being collected in a zone round the larger end. 

In size the eggs average about 0-60 by 0-48 inches. 



130 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 
THE RUFOUS-BELLIED NILTAVA 

NlLTAVA SUNDARA Hodgson 

Description. Length 6*5 inches. Male : Head, rump, patch on 
either side of the neck and in the angle of wing shining blue ; rest 
of upper parts very dark blue ; throat black, and the remainder of 
the lower surface chestnut. Wings dark brown edged with purplish 
blue ; tail black edged blue. Female : Olive brown with an ochraceous 
tint ; tail and under tail coverts rufous ; foreneck white with a small 
patch of brilliant blue on either side. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs brown. 

Field Identification. A rather unobtrusive bird, the size of a 
robin, frequenting moderate dense jungle. The male is easily 
recognised by the beautiful bright blue of the upper plumage and 
chestnut under parts. The glistening blue spots on either side of 
the neck in both sexes make it impossible to confuse it with Tickell's 
Blue Flycatcher or the Blue-throated Flycatcher. 

Distribution. From the Murree Hills in North-west Himalayas, east 
to Szechuan and south through Yunnan and Burma to South China 
and Siam . In the Himalayas there is an eastern and western race. The 
former, N. s. sundara, ranges from Nepal to Assam, ascending the 
hills as high as 8000 feet, while in the Outer Himalayas between 5000 
and 9000 feet. From Kumaon to Murree it is replaced by a paler form, 
N. s. whistleri. Both these forms move lower down in the autumn to 
the foothills and in some localities to the adjoining plains. Closely 
allied, but two inches larger, is the Large Niltava, Niltava grandis, in 
which the male lacks the chestnut on the breast and the back is a 
dull bluish ashy, while the female is a reddish olivaceous brown with 
the usual brilliant blue neck spots. It inhabits the Himalayas from 
Nepal to Burma and Yunnan at altitudes from 3000 to 7000 feet. 

Habits, etc. Although this Flycatcher is by no means uncommon, 
it is apt to be overlooked in spite of the gay plumage, since it keeps 
to a great extent to thick evergreen undergrowth and, as a rule, rather 
damp spots. It does, however, frequent in some parts of its range 
pine forests, but only where there are damp nullahs with plenty of 
undergrowth on the banks of streams running through them. 

The breeding season is from April to July. The nest is usually 
in a crevice in rocks or the trunk of a tree, sometimes amongst the 
roots ; and occasionally in the long grass on the rocky banks of 
streams. It is well concealed, constructed of grass and lined with 
fern stems, and closely resembles that of the common Robin. 

The eggs are blunt ovals varying from three to four, and they too 
are similar to those of the Robin, but often more densely mottled 
with pale pinkish-brown. 

They measure 0-85 by 0-63 inches. 



THE PARADISE FLYCATCHER 131 

THE PARADISE FLYCATCHER 

TCHITREA PARADISI (Linnaeus) 
(Plate ix, Fig. 2, opposite page 176) 

Description. Length 9 inches, exclusive of the sharply-graduated 
tail ; in older males the central pair of feathers form ribbon-like 
streamers up to 10 inches in length. 

Adult male : Pure white ; the head, neck and crest glossy bluish- 
black ; the upper parts faintly streaked with black, the wing- and 
tail-feathers heavily lined with black. 

Female and young male : Head, neck and crest glossy bluish- 
black ; a collar round the neck, chin, throat and upper breast dark 
ashy merging into white on the abdomen ; remainder of upper parts, 
wings and tail bright chestnut. 

The plumages of the male are not yet fully understood and 
individuals will be found in various stages intermediate to the 
extremes above described. A phase in which the long streamers 
and the upper parts are chestnut instead of white may be dimorphic 
to the fully white adult. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and rim round the eye bright cobalt-blue ; 
legs plumbeous-blue. 

The bill is flattened and swollen and fringed with coarse hairs. 

Field Identification. Older males cannot be confused with any 
other species owing to the central pair of tail-feathers being elongated 
into ribbon-like streamers 10 inches long, white or chestnut in colour. 
These droop gracefully in rest or stream out behind the bird in 
flight. Females and younger males have a crested, glossy black 
head and bright chestnut upper parts, wings and tail, and ashy or 
white under parts. Purely arboreal, active and lively. 

Distribution. The Paradise Flycatcher occurs from Turkestan, 
Afghanistan and Baluchistan, through India and Burma, and still 
farther eastwards. It is divided into several races, of which we are 
concerned with three. The typical race occurs throughout the 
Peninsula from the Western United Provinces to the Brahmaputra, 
southwards to Cape Comorin and visiting Ceylon in winter. In that 
island there is a resident race as well, T. p. ceylonensis, which has 
always had the adult male chestnut instead of white. The paler race, 
inhabiting Afghanistan, Turkestan, Kashmir, and the Himalayas to 
Eastern Nepal is known as T. p. leucogaster. A third race nicobarica, 
with the head, neck and breast ^.shy-grey and the cap and a short 
crest only black, is found in the Duars and Upper Assam, migrating 
in winter to the Nicobars and Andamans. 

Very little is definitely known about the status and movements of 
this common and widely-spread bird, but it is undoubtedly migratory 



132 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

to a large extent. In the North-western Himalayas and Salt Range 
it is a summer visitor, only arriving about March and April and 
departing about September ; in most of the Punjab it is purely 
a passage migrant in those months. To Sind it is a scarce winter 
visitor ; in many other localities it is undoubtedly a resident. 

Habits, etc. The Paradise Flycatcher has been aptly named ; 
the long waving tail plumes recall the ornaments of the true Birds 
of Paradise, and for sheer beauty of contrast and purity of colora- 
tion and for grace of form and movement, the adult male must be 
without a rival in India. If Paradise is the home of perfection, 
there indeed must this bird find a place. In nature its beauty is 
enhanced by its surroundings ; for it is a bird of pleasant groves 
and well-watered shady nullahs, where stray gleams of sunshine 
strike through the boughs, bringing into colour sprays of foliage and 
illuminating patches of the ground and throwing them into relief by 
contrast with mysterious shadows. In such a spot the Paradise 
Flycatcher delights to dwell, perching on the sprays, and disappear- 
ing into the shady depths, now hidden from sight, now caught in 
the rays of sunshine as he flies across the intervening spaces. The 
long streamers give a curious effect to the flight ; the bird appears 
to float softly along without particular volition or ability to direct its 
course, moving in a series of dreamy impulses ; though the younger 
birds with short tails show themselves possessed of strong and 
decided flight. All food is taken on the wing, and that the bird 
is capable of speed and skill in the air is proved by the fact that 
dragon-flies are sometimes captured. 

This species is purely arboreal, its feet being too short and weak 
for progress on the ground. It is a very lively and cheerful bird, 
incessantly on the move ; males often flirt their tails about, opening 
and closing the feathers and making play with the long streamers. 
When sitting on a twig the carriage is very upright. 

The ordinary call-note is harsh and disappointing, a sharp grating 
note ; but the song is a low pleasant warble of distinct merit, though 
it is not very often heard. 

The breeding season differs according to locality. In Northern 
India it lasts from April to June ; in the south it is earlier, com- 
mencing about February. Probably more than one brood is raised. 

The nest depends for protection on its position rather than on 
concealment ; though at first sight it escapes notice by its ridiculous 
conspicuousness ; it is too easy to see, the eye and brain are looking 
for something more difficult to find. It is a very neat and compactly- 
built cup, either shallow and rounded or a deep inverted cone ; it is 
built of soft grass, scraps of leaf and moss, all very firmly plastered 
together with spiders' webs and studded with small cocoons and 
pieces of lichen ; there is a neat lining of fine grass and hair, the 



PLATE VII 




.9 

TS 




I 



O 



. 132 



THE PARADISE FLYCATCHER 133 

whole forming a Structure worthy in its beauty of the architect. It 
is placed on a twig or stem, growing at any angle or at any height 
from the ground from 5 to 40 feet. The branch of a tall mango 
tree in the plains, and a thick brier stem in the hills are favourite 
situations. Both sexes incubate, and the male may be seen on the 
nest with the long streamers drooping over the side. In different 
pairs the males may be found in every stage of plumage, as they 
commence to breed when a year old. 

The eggs are in shape a rather long oval, somewhat pointed 
towards the small end, and they are usually dull and glossless. 
The ground-colour varies from pale pinkish-white to a warm salmon- 
pink and is more or less thickly spotted with rather bright brownish- 
red spots which tend to form an irregular cap or zone at the broad 
end. A few tiny, pale, inky-purple blotches occur also about the 
broad end. The eggs resemble in miniature one of the types of egg 
laid by the Common King- Crow. 

They measure about 0*80 by 0*60 inches. 



THE BLACK-NAPED FLYCATCHER 

HYPOTHYMIS AZUREA (Boddacrt) 
(Plate xi, Fig. i, opposite page 220) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Head, neck and breast 
brilliant lilac-blue, a minute patch about the base of the bill, a large 
patch on the back of the head and a crescentic bar on the throat 
deep velvet-black ; remainder of upper parts dark blue ; wings and 
tail sooty-black, washed with dark blue ; remainder of lower parts 
white. 

Female and immature birds : Head, neck and breast dull ashy- 
blue ; remainder of upper parts, wings and tail dark ashy-brown ; 
remainder of lower parts white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill dark blue, edges and tip black ; leg 
plumbeous, claws horny. 

The bill is broad and flattened at the base and fringed with long 
hairs ; legs weak. 

Field Identification. A slender, rather elongated bird of which 
the male is blue throughout except for the white abdomen. The 
blue of the head and neck is very brilliant and emphasised by the 
black velvet skull-cap, set well back, and the black crescent on the 
throat. The female lacks these velvet patches and is much browner, 
with only a wash of blue about the head and neck. Usually solitary, 
catching flies about trees. 

12 



134 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Distribution. A widely-distributed species, occurring in India, 
Ceylon, Assam, Burma, Yunnan, Siam, and Indo-China across to 
the Philippines. There are several races. The Indian race, H. a. 
styani y which also extends eastward to Hainan, occurs throughout 
the whole country except north-west of a line from Lucknow, Sehore, 
and Western Khandesh. H. a. ceylonensis, restricted to Ceylon, lacks 
the black on the throat. It is largely confined to the various hill 
ranges, but apparently does not occur much over 4000 feet. A resident 
species with slight local movements. 

Habits, etc. This beautiful Flycatcher is found in well-wooded 
parts of the country where it frequents patches of thick jungle and 
is particularly fond of shady nullahs overhung by lofty trees. It is 
also fond of bamboo jungle and may be found in open country in 
clumps of tiees or in single trees near villages. It is usually solitary, 
flying from tree to tree, remaining a short time in each, capturing 
insects on the wing. Now and again it flits actively amongst the 
branches, spreading its tail after the fashion of a Fantail-Flycatcher. 
It never descends to the ground. The food consists of a variety of 
small insects and as it captures these it utters a sharp little call which 
resembles one of the calls of the Grey Tit. At times several individuals 
join the mixed hunting parties and travel with them through the trees. 

The breeding season lasts from the latter half of April until 
August, most nests being found in June and early July. The season 
is somewhat earlier in the north than in the south. 

The nest is a deep little cup composed internally of fine grass 
stems well woven together. Externally it consists of rather coarser 
grass and vegetable fibres and it is practically coated with cobwebs 
by which numerous small white cocoons and tiny pieces of dry 
leaves and lichen are attached to the nest. Sometimes some green 
moss is mingled with the cocoons. It is very neat and rather massive' 
in construction. The nest is usually placed in a slender fork of an 
outer branch of a tree at no great height from the ground or fastened 
to some pendant bamboo spray. 

The clutch consists of two to four eggs, three being the usual 
number. The egg is a miniature of that of the Paradise Flycatcher. 
It is a moderately broad and very regular oval, slightly compressed 
towards the smaller end. The shell is very fine and smooth, with 
little or no gloss. The ground-colour varies from almost pure white 
to pale salmon-pink ; the markings consist of minute specks or small 
spots of red or reddish-pink, varying much in intensity and mingled 
with a few small pale purple spots. As a rule the markings are most 
plentiful towards the larger end of the egg, tending to form a zone 
or cap. 

The egg measures about 0-69 by 0-53 inches. 



THE WHITE-BROWED FANTAIL-FLYCATCHER 135 

THE WHITE-BROWED FANTAIL-FLYCATCHER 

LEUCOCIRCA AUREOLA (Lesson) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike, except that the 
female is rather browner above. Forehead and a very broad stripe 
above the eye white ; remainder of head black, the feathers of the 
cheeks, chin and throat edged with white ; remainder of upper 
plumage, wings and tail brown, the wing-coverts tipped with white, and 
all but the central pair of tail-feathers tipped with white, progressing 
more broadly outwards, till the outermost feather is almost entirely 
white ; sides of the breast black ; remainder of lower plumage white. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

The bill is large and flat and fringed with long hairs. The tail 
is very ample and rounded, spreading into a fan. 

Field Identification. Common throughout the plains. A small 
black and white bird, with a charming bar of song, which pirouettes 
about the shady branches of trees incessantly fanning its tail. 

Distribution. This Fantail- Fly catcher is found practically through- 
out India, Ceylon, Assam, Burma and South-west Siam. In India 
it is found from the plains up to about 4000 feet in the Outer 
Himalayas. It is divided into races, of which we are concerned 
with two. The typical race is found throughout Northern India 
though it does not occur in Kashmir, the North-west Frontier 
Province or Baluchistan. The southern boundary is not well-defined 
but all birds from the Madras Presidency belong to the darker 
Cingalese race (L. a. compressirostris) in which the white tips to the 
tail-feathers are shorter and two central pairs are without white tips. 

Mention must be made of two closely-allied species which are 
locally common. The White-throated Fantail (Leucocirca albicollis), 
which frequents shady ravines and may be easily distinguished by the 
sooty-brown colour of the lower parts, is found along the Outer 
Himalayas up to about 7000 feet from Murree on the west (and with a 
wide distribution east of our area). The White-spotted Fantail 
(Leucocirca pectoralis) is resident in Central and Southern India from 
Mount Aboo and Goona to the Palnis, being particularly well known 
in the Nilgiris. It is somewhat similar to the White-browed Fantail 
in appearance but may be distinguished by having a brown pectoral 
band across the white under parts. All are resident species though 
slight local movements may be detected. 

Habits, etc. The various Fantail-Flycatchers are all very much 
alike in their habits and characteristics. The White-browed Fantail 
is a bird of open country, frequenting groves of trees in cultivation, 
gardens and roadside trees, being strictly arboreal, and only descending 
to the ground for occasional momentary visits. For liveliness and 



136 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

grace it is not to be surpassed. It is never still, and the whole livelong 
day it dances and pirouettes, filled with an inimitable joie-de-vivre. 
It flits amongst the leafy boughs of some giant mango tree with a 
short jerky flight, and where it settles there it postures ; it turns 
from side to side with restive, jerky movements ; like a ballet-dancer 
before her mirror it tries new steps and attitudes ; down drop the 
wings, up jerks the head, and all the time the dainty round fan of the 
tail is opened and closed and flirted with all the coquetry and grace 
of a beauty of Andalusia. Never was bird better named ; wa\ch it 
for the first time and within the first few seconds the name of Fantail 
rises unbidden to the mind. Now and again the bird leaves the 
shelter of the branches and launches into the air, seeming to tumble, 
bent on suicide ; a rapid snap at some tiny insect invisible to human 




FIG. 19 White-browed Fantail-Flycatcher (| nat. size) 

eye, a swift recovery, and it has returned to the cool shelter of the 
leaves, and is once more bowing and dancing. Now and again the 
happy little dancer breaks into song, a few notes in a regular scale/ 
which seem more a human melody than the song of a bird, and break 
off just as groping memory has almost remembered their source. 
The song stops suddenly in the middle of the scale (it is always the 
same and always stops in the same place), and with a sharp twittering 
note the bird is off to another tree where the minuet begins afresh. 

Amongst the other attractions of this dainty bird is its boldness ; 
song and dance go on in spite of human presence, and I have seen 
one fly down and snap an insect off the shoulder of a servant who 
was talking to me. The food consists entirely of insects, mostly of 
the minutest size, and throughout the whole of the bird's movements 
can be heard the snapping of its beak as it feeds. 

Eggs may be found from the end of February to the early part 
of August ; though the majority will be found in March and July. 
Two broods are reared, and this often from the same nest. 

The nest is a most beautiful structure. It is a tiny cup, small, 



THE WHITE-BROWED FANTAIL-FLYCATCHER 137 

even for the size of the bird, and is attached to the upper surface of 
a twig or small branch, often at the junction of a fork. Viewed from 
the ground it has much the appearance of a small hornet's nest. 

It is made of fine fibres and grasses closely welded and bound 
with cobwebs and sometimes studded with small cocoons or spiders' 
egg-bags. There is a neat lining of fine grass stems. It is built at 
any height from 4 to 40 feet from the ground. Even in the nest the 
bird is restless, often turning about, spreading her tail, or flying off 
for a minute or two. The male remains very faithfully in the vicinity, 
and without the least hesitation launches out to attack passing Crows 
or other possible enemies. 

The eggs vary from two to four in number, while three is the 
usual clutch. They are moderately broad ovals compressed towards 
the small end. The ground-colour varies from pure white to very 
pale yellowish-brown or dingy cream colour ; and the markings are 
generally largely confined to a broad irregular zone near the large end 
of greyish-brown specks and spots, with secondary markings of neutral 
tint and pale grey or faint inky-purple. They are rather like miniature 
Shrikes' eggs. 

They measure about 0-66 by 0-51 inches. 



THE GREAT GREY SHRIKE 

LANIUS EXCUBITOR Linnaeus 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. A very broad band 
from the beak through the eye black ; upper plumage bluish-grey, 
merging into white over the wings ; wings black, variegated with 
grey and white ; tail black, the feathers growing increasingly white 
outwards ; the whole lower plumage white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Beak strong and hooked, with a deep notch at the tip of the upper 
mandible ; tail rather long and graduated. 

Field Identification. Plains of Continental India. A grey and 
white bird with a heavy head marked with a conspicuous black band 
through the eye and with much black in the wings and tail ; solitary 
or in pairs, in open country sitting on the tops of large bushes. 

Distribution. The Great Grey Shrike in various races has a very 
wide distribution through Europe, Africa, Asia, and Northern America. 
In Northern India it is represented by a resident form named L. e. 
lahtora, which is common and generally distributed. It is found from 
roughly the line of the Indus and from the foot of the Himalayas to 
the Rajmahal Hills, Manbhum and Lohardaga in Bihar, southwards 
to Belgaum and Chanda. It is not found in the hill ranges. 

Habits, etc. This Shrike is a familiar species in open country, 



138 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

preferring the more barren stretches of semi-desert country or wide 
open plains to cultivation, though it is found also in the latter. 
Forest areas it avoids. It is found solitary or in pairs and is very 
conspicuous from its white, black and grey plumage and its habit 
of perching on the tops of bushes and small trees. It captures 
most of its food on the ground, leaving its vantage-point from time 
to time to fly down after a toothsome morsel and in returning to 
the perch it flies low over the ground and then turns sharply up to 
settle ; the flight is undulating but strong. Each bird or pair % have 
their own beat and resent the intrusion of other species. The alarm- 
note is a harsh grating call, but the bird is capable of considerable 
powers of mimicry which serve it as a song. The food consists largely 




v 
FIG. 20 Great Grey Shrike (J nat. size) 

of beetles, crickets, lizards, and ants, and like other Shrikes this species 
has the habit of impaling surplus food on thorns to form a larder. 

The breeding season extends from January to October, but the 
majority of eggs are laid in March or April. Two broods are 
sometimes reared. 

The nest is a large bulky cup, solid and well constructed, and 
placed at moderate heights from 4 to ra feet up in a thick bush or 
small tree, preferably thorny in character. It is composed of thorny 
twigs, coarse grass roots and the like, thickly lined with wool, fibres, 
cotton and other miscellaneous materials soft in character. 

The eggs vary in number from three to six. In shape they are 
a broad oval, somewhat pointed towards the smaller end. The 
texture is fine and close and there is a slight gloss. The ground- 
colour is delicate greenish-white, moderately blotched and spotted 
with various shades of brown and purple, the markings in nearly 
every case collecting into a wide zone round the broader end. 

The eggs measure about 1*05 by o8o inches. 



THE BAY-BACKED SHRIKE 139 

THE BAY-BACKED SHRIKE 

LANIUS VITTATUS Valenciennes 
(Plate ix, Fig. i, opposite page 176) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. A broad band 
through the eye joined by a broad band across the base of the beak 
black ; crown and upper neck grey, divided from the black by a 
whitish area ; back and shoulders deep chestnut-maroon ; rump 
white ; wings black, with a white patch at the base of the outer 
flight-feathers ; tail black with much white on the outer feathers ; 
lower parts white except for the breast and flanks which are fulvous. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

The bill has a notch at the tip of the upper mandible ; tail rather 
long and graduated. 

Field Identification. Common in cultivation ; a small bird with 
a longish tail, broad grey and white head with heavy black marking, 
maroon back and black and white tail, the markings sharply defined 
and conspicuous ; perches in exposed positions. 

Distribution. This Shrike is a purely Asiatic species, occurring 
from the west in Afghanistan and Baluchistan right across the whole 
Peninsula of India to Darbhanga, the Rajmahal Hills and Midnapur. 
It occurs in the Himalayas, but sparingly at heights up to 6000 feet, 
extending often far into the valleys as in Chitral. In the south it 
reaches Cape Comorin but it avoids the rain areas of the south-west. 
In portions of its range it is migratory, but for the most part it is a 
resident species. 

Habits, etc. This charming little Shrike is a bird of open country 
and cultivation with groves of trees, and it avoids both desert country 
and thick jungle. It perches on telegraph-wires and the lower boughs 
of trees, and on large bushes some 6 to 10 feet from the ground, and 
watches thence for insect life to stir in the vicinity ; a desirable morsel 
spied, it flies down to secure it, and after a meal upon the ground 
returns to its perch. It has a fixed territory, and seldom stirs far 
from its established perch. The food consists of insects, caterpillars, 
beetles, and the like. 

The ordinary call is a harsh churring note, but the bird has a 
pleasant little warbling song and is something of a mimic, imitating 
the notes of other birds. 

The breeding season lasts from March to September, and it is 
possible that two broods are often reared. The nest is a rather 
massive, compactly woven and very beautiful cup composed of fine 
grass, rags, feathers, soft twine, and a few fine twigs, the exterior 
being neatly plastered with cobwebs ; it is lined, as a rule, with fine 



140 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

grass. The situation chosen for the nest is in the fork of a small 
tree, at heights usually about 6 to 10 feet' from the ground. The 
nest is seldom well concealed, and though the bird generally comes 
close to an intruder and feigns readiness to attack, its attention is 
easily distracted by the sight of a caterpillar or other succulent morsel. 

The clutch consists normally of four eggs, but as many as six 
may be found. The eggs are very typical of the genus, broad rather 
blunt ovals, fine in texture with a slight gloss. The ground-colour 
is dull white tinged with stone, greenish or grey ; near the middle 
of the egg towards the broad end is a wide, conspicuous but broken 
and irregular zone of feeble spots and blotches of pale yellowish-brown 
and pale lilac, a few of these specks and frecklings being also dotted 
about the rest of the surface of the egg. 

The eggs measure about O' 83 by o- 66 inches. 



THE BROWN SHRIKE 
LANIUS CRISTATUS Linnaeus 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
reddish-brown, brighter on the crown and nape ; a faint white line 
over and a broad bladkish line through the eye ending with the ear- 
coverts ; wings dark brown, the feathers margined with rufous ; tail 
reddish-brown with pale tips to the feathers ; lower plumage fulvous, 
whiter on the throat and belly and usually with the breast and flanks 
barred finely with black. 

Iris brown ; bill horny-brown, paler at gape and base of lower 
mandible ; legs bluish-grey, claws brown. 

The bill has a notch at the tip of the upper mandible ; tail fairly 
long and graduated. -^ 

Field Identification. A typical Shrike, reddish-brown above with 
a dark line through the eye and fulvous white below. Found sitting 
on- bushes and fences in open country and the possessor of a very 
harsh voice. 

Distribution. This Shrike breeds over a great part of Central Asia 
and Siberia and Northern China and in winter migrates south to 
North-east Africa and southerr; ^\sia generally. We are concerned 
with two races. The typical race winters in India east of a line from 
Cawnpora to Mhow and also in Ceylon and Burma. The Turkestan 
race L. c. phoenicuroides which is more brightly coloured and has a 
small white patch in the wing breeds in Baluchistan and passes on 
passage through the North-west Frontier Province, the Punjab and 
Sind to its winter quarters in North-east Africa. 

A very similar' species is the Pale-brown Shrike (Laniiis isabellinus) 



THE BROWN SHRIKE 141 

which is a common winter visitor to the more barren areas of North- 
west India. The upper parts are sandy-brown and there is a small 
white patch at the base of the wing- quills. 

Habits, etc. This Shrike may be found in the cold weather in 
every type of country ranging from cultivation and dry scrub or mixed 
bamboo jungle to the fringes of forest and often for considerable 
distances within forest where cart-tracks and clearings encourage it 
to enter. In such terrain the bird is found singly, sitting on a telegraph- 
wire or a fence or a bush or small tree from which it keeps a keen 
lookout for its insect prey, launching out to capture it either in the 
air or on the ground. It is apt to be shy and difficult* to approach 
and is always an active bird except when \ sheltering from the heat of 
the day. 

The voice is singularly harsh, chr-r-r-ri, comparable with but easily 
distinguished from the call of the Rufous-backed Shrike. 

This species is one of the earliest to arrive and one of the latest to 
depart of the winter visitors to India. The first arrivals may be noted 
at the end of August, even as far south as Ceylon, and some birds wait 
into May. A few non-breeding birds also seem to linger in the plains 
throughout the hot weather. 

In Baluchistan the race'L. c. phoenicuroides breeds in May and June 
m a zone between 5000 and 7000 feet. The nest is a massive cup of 
the usual Shrike type built of grass and bents and lined with seed- 
down, wool and scraps of cloth. They are placed in trees or more 
usually in low thorn bushes. 

The clutch consists of four to six eggs. 

The eggs are rather variable in shape, some being long ovals and 
others more broad. The ground-colour varies from pale cream to 
warm salmon-pink or less commonly pale stone-colour or various 
shades of pale greenish. The markings are spots and blotches, mostly 
in a zone round the broad end, and they vary also according to the 
ground-colour from chestnut red to grey-brown and olive-brown with 
secondary markings of lavender and grey. 
* The egg measures about 0*75 by 0*65 inches. 



THE RUFOUS-BACKED SHRIKE 
LANIUS SCHACH Linnaeus 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. Forehead and a 
broad band through the eye black ; crown to the centre of the back 
clear pale grey merging on the shoulders and rump into bright-rufous ; 
wings black with often a small white patch at the base of the outer 
flight-feathers ; tail black and brown, the feathers tipped with rufous ; 



142 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the whole of the lower plumage white, washed with rufous on the 
flanks and vent. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

A notch at the tip of the upper mandible; tail rather long and 
graduated. 

Field Identification. Perches conspicuously in open country ; 
slender build with heavy head and long tail, conspicuous black 
mark through eye, grey back with rufous edging, dark wings and 
tail and pale under parts very distinctive ; distinguish from Bay- 
backed Shrike by larger size, less black on face, and grey not maroon 
back. 

Distribution. Lanius schach is a common and widely-distributed 
form of Shrike which occurs throughout India to China, and is 
divided into several races. Four of these occur within our area. 

The best known is L. s. erythro- 
notus y with pale grey upper 
parts and much rufous on the 
lower back and scapulars, 
which breeds in Turkestan, 
Gilgit, Kashmir, the Outer 
Western Himalayas, North- 
west Frontier Province, 
Baluchistan, Sind and the 

F,G. 2I -Head of Rufous-backed Shrike Pu , n J ab > * nd winters in P f nin ' 

(11 nat. size) sular India. L. s. nepalensis, 

with the upper parts dark 

bluish-slate and the rufous confined to the rump, breeds in Tibet, 
and is a common winter visitor to the Nepal Valley and the Outer 
Eastern Himalayas. L. s. tephronotus, breeding in Suru and Lahul, 
and visiting Upper India in winter, is intermediate between those 
two races. L. s. caniceps, very similar to erythronotus but with less 
rufous on the upper parts, is resident in Central and Southern 
India and Ceylon, breeding abundantly in the hill ranges of the 
south-west. The Tibetan and Lahul races breed up to 10,000 to 
12,000 feet, and the other races up to 7000 to 8000 feet. 

A species of similar type, but at once recognised by the black 
head, is the Black-headed Shrike (Lanius nasutus) which is found in 
some numbers throughout the north-eastern quarter of India from 
Kumaon down to Nagpur and Vizagapatam district, breeding locally 
in parts of this area. 

Habits, etc. This bird is a typical Shrike, avoiding both forest 
areas and desert, and preferring fairly open ground about cultivation 
where a conspicuous perch on top of a bush or tree gives it a view 
all around. The southern form, caniceps, is apparently strictly resident, 
but the northern races are largely migrants, and their movements 




THE RUFOUS-BACKED SHRIKE 143 

remain to be worked out, the situation being obscured by the fact 
that in some areas a proportion of individuals are resident and winter 
where they breed. This Shrike has the ferocity and boldness which 
is a characteristic of the larger members of the genus. It sits up 
on its perch motionless, its sharp eyes watching the ground intently 
for moving life, cricket or mouse, grasshopper or newly-fledged bird, 
and all alike succumb to the sudden dash and the strong-hooked 
beak. And its hunting never stops, for even if its voracious appetite 
is satisfied it has the family habit of maintaining a " larder " in which 
the surplus prey is stuck on to thorns. It is this habit which has 
given to Shrikes the popular name of " Butcher-bird." Small birds 
and mammals, bumble-bees, grasshoppers, dragon-flies, beetles, 
butterflies, and the like may all be found firmly lodged in a favourite 
tree, often eight or ten of them together. On occasions, when feeding, 
the Shrike holds its food up in one foot after the fashion of a Parrot. 

The ordinary call-note is harsh and scolding, gerlek-gerlek or 
julek-julek, followed by a yapping yaon-yaon. The song is short 
and pleasant but not often heard, while the bird is an excellent mimic, 
often reeling off a regular repertory of other birds' notes. 

The breeding season is somewhat irregular. Nests may be found 
in different areas from February to August, and probably more than 
one brood is raised ; but most nests will be found from April to 
July whatever the locality. 

The nest is a large, massive cup, sometimes neat and well built, 
at other times a most disreputable structure. It is composed of a 
medley of materials, twigs, roots, bents, grass, rags, and lumps of 
wool, and the lining consists of fine grass or wool and hair. It is 
placed in a tree or bush, preferably a thorny one, at heights varying 
from 4 to 20 feet from the ground. The nest of the Tibetan race 
may, however, be found in small bushes, only a foot from the ground, 
but often there is not much choice of site in the barren hill-sides 
where it breeds. 

The clutch consists of three to six eggs. 

In appearance they are typical of the genus, broad heavy eggs, 
with very little gloss. The ground-colour is a delicate greenish- 
white, in some eggs pale stone-colour or creamy ; the markings 
consist of small specks and larger blotches of brown or reddish- 
brown, with secondary markings of neutral tint and dark grey. They 
are never very thickly distributed and generally tend to form a zone 
about the broad end. 

They measure about 0-92 by 0-70 inches. 



144 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE PIED-SHRIKE 

HEMIPUS PICATUS (Sykes) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Top and sides of the head 
and neck and the back glossy black, the feathers of the rump broadly 
tipped with white ; wings black, a white line running through the 
centre of the closed wing ; tail black, all but the middle feathers 
broadly tipped with white, the whole outer edge of the outer feather 
white ; cheeks and sides of the neck white, produced to form an 
indistinct half-collar ; lower plumage pale vinaceous-grey shading into 
white on the chin and under the tail. 

Female : Similar to the male but the black is replaced by sooty- 
brown. 

Iris yellowish-brown ; bill black ; legs blackish-brown. 

The bill is broad and flattened like that of a Flycatcher. 

Field Identification. A small black and white or brown, black 
and white bird found in parties in trees, hopping about the branches 
like Woodshrikes or flying into the air to catch insects like Flycatchers. 
Largely confined to hill jungles. 

Distribution. The typical race as described above is found in 
Saugor district ; along the west coast of Peninsular India from the 
Satpuras to the Travancore Hills ; in parts of the Eastern Ghats ; 
in Lower Bengal and Lower Assam and into Lower Burma and 
Tenasserim. It extends also further east to Sumatra and Borneo. 
It occurs from 500 to about 6000 feet. 

In the Sub-Himalayan ranges up to 5000 feet from Simla (very 
rare) eastwards, in Upper Assam and Upper Burma to Northern 
Yunnan and North Siam it is replaced by H. p. capitalis in which 
the male differs in having the back and rump smoky-brown instead 
of glossy black. The females are indistinguishable. There is also 
an island race, //. p. leggei, in Ceylon. In this the male and female 
are exactly alike and indistinguishable from the male of the typical 
race. The racial differences in this species thus form a most interesting 
evolutionary sequence. A resident species. 

Habits, etc. The Pied- Shrike is a strictly arboreal bird. It is 
found in many types of tree-growth, in lofty trees, in the fringe of 
evergreen jungle, in the foliage of secondary growth in thin jungle 
and even on occasion in roadside bushes and mere scrub. Except 
in the breeding season it is found in small parties of about half a 
dozen individuals and these often join the mixed hunting parties. 
In habits these birds resemble both the Flycatchers and the Wood- 
shrikes and between the latter and the true Shrikes they form a very 
definite connecting link. Like the Woodshrikes the members of a 



THE PIED-SHRIKE 145 

party follow each other from tree to tree, searching the twigs and leaves 
for the insect life which forms their food. Like the Flycatchers they 
capture winged prey by launching graceful sallies after it into the 
air, turning and twisting in mid-air with great agility. The notes, 
frequently uttered, are a little trill whi-ri-ri y whi-ri-ri, whi-ri-ri-ri, 
etc. very reminiscent of a cheap squeaky cracker whistle. 

The breeding season of the typical form is from March to May 
in Western India, but that of the brown-backed race capltalis is 
apparently somewhat later, about May and June. The nest is a very 
beautiful structure ; it is composed of grass and fine roots covered 
externally with cobwebs and pieces of grey lichen and moss, taken 
apparently from the tree on which it is built, so that it corresponds 
almost exactly with the branch or fork in which it is placed. This 
is usually at a considerable height from the ground and the branch 
chosen is often a bare one. In shape the nest is a shallow cup with 
a cavity i inches across and J inch deep, and it is so small for the 
size of the bird that when the latter is sitting the whole of the tail 
and the body down to the lower part of the breast is visible to the 
observer below. The bird, in fact, merely appears to be sitting on a 
small lump of moss and lichen. 

The nestlings have a remarkable habit of sitting motionless with 
their eyes shut and their heads raised together in the centre of the 
nest, so that they and the nest together appear to form a dead spur 
of the branch on which the nest is built. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. 

The eggs are very Shrike-like in appearance, rather elongated 
ovals somewhat obtuse at both ends and entirely devoid of gloss. 
The ground-colour is a pale greenish or greyish-white, profusely 
blotched, spotted and streaked with darker and lighter shades of 
umber-brown and dull inky-purple. These markings are usually in a 
zone at one end. In some specimens the markings are sparse and small. 

In size the eggs average about 0-65 by 0-5 inches. 



THE COMMON WOOD-SHRIKE 

TEPHRODORNIS PONDICERIANUS (Gmelin) 

(Plate ix, Fig. 3, opposite page 176) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage ashy-brown, the feathers of the wings edged paler ; tail 
dark brown, the central pair of feathers tinged with ashy, the two 
outer pairs almost entirely white ; a broad whitish streak over the 
eye, and a broad dark band below it ; lower plumage ashy, paler 
down the centre. 

Iris yellowish-brown ; bill dark horn ; legs dark plumbeous-brown. 

K 



146 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Field Identification. Common plains species ; arboreal, in parties ; 
a quiet grey bird with a pale eyebrow and a dark band through the 
eye, and white outer feathers in the tail. 

Distribution. The Wood-Shrike is found almost throughout India, 
Burma, Ceylon, Siam, and Annam, and is divided into races. The 
typical race is found from the base of the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, 
and on the east to Burma ; on the west it is replaced by T. p. pallidus, 
a paler bird, which is found from the line of the River Indus through 
the Punjab and Sind to about Kalka, Ambala, the Western United 
Provinces and Khandesh. The race found in Ceylon, T. p. affinis, 
which is darker below. It is a resident species. 

A very similar but larger species, the Nepal Wood-Shrike (Tephro- 
dornis gularis), is found in the Eastern Himalayas and has another race 
on the Western Ghats from Belgaum southwards. In the latter the 
adult has the upper parts a bluish-ash colour. 

Habits, etc. The Wood-Shrike is a very quiet, unobtrusive little 
bird which is almost entirely arboreal, hopping about the branches 
of trees and searching the stems and leaves for insects and their 
larvae. Occasionally it descends to the undergrowth and even to 
the ground in its search for food, but this is unusual and it normally 
moves from tree to tree, never leaving their cover. Forest is avoided, 
the trees preferred being those of gardens, hedgerows and cultivation, 
wayside trees and small groves. It is generally met with in pairs, 
but in winter small parties collect and hunt in company. 

The males have a very sweet and distinctive call of several whistling 
notes, wheel wheel, followed by a quick repeated interrogative whi-whi- 
whi-whi, besides which some low trills are uttered in the breeding 
season. 

The breeding season lasts from February to June, but most eggs 
will be found in March and April. The nest is a very beautiful 
structure, and rather small for the size of the bird. It is a broad, 
shallow cup, composed of fine bents, fragments of bark and grass 
stems, bound together with silky fibres and smeared exteriorly with 
cobwebs, the whole being very compact and neat. The interior is 
lined with wool and hair. The nest is built in a small horizontal 
fork of a tree from 5 to 30 feet from the ground and is difficult to see 
until the bird betrays it. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. They resemble the 
eggs of the true Shrikes and are broad, regular ovals, of fine texture, 
with very little gloss. The ground-colour is cream, stone, or pale 
greenish-white, spotted and blotched with yellowish- and reddish- 
brown ; many of these markings are gathered into a conspicuous 
but ill-defined zone round the broad end, in which are intermingled 
clouds of pale and dingy purple. 

The eggs measure about 0-75 by 0*6 1 inches. 



THE SCARLET MINIVET 147 

THE SCARLET MINIVET 
PERICROCOTUS SPECIOSUS (Latham) 

Description -Length 9 inches. Male: Upper plumage to the 
middle back, chin and throat glossy black; remainder of body 
plumage scarlet ; wing black with a very broad band of scarlet 
running through it, and with large round scarlet spots on the later 
secondaries ; tail scarlet, the central pair of feathers black. 

Female : Forehead yellow, fading on to the crown ; upper plumage 
deep grey ; rump and upper tail-coverts olive-yellow ; lower plumage 
yellow ; wings blackish-brown, with a broad band of yellow running 
through them, and with round yellow spots on the later secondaries ; 
central pair of tail-feathers black ; the next pair black with the end 
of the outer web yellow ; remaining tail-feathers yellow with a black 
patch at their bases. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

The tail is long and very deeply graduated. 

Field Identification. Hill species ; purely arboreal ; found in 
flocks which immediately attract attention by the scarlet and black 
plumage of the males and the yellow and dark plumage of the females. 
The larger size and oval spots on the secondaries distinguish it from 
the Short-billed Minivet. 

Distribution. The Scarlet Minivet has a wide distribution through 
the Himalayas, part of Peninsular India, Assam, and Burma to China 
and Hainan, as a resident species, though it appears to move 
altitudinally according to season. It is divided into several races, 
of which two concern us. The typical race is found throughout 
the Lower Himalayas, below about 6000 feet from the Sutlej Valley 
eastwards. P. s. semiruber, with the central tail-feathers largely red, 
is found in Lower Bengal, Orissa, the Central Provinces, and the 
Vizagapatan Ghats. 

Another similar species, the Orange Minivet (Pericrocotus 
flammeus), is common and resident along the forests of the Western 
Ghats from Khandesh to Cape Comorin, occurring also in the 
Shevaroy Hills and Ceylon. It is found up to 6000 feet. In this 
the male has the lower parts orange-red. 

Habits, etc. This Minivet keeps to well-wooded country, and is 
a purely arboreal species, never descending to the ground. Out of 
the breeding season it is found in small flocks which travel through 
the tops of the trees searching for insects, usually alone, but some- 
times in company with other species of insectivorous birds. Like 
other Minivets, these birds flit from tree to tree in follow-my-leader 
fashion, the red and yellow of the two sexes glinting in the sunlight, 
while their cheery pleasant calls still further enhance the pleasure of 
meeting with a flock. 



148 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The breeding season of the Himalayan race is from the end of 
April to early June. 

The nest is a shallow, massive little cup composed of fine twigs, 
roots and grass-stems, bound together exteriorly with spiders' webs, 
and studded with lichens, mosses and scraps of bark. It is placed 
on a bough of a tree, and is well concealed, appearing to be merely 
an excrescence of the wood. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. These are moderately 
broad ovals, fine in texture and with practically no gloss. The ground- 
colour is pale sea-green, and the markings consist of spots and blotches 
of dark brown and lavender. 

They measure about 0-90 by 0-67 inches. 



THE SHORT-BILLED MINIVET 
PERICROCOTUS BREVIROSTRIS (Vigors) l 

(Plate XIH, Fig. 3, opposite page 264) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male : Upper plumage to the 
middle back, chin and throat glossy black ; remainder of body 
plumage scarlet ; wing black with a broad band of scarlet running 
through it ; central tail-feathers black ; the next pair black with the 
greater portion of the outer web scarlet ; the others all scarlet with 
a black patch at their bases. 

Female : Forehead greenish-yellow, fading on to the crown ; upper 
plumage light grey tinged with olive ; rump and upper tail-coverts 
olive-yellow ; lower surface yellow ; wing blackish-brown with a broad 
band of yellow running through it ; central tail-feathers black ; the 
next pair yellow with some black on the inner webs ; the others ajl 
yellow with a black patch at their bases. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

The tail is long and very deeply graduated. 

Field Identification. Purely arboreal ; found in flocks which 
attract attention by the scarlet and black plumage of the males 
and the yellow and dark plumage of the females. Distinguished 
from the Scarlet Minivet by the smaller size, by the greater amount 
of black in the tail, and by the absence of the scarlet (in female yellow) 
round spots on the secondaries. 

Distribution. The Short-billed Minivet has a wide distribution 
through Northern India, Assam, and Burma to Eastern China. It is 
divided into races, of which we are concerned with two. The typical 

1 Some years ago it was pointed out that two distinct species were included 
under the name brevirostris, but as the question of the correct name has not 
beeri definitely decided it is considered advisable to leave the scientific name 
as it appeared in the previous editions. 



THE SHORT-BILLED MINIVET 149 

race breeds between about 3000 and 10,000 feet on the Sufed Koh 
and all along the Western Himalayas from Gilgit and Murree to 
Nepal, moving in winter, from about November to the end of March, 
into the plains of the Punjab, Rajputana, United Provinces, Central 
Provinces, and Lower Bengal. From Sikkim eastwards to Assam and 
Northern Burma it is replaced by P. b. affinis, which is a more darkly- 
coloured bird in both sexes. 

The Rosy Minivet (Pericrocotus roseus) in which the colours of 
the male are rose-pink and brown is found throughout the Lower 
Himalayas, as far west as Hazara, and also locally in the Peninsula. 

Habits, etc. Except when actually breeding the Short-billed 
Minivet is an essentially gregarious bird, living in family parties 
which join with others to form flocks that sometimes number as 
many as thirty or forty individuals. These are strictly arboreal, 
frequenting the tops of trees and not descending even to the under- 
growth. They are, however, by no means shy, and feeding in the 
trees or flitting one by one across a patch of open the scarlet and 
black of the males and the yellow of the females is so conspicuous 
and so attractive in the sunlight that the Short-billed Minivet is one 
of the best-known birds of the Himalayas and Northern India. There 
is something particularly cheerful, too, about the pleasant call, a 
Tit-like chatter, swit-swit-switi-tatit y or swisweet-sweet-sweet, though 
the bird has no proper song. The food consists chiefly of insects and 
their larvae. 

The breeding season lasts from April to July. The nest is a 
shallow but massive little cup of fine twigs, bents and roots, matted 
with cobwebs, and studded with lichens to resemble the twig on 
which it is placed. It is placed on a bough of a tree usually at a 
great height from the ground. 

The clutch consists of two to four eggs. They are moderately 
broad ovals of fine texture ; the ground-colour is white tinged with 
cream or greenish, and the markings consist of blotches and spots 
of brownish-red, with secondary markings of grey and neutral tint. 

The egg measures about 0-75 by 0-60 inches. 

THE LITTLE MINIVET 

PERICROCOTUS PEREGRINUS (Linnseus) 
(Plate vi, Fig. 5, opposite page no) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Entire upper surface 
grey except the rump which is flame - coloured ; wings blackish- 
brown with a slight central patch of flame-colour ; tail long and 
deeply graduated, blackish - brown, all but the central pair of 
feathers broadly tipped with flame-colour ; sides of the head, chin 

K2 



ISO POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

and throat blackish-grey ; breast flame-colour, gradually paling into 
the white of the vent. 

Female : Paler throughout ; the whole lower plumage is white 
tinged with yellow. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Plains bird ; common in small parties, 
fluttering about trees ; small with long tails, dull coloured with a 
conspicuous flame-coloured patch on the rump and wing, and in 
the males also on the breast. 

Distribution. The Little Minivet is found throughout India, 
Ceylon and Burma, extending on the east to Siam and Cochin- 
China ; it is divided into several races. This species is unusually 
susceptible to climatic and geographical influences. In Sind and 
the South-west Punjab it is a pale desert bird, P. p. pallidus. On 
the humid west coast from North Kanara to Travancore, P. p. mala- 
baricus (with a black throat in the male) is as richly coloured as 
any tropical species. In Ceylon an island race, P. p. ceylonensis, 
approximates to another richly coloured race, P. p. vividus (with a 
grey throat) in the Duars, Assam, and Burma. Whilst in the greater 
part of India the typical form, itself strictly speaking an intermediate, 
connects these variations, remaining unchanged through the immense 
area of the Peninsula from the Cauvery to the Sutlej, and on the 
edges of their ranges grading into them. A strictly resident species. 

Another small species, the White-bellied Minivet (Pericrocotus 
erythropygius), is found practically throughout India, except the 
extreme north-west. The male is glossy black and white with a 
red rump and a beautiful rosy flush on the breast. 

Habits, etc. This Minivet is a plains bird, and only ascends 
those lesser ranges whose elevation and character cause them scarcely 
to differ from the plains. It is, like other Minivets, a purely arboreal 
species, frequenting trees in open but well-timbered country, particu- 
larly in the neighbourhood of cultivation ; forests it avoids. Except 
in the breeding season it goes about in parties which flit gracefully 
amongst the branches, uttering a low, pleasant note and occasionally 
fluttering and hovering to reach those insects or their eggs and larvae 
which cannot be picked with ease from a perch on the twigs. 

The breeding season of this species is very extended, lasting, 
according to locality, from March to September, earlier in the north 
than in Central India and the south. The nest is a very beautiful 
little structure which is almost impossible to find, except by watching 
the birds, owing to its situation, size and character. It is a tiny 
shallow cup, about two inches in diameter and one inch in depth, and 
is built in a horizontal fork or on a small bough of a tree usually at a 
considerable height from the ground. It is composed of very fine 
twigs or grass stems, with sometimes also a few feathers, carefully 



THE LITTLE MINIVET 151 

bound together with cobwebs and coated with scraps of bark, lichens 
and dead leaves, so that viewed from the ground it is virtually impossible 
to distinguish from an excrescence of the branch on which it is built ; 
the cavity is sometimes lined with fine down and cobwebs. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs. 

In shape the egg is a rather blunt, broad oval, fine in texture and 
without gloss. The ground-colour is a pale delicate greenish-white or 
creamy-buff, and the markings consist of brownish-red specks, spots 
and blotches, always more numerous towards the large end where 
there is a tendency to form an irregular cap. 

They measure about 0*67 by 0-53 inches. 



THE BLACK-HEADED CUCKOO-SHRIKE 
LALAGE SYKESI Strickland 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male: Entire head, neck, and 
upper breast deep black ; upper plumage dark grey ; wings black, 
the smaller coverts and inner flight-feathers grey or margined with 
grey and white ; tail black, the outer feathers broadly tipped with 
white, the central pair entirely ash-grey; lower breast ashy-grey 
fading into the white of the rest of the lower plumage. 

Female : Upper plumage ashy-grey, most of the feathers faintly 
barred with paler and darker grey ; wings dark sooty-brown, the 
smaller coverts and inner flight-feathers grey or margined with grey 
and white ; tail as in male ; lower plumage white, finely barred with 
black fringes to the feathers except towards the tail. 

Iris brownish-red ; bill and legs black. 

The feathers are very stiff, downy and loosely attached, recalling 
the plumage of Cuckoos and Doves. Tail graduated. 

Field Identification. Male : Grey above, white below with black 
head and neck and largely black wings and tail. Female : Ashy-grey 
with the lower parts barred black and white. An arboreal species 
found in small parties. In the breeding season remarkable for the 
whistling call. 

Distribution. Confined Jo India, Assam, and Ceylon. Distributed 
very generally throughout India except north-west of a line through 
Kangra, Sambhar and Mount Aboo. Occurs at all elevations up to 
rarely 7000 feet. Birds from Kangra have been separated as L. s. 
eximia on their darker colour. Evidently a local migrant, but the 
movements have not yet been worked out. 

Another species, the Large Cuckoo-Shrike (Graucalus javensis), 
length 10 to 12 inches, is found throughout India, with the exception 
of the Punjab plains, Sind and desert Rajputana. The plumage is 



152 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



largely grey with more or less grey barring on the white lower parts. 
It keeps to the tops of trees and attracts attention by its loud, querulous 
and rather Parrot-like cry. A rather larger bird is the Dark-grey 
Cuckoo- Shrike, Lalage melaschista, found from Murree to Eastern 
Assam and extending into the peninsula. It is a uniform dark grey 
with black wings and tail, the latter tipped with white. 




FIG. 22 Black-Headed Cuckoo-Shrike (jj- nat. size) 

Habits, etc. The Black-headed Cuckoo- Shrike is found in well-, 
timbered open country rather than in heavy forest, and is very partial 
to large trees surrounding villages or the avenues of large trees which 
line so many of the roads of India. It also enters gardens and 
orchards and feeds along hedgerows. It never descends to the 
ground. Except in the breeding season this species is usually found 
in small parties which fly from tree to tree, slowly and carefully 
examining the foliage for the insects and larvae which form its food. 
The search is continued from bough to bough until the tree has been 
thoroughly inspected when the flock flies off to another tree. It is 



THE BLACK-HEADED CUCKOO-SHRIKE 153 

usually a -silent bird, but during the earlier part of the breeding 
season the male may frequently be heard repeating for minutes 
together three loud and clear whistling notes in a descending scale. 
Each time,, that he flies from tree to tree the song is repeated. The 
flight is easy and somewhat undulating and the strokes of the wing 
fairly rapid. 

The breeding season in the greater part of the bird's range is 
from June to August, but in the extreme south it is said to be somewhat 
earlier, in April and May. 

The nest is a very shallow rather broad cup of slight construction. 
It is made of thin twigs and roots arid the exterior is lightly covered 
with spiders' webs. The situation chosen is on a branch of a tree, 
either in a fork or at the junction of the branch with the trunk, usually 
at a height of 10 to 20 feet from the ground. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. The egg is a moderately 
broad oval, rather blunt at both ends. The shell is fine in texture 
and slightly glossy. The ground-colour is pale greenish- white, thickly 
blotched and streaked throughout with rather pale brown. The 
markings tend to be most numerous towards the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-85 by 0-65 inches. 



THE ASHY SWALLOW-SHRIKE 
ARTAMUS FUSCUS Vieillot 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Entire body plumage 
dull ashy, greyer on the head and paler from the breast downwards, 
a blackish mark in front of the eye. Wings and tail deep blue-grey, 
the latter tipped with white ; the longer upper tail-coverts white ; 
the lower tail-coverts whitish, finely barred with ashy. 

Iris dark brown ; bill clear pale blue, brownish at tip ; legs slate. 

Bill curved, conical and pointed ; tail short and square and the 
long wings when closed reach to its end. 

Field Identification. Social, found in flocks ; a dull grey bird 
that looks like a large heavy Swallow, soaring continuously into the 
air from a perch and incessantly uttering a harsh cry. 

Distribution. This interesting bird is found in the whole of India 
east of a line drawn from about Simla to Godra in the Panch Mahals. 
It is a resident in the plains and foot-hills up to about 2000 feet, and 
in summer ascends the Himalayas up to about 5000 feet. It is also 
found in Ceylon and eastwards through Burma towards Siam and 
Western China. There are no races. 

Habits, etc. The Swallow- Shrike is a gregarious bird, breeding 
in colonies and spending its time in large flocks which feed and 
rest together. It is specialised for the purpose of feeding on the 



154 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

wing, and in the air looks like a large grey Swallow, though easily 
distinguished by the constantly uttered harsh cry and by the slow- 
sailing flight. The flocks settle in rows on some lofty bough or the 
top of a tall bamboo and thence sally into the air in pursuit of 
passing insects ; they fly round in a wide circle, though seldom for 
more than a minute or two at a time, and then return to the perch 
where they huddle closely together. During the heat of the day 
they are quiescent, and they feed mostly in the early mornings and 
late evenings, being partly crepuscular in their habits. They are 
very bold when breeding, and attack passing Crows and Hawks, and 
at times even swoop at the climber who essays to take their nest. 
They never visit the ground. 




FlG, 23 Ashy Swallow-Shrike ( nat. size) 

The breeding season is in April, May and June. The nest is 
usually placed on the top of broken projecting stumps of branches 
or occasionally in holes; a favourite site is in palm trees, on the 
bases of the leaves or the rough projections whence leaves have fallen. * 
The site is usually 30 to 40 feet from the ground. 

The nest is a shallow, loose cup of fine grass, roots, fibres, 
feathers and similar miscellaneous materials, with, as a rule, no 
definite lining. The clutch consists of two to four eggs, which 
rather resemble those of the Shrikes. In shape the egg is a rather 
narrow oval, a good deal pointed towards one end, fine in texture 
and with a slight gloss. The ground-colour varies from white to 
buffy-cream colour. The markings which tend to collect in a zone 
round the broad end consist of spots and clouds of reddish-brown 
and deep purple-brown, with secondary markings of lavender and 
purplish-grey. 

In size the eggs average about 0-95 by 0*65 inches. 



PLATE VIII 











i. Black Redstart. 2. Plumbeous Redstart. 3. Starling. 4. White-capped 
Redstart. 5. Brahminy Mynah. (All about nat. size.) 

[Face p. 154 



THE KING-CROW 155 

THE KING-CROW 

DlCRURUS MACROCERCUS Vieillot 

Description. Length 13 inches, including the tail 6 inches long. 
Sexes alike. The whole plumage black, glossed with blue ; a small 
white spot sometimes present at the base of the bill. 

Iris red ; bill and legs black. 

The tail is long and deeply forked, the outer feathers curling, 
slightly upwards at the ends. 

Field Identification. One of the commonest birds throughout 
India, perching on trees and telegraph-wires ; noisy and pugnacious ; 
deep black with a long, gracefully-forked tail. 

Distribution. The common Black Drongo or King-Crow is a 
widely-spread species occurring throughout India and Ceylon and 
eastwards to China and Java. In this wide range it is divided into 
several sub-species, based entirely on the variations in size and 
relative lengths of wings and tails, so that individual specimens are 
not easily identified. In India there is a progressive diminution in 
size as one travels southwards. The longest-winged and largest- 
tailed race, D. m. albirictus, is found throughout northern India from 
the Lower Himalayas roughly to the southern fringe of the Indo- 
Gangetic plain. All birds south of that area to Cape Comorin may 
be treated as one form, D. m. peninsularis, whilst the smallest race 
from Ceylon is known as D. m. minor. A resident species with some 
local migrations. Found from sea-level up to about 5000 feet. 

The much smaller and more highly burnished Bronzed Drongo 
(Chaptia tened), and the heavily-built Hair-crested Drongo (Chibia 
hottentottd), with an almost square tail and a tuft of long hairs 
springing from the forehead, share a somewhat similar distribution 
along the Outer Himalayas, near the eastern border of the Central 
Provinces and in South-west India. 

Habits, etc. In the King-Crow we have another of the most 
familiar birds of India, attracting attention by its graceful shape, its 
fearlessness and pugnacity, its abundance, and the wideness of its 
distribution. This bird has no connection with the family of Crows ; 
it belongs to a very highly-specialised and distinct family, the Dicruridce, 
which appears to occupy a position between the Shrikes and the 
Birds of Paradise. The familiar name is due partly to the colour " as 
black as a Crow " and partly to its pugnacity and fearlessness in defence 
of the nest, which leads it to attack all predaceous enemies. It is a 
common sight to see a pair of these birds chasing a Crow through 
the air, stooping at and around it with a mastery of flight and power, 
like that of a Falcon, accompanying the performance with a series 
of angry calls that attract the attention of the least observant ; verily 



156 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

it is King of the Crows, who, otherwise, are a match for bird and 
mammal, even including the arch-mammal man. And if necessity 
arises it does not hesitate to attack Eagle, Falcon or Hawk with the 
same courage. 

But the King-Crow is not a mere bully : harmless species it 
does not molest, and it has long been noticed that a tree containing 
a King-Crow's nest usually also contains the nest of a Golden 
Oriole, a Red Turtle-Dove, or some other equally gentle bird, and 




FIG. 24 King-Crow (J nat. size) 

it is difficult to resist the conclusion that these species recognise 
the fact that the presence of the King-Crow's nest above their heads 
is a guarantee of protection from all ordinary marauders. 

The King-Crow is found in eveiy type of country, though it 
certainly prefers the neighbourhood of open cultivation. Its chief 
need is a vantage-point on which to perch, swaying and flicking its 
long tail, and watching ceaselessly for every insect that stirs in the 
air or on the ground. It seldom perches on buildings, but prefers a 
bare dead bough at the summit of a tree or a telegraph-wire. One 
may travel for days on an Indian railway and the King-Crows 
dotted along the wires will be one of the unchanging sights of the 



THE KING-CROW 157 

journey. And from the chosen perch they are incessantly flying 
either to capture an insect on the wing, returning to eat it on the 
perch, or down to the ground to settle there and eat some more 
sluggish quarry. Their whole build, however, precludes any 
progression on the ground or about the branches of a tree and their 
movements are entirely aerial. Herds of grazing cattle are generally 
accompanied by one or more of these birds which travel with them, 
perching on the back of one of the animals and hawking the 
grasshoppers disturbed by the progress of the herd through the 
grass. The bird also attends ploughing operations, perching on small 
bushes and clods of earth in the vicinity and watching for larvae 
exposed in the furrows. At times the King-Crow is somewhat of a 
pirate, robbing Mynahs and Hoopoes as they search industriously for 
tasty morsels on the ground. The food consists entirely of insects, 
dragon-flies, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, bugs, etc., and their larvae. 

The call-notes are loud and cheerful though somewhat metallic 
in tone. The Punjabi names of Kalcheet and Kalkalichi are 
onomatopoeic and fairly represent the more common calls, but it is 
impossible to represent the evident fury imported into the bird's 
tones when it is driving an intruder from the vicinity of the nest. 
The song is short but not pleasing. 

While undoubtedly in the main a resident species, the King-Crow 
is certainly migratory to some extent ; but, as is almost inevitable, 
with so abundant a species in which a large proportion of individuals 
are sedentary, the extent and meaning of these movements is difficult 
to observe and has not yet been worked out. 

The breeding season extends from April to August. The nest 
is a broad, shallow cup of tiny twigs and fine grass stems and roots 
neatly and strongly woven together and exteriorly bound round 
with a good deal of cobweb ; some nests are lined with fine grass, 
horse-hair or roots. The side of the nest is thicker than the bottom 
through which the eggs are often visible against the sky. It is suspended 
in a horizontal fork of a tree, for the most part at a considerable height 
from the ground and a little way in from the extremity of the chosen 
bough. A second clutch of eggs is often laid in a nest that has been 
robbed. 

Three to five eggs are laid, but the usual clutch consists of 
four. The egg is a rather long oval, somewhat pointed towards the 
smaller end ; the shell is fine and rather fragile and usually without 
gloss. The coloration is very variable. Some eggs are pure white 
and spotless ; others are white with fine black spots ; while a third 
type is pale salmon-colour spotted with rich brownish-red, blackish- 
and purplish-brown ; there are infinite variations on these types, 
but the markings are never very large or densely distributed. 

The egg measures about 1*05 by 0-75 inches. 



158 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE INDIAN GREY DRONGO 

DICRURUS LONGICAUDATUS Jerdon 

Description. Length 12 inches, including tail 6 inches. Sexes 
alike. The whole upper plumage indigo with a high gloss ; the 
lower plumage dark grey ; a blackish patch in front of the eye. 

Iris red ; bill and legs black. 

Tail long, slender and widely forked at the end, the outer feathers 
curling upwards. 

Field Identification. In the field appears black with a long, 
slender forked tail, and is only distinguished from the King-Crow 
with difficulty, by the more slender build, unless close enough for 
the lighter duller colour of the under parts to be recognisable. 

Distribution. The Grey Drongo is a very widely-spread species 
in India, Burma, Ceylon, and still farther east, and has been divided 
into a number of races based on differences of measurements and the 
comparative darkness or lightness of the plumage, but several of 
these are probably unnecessary. D. I. longicaudatus is found, as a 
summer visitor from March to September, in the Himalayas from 
Hazara to somewhere in Assam, being replaced in Lower Burma and 
the Malay Peninsula by D. L intermedius. D. I. longicaudatus is found 
also as a winter visitor throughout the greater part of Continental and 
Peninsular India, avoiding Sind, Punjab, Guzerat and portions of 
Rajputana. It also reaches Ceylon in winter. 

The Grey Drongo is particularly a hill species, for the most part 
breeding at altitudes between 4000 and 7000 feet, but also lower and 
up to 10,000 feet. 

The White-bellied Drongo (Dicrurus ceerulescens) is widely dis-, 
tributed and locally common throughout the greater part of India, 
except in the Punjab, Sind, and Rajputana. The brownish-grey 
throat and breast and white belly distinguish it easily from all other 
species, though it must be remembered that the young of the King- 
Crow have the lower abdomen largely marked with white. The song 
of this King-Crow is almost meruline in character, and is superior 
to the songs of all other species of Drongo. 

Habits, etc. The Grey Drongo is typically a resident of well- 
wooded hills, preferring those of more open character to the 
neighbourhood of dense forest. It has the same habits as the 
Black Drongo, perching on high trees and hawking insects in their 
vicinity. But as its favourite tree is usually on the side of some 
afforested mountain-slope it normally flies at greater heights from 
the ground than its Black cousin, and seldom descends actually to 
the ground. It is a magnificent flier, turning and twisting with 
extreme speed and skill, and it has the pugnacity of the family, 



THE INDIAN GREY DRONGO 159 

hunting larger birds from the vicinity of its nest with great courage. 
It is usually found singly or in pairs, but the pairs do not object 
to the vicinity of others of their own species, and several birds 
often collect together to mob a common foe or to work some 
desirable feeding ground. During migration small parties travel 
together. 

The Grey Drongo has much the same range of musical calls as 
the Black Drongo, some harsh and scolding, others sweet and 
cheerful ; a common call may be given as drangh-gip or gip-gip- 
drangh. There is a short but pleasant song, and in addition the bird 
is something of a mimic. 

The food consists entirely of insects, the majority of which are 
taken on the wing. A bird has been seen to settle by a bee-hive and 
deliberately pick up and eat the bees. 

The breeding season is in May and June. 

The nest is a strong shallow cup, placed in a horizontal fork of a 
tree at any height fiom 12 feet upwards, and often quite inaccessible. 
It is built of fine grass stems, slender twigs and roots, plastered with 
cobwebs and lichens and lined with finer grasses and hairs. The 
bottom of the nest is usually thin enough for the eggs to be visible 
through it against the sky. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, fine in texture and without 
gloss. There are two main types of coloration. The first is pinkish- 
salmon colour, streaked, blotched, and clouded with reddish-pink of 
a darker shade. In the other the ground-colour is pale pinkish-white 
boldly blotched and spotted, mostly in a zone round the broad end, 
with brownish-red and faint inky-purple. 

The egg measures about 0-95 by 0-74 inches. 



THE LARGE RACKET-TAILED DRONGO 
DISSEMURUS PARADISEUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length to end of central tail-feathers 14 inches ; 
outer tail - feathers up to 13 inches extra. Sexes alike. Entire 
plumage black, glossed with blue except on the inner webs of the 
wing-quills, throat and lower abdomen ; some white spots under 
the wing. 

Iris crimson ; bill and legs black. 

An erect crest of long hackle-like plumes on the forehead falling 
backwards over the nape ; the outer pair of tail-feathers greatly 
elongated, the middle portion of the shaft webless, the terminal four 
inches having the outer web very narrow and the inner web broad 
and twisted upwards ; a twist in the shaft reverses the apparent 
position of these webs. 



160 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Field Identification. A glossy black bird, immediately identified 
by the plumed crest and the extraordinary development of the outer 
tail-feathers into rackets on the end of the wire-like shafts. 

Distribution. Throughout the greater part of India, Burma, and 
Ceylon to Siam and the Malay Peninsula. It has been divided into 

a number of races differing in the size and 
quality of the crest and tail. D. p. grandis 
breeds along the Himalayas from Kumaon 
to Eastern Assam and through to Yunnan, 
from the plains up to 3000 and occasionally 
4000 feet ; it extends east of a line 
roughly from Kumaon to Mount Aboo 
southwards to Sambalpur, Raipur and the 
northern reaches of the Godavari River. 
D. p. malabaricus, an altogether smaller 
bird, occupies the rest of India south of 
the above range. In Ceylon there are two 
races, both still smaller, one D. p. ceylon- 
ensis confined to the dry zone, and the 
other with different outer tail feathers, 
D. p. tophorhinuSy restricted to the wet 
zone. It is a resident species. 

This species must not be confused with 
the Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo (Bhringa 
remifer) of the Eastern Himalayas, Assam 
and Burma which has the rackets fully 
webbed on both sides, lacks the crest and 
has the feathers of the forehead produced 
in a curious flat pad over the base of the 
beak. 

Habits, etc. This wonderful Drongo, 
known familiarly as the Bhimraj, is a forest 
species, inhabiting by preference the 
FIG. 25 Large Racket-tailed densest and dampest of the Indian forests, 
Drongo ( \ nat. size) though it is also found in any well-wooded 
country and even comes into gardens. 

It appears to have a special partiality for bamboo jungle and is entirely 
arboreal in its habits. It is more sociable than other Drongos, often 
going about in parties of four and five. These parties appear to wander 
a good deal in search of food, flying from tree to tree, swooping at 
insects on the wing or capturing them from the branches. The bird 
also hunts from a fixed station, returning again and again to the same 
tree. Its food consists of a variety of insects, wasps, beetles, butter- 
flies, locusts and their larvae, and it is accustomed to devour quantities 
of bees. 




THE LARGE RACKET-TAILED DRONGO 161 

The call is very striking, beginning with a harsh chuckle and 
ending in a peculiar metallic creaking cry, expressed by the syllables 
tse-rung, tse-rung. It has in addition a number of musical calls and 
whistles and is justly celebrated as a very fine mimic, imitating all 
the birds of the locality. It makes a delightful pet, fearless and most 
amusing with its imitations of noises about the house and garden. 

The breeding season is from March to May, and, when nesting, 
the bird is accustomed to harry passing birds of prey. The nest 
is the usual cup-cradle of the Drongos, slung in the fork of a small 
outside branch of a tree, usually at a great height from the ground. 
It is composed of fine twigs and grass stems well interlaced 
and firmly attached to the fork and strengthened with cobwebs ; 
the outside is usually decorated with lichen, moss and scraps 
of bark. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. They are rather long 
and pointed, fine in texture and with little gloss. The ground- 
colour varies from white to rich cream, marked with blotches, spots 
and specks of reddish-brown or purple and secondary markings of 
lavender and pale neutral tint. The markings tend to collect towards 
the broad end. 

The egg measures about 1-15 by 0-83 inches. 



THE INDIAN GREAT REED- WARBLER 
ACROCEPHALUS STENTOREUS (Hempr. and Ehrn.) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
olive-brown ; an indistinct fulvous buff line over the eye ; wings 
and tail dark brown, washed with olive-brown ; chin and throat 
creamy-white ; remainder of lower plumage fulvous buff, paler about 
the vent. 

In worn plumage the upper parts become much greyer and the 
lower parts whiter. 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill blackish-brown, base of lower mandible 
fleshy-livid ; legs steely plumbeous. Inside of mouth salmon-red. 

The tail is somewhat graduated. 

Field Identification. One of the largest of the Warblers. A dull 
olive-brown bird with fulvous under parts, chiefly remarkable in the 
hand for the rich salmon-red mouth. Normally found in dense 
reed-beds where it is very noisy. 

Distribution. This species is widely distributed from Egypt and 
Palestine through Western and Central Asia to India, Ceylon and 
Burma. It is divided into races. Indian birds belong to the race 
A. s. brunnescens which also breeds in Transcaspia, Persia and 
Turkestan. In our area it is known to breed in suitable jheels in 

L 



i6z POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Sind, Baluchistan, North-west Frontier Province, Kashmir, the 
Punjab and the United Provinces, and possibly also in Khandesh 
and Bombay. It is largely migratory and is found in winter or on 
passage throughout India. A smaller and more richly coloured race, 
A. s. meridionalis, is resident in Ceylon. 

Habits, etc. The Great Reed-Warbler is normally a bird of dense 
reed-beds though it may also be found in any other thick cover 
over water, such as the mangrove swamps along the tidal creeks 
of the Bombay and Sind coasts. In such places it is more often 
heard than seen. The call and alarm note is a harsh chack chack, 
while the song is very distinctive, never forgotten when once heard. 
It is very loud and variable, hard and metallic for the most part, but 
also interspersed with pleasant bars. But the essential burden of 
the refrain, constantly recurring, is the loud karra karra karreet 
karreet karreet or prit prit pritik which suddenly bursts out of a 
reed-bed with astonishing vehemence. It is to be heard everywhere 
in the lakes of the Kashmir Vale even amongst the house-boats by 
the Dal Darwaza in Srinagar. The singer himself usually keeps out 
of sight, climbing about the reed stems and the heaps of debris a 
few inches above the surface of the water. Although such a skulker 
the bird is not particularly shy and allows a close approach, while at 
intervals it climbs to the tops of the reeds or even into neighbouring 
trees, singing a few bars of the song from such a vantage-point before 
returning to the shady depths of the reed-bed. The food consists 
of the various aquatic larvae and insects, small snails and slugs and 
aquatic seeds to be found in such situations. 

On migration the Great Reed-Warbler may be found almost 
anywhere, skulking in garden bushes, hopping about in the boughs 
of trees. It is then silent, save for the call-note. 

The breeding season, which is of course dependent on the growth 
of reeds, is from late May to August, most eggs being found in June 
and July. 

The nest is a very deep massive cup, which is woven round the 
stems of four or five reeds usually at a height of about 2 feet above 
the water. The nest is built of coarse water grass, shreds of leaves 
and bark of the reeds, the fibrous roots of water-plants and similar 
materials, and it is lined with finer materials of the same sort. 

The clutch varies from three to six eggs, but four is certainly the 
normal number. The egg is a moderately elongated oval with a fine 
shell but no gloss. The ground-colour varies from greenish- or 
bluish-white to creamy stone-colour. The markings consist of very 
fine stippling overlaid with fairly bold and well-marked spots and 
blotches of greyish-black, inky-purple, olive-brown, yellowish-olive, 
and reddish-umber-brown, with here and. there pale underlying 
clouds of pale inky colour. The markings are usually most dense 



THE INDIAN GREAT REED-WARBLER 163 

towards the broad end, and there is a great deal of variation, not all 
the above markings and colours always appearing in one specimen. 
The egg measures about 0-90 by 0-60 inches. 



BLYTH'S REED-WARBLER 

ACROCEPHALUS DUMETORUM Blyth 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. An indistinct fulvous 
streak over the eye ; the remainder of the upper plumage and the 
sides of the face and neck brown distinctly tinged with olivaceous ; 
wings and tail brown, the feathers edged with olivaceous ; the whole 
lower plumage pale buff, paler on the chin, throat and abdomen. 

Iris light brown ; bill brown above, flesh-coloured below ; gape 
and mouth yellow ; legs brown, soles yellowish. 

Tail somewhat graduated. 

Field Identification. A miniature edition of the Great Reed- 
Warbler with the mouth yellow instead of salmon-red ; much less of 
a marsh bird, being found in any sort of cover except in heavy 
forest. 

Blyth's Reed- Warbler is usually confused with two other Warblers 
of similar size and appearance. The differences from the Booted 
Warbler will be found under that species (p. 164). The Paddy- 
Field Warbler (Acrocephalus agricold) has the upper plumage russet 
in tint instead of olivaceous and is normally found near water in 
reed-beds or similar cover. 

Distribution. Blyth's Reed- Warbler breeds in Russia and Western 
Siberia from Esthonia to Irkutsk and southwards to Northern Persia 
and Turkestan. It is a very common passage migrant from August 
to October and again from March to May through the Himalayas 
and in the plains north-west of a line from the Rann of Cutch to 
Lucknow and a more or less common winter visitor to the rest of 
India and Ceylon. It also occurs in Assam and parts of Burma. 

Habits, etc. The observer in India must not be deceived by the 
name of Blyth's Reed-Warbler, for on passage and in winter quarters 
the neighbourhood of water has no special attraction for this species. 
In winter it is a bird of thick cover, found in any type of country 
other than thick forest. All that is essential to it is concealment, and 
whether this be found in the hedgerows of village cultivation or the 
scrub of the barren plains on the Deccan plateau, in the tamarisk 
of a river-bed in the plains or the dense bracken thickets or water- 
logged patches of the South Indian hills, it is content. It hops about 
the hidden stems in search of insects, solitary by habit though numeri- 
cally abundant ; and the observer is lucky who learns much more 



164 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

of it than the single harsh note tschuk uttered at intervals of a few 
seconds, varied occasionally by chur-w or chr-chr. 

On passage in Northern India this Warbler may be found anywhere, 
in the trees of shady gardens and orchards, in isolated bushes on 
barren hill-sides and of course in any patch of thick cover. On spring 
passage the song is freely uttered. It is a vigorous and rather pretty 
song of a rambling character and would remind an English naturalist 
rather of a Linnet than of the Reed- Warblers of his own reed-beds. 

The food consists chiefly of insects and their larvae. 

Blyth's Reed- Warbler does not nest within our limits. 

The breeding season in the northern part of its range is about 
June. The nest is built both in marshy and dry localities reed-beds 
are rarely chosen in varied types of undergrowth and is a deep 
cup of bents and grasses, lined with hair, slung by the sides to the 
supporting vegetation. 

The clutch usually consists of four or five eggs. They are said 
to be very variable. The ground-colour is bluish- or greenish-white 
or suffused brownish-grey, scantily but rather boldly spotted and 
blotched with olive-brown and ashy-grey. 

The average size is about 0-7 by 0*5 inches. 



THE BOOTED WARBLER 

HIPPOLAIS CALIGATA (Lichtenstein) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. A pale buffy-white 
line over the eye ; upper plumage brown with a pale olivaceous 
tinge ; wings and tail dark brown, the feathers edged with olive-brown, 
the outer tail-feathers faintly tipped and the outermost feather also 
edged with whitish ; whole lower plumage very pale buff, the throat 
and middle of the abdomen whitish. 

Iris brown ; bill blackish-brown above, yellowish-brown below ; 
gape and mouth yellow ; legs steely blue-grey. 

Tail slightly graduated. 

Field Identification. A very indefinitely coloured little Warbler, 
brown above and pale buffy-white below with a pale streak over 
the eye. Usually found creeping about in bushes uttering a clicking 
note. 

Distribution. This species is divided into two forms which were 
formerly ranked as two separate species. The typical race (or Booted 
Warbler of literature generally) breeds in Central and Eastern Russia 
and Western Siberia, occurs on passage (March-May and August- 
September) in Persia, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and North-west India 
and winters from Central India to Ceylon. It does not occur east 



THE BOOTED WARBLER 165 

of the Duars and the Lower Brahmaputra. The other race H . c. rama 
(or Sykes' Tree-Warbler of literature) breeds in Persia, Turkestan, 
Afghanistan, Baluchistan, the Punjab and Sind and winters in India 
and Ceylon. It has not been recorded east of Moghulserai and 
Assensole. 

In fresh autumn plumage caligata is a darker and more fulvous 
brown and rama is more of a uniform mouse-grey brown in tint, 
but these differences are soon obscured by wear and bleaching and 
the two races are most easily separated by the length of tail measured 
from the base between the two central feathers. This is below 50 
millimetres (z inches) in caligata and above that figure in rama In 
other details, more particularly the bill, rama is correspondingly 
larger. The two forms cannot be separated in the field. Both these 
races require to be distinguished from Blyth's Reed-Warbler (Aero- 
cephalus dumetorum). In the first place, their general coloration is 
much greyer. 1 In both the minute first primary or flight-feather of 
the wing is 3-5 to 10 millimetres longer than the primary coverts, 
whereas in Blyth's Reed-Warbler and the allied Paddy-field Warbler 
(Acrocephalus agricola) this feather is usually shorter than or equal 
to the primary coverts and never exceeds them by more than 3 milli- 
metres. In the Booted Warbler the bristles that line the base of the 
beak are small and weak ; and finally the tail is much less deeply 
graduated and the white edge to the outer tail-feather is distinctive. 

Habits, etc. In the cold weather the Booted Warbler is a bird 
of any kind of dry country where bushes abound, save actual forest. 
It frequents gardens, scrub-jungle and babool trees in open fields 
and in such places it will be found skulking in the undergrowth or 
creeping about the branches of the babool trees. In the latter case 
its movements are very reminiscent of those of the Willow-Warblers 
and like the Siberian Chiff- Chaff it often flies out from the extremity 
of a bough to take insects on the wing. In general, it is very 
unobtrusive and seldom shows itself, but a subdued chuck or chick or 
chur-r, incessantly uttered at intervals of a second or two, records its 
gradual progress. Although solitary by nature, these Warblers are 
often numerically so abundant, especially on passage, that numbers 
will be found in suitable localities. 

The song is said to be sweet and powerful and uttered both by 
night and day. It is not heard, however, on passage or in winter 
quarters and is confined to the breeding ground. In Baluchistan 
this species breeds in every orchard and garden of the Quetta Valley 
and particularly in the thick rose-hedges which surround the lucerne 
fields. In the Punjab and Sind it is a bird of the grass-jungles and 

1 This species differs in tint according to wear and race. If I have 
appeared inconsistent in describing the exact shades of brown, it is due to that 
fact and also the necessity of emphasising the varied contrasts of colour. 

L2 



166 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

tamarisk-beds of the riverain tracts. In some areas it is so numerous 
that the breeding appears to be almost colonial. 

The breeding season lasts from the second half of March to the 
beginning of July. The nest is a neat, compact little cup of grass, 
bits of rotten bark, hair, string and other soft material, built on a 
framework of grass and lined with fine grass stems, feathers and 
cotton. At Quetta it is usually placed in the heart of a rose-bush. 
In the Punjab and Sind it is built either in a tamarisk or in a thick 
tuft of grass and in the latter situation it is usually a foot or less from 
the ground. 

The clutch varies from three to five eggs. The egg is a broad 
blunt oval, of fine and close texture without gloss. There is much 
variety, but the ground-colour is generally a very pale grey-white 
tinged with greenish or pinkish and marked with spots and speckles, 
blotches and fine hair-lines and scrawls of black, purple, red-brown 
or pinkish-grey. 

In size the egg measures about 0-6 by 0-5 inches. 



THE TAILOR-BIRD 

ORTHOTOMUS SUTORIUS (Pennant) 
(Plate xiii, Fig. 6, opposite page 264) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. A rufous cap on 
the forehead ; remainder of top and sides of head ashy-brownish, 
shading off into the shining but sullied white of the entire lower 
surface ; there is a concealed dark spot on each side of the neck, 
and the thighs are rufous ; remainder of upper plumage yellowish- 
green, the concealed parts of the wings and tail brown. 

Iris reddish-yellow ; bill dark horny, lower mandible pale flesh 
colour ; legs straw colour to pale fleshy-red. 

Bill rather long and sharp ; in the breeding season the male 
acquires very long and pointed central tail-feathers, two inches longer 
than in winter. 

Field Identification. A familiar small garden bird of the plains, 
green above, white below with a rufous cap ; carries the tail (which 
is long and pointed in summer, short and rounded in winter) erect 
over the back like a Wren ; has a loud, strident call. 

Distribution. In the Tailor-bird we again have a common bird, 
of wide distribution from India to China, which is divided into 
several races. The typical race, small, with a large bill and no 
difference between the summer and winter plumage, is confined 
to the low-country in Ceylon, and in the hill zone a darker race, O. s. 
fernandonis. The Indian race, O. s. guzerata, is larger, and in the 
breeding season develops the long tail-feathers. It is found through- 



THE TAILOR-BIRD 167 

out the country except in the more extreme desert areas, and from 
about Eastern Bengal and the Duars it is replaced by a more richly 
coloured bird, O. s. patia. The Indian form occurs in the Outer 
Himalayas up to 4000 feet, stragglers even ascending to 7000 feet, and 
in the southern ranges it also is found up to 4000 feet. The Tailor-bird 
is a most strictly resident species, neither migrating nor moving about 
locally. 

Habits, etc. By name and repute the Tailor-bird is certainly one 
of the best-known birds of India, yet the number of people who can 
identify it by sight or sound or give any idea of its appearance is 
probably very small indeed. Like many other famous persons, the 
Tailor-bird is insignificant in appearance, a small, rather gawky, green 
bird, with a pointed tail and a rufous crown, which climbs about in 
undergrowth and is mostly hidden from sight. It is a bird of 
gardens and even verandahs, of the outskirts of villages, of patches 
of low evergreen undergrowth. Forest and bare desert areas are 
alike abhorrent to it. Where man has settled and made his home 
there will the Tailor-bird be found. Although seldom seen by the 
unobservant it is not shy, but with endless activity hops about the 
bushes and creepers round a house, investigating the flower-pots 
in the verandah and willingly feeding within a few feet of people, 
provided that they are not moving about. And as it goes it con- 
stantly utters the loud, discordant, strident call, loud for so small 
a bird and unmistakable when known, which is a familiar sound in 
every garden though known to few as the note of this species. 
When the note is uttered the throat swells and reveals the concealed 
black spots on the sides of the neck. The head and tail are held 
stiffly over the back after the manner of the English Wren. The 
flight is very curious ; it seldom lasts for more than a yard or two 
from cover to cover, and the bird flies with obvious effort, the long 
tail flicking upwards over the back in a manner that can only seem 
a hindrance. The food consists entirely of insects. 

But all the fame of the Tailor-bird is of course centred in its 
nest, and with the unfairness of the world it undoubtedly receives 
alone in popular estimation the credit as an architect which should 
be distributed amongst several species. For certain of the Wren- 
Warblers build nests on exactly the same principles as the Tailor-bird, 
and in addition build other beautiful types of nest, which it does not. 

The nest itself is a deep, soft cup of cotton-wool and down, with 
a slight lining of a few horse-hairs, and occasionally a few fine grass 
stems. For it the bird prepares an aerial cradle by sewing two or 
more leaves together, the nest being placed within the cavity so 
formed. There is a good deal of variety in the method of sewing 
the leaves together ; two large ones may be joined down their edges, 
several smaller leaves may be sewn together, or the nest may be 



168 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

slung between two or three leaves which are sewn to it and not to 
each other. The sewing is done with threads of cobweb, silk from 
cocoons, wool or cottons ; the bird pierces a hole in the leaf with 
its sharp beak and draws the thread through, contriving in some 
manner to make a knot on the outside sufficient to prevent the 
thread slipping back ; except that each stitch is made separately 
it would pass well for the work of human hands. It is frequently 
stated that dead leaves are picked up and sewn to the side of the 
nest, but this is an error, and the explanation is simple. These 
leaves were green and fresh when the work began, but they are 
injured and die from the effect of the stitches, and curling in the 
heat break loose from their parent stem. 

The nest is placed at all elevations, either in low bushes, in the 
hanging boughs of loquat and similar trees, or high up in some lordly 
mango tree. The only essential condition is a tough large type of 
leaf ; but most nests will be found within 6 feet of the ground. 

The principal breeding season is in May, June, and July, but 
occasional nests may be found in other months. The bird is very 
suspicious of interference, and readily deserts a half-built nest which 
has been found and looked at. 

Three to six eggs may be found, but the normal clutch is certainly 
three or four. They are rather long and pointed in shape, very thin 
and delicate, and with but little gloss. They fall into two types of 
coloration, with the ground-colour either reddish- white or pale bluish- 
green ; the former is more common. The markings consist of bold 
blotches or sometimes ill-defined clouds, mixed with speckles, spots, 
and dashes of red, reddish-brown, brown, black, or purplish-black. 
These are seldom dense in character and there is a tendency for the 
larger markings to collect towards the broad end of the egg. 

The eggs measure about 0-64 by 0-46 inches. 



THE FANTAIL-WARBLER 

CISTICOLA JUNCIDIS (Rafinesque) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. Winter plumage : 
The whole upper plumage, including the wings, dark blackish-brown, 
the feathers broadly edged with fulvous ; rump plain rufous ; a broad 
eyebrow, the sides of the face, except for the brownish ear-coverts, 
and the whole lower plumage buffy-white, becoming buff on the 
breast and flanks ; tail dark brown, central feathers edged with fulvous 
and remainder with white tips and a black subterminal bar. 

The male in summer has the top of the head and heck plain brown 
and the tail a quarter of an inch shorter with rufous patches above 
the black bar. 



THE FANTAIL-WARBLER i6g 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill fleshy, darker along the top ; legs fleshy. 

The tail is rounded and expands into a perfect fan. 

Field Identification. Plains species ; a minute, streaked black 
and brown bird, with pale under parts, found in thick herbage ; 
skulks until disturbed, then has a curious mounting flight in the 
air, accompanied by a loud clicking note. 

Distribution. The Fantail- Warbler has an immense range in 
Southern Europe, Africa, and Asia, and is divided into several races. 
Of these, C. j. cursitans occurs throughout practically the whole of 
India from the North-west Frontier Province and Sind, but not 
Baluchistan, to Assam, Burma, Siam, and Yunnan. It occurs here 




FIG. 26 Fantail-Warbler (- nat. size) 

and there in the various hill ranges up to about 6000 feet, but is, 
properly speaking, a plains bird. In the main resident, it is also locally 
migratory. A darker bird, C. j. salimalii, is resident in Travancore, 
and replaced in Ceylon by the larger-billed C. j. omalura. 

Habits, etc. The Fantail-Warbler is typically a bird of low, thick 
cover in wide open spaces, and it is found therefore in stretches of 
grassland, in patches of reeds and tamarisk thickets, or the raised 
grassy bunds of rice cultivation. In such cover it skulks and is 
very retiring, seldom climbing above the stems, and would not come 
to notice save for its curious habits of flight. When disturbed 
the bird jerks itself high into the air, and after flying some distance 
falls headlong again into cover. During the breeding season the 
male soars in the air in a most erratic fashion, rising and falling in 
jerks but keeping roughly above the area of which the centre is the 
nest site, and towards this he falls very quickly at intervals as if 
intending to settle ; just, however, as he nears the ground he shoots 
up into the air again and resumes his soaring jerks. All the time 
he utters a creaking, clicking note which rises to its climax as each 
aerial jerk reaches its highest point, coinciding with it. When feeding 



170 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

young the parent approaches the nest in somewhat similar fashion, 
flying well up in the air though not to the height of the male's 
display ; as it comes it utters a note which is softer and more level 
in tone than the display song, but the whole approach rather resembles 
the above display and may easily be mistaken for it. The young in 
the nest when disturbed utter a menacing, hissing note. 

The breeding season lasts from April to October, but is connected 
with the rains, the birds never breeding when the weather is dry. 

The nest is built in a tuft of green grass near to the ground, and 
is a very delicate and beautiful affair, being composed of white cobwebs 
with a lining of vegetable-down, the green blades of growing grass 
being incorporated in the sides of the structure. In shape it may 
be oval with the entrance near the top, a long deep purse narrowing 
towards the top, or a cup with a canopy woven over it. 

The clutch varies from three to seven eggs, but five is the usual 
number. 

The eggs are rather short ovals in shape, fine and delicate in 
texture with a fair amount of gloss. They are pure white, faintly 
tinged with blue, or even very occasionally a definite pale blue, finely 
spotted and speckled with reddish-brown ; there is a tendency for 
these markings to collect into a cap or zone. 

In size the egg averages about 0-59 by 0-46 inches. 



THE RUFOUS-FRONTED WREN-WARBLER 
FRANKLINIA BUCHANANI (Blyth) 

(Plate xii, Fig. i, opposite page 242) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
including the wings reddish-brown, brighter on the head ; a mark 
over the eye and the whole lower plumage white, sullied with fulvous 
on the sides of the head and towards the tail. Tail brown, rather 
long and graduated, all except the central pair of feathers tipped with 
white preceded by a dark spot. 

In winter the tail is half an inch longer. 

Iris reddish-yellow ; bill brown, lower mandible pale fleshy ; legs 
pale fleshy-brown. 

The Wren- Warblers of the genus Franklinia have twelve tail- 
feathers, which readily distinguishes them from the genus Prinia 
with ten tail-feathers. 

Field Identification. A small plains bird found in scrubby bushes 
in open arid country ; brown above with a reddish crown and whitish 
below, a long full tail edged with white. Wren-Warblers of the genus 



THE RUFOUS-FRONTED WREN-WARBLER 171 

Franklinia are found in parties, while those of the genus Prinia are 
found usually singly or in pairs. 

Distribution. A purely Indian form. It occurs in the plains of 
the whole of the north-west corner of India, from the North-west 
Frontier Province and the Upper Punjab through the United 
Provinces, Sind, and Rajputana down to the Central Provinces, 
the Deccan, and Western Bengal and Behar as far as Ranchi and 
Hazaribagh. A purely resident species. 

Habits, etc. This quaint little bird avoids damp and well- 
timbered localities, and is by preference a bird of semi-desert 
localities. It is in its element in the bare sandy plains of the 
Lower Punjab, Sind, and Rajputana, where the most conspicuous 
vegetation is the wild caper, whose tight thorny bushes rise in little 
mounds all over miles of open country. Here this Warbler is 
abundant, and one of the most noticeable birds, living in energetic 
little troops which are always on the move, creeping in and out of 
the bushes and running like mice on the ground at their base. 
It is also addicted to dry, stony hills with low bush-jungle, and 
ventures into the lighter crops such as cotton and mustard. 
During the breeding season its very cheerful little song is a 
marked feature of the plains that it inhabits. 

The breeding season extends from March to September, and 
probably two broods are reared. 

The nest is usually an oval domed structure, with the entrance 
near the top at one side. It is built of fine grass stems and tow-like 
vegetable fibres, and the egg cavity is softly lined with vegetable- 
down and a felt-like substance formed of dry portions of the ber 
bush. A few nests are cup-shaped or purse-like and suspended. 
The site chosen is generally very close to the ground, a matter of 
inches, but it may be occasionally 3 or 4 feet above it. It is built 
in bushes, a favourite situation being either a low close caper bush, 
or in a heap of dead thorn loppings overgrown with grass. The 
clutch varies from three to six eggs, but the usual number is five. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, the shell very delicate and 
fine with a fair gloss. The ground-colour is white, slightly tinged 
with greyish or greenish ; it is thickly and finely speckled all over 
with somewhat dingy- or purplish-red, and there is a slight tendency 
for the markings to collect towards the broad end. 

The average measurement is 0-62 by 0-48 inches. 



172 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

FRANKLIN'S WREN-WARBLER 

FRANKLINIA GRACILIS (Franklin) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. Summer plumage : 
Upper plumage dark ashy-grey, the wings and tail washed with 
brown ; lower plumage white, a broad ashy band across the breast 
and the flanks washed with ashy. 

Winter plumage : An indistinct white streak over the eye ; upper 
plumage brown, the wings and upper tail-coverts washed with 
chestnut-brown, the tail washed with grey ; whole lower plumage 
white, washed with grey and fulvous. In winter plumage the tail is 
half an inch longer and the indistinct spots towards the ends of the 
tail-feathers are more pronounced. 

Iris brownish-yellow ; eye-rims orange ; bill dark brownish-black ; 
legs yellowish-orange, claws dark horny. 

Tail sharply graduated, of twelve feathers. 

Field Identification. A small bird with a longish tail found in 
parties in low open scrub. Summer plumage ashy-grey above, white 
below with a broad ashy band across the breast. Winter plumage 
warm brown above, sullied white below with no breast band, the 
two plumages so different that they would never be taken for the 
same bird. 

Distribution. Ceylon, India, Assam, Burma to Tenasserim, Siam, 
Annam, and Laos. Found throughout India except the Punjab 
Plains, North-west Frontier Province, Sind, and desert Rajputana. 
Occurs up to about 4000 feet, both in the Himalayas and in the 
ranges of the Peninsula. A strictly resident species with the following ' 
races : 

The typical race has sharply defined summer and winter plumages 
as already described. It is found in Rajputana, the United and Central 
Provinces, the Bombay Presidency and in North Hyderabad as well 
as in Arakan. F. g. hodgsoni is found along the Outer Himalayas 
from Murree and Kashmir to the Duars, in Assam and in the Kachin 
Hills in Burma. This race has a more rusty tint in winter plumage. 
F. g. albogularis of South India has the upper parts darker in summer 
plumage and is whiter on the lower parts in winter plumage. F. g. 
pectoralis in Ceylon is also a dark bird but is more remarkable for having 
summer and winter plumage alike, both of the summer type. In this 
it agrees with the three species of Wren- Warblers of the genus Prinia 
found in Ceylon. 

Habits, etc. Franklin's Wren-Warbler is a bird of all the more open 
types of country. By preference it is found in open scrub-jungle 
where low bushes grow amidst coarse grass and scattered small trees, 



FRANKLIN'S WREN-WARBLER 173 

but it is also met with in hedgerows, fairly light forest, in cultivation 
broken by patches of cover and even in reed-beds and mangrove 
swamps. In such localities it is met with in small parties which 
lead a life of great activity, hunting incessantly for insects in the 
grass and bushes or running on the ground at their base. It seldom 
ventures into trees at any height above the ground. It is a very 
poor flier, proceeding by curious little jerky flights, the tail jerking 
awkwardly as it goes. There is a feeble little twittering song. 

The main breeding season is in the rains from July to September, 
but in the hills the birds are said to breed earlier from about April 
to June. 

The nest is a small cup of fine dry grass and vegetable fibres, 
felted here and there on the outside with small lumps of woolly 
vegetable-down. It is carefully sewn with cobwebs, silk from 
cocoons or wool into one or two leaves which often completely 
envelop it, leaving no part visible. It thus closely resembles the 
nest of the Tailor-bird, but as compared with that species the 
situation chosen is normally closer to the ground at a height of 2 
or 3 feet, and more nests are sewn to a single leaf only. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs, the latter being usual. 
The eggs vary considerably. They are typically rather slender ovals, 
a good deal compressed towards one end ; the shell is exquisitely 
fine and glossy. The colour varies from pure white or pure bright 
blue, unspotted, to almost any shade of pinky-white, pale grey-green 
or greenish-blue, speckled all over or in a zone or cap at the broader 
end with reddish-brown. 

The egg measures about 0*58 by 0-42 inches. 



THE LESSER WHITETHROAT 

SYLVIA CURRUCA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xii, Fig. 2, opposite page 242) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
earthy-brown, the whole top of the head contrasting brownish-grey ; 
a broad band through the eye dark brown ; wings dark brown, edged 
paler ; tail dark brown, a large portion of the outer feathers white ; 
the whole lower plumage greyish-white. 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill dusky, lower base slaty horn ; legs 
plumbeous. 

Field Identification. Brown above, dirty white below, with a 
darkish cap and a white edge to the tail ; a very quiet, shy bird, which 
creeps about in trees and is particularly .partial to acacias. 



174 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Distribution. The Lesser Whitethroat is a widely-distributed 
breeding species in Europe and Northern Asia, migrating southwards 
to Africa and Southern Asia in winter. There arc several races, of 
which we are concerned with two. S. c. blythi differs from the typical 
European form in having the second primary always shorter than 
the sixth, usually between it and the seventh in length. It breeds 
in Siberia and Manchuria, and is a very abundant winter visitor to 
the plains of India, extending on the south to Ceylon, and on the 
east to Behar and Western Bengal. S. c. minula differs from S. c. 
blythi in its smaller size and considerably paler upper parts. It breeds 
in Transcaspia and Eastern Turkestan, and in winter appears in 
North-western India in the North-west Frontier Province, Punjab, 
Sind, and Rajputana. Both races, therefore, are to be found on the 
same ground in North-western India, and the identification of some 
individuals is a matter of difficulty. Both races commence to arrive 
about September and leave about April, though blythi stays a little 
later than minula. The typical race does not occur in India. A 
darker allied species with a larger bill, Hume's Whitethroat (Sylvia 
althcea), which breeds in Kashmir and winters in Southern India, is 
easily confused with these two races. 

The Orphean Warbler (Sylvia hortensis) is a winter visitor to 
the greater part of India except the extreme north-east. It breeds 
in Baluchistan and the North-west Frontier Province. Of the habits 
and general appearance of the Whitethroats it is larger with a marked 
cap, grey in females and black in males. 

Habits, etc. Both the races of Lesser Whitethroat that arrive in 
India are very similar in their habits in winter; they spend their 
time creeping about in small bushes and trees looking for insects 
and caterpillars, and are very silent except for an occasional tack 
note. While blythi, however, living in any type of country except 
deep forest, prefers trees, and more especially the various species of 
acacia, with whose pollen its head is often stained yellow, minula 
is usually found in the low-stunted bushes and scanty tree growth 
of semi-desert country. 

The breeding habits of both races are very similar in their respective 
ranges, where they lay about May and June. The nests are neat but 
rather fragile cups of grass and roots, lined with horse-hair or fine 
grass stems ; they are built in bushes within a few feet of the ground. 

The clutch consists of four to six eggs ; these are rather broad 
ovals, creamy-white in colour, rather boldly but sparingly marked 
with sepia-brown and grey. 

They measure about O'66 by 0-5 inches. 



THE CHIFFCHAFF 175 

THE CHIFFCHAFF 

PHYLLOSCOPUS COLLYBITA (Vieillot) 

(Plate xii, Fig. 3, opposite page 242) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
brown, faintly tinged with green ; a distinct buff line over the eye, 
with a darker line through the eye ; wings and tail dark brown, finely 
edged with olive-yellow ; lower plumage buff, darker on the breast 
and flanks ; wing-lining primrose-yellow. 

Iris dark brown ; bill dusky brown ; legs brownish-black. 

Field Identification. A very small brown bird, with pale buff under 
parts and a buff line over the eye, which creeps about in trees and in 
herbage near water, often in small parties, uttering a plaintive note. 

Distribution. The Chiffchaff is very widely distributed throughout 
Europe, Africa, and Asia in a number of races. The typical form does 
not occur in our area, but two others are found as winter visitors. 
P. c. sindianus breeds in Kashmir territories and Central Asia and is a 
somewhat local winter visitor to the North-west Frontier Province, 
Punjab, Sind, United Provinces, and Rajputana. The Siberian Chiff- 
chaff, P. c. tristis, which breeds in Northern Asia, is found from about 
September to the end of April in India, over the whole of the northern 
and central plains as far south as Bombay and Orissa, often in great 
numbers. In freshly moulted plumage it can be distinguished from 
P. c. sindianus by the tinge of green in the upper plumage, and from 
the typical English Chiffchaff by the absence of yellow in the lower 
plumage. 

Habits, etc. There are in the Indian Empire about thirty forms 
of the genus Phylloscopus, which includes the well-known English 
Chiffchaff and Willow- Wren. Their distribution is very variable, but 
as far as India is concerned, it may be stated that none breed any- 
where in the country except in the Himalayas and on the higher 
ranges on the frontiers of Afghanistan and Baluchistan, and there is 
no part of India where several forms may not be met with either as 
passage migrants or as winter visitors. Their identification is a 
matter of great difficulty, based on minor points of size and wing 
formula and slight differences of plumage, which in practically every 
case ring the changes on greens, browns, and yellows ; though in 
the field this is assisted by slight differences in habits and voice. 

The Siberian Chiffchaff is a very common winter visitor to 
Northern India wherever trees in leaf or cultivation exist. It is 
met with both singly and in small parties, which search for insects 
up in the trees, in hedges, or in various crops, and it often flies out 
from the extremity of a bough to take an insect on the wing. It is 



176 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

particularly fond of cotton fields, lucerne, tamarisk, and acacias, and 
it has a characteristic habit, seldom shared by others of the genus, of 
hunting in reed-beds and other vegetation low over water. The call- 
note is a very plaintive tweet. Passage migrants in March on their 
way north freely sing a typical song, chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, like that 
so well known in England. 

P. c. sindianus breeds in Gilgit, Baltistan, Ladakh and Lahul from 
May to July. 

The nest is a large structure of dry grass and bents, domed with 
the entrance at one side ; it is profusely lined with feathers on a layer 
of fine vegetable-down. The situation chosen is on or close to the 
ground in herbage, low bushes or thorny hedges. 

The usual clutch consists of four eggs. They are rather broad 
ovals, very fragile with a slight gloss ; the colour is white, spotted 
with chestnut-red, chiefly towards the broad end. 

The average size is 0-65 by 0-48 inches. 



THE YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER 
PHYLLOSCOPUS INORNATUS (Blyth) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dull olive-green, with obscure traces of a pale streak down the crown ; 
a broad buffy-white line over the eye ; sides of the face mottled with 
buffy-white ; wings and tail dark brown edged with greenish, two 
buffy-white wing-bars, the upper rather obscure ; entire lower plumage 
sullied white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill dark brown, base of lower mandible 
yellowish ; legs greyish-brown. 

Field Identification. This is another of the minute green or 
brown birds which hunt for insects in the foliage of trees, and are 
only to be discriminated with much practice and knowledge both in 
the field and in the cabinet. The greenish colour, dirty white below, 
the double wing-bar and the call-note tiss-yip are guides to the identity 
of this particular species. 

Distribution. Breeds throughout a large portion of Siberia and 
Central Asia, migrating southwards in winter. It is divided into 
three races. The typical form breeds in Siberia, migrates through 
the greater part of Asia and winters in Bengal, Assam, Burma, and 
eastwards to Southern China. P. i. humii, differing in the brighter 
olive-green of the upper parts, breeds in the Western Himalayas 
between 7000 and 12,000 feet, and in Turkestan, Tian-Shan, and 
Afghanistan. Starting at the end of August it spreads in winter 
through India southwards to Travancore and eastwards to Bengal 



PLATE IX 




i. Bay-backed Shrike. 2. Paradise Flycatcher. 3. Common Wood-Shrike. 
4. Blue-headed Rock-Thrush. 5. Brown Dipper. 6. Bluethroat. (All 
about ^ nat. size.) 

[Face p. 176 



THE YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER 177 

and Orissa, but curiously enough avoids Sind. The return migration 
takes place about April. P. i. mandelii, which breeds in Kansu and 
Szechwan and is found in Bengal and Lower Assam in winter, has 
the head darker than in the other races. 

Habits, etc. In India the Yellow-browed Warbler is always 
solitary and spends its time in the boughs of trees searching for 
insects and uttering as it goes a note which is best described by the 
syllables te-we-ut or tiss-yip, rather sibilant and plaintive. In the 
breeding season the only song is a loud, double chirp uttered by the 
male, really only an elaboration of the above note. 

It has a trick of nervously flirting its wings as it feeds and moves 
about the boughs. This species in winter seldom comes down low 
near the ground, nor is it found in bushes by water like the Siberian 
Chiffchaff. 

The breeding season in the Western Himalayas is in May and 
June. The nest is built on the ground on some sloping bank or 
ravine-side, either in open ground or at the edge of forest. It is a 
rather large globular structure, with the entrance at one side. The 
materials consist of rather coarse grass, with an inner lining of fine 
grass roots or hair ; feathers are not used. 

, Three to five eggs are laid, but the usual clutch is four. The 
egg is a broad oval slightly compressed towards one end, fine in 
texture with very little gloss. In colour it is pure white, speckled 
and spotted with reddish-brown or purple, the markings tending to 
form a cap or zone round the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-56 by 0*44 inches. 



THE GREENISH WILLOW-WREN 
PHYLLOSCOPUS TROCHILOIDES Sundevall 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dull olive-green, the concealed portions of the wings and tail dark 
brown ; a pale yellow bar across the greater wing-coverts ; a broad 
pale yellow streak above the eye with a darker line below it ; lower 
plumage dull white washed with primrose-yellow. 

Iris dark brown ; bill brown, lower mandible horny yellow ; legs 
greyish-brown. 

Field Identification. Olive-green above, yellowish-white below, 
with one pale wing-bar, and a pale eye-streak ; a quiet, un- 
demonstrative species creeping about in the foliage of trees. 

Distribution. Breeds from Eastern Europe to Eastern Siberia 
southwards to Persia and the Himalayas being divided into several 
races of which the following concern us. P. t. viridanus (as described 

M 



178 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

above) breeds from Pomerania and the Baltic Provinces to Western 
Siberia, Altair, North-western Mongolia and Dzungaria to Gilgit and 
Kashmir. It winters in India below lines from Meerut to Bombay and 
from the Sikkim Tera to Calcutta. On passage it is very common in 
parts of the Himalayas, Punjab and North-west Frontier Province. 
A greyer race, P. t. ludlowi, breeds in Baltistan and winters in the 
upper Eastern Ghats. This race intergrades through Gahrwal and 
Kumaon into the much darker P. t. trochiloides which breeds in the 
Eastern Himalayas and South-western China and winters in North- 
eastern India. 

P. t. nitidus breeds in the Caucasus, Transcaspia and Persia, 
passes in considerable numbers through North-western India on 
passage and winters in South-western India and Ceylon. It is a much 
brighter green above, bright primrose-yellow below and has two pale 
yellow wing- bars. 

Habits, etc. This Willow- Wren spends its whole time in the 
winter in creeping about the foliage of trees collecting insects and 
their larvae and eggs ; it is more silent than most of the other common 
species, but has as call-note a penetrating chi-wee. During the spring 
and autumn passage it often swarms in North-western India, every 
tree containing one or more individuals. 

In the Himalayas it breeds from May to July. The nest is a 
large, untidy ball of grass and moss, mixed sometimes with a few 
roots and dead leaves, the cavity being lined with wool and hair. 
The entrance is on one side. It is always placed on steep ground, 
either in the open or amongst scrub and herbage. 

Four eggs are laid, pure white, very fragile and soft in texture 
with practically no gloss. 

They measure about 0-6 by 0-45 inches. 



THE LARGE CROWNED WILLOW-WREN 

PHYLLOSCOPUS OCCIPITALIS (Blyth) 
(Plate xii, Fig. 4, opposite page 242) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
olive-green, the crown of the head darker and with a broad irregular 
streak down the centre ; a well-defined yellowish line above the eye 
and a dark line through it ; concealed portions of the wings and tail 
dark brown ; two yellowish wing-bars, the upper less distinct, and both 
tending to disappear in worn plumage ; lower plumage white suffused 
with pale yellow. 

Iris dark brown ; bill brown, lower mandible yellow ; legs greyish- 
brown. 



THE LARGE CROWNED WILLOW-WREN 179 

Field Identification. The common breeding Willow- Wren of the 
Western Himalayan stations ; green above, white below, with a 
marked eye-streak and a pale streak on the top of the head ; rather 
bold and noisy in demeanour. 

Distribution. A purely Asiatic Willow- Wren, which breeds very 
commonly in Turkestan, Afghanistan, and the Western Himalayas 
as far east as Nepal. In the Western Himalayas it breeds at elevations 
between 6500 and 9000 feet, being the common breeding Willow- 
Wren of all the hill stations. In winter it migrates through or winters 
in the whole of India (except Sind), extending to Travancore, Orissa 
and Bengal. 

Habits, etc. This Willow- Wren spends most of its time in trees 
when in the plains, but in the hills it feeds a good deal in bushes 
where it wanders with the mixed hunting parties of small insectivorous 
birds. Its call-note is a loud sharp tit-wheet or chip-chip, chip-chip. 
When breeding it has a loud song, the most monotonous repetition 
of a rather shrill whistling note seven times repeated, and at that 
season is much addicted to flirting its wings ; then, too, the males 
become combative and quarrelsome. 

In the Himalayas the breeding season is in May, June, and July. 
The nest is placed in holes, either amongst the roots of trees, in 
banks and walls, or even under the eaves of houses. It varies in 
shape according to the circumstances of the hole, being either a 
well-made domed structure or a mere pad, and is composed chiefly 
of moss ; grass, hair and wool are sometimes added as a lining. 

Four to six eggs are laid ; they are rather elongated ovals, often 
sharply pointed at the smaller end, fine in texture and pure white 
with a slight gloss. 

They measure about 0-65 by 0-50 inches. 



THE GREY-HEADED FLYCATCHER-WARBLER 
SEICERCUS XANTHOSCHISTOS (Gray) 

(Plate iv, Fig. i, opposite page 66) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. Top and sides of 
the head and neck and the upper back pale ashy-brown ; a paler 
streak down the centre of the crown and another above the eye ; 
remainder of upper plumage yellowish-green, the concealed portions 
of the wings and tail brown, the two outer pairs of tail-feathers white 
on the inner webs ; the whole lower plumage bright yellow. 

Iris dark brown ; bill dark brown, lower mandible yellow ; legs 
olive-brown ; soles yellow. 

Field Identification. Abundant Himalayan form, of the Willow- 



i8o POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Wren type in appearance ; upper parts grey and green, with pale 
stripes on the head, lower parts bright yellow ; white outer tail- 
feathers conspicuous. Noisy and bold in trees and undergrowth. 

Distribution. A Himalayan species, extending from the hills of 
the North-west Frontier Province on the west into Assam and the 
Chin Hills in the east. It is divided into Eastern and Western races 
which meet about Nepal The Eastern race is the typical one, while 
the Western race, S. x. albosuperciliaris, is considerably paler through- 
out, especially about the head. It breeds between 3500 and 7000 feet, 
and while some birds winter in this zone the majority move lower, 
and numbers of the Western race penetrate into the plains in portions 
of the Punjab and United Provinces. 

Another common species in this genus is the Black-browed 
Flycatcher- Warbler (Seicercus burkii) in which the lateral bands on 
the head are blackish. A marked yellow ring round the eye. It is 
found throughout the Himalayas as far west as Dharmsala. 

Habits, etc. This pretty little Warbler is a very familiar species 
about the Himalayan hill stations. It is found in all types of wooded 
hills, coming freely also into cultivation and gardens. Except when 
nesting it is purely arboreal and it hunts incessantly for insects through 
the leaves and twigs of trees and bushes, both singly and in the 
mixed hunting parties. Its song is a loud and rather monotonous, 
though not unpleasing, trill of several notes, which is one of the 
most familiar sounds of the Lower Himalayas. The call-note is a 
rather plaintive pritt-pritt or tyee-tyee. 

The breeding season lasts from March to June in the Western 
Himalayas and from April to August in the east. 

The nest is a large, globular-domed structure, with a rather large 
entrance high on one side. It is composed chiefly of moss with 
which are mixed dry leaves and grasses and other miscellaneous 
rubbish. The cavity is thickly lined with hair and wool in the 
Western race, and more sparingly with vegetable downs and roots in 
the Eastern race. The nest is usually placed on a grassy bank at 
the foot of a bush and is well concealed and difficult to find unless 
the bird is watched to it. 

Three to five eggs are laid, but the normal clutch consists of 
four eggs. The egg is a moderately broad oval, of fine texture, with 
a fair amount of gloss. The colour is pure white. 

The egg measures about O' 60 by o- 5 inches. 



THE BROWN HILL-WARBLER 



THE BROWN HILL-WARBLER 

SUYA CRINIGERA HodgSOH 
(Plate xii, Fig. 6, opposite page 243) 

Description. Length 7 inches, including tail of 4 inches. Sexes 
alike. Winter plumage : Upper surface fulvous-brown, streaked 
with black except on the rump ; wings brown, edged with rufous ; 
tail long and graduated, brown, obsoletely cross-rayed, the feathers 
with indistinct pale tips preceded by a darker spot ; lower plumage 
fulvous, slightly flecked with blackish on the throat and breast, and 
whitish on the middle of the abdomen. 

Summer plumage : Upper surface dark brown, the feathers edged 
with olivaceous ; lower plumage uniform pale fulvous, the feathers 
of the breast showing their dark bases ; wings and tail as in winter 
except that the tail is shorter. 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill, summer black, in winter brown, lower 
mandible fleshy ; legs fleshy-pink. 

Field Identification. Northern hill form ; a small brown bird, 
paler below and usually streaked above, with a very long graduated 
tail ; usually skulks in grass and bushes, but sits in elevated and 
exposed positions to utter a loud, reeling song. 

Distribution. The Brown Hill- Warbler has a wide distribution 
in the hills that bound the whole of Continental India, through 
Assam and Burma, reaching on the east as far as China. It is 
divided into several races, of which two concern us. The typical 
race is found from the North-west Frontier Province, along the whole 
of the Himalayas, as far as North-western Assam, at elevations 
from 2500 to 7500 feet and sometimes higher. S. c. striatula, 
which is much colder and greyer in coloration, is found from plains 
level up to about 3000 feet in the Punjab Salt Range and the hills 
running from the western limit of the typical form along the North- 
western Frontier down to Baluchistan. It is a resident species. 

Habits, etc. This hill bird avoids forest and keeps either to 
grassland and the neighbourhood of cultivation, or else to scrub - 
jungle on bare stony hill-sides, often in the most barren and desolate 
hills. It is capable of bearing great extremes of temperature. It is 
rather a skulker and spends most of its time clambering about like 
a mouse in the interior of bushes and tangles of vegetation, threading 
its way deftly amongst the stems and often descending to the ground. 
The flight is rather weak and jerky, and the bird seldom flies far at 
a stretch. The long tail is an expressive feature, freely jerked in 
response to the bird's emotions. The bird is, however, best known 
to people through the medium of its song, a wheezy, scraping series 

M 2 



i8z POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

of notes repeated to monotony like the sound of a saw ; this song 
is very commonly heard on open hill-sides round the hill stations 
of the Himalayas, and the little bird utters it from the top of a bush 
or tall plant, or from a telegraph-wire often high above a nullah. 

The breeding season lasts from May to July, but the majority of 
birds lay in May. 

The nest is a flimsy, oval-domed structure, with the entrance 
towards the top at one side ; it is composed of grass-blades, felted 
with grass down, the bottom of the interior being lined with fine 
grass-stems. It is built within 4 or 5 feet of the ground, in small 
thorny bushes, in herbage or in the grass. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs. The egg is in shape 
a regular but somewhat elongated oval with a fair amount of gloss. 
The ground-colour varies from white to pale salmon-*pink ; the 
markings consist of fine speckles, spots and blotches of reddish- 
brown, sometimes scattered over the whole surface but more usually 
tending to collect in a marked zone or cap round the broad end. 

In size the eggs average about o- 70 by o- 50 inches. 



THE STREAKED WREN-WARBLER 
PRINIA GRACILIS (Lichtenstein) 

Description. Length 5 inches, half of which is tail. Sexes alike. 
Upper plumage fulvous-brown streaked with dark brown ; sides of 
face mottled brown and white ; wings brown edged with fulvous ; 
tail, long and graduated, brown, distinctly cross-rayed, the feathers 
tipped with white preceded by a dark spot ; the whole lower plumage 
very pale fulvous. 

Iris yellow ; bill black in summer, in winter brown, the lower 
mandible horny-yellowish ; legs fleshy-white, claws brown. 

This and the following species of the genus Prinia have ten tail- 
feathers as opposed to twelve in Franklinia. 

Field Identification. A minute bird with a long graduated tail, 
streaked light and dark brown above and pale below ; chiefly found 
in coarse sarpat grass in riverain tracts. A miniature of the Brown 
Hill- Warbler. Distinguished from the other Wren-Warblers by the 
streaks on the upper plumage. 

Distribution. This Wren-Warbler has a wide distribution through 
Northern Africa, Palestine, Southern Arabia, Persia, and Northern 
India generally. It is divided into several races, of which we are 
concerned with two. P. g. lepida is found in Afghanistan, North-west 
Frontier Province, Punjab, Sind, the United Provinces, and Rajputana. 



THE STREAKED WREN-WARBLER 183 

A rather darker race, P. g. stevensi, is found in Assam and Eastern 
Bengal and in the Ganges delta. A strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. This, the smallest of the Wren- Warblers of the 
genus Prinia, is essentially a bird of riverain areas, frequenting the 
low sandy-ground, studded with clumps of sarpat grass and thickets 
of tamarisk, which is found in the wide and partly dry beds of the 
great rivers of Northern India. Where similar conditions are 
reproduced along the sides of canals and in the neighbourhood of 
j heels there also will the bird be found. In such localities it creeps 
about the stems of the grass and tamarisk, at a height of two or 
three feet from the ground, venturing into the open occasionally to 
fly from clump to clump, no light task to so clumsily-balanced and 
weak a flier. It constantly makes a curious snapping noise with 
its bill. 

When nesting the cock bird chooses a high stem of grass in the 
vicinity of the nest, and from it untiringly pours out a feeble 
monotonous song, which betrays the site to those who know his 
habits. 

The breeding season lasts from March to August, and it is 
probable that two broods are reared. The nest is a tiny oval- 
domed structure with the entrance hole high on one side ; it is built 
of fine grasses and shreds of grass-blades, the inside being softly 
lined with the pappus of grass seeds. It is placed about 2 feet from 
the ground in the centre of the thick clumps of sarpat grass, which 
by then have usually been cut off about 3 feet from the ground for 
village purposes. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. 

The egg is a broad oval, rather pointed towards the smaller end, 
and fine in texture with a decided gloss. The ground-colour is 
greyish-, greenish- or pinkish-white, and the markings consist of a 
fine and thickly distributed freckling of brownish-red and purplish- 
grey, with a tendency to form a cap or zone at the broad end. 

In size it averages about 0-53 by 0-44 inches. 



THE ASHY WREN-WARBLER 
PRINIA SOCIALIS Sykes 

(Plate vi, Fig. 3, opposite page no) 

Description. Length 5 inches, of which half is tail. Sexes alike. 
Summer plumage : Whole upper plumage dark ashy, sometimes with 
a white line over the eye ; lower plumage including sides of face 
pale buff ; wings rufous ; tail long and graduated, rufous, the feathers 
tipped with white preceded by dark spots. 



184 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Winter plumage : Top of head ashy with a rufous tinge ; a short 
white line over the eye ; remainder of upper plumage including 
wings and tail rufous-brown, the tail having the same markings as in 
the summer plumage, but being one inch longer ; lower plumage 
buff, except the chin, throat and central abdomen which are white. 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill black ; legs fleshy. 

Field Identification. A very small bird with a long tail ; upper 
parts dark ashy, lower parts warm buff. Found singly or in pajrs in 
rank herbage, particularly in gardens, attracting attention by its sharp 
call-note. 

Distribution. The Ashy Wren-Warbler is one of the commonest 
birds of India and is widely distributed throughout the whole 
continent from the Outer Himalayas to Ceylon, though it is not 
found in Kashmir, the North-west Frontier Province, Baluchistan, 
or Sind. On the east it reaches Eastern Assam. There are four 
races : P. s. brevicauda of Ceylon and the typical race, found through- 
out the Peninsula south of a line between Mhow and Lohardugga, 
have their winter plumage similar to the summer plumage. The 
former is, however, smaller with a shorter tail. P. s. stewarti of 
Northern India assumes the very distinct winter plumage described 
above. In the Duars and Upper Assam it is replaced by P. s. inglisi, 
a darker bird with a fine short beak. All races are strictly sedentary. 

Habits, etc. This little bird is found both in the hills and the 
plains. But while in the north it is only found up to about 4000 
feet in the hills, in the warmer south it occurs up to about 7000 feet, 
literally swarming in suitable places in the Nilgiris. It is a bird of 
open country, avoiding forest, and preferring cultivation, whether in 
the shape of gardens or arable land. It is perfectly at home in the 
close vicinity of houses and villages, and may equally be found in 
open, rolling grassland. In all these localities it requires cover in 
the shape of bushes, tangles of weeds and other herbage or crops 
and it is very fond of fields of sugar-cane. As in the case of the 
Indian Wren-Warbler, therefore, this species is compelled to move 
its ground slightly according to the state of the crops in which it 
lives. Its habits are the same as those of that species, but it is perhaps 
more excitable and noisy during the breeding season, its very anxiety 
often betraying the nest which it is anxious to preserve from 
marauders. The call-note is very loud and sharp, and the song is 
less of a jingle than that of the Indian Wren-Warbler. 

This bird appears often to be double-brooded and nests may be 
found from March till September ; but the majority are undoubtedly 
built with the commencement of the rains in June or July and the 
growth of the bush vegetation in which the little bird delights to 
have his being. 

The nest is very variable and falls into three types. The first 



THE ASHY WREN-WARBLER 185 

type closely recalls the nest of the Tailor-bird, sewing entering largely 
into its composition. Either the nest is placed within the orifice 
formed by sewing together the edges of two or three leaves, or else 
it is attached to a single large leaf whose edges are drawn about it, 
and partly enclose it ; large soft leaves, such as those of the sunflower, 
fig and bindweed, are preferred for the purpose. The actual nest in 
this type is a deep cup of fine dry grass stems and roots, mixed and 
lined with a few horse-hairs, all visible portions of the outside and 
the corners of the cavity between the stitches being plastered and 
stuffed with a rough felting of vegetable cotton and fibre and similar 
materials. The sewing is either a genuine in-and-out stitch used to 
draw the edges of leaves together, or else the mere pushing of rough 
knots of cotton through punctured holes in the leaf. 

The second type of nest is an oval-domed structure of varied 
shape and size, with the entrance on one side. It is composed of 
fine shreds and stems of grass, fibres and threads, the result being 
a drab-coloured ball ; it is built in thick bushes and occasionally 
is steadied by the sewing of a leaf or two to the outside. 

The third type of nest is a rough shapeless ball of roots or grass 
thrown together between the stems of a plant and hardly attached to 
them. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs, and occasionally as 
many as six. The eggs are very handsome. They are a rather 
perfect oval with a tendency to vary to a globular shape ; there is a 
high gloss. In colour they are a rich brick-red, sometimes paler and 
yellower, sometimes deeper and of a mahogany tint. There is occa- 
sionally a clouded zone of deeper coloration about the broad end. 

They average about 0-64 by 0-47 inches in size. 

In the Deccan this bird is a common foster-parent for the Indian 
Plaintive Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus). 



THE JUNGLE WREN-WARBLER 
PRINIA SYLVATICA Jerdon 

Description. Length 6 inches, female rather smaller. Sexes alike. 
Summer plumage : The whole upper parts greyish-brown, a pale buff 
line over the eye ; wings dark brown, the edges of the feathers washed 
with fulvous ; central tail-feathers greyish-brown, the others growing 
progressively paler and whiter until the outer pair is almost entirely 
white ; lower plumage pale whitish-buff. 

Winter plumage : Upper plumage warm ruddy fulvous, a pale buff 
line over the eye ; wings dark brown, the edges of the feathers washed 
with ruddy fulvous ; tail dark brown, all but the central pair of 



i86 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

feathers with pale fulvous tips, preceded by dusky subterminal spots ; 
lower plumage white washed with ochraceous on the breast and flanks. 

Iris and eye-rim orange ; bill black in summer, in winter horny- 
brown, lower mandible fleshy ; mouth black in summer, brownish- 
pink in winter ; legs pale fleshy brown, claws darker. 

Field Identification. A small brown Warbler with a fairly long 
graduated tail, in summer showing white in the outer feathers ; it 
chiefly comes to notice from its habit of sitting on the top of a bush 
and persistently uttering a triple note. 

Distribution. Throughout India from the Himalayas to Ceylon. 
It is divided into two races in India and a third in Ceylon. 

The northern race, P. s. gangetica, is found across Northern India 
from Gurdaspur and Jodhpur to the Duars and Midnapur. In this 
race there are distinct summer and winter plumages as described 
above. The Ceylon race, P. s. valida,on the other hand, has the summer 
and winter plumage alike, a darker brown above and a more yellowish 
fulvous below without white on the lateral tail-feathers. This is 
correlated with a breeding season that lasts the year round in the 
island. The typical race (Hyderabad, Mysore, Madras Presidency) 
lies between the two both in coloration and in the degree of difference 
between the two plumages. All these races are strictly resident. 

Habits, 'etc. This Wren- Warbler is more particularly a bird of 
broken boulder covered hills dotted with sparse and stunted vegetation 
of the cactus and thorn-bush type. It is also found in bush and scrub- 
jungle, in light forest interspersed with grass or in grass on the edge 
of heavier forest. In such terrain it comes to notice from its habit 
of perching on a large boulder, on a dead bough, or on the top of an 
isolated bush or tree and there uttering a soft melodious but ventrilo- 
quistic call for some minutes at a stretch, repeating it again after a 
pause of two or three seconds. This call is a warbling pretty or tissip, 
reminiscent of a Tailor-bird's call but louder and easily distinguished 
from it. Each pretty is preceded by a curious subdued ventriloquistic 
pit, uttered in a different key so that the song is really formed by a 
succession of triple notes. As soon as the bird has finished its song 
it descends hurriedly into the cover below with a quick jerky flight, 
It also has a peculiar habit of rising into the air for a short distance 
and making a noise (with the wings or beak I am not certain 
which) like a diminutive cracker, returning afterwards often to the 
same perch, sometimes to a fresh one. This habit is shared by Prinia 
inornata and socialis. The alarm- note at the nest is a loud pit pit pit 
pit pit. This species is wary and difficult to approach and the nest 
is readily deserted. 

The breeding season in India is from July to the end of August. 
The nest is comparatively large and is placed in the centre of a thorn 
bush, usually on rocky ground, or in the middle of a tussock of coarse 



THE JUNGLE WREN-WARBLER 187 

grass. It is a dome-shaped ball of grass with the entrance on one side 
and is often fairly conspicuous, as the outside is smeared over with 
white vegetable-downs and fibres or with cobwebs. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. They are somewhat 
elongated ovals, of hard and fine texture with a fair amount of gloss. 
The ground-colour is a greenish or greyish stone-colour finely and 
often rather sparsely freckled with faint reddish-brown. In some eggs 
these markings are almost invisible. They are, however, usually 
gathered into a conspicuous zone round the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-75 by 0-50 inches. 



THE INDIAN WREN-WARBLER 

PRINIA INORNATA Sykes 
(Plate xii, Fig. 5, opposite page 242) 

Description. Length 5 inches, including tail 2 inches. Sexes 
alike. Summer plumage : Upper plumage dull earthy-brown, the 
wings and tail edged with pale fulvous ; the tail long, graduated and 
cross -rayed ; dark subterminal spots on the feathers are hardly visible 
except from below. A ring round the eye, and a line above it dull 
whitish ; the whole lower plumage pale buff. 

In winter plumage the whole of the upper parts, wings and tail 
are more rufous in tint, and the tail is an inch longer. 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill black in summer, in winter brown with 
the base of the lower mandible fleshy ; legs flesh colour. 

Field Identification. A plains bird, common in cultivation ; very 
small, with a long tail ; dark brown above, buff below, appearing rather 
dingy in the field ; black beak noticeable in summer ; makes a curious 
snapping noise in flight. To be distinguished from the Ashy Wren- 
Warbler by its dingier plumage and by having the crown brown 
instead of bluish-ashy. 

Distribution. The Indian Wren-Warbler is found throughout 
the Indian Empire south of the Himalayas, in the outer fringe of 
which it occurs up to about 4000 feet, and it also extends farther 
to the east. It is divided into several races : P. i. frankliniiy in 
the Nilgiris, Palnis and probably also the Travancore range, and 
P. i. insularis, Ceylon, are very dark in colour, the latter having a 
very large beak, and showing no difference between the summer and 
winter plumages. In the typical race, found in Central and Western 
India, the summer and winter plumages differ as described above. 
This race grades on the one hand into the paler and more brightly 
coloured P. i. terricolor of the North-west Frontier Province, Punjab, 
Sind, and the United Provinces, which has also a much longer tail 



i88 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

in winter. P. i. fusca of the Nepal and Sikkim Terai, the Duars 
and Upper Assam, is more saturated in colour with a more pronounced 
fulvous wash on the lower parts. 

The Pale Bush- Warbler (Homochlamys pallidus Brooks). Is here 
mentioned on account of its very remarkable song which attracts 
attention in spring, and although common the bird itself is difficult 
to see as it is a great skulker in low dense bush jungle. The song, 
which is loud and clear for such a small bird, consists of two phrases, 
the first of five notes and the second of three only, the two phrases 
separated by an interval of about five seconds. The second part is, 
moreover, in a different and higher key than the first. Each phrase 
begins with a long-drawn note and the whole song may be syllabised 
as follows : " You . . . mixed-it-so-quick," then an interval of five 
seconds, followed by : " He'll . . . beat you." 

This little bird is similar to many of the other small Warblers, 
is of an olive-brown with pale yellow supcrcilium and the lower 
plumage dull greyish. It is found in the breeding season from Kashmir 
and Hazara to Garhwal and Kumaon at from 7000 to 9000 feet, but 
its winter quarters are unknown, though some pass through Dehra 
Dun on passage in spring and autumn. A nearly allied species, 
but rather smaller and with the upper plumage tinged rufous, is the 
Strong-footed Bush -Warbler, Homochlamys fortipes, found from Nepal 
to the Burmese Hills. It has the same striking song as the Pale 
Bush-Warbler but with a very slight difference. 

Habits, etc. This quaint little bird is one of the commonest of 
Indian resident birds, though from its small size and skulking habits 
it does not attract much attention. It is particularly a bird of 
standing crops, sugar-cane, wheat, millet, and the like, and it is 
also partial to long grass ; in bushes and other low cover it is 
sometimes found but not so commonly. Bare ground and forest 
are abhorrent to it. Like others of the Wren-Warblers, it is a poor 
flier, its top-heavy labouring flight being almost laughable. As is 
indicated by the large strong legs, its chief mode of progression is on 
foot, and it spends its life climbing about the stems of the cover 
in which it lives, threading its way about with dexterity ; when 
disturbed in the crops it rapidly progresses from stem to stem, then 
takes to flight over the top of the seed-heads, flies heavily for a yard 
or two, and finally plunges back into the midst of the cover, where 
it again commences to climb and hop rapidly along. As it flies 
it makes a snapping noise almost like the crackle of an electric spark. 

While in no sense a migrant, its dependence on crops for cover 
necessitates a certain amount of local movement according to season. 
Its skulking habits render it indifferent to the presence of man, and 
it occurs commonly in the vicinity of houses and villages and in 
gardens. The food consists of insects. 



THE INDIAN WREN-WARBLER 189 

The song of this bird is a familiar sound in the cultivation, 
where it lives. It makes up in vigour for what it lacks in beauty, 
consisting merely of a series of loud jingling wheezy trills, that 
rather suggest the shaking of a bunch of keys. 

The breeding season lasts from March to September. 

The nest is a very elegant and distinctive structure, globular or a 
long purse-shape, domed, with the entrance high on one side ; it is 
semi-transparent, being made of a regular lace-work of fine strips 
torn from the blades of green grass, woven in and out, and anchored 
here and there with similar grass-work to the surrounding stems 
and leaves. There is no lining. It is placed from 3 to 6 feet from 
the ground in standing crops or clumps of sarpat grass or thorny 
bushes. 

The eggs, too, are very distinctive and beautiful. They are a 
moderately long oval, with a strong shell, fine in texture and highly 
glossy. The ground-colour is pale greenish-blue (or rarely pinkish- 
white) marked boldly with blotches, clouds and fine hair-lines of deep 
chocolate and reddish-brown. 

The egg measures about 0-61 by 0-45 inches. 

This bird is a favourite foster-parent for the Indian Plaintive 
Cuckoo (Cacomantis merulinus). 



THE FAIRY BLUE-BIRD 

IRENA PUELLA (Latham) 
(Frontispiece, Fig. 2) 

Description. Length 10 inches. Male : Deep velvet-black except 
for the top of the head and neck, the whole upper plumage, the lesser 
wing-coverts and a faint bar on the wing and a patch under the tail 
shining ultramarine blue with lilac reflections. 

Female : Dull peacock-blue, the feathers with dark shafts ; wings 
and tail blackish-brown washed with peacock-blue. 

Iris crimson ; eye-rims pinkish ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Eastern Himalayas and the hills of Assam 
and South India. Male quite unmistakable, deep black with shining 
blue upper parts. Female dull peacock-blue throughout. Found in 
parties in high trees. Has a very characteristic call. 

Distribution. The species is found in Ceylon, India, Burma, the 
Andamans and Nicobars, the Malay Peninsula and Siam, Annam 
and Cochin-China. In India we are concerned with two races. The 
typical race is found in Ceylon and in the Western Ghats from 
Travancore to Belgaum and in the Chitteri Hills of the Eastern Ghats. 



IQO POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

In these hills it is found from their bases up to about 5000 feet. A 
slightly larger form, /. p. sikktmensis, is found at the edge of the plains 
in the lower ranges of the Himalayas from Sikkim to the Miri Hills 
and in the Khasia Hills, Cachar and Manipur in Assam. 

Habits, etc. The Fairy Blue-Bird is a forest-haunting species and 
it is more particularly a bird of the evergreen forest. Except in the 
breeding season it collects into small parties of five or six individuals 
and more rarely into flocks of anything up to thirty or forty birds. 
These frequent the tops of high trees though they occasionally come 
down into the undergrowth and in the middle of the day habitually 
descend to the banks of streams and small rivers in order to drink 
and bathe. They are very bright and lively birds always on the move, 
hopping from branch to branch and flying from tree to tree, uttering 
a very distinctive call as they go. This is variously described as a 
pretty bubbling whistle, a pleasant musical weet-weet or a rich mellow 
percussive what$-it repeated every few seconds. 

This lovely bird is by no means as conspicuous as one would 
imagine from looking at a stuffed specimen. Indeed in shady forest 
the male generally looks as black as a Drongo or from its movements 
might be mistaken for a Thrush and its satin-blue back is only con- 
spicuous for a few moments as the bird flutters across some sunlit 
piece of open jungle. Females and the similarly coloured young males 
compose many of the parties and these are tame enough, allowing 
a close approach as they feed quietly on berries regardless of the 
observer. Adult males are rather shyer. 

The food is said to consist almost exclusively of wild fruits and 
berries. When the various fig-trees are in fruit numbers of Blue- 
Birds congregate to feed there in company with Hornbills and Pigeons 
and other fruit-eating birds. The nectar is also sipped from Erythrina 
trees and the pollen from the flowers will often be seen on the faces 
of the birds. 

The breeding season ranges from January to May, but most eggs 
will be found in March and April. 

The nest is usually built in a sapling between 10 and 20 
feet from the ground and the sapling chosen is in the depth of damp 
forest where tall trees exclude the sun. The nest is a shallow 
saucer of roots, twigs and bents, usually intermixed with green moss 
and with an outer cover of the same. 

The normal clutch consists of two eggs. The shape is a blunt 
oval and the texture is close-grained and fine with a moderate gloss. 
The ground-colour is greenish-white, streaked, spotted and blotched 
with reddish-brown and inky-grey and underlying paler shades of 
the same. The blotches are usually heavy and often are almost 
entirely confluent over the larger end. 

The egg measures about r 10 by 0-75 inches. 



THE GOLDEN ORIOLE 191 

THE GOLDEN ORIOLE 

ORIOLUS ORIOLUS (Linnaeus), 
(Plate x, Fig. 3, opposite page 198) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Male : Rich golden-yellow except 
a broad line through the eye, practically the whole of the wings and 
the central portions of the tail, which are black. 

Female : Upper parts yellowish-green ; wings brown, the feathers 
tipped and edged with greenish ; tail brownish-black tipped with 
yellow ; under parts whitish, washed with yellow and streaked with 
dark brown. 

Iris dark crimson ; bill dark pink ; legs dark slate. 

The tail is slightly rounded. 

Field Identification. Shy and purely arboreal species, concealing 
itself in thick foliaged trees, its presence revealed by the liquid 
whistle wiel-a-wo. Male, a glorious golden-yellow, with black wings 
and tail ; female greenish with dark wings and tail. 

Distribution. The Golden Oriole is widely spread over Europe, 
Africa and Asia. The typical race just skirts Sind and Baluchistan 
on passage, but within our area we are really concerned with only 
one form, O. o. kundoo, which differs chiefly from the typical race in 
the fact that in the adult male the black of the lores, i.e., the eye- 
stripe, extends behind the eye. This form breeds in Turkestan and 
Gilgit, in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan, in the hill areas of 
Baluchistan, throughout Kashmir and the Western and Central 
Himalayas, and in the plains from Rajputana to Western Bengal and 
south to Mysore. It winters also as far south as Cape Comorin. 

In the mountain areas and in the northern part of the plains of 
India the Golden Oriole is merely a summer visitor, moving farther 
south in August and September and returning to its breeding grounds 
in April and May. 

In the Himalayas it is found up to 10,000 feet, though in the 
outer ranges it is scarce at over 6000 feet. 

Habits, etc. With the ripening of the mangoes in spring the 
Golden Oriole arrives in Northern India. To that circumstance, 
combined with the resemblance of the greens and yellows of the two 
sexes to the fruit and leaves of their favourite tree, is due the popular 
Anglo-Indian name of Mango-bird. Orioles are strictly arboreal, 
descending, as a rule, neither to undergrowth nor to the ground, 
and by nature they are very shy and secretive, keeping to the thickest 
portions of the boughs and being better known as disembodied 
voices than as birds ; for the loud mellow whistle pee-ou-a or 
wiel-a-voo is one of the pleasantest and most familiar of Indian 
bird sounds, being heard alike in garden and forest, greeting the 



192 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

dawn and saluting the parting day. There is, in addition, a faint 
but very sweet and plaintive song, though from its very faintness it 
is little known. The flight is strong and dipping, though seldom 
long sustained, as the bird prefers to travel from tree to tree. 

The food consists of insects, caterpillars, berries and fruit. 

The breeding season ranges from May to August, but the great 
majority of eggs are laid in June and July. 

The nest is built in some large tree, usually at a height of over 
20 feet from the ground. It is a moderately deep cup, suspended 
invariably within a slender fork towards the extremity of one of the 
boughs, and often in a situation where no climber can reach. From 
below it looks like a round ball of grass wedged into the fork, and 
the sitting bird within is completely hidden ; but in the hand it 
proves to be a most beautifully woven cup, hung from the fork of 
two twigs and secured to them, much as a prawn net is to its 
wooden framework. The cup is deep and rounded to prevent the 
eggs rolling out in a high wincl. It is composed of fine grass and 
slender strips of tenacious bark fibres, and the ends of these are 
wound round and round the supporting twigs. Some nests contain 
no extraneous matter, but others have all sorts of odds and ends 
woven into the fabric, scraps of newspaper, rags, shavings, snake- 
sloughs, thread, and the like. There is always a neat lining of fine 
grass stems. There is some variation in the thickness and size of 
the nests. 

The clutch consists of two to four eggs. These vary a good 
deal in shape and size, some being pyriform, and others long and 
cylindrical ; the texture is fine and with a high gloss. In colour 
they are a pure china-white ; the markings consist of well-defined 
black spots and specks more or less thinly sprinkled over the surface 
of the egg, chiefly at the large end. In some cases the spots are 
pale yellowish-brown or deep reddish-brown, often surrounded with 
a nimbus of the same colour. 

The eggs measure about i- 10 by 0-80 inches. 



THE BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE 

ORIOLUS XANTHORNUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. Bright golden- 
yellow except the following parts which are black, the head, chin 
and throat, the greater portion of the wings, the shafts of the tail- 
feathers and a patch on the tail formed by the ends of the two 
(or three) central pairs of tail-feathers. 



THE BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE 193 

In immature plumage bpth sexes have the black of the chin and 
throat replaced by black and white striping. 

Iris crimson ; bill deep pink ; legs plumbeous. 

Field Identification. Arboreal ; abundant in well- wooded plains. 
A bright golden bird with black head, wings and tail, which is very 
active and noisy in the trees. 

Distribution. The Black-headed Oriole extends through the 
greater part of India, Ceylon, and Burma eastwards to Cambodia 
and Siam. We are concerned with three races which differ in size 
and the amount of yellow edging to the wings and to the feathers 
of the forehead and crown of immature birds. The typical race 
inhabits the sub-Himalayan ranges from Kangra to Upper Assam, 
as well as the Gangetic plain. O. x. maderaspatanus inhabits India 
south of the Gangetic plain with a western limit of Mount Aboo 
and Kathiawar. O. >x. ceylonensis is confined to Ceylon. Resident 
everywhere. 

Along the Himalayas from Kulu eastwards is found another 
handsome species, the Maroon Oriole (Oriolus traillii), the colours 
of which are sufficiently suggested by its name. 

Habits, etc. This Oriole is a common bird in fairly well-timbered 
but open country, being specially partial to groves, avenues and 
gardens. It is an arboreal species, though occasionally it descends 
to the ground to capture insects, on which it feeds freely, though its 
chief food must be considered the fruits of the various species of 
wild figs. It is found solitary or in pairs, though the family parties 
keep together for a short time after the young are fledged. 

These Orioles are very active creatures, full of the joy of life, and 
they delight to indulge in aerial games, following each other from 
tree to tree, darting through the foliage with their bright plumage 
flashing in the sun. They have a range of melodious notes, freely 
uttered on such occasions, and the pairs call to each other incessantly 
yii-hu-a-yu, answered by tii-hu-ee or te-hee. In addition to their 
varied range of melodious calls they sometimes utter harsh cawing 
notes, and the newly-fledged young have a churring cry rather like 
that of a young Starling. 

The breeding season lasts from April to the end of August. The 
nest is a deep cup, carefully suspended between two twigs, and is 
composed chiefly of tow-like vegetable fibres, thin slips of bark and 
similar materials ; externally it is decorated with scraps of lichen and 
bark, and there is a lining of fine grass or fine twigs of tamarisk. It 
is suspended near the end of a bough at heights of 20 to 35 feet 
above the ground. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs, but two to four are 
found. The egg is a somewhat elongated oval, fine in texture and 
moderately glossy. The ground-colour varies from creamy- or 

N 



194 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

pinkish-white to pale salmon-colour. The markings consist of 
spots and streaks of dark brown and inky-purple, sparingly 
distributed, and generally towards the broad end ; some of the 
spots are surrounded by a reddish- pink cloud. 

The average size of the egg is about i- 14 by 0*82 inches. 



THE INDIAN CRACKLE 
GRACULA RELIGIOSA Linnaeus 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. The whole plumage 
black glossed with green and purple, a patch of white in the base of 
the wing-quills. 

Iris brown ; bill orange-red with a yellow tip ; wattles and facial 
skin bright yellow ; legs orange-yellow, claws blackish-brown. 

The sides of the face and the nape are ornamented with bare 
fleshy wattles which differ in shape in the various races. 

Field Identification. A large black Mynah with yellow bill and 
legs, yellow wattles behind the eyes and a white patch in the wing. 
Noisy and tree-haunting, usually seen in parties in large trees. 

Distribution. A resident species with some local movements. 
This Crackle is widely distributed in India, Ceylon, Burma, the Malay 
Peninsula, Sumatra, Java and Borneo. It is divided into several 
races of which we are concerned with the following. G. r. intermedia 
is found at low elevations, 1000 to 2000 feet, along the Himalayas 
from Kumaon eastwards, as well as in Eastern Bengal and Assam. 
In this form the wattle ends on the nape in a broad pendant lobe ; 
the patch of feathers in the middle of the wattle below the eye is small 
and narrow and does not reach to the lower edge of the wattle. G. r. 
indica is found along the Western Ghats from North Kanara to the 
extreme south at ail heights up to 5000 feet and also in Ceylon in the low 
country. This is a smaller bird with a weaker bill. The wattle ends in a 
small inconspicuous lobe and then turns upwards on to the nape in a 
tongue about a quarter of an inch long ; the patch of feathers in the 
middle of the wattle is rather larger than in intermedia and reaches the 
bottom edge of the wattle. G. r. peninsularis is a connecting link found 
in Sambalpur and in the Northern Circars from Gumsoor to Bastar. 
From indica it is immediately distinguished by the absence of the tongue 
of wattle from the nape to the crown. It is smaller than intermedia 
with a finer and shorter bill. G. r. andamanensis which is common 
in the Andamans and Nicobars used to be exported to Calcutta in 
large numbers as cage birds. 



THE INDIAN CRACKLE 195 

G. r. ptilogenys, which has no wattle on the side of the face, only 
a long pendant lobe on either side of the neck, is an inhabitant of 
the hill zone in Ceylon. Owing to the destruction of forests it is now 
also in the low country alongside G. t. indica. 

Habits, etc. This Crackle is a tree-haunting species found in all 
types of forest, whether evergreen or deciduous, in the shade trees 
of coffee and other plantations and in trees near cultivation. Out of 
the breeding season it is found in small parties and flocks which 
keep very largely to the tops of the trees unless curiosity brings them 
to the lower boughs to investigate some local movement or phenomenon. 




FIG. 27 Indian Crackle 



They do also occasionally visit the ground and there they progress 
not by walking like other Mynahs and Starlings but by Sparrow-like 
hops. The flight is straight and powerful. The chief characteristic 
of these Crackles is, however, their voices ; they are very noisy, using 
a great variety of notes, some melodious, some wheezing and some 
harsh and shrieking. They are first-rate mimics, too, and in captivity 
can be easily taught to talk, so that, with their tame and confident 
demeanour, they make favourite cage-birds and are to be found in 
all the good bird markets. 

The food consists of insects, fruits and berries collected upon the 
trees, but termites are captured on the wing. This species is very 
partial to the nectar obtainable from the flowers of trees like Bombax, 
Erythrina and Grevillia and in such trees will be found in loose 
association with Hornbills, Barbets and Green Pigeons. 

The breeding season is mainly from February to May but a few 
nests may be found later until October. The nest is a miscellaneous 
collection, sometimes very small, of grass, feathers, dirt and touchwood 
in the bottom of a hole in a tree from 10 to 40 feet from the ground. 
The tree chosen is by preference a dead one, too rotten and unsafe 
for a man to climb, and it is usually in open ground either in a clearing 



ig6 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

in a forest or in cultivation. The nest hole is generally in the trunk 
and may be excavated by the Crackle itself. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. In shape these are 
very regular ovals, the shell being very close and fine but with little 
gloss. The ground-colour is a delicate pale sea-green or greenish- 
blue, more or less profusely spotted and splashed with pale purple, 
purplish-brown and chocolate-brown. 

The size of the egg is rather variable, but it averages about 1-30 
by 0-90 inches. 



THE ROSY PASTOR 

PASTOR ROSEUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike, except that the 
female is duller and with a shorter crest. The whole head, long bushy 
crest, throat, upper breast, wings, and tail glossy black, the feathers 
lightly tipped with buff ; thighs, a patch on each flank and under the 
tail black tipped with white ; remainder of the plumage rose-colour. 

Iris brown ; bill pink with the basal half of the lower mandible 
black ; legs pink. 

Field Identification. A handsome crested bird, rose-pink with 
black head, wings and tail ; found in flocks which behave like and 
in the distance look like flocks of Common Starlings ; very abundant ; 
the flocks feed on the ground and perch in trees. 

Distribution. The Rosy Pastor breeds through a wide area in 
South-eastern Europe, occasionally as far west as Italy and Hungary ;> 
and in Asia from Asia Minor to Turkestan. It winters in India, and 
wanders also irregularly through the greater part of Europe. In 
India it is found as a winter visitor through the whole of the plains 
to as far east as Manbhoom in Bihar, being especially abundant in 
the north-west. It arrives early in July and leaves about May, being 
absent as a species, therefore, for a very short time, though doubt- 
less the latest birds to depart are far from being the earliest to 
return. 

The Spotted-wing Stare (Psaroglossa spilopterd) found along the 
base of the Himalayas is common in Assam. The silvery upper parts 
with brown scale marking, dark chestnut throat, bright rufous under 
parts and white spot in the wing are distinctive. 

Habits, etc. The Rosy Pastor greatly resembles the Common 
Starling in its habits while in winter quarters in India. It collects in 
flocks which feed on fruit and berries, grubs, insects, grasshoppers, 
and locusts (being particularly useful in the destruction of the last) 



THE ROSY PASTOR 



197 



in every type of open country, though cultivation and grassy lands 
are chiefly preferred. These flocks associate with the flocks of 
Common Starlings and Mynahs, roosting and feeding in company 
with them, though as a rule the three species do not join into a 
common flock ; and these flocks may be seen flighting between the 
roosting places and feeding grounds in the morning and evening very 
regularly. When light and distance do not allow of the distinguishing 
of colour it is impossible to recognise apart the flocks of Starlings 
and Pastors, the build, size and flight of the two species being 
identical. Pastors feed largely on the ground, and when a field of 




FIG. 28 Rosy Pastor (i nat. size) 

grass is being irrigated a pink and black cloud of these birds will 
often be seen in pursuit of the flooded-out insect life, quarrelling 
and chattering and jumping into the air as they move along. 

On their first arrival numbers of the birds are in the brown 
juvenile plumage, and at all seasons the flocks contain not fully adult 
birds, whose plumage is sullied and dull in tint. 

From March onwards the birds are affected by the approach of 
the breeding season (as the state of their internal organs testifies), 
and the flocks spend miich of their time in tall trees, enjoying the 
sun and singing a typical Starling song, a jumble of discordant 
grating noises mixed with some melodious warbling notes. At this 
season' they become very fat in preparation for migrating and are 
eagerly pursued by native sportsmen, whose aim is to secure as many 
as possible with a single shot. 

N2 



ig8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The breeding season in Europe and Asia is in May and June. 
The birds breed in huge colonies on rocky ground or in old ruins, 
wherever they can find a sufficiency of holes in which to place the 
untidy masses of grass, twigs and straw which form the nests ; the 
egg cavity is lined with roots and feathers. Such breeding colonies 
move about in the most capricious manner, occupying a suitable 
locality one year and abandoning it the next, their -movements being 
probably dependent on the food-supply. 

The clutch consists usually of five or six eggs. These are Very 
pale bluish-white, unmarked, similar to but paler and more glossy 
than those of the Common Starling. In shape they are rather 
pointed ovals, hard in texture with minute pores. 

They measure about i- 10 by 0-80 inches. 



THE STARLING 

STURNUS VULGARIS Linnaeus 
(Plate viii, Fig. 3, opposite page 154) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike, except that the 
female is generally duller and more spotted. Winter plumage : 
Black, the feathers lightly tipped with buff ; wings and tail brown, 
edged with velvety black. The whole plumage is irridescent, with a 
high gloss of red, purple, green, and blue. The feathers of the 
head, neck and breast are developed into hackles. In summer the 
buff tips wear off, leaving the plumage more completely black. 

Iris : male dark brown, female pale yellow ; bill brown, base of 
lower mandible steely or yellowish-horn, in breeding plumage lemon- 
yellow ; legs reddish-brown, claws darker. 

Field Identification. Gregarious, and collecting in large flocks in 
winter, which feed on the ground in cultivation and perch in trees. 
A glossy black bird, looking rather as if oiled, and more or less spotted 
finely with buff. 

Distribution. The Starling is a bird of very wide distribution in 
Europe, Asia and Africa, the typical race being one of the best 
known of English birds. It is divided into a number of closely 
allied forms, whose differences lie in the distribution of the colours 
of the brilliant gloss which gives the bird a curious highly-oiled 
appearance. The distinctions are small, but must be recognised as 
they are correlated with distinct breeding areas. The winter ranges 
of several forms, however, overlap, with the result, as the birds are 
highly gregarious, that several forms may then often be found in one 
flock, a fact which causes the uninitiated to believe that the 



THE STARLING 199 

differences exhibited by different specimens are purely due to 
individual variation. 

The identification of Starlings is normally a matter for the 
expert, and many intermediate specimens occur which cannot be 
definitely attributed to any particular form ; while no two authorities 
agree on the number of forms to be recognised. But for general 
purposes the majority of Starlings met with in India belong to four 
races. They may be distinguished as follows (the colours refer to 
the gloss ; the wing is measured in millimetres closed from the bend 
of the shoulder to the tip of the feathers) : 

S. v. minor. Small form, wing 110-118 mm. ; head, throat and 
ear-coverts green ; mantle and rump reddish-purple. 

S. v. humii. Medium form, wing 119-125 mm. ; head deep 
purplish-blue ; reddish-purple on the throat, chin and hind neck ; 
ear-coverts deep metallic green ; mantle coppery-red to bronze ; 
rump bronze-green. 

S. v. poltaratskyi. Large form, wing 124-135 mm. ; head, throat 
and ear-coverts purple ; mantle and rump green. 

S. v. porphyronotus. Large form, wing 125-137 mm. ; head and 
throat green, ear-coverts more or less purple ; mantle and rump 
red-purple. 

S. v. minor is a local and resident form in Sind. S. v. humii is 
the breeding bird of the Valley of Kashmir ; in winter it appears in 
the bordering districts of the Punjab. S. v. porphyronotus breeds at 
Yarkand and neighbouring areas, and in winter visits Afghanistan, 
Kashmir, Punjab, Sind, and the United Provinces. S. v. poltaratskyi 
breeds in Siberia, and in winter extends through the plains of India 
from the north-west to Bengal and south to Baroda, being the 
commonest of the Indian Starlings. 

In the plains of India these Starlings may be looked for from 
October to March, but occasional parties occur a little earlier and later. 

Habits, etc. Apart from the fact that the little Sind Starling 
may be recognised by its smaller size, and both it and S. v. humii 
can be recognised by inference on their breeding grounds, it is quite 
impossible to distinguish the various forms of Starling in India in 
winter until they have been shot. They are highly gregarious, and 
collect into common flocks which feed in cultivation on the open 
plains, sometimes also in company with Mynahs and Rosy Pastors. 
The chief characteristic of the flocks is hurry ; they feed on the 
ground, digging their bills into the crevices of the soil and extracting 
the various harmful grubs and insects on which they feed ; and all 
the time the flock advances with a bustle and hurry, not hopping 
but with a quick purposeful step, the birds in the rear frequently 
flying over to settle in front of the leaders. Fruit, berries and grain 
are also eaten. 



300 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

When disturbed the flock flies up and settles on the tops of 
trees, where, if no danger threatens, the birds at once commence to 
warble in the sunlight and preen their feathers, soon flying down 
again to continue their progress on the ground. The flight is swift 
and strong, short, sharp beats of the wings alternating with periods 
of gliding, the flocks flying in close order as if drilled, the mass 
wheeling and turning with remarkable precision. Some of the 
flocks are very large and by their flight and density can be identified 
from a considerable distance. 

The breeding season of S. v. humii in Kashmir is in April and 
May. The males then indulge in the peculiar wheezy, squeaky song, 
sitting on a roof or top of a tree in an exposed position, flirting the 
wings uneasily at intervals as they sing. 

The Starling builds in holes of trees (particularly affecting pollarded 
willows), in river-banks and in buildings, constructing a loose nest of 
grass roots with a few feathers. The clutch consists of five or six 
eggs. These are somewhat elongated in shape, a good deal compressed 
towards the short end. The shells are strong and glossy, with the 
surface a good deal pitted. In colour they are a very uniform pale 
sea-green-blue. 

The average measurement is 1-13 by 0-83 inches. 



THE GREY-HEADED MYNAH 

STURNIA MALABARICA (Gmelin) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage dark grey, the feathers of the head and neck long and 
pointed with whitish shafts giving a hoary appearance ; wing blackish, 
all but the flight-feathers, which are merely so tipped, edged with 
silvery-grey ; tail blackish tipped broadly with ferruginous, the central 
pair of feathers silvery-grey ; entire lower plumage rufous, palest 
towards the chin and throat which are streaked with whitish-grey and 
deepest towards the tail. 

Iris light blue ; bill blue at base, green in the middle, and yellow 
at the tip ; legs brownish-yellow. 

Field Identification. A rather silvery-looking bird with finely- 
hackled head and neck, rufous under parts, and dark wings and tail. 
In chattering flocks on the tops of trees. 

Distribution. A widely-distributed species in the plains of India, 
extending eastwards to Siam, the Malay Peninsula, and the islands of 
the Bay of Bengal. It is divided into several races, of which we are 
concerned with two. The typical form is found east of a line drawn 



THE GREY-HEADED MYNAH 201 

approximately from Mount Aboo to Dehra Dun, ascending the 
Himalayas to a height of about 5000 feet. S. m. blythii, which has 
the whole head white, is found down the west coast of India from 
Belgaum to Travancore. This species appears to be locally migratory 
and at Ranchi and in South-west Bengal is a common winter visitor, 
but there is not much information regarding other parts of the country. 

Habits, etc. This little Mynah is more purely arboreal than most 
species of Mynah and Starling, and is shyer and more difficult to 
observe. It is usually found in parties and small flocks which frequent 
the tops of trees and indulge in a good deal of squabbling and 
chasing about from branch to branch especially when the attraction 
is the flowers of the coral-tree or the silk-cotton tree. From these 
they extract the nectar and they are also fond of the figs of the banyan 
and peepul trees, the berries of lantana scrub and a number of other 
fruits as well as insects. At times the flocks descend and feed on the 
ground. The usual note is a sort of chatter, but there is also quite a 
pleasant song. 

The breeding season lasts from April to June. 

The nest is built in a hole of a tree, either dead or living, at any 
height from 20 to 50 feet from the ground, and there is rather a 
preference for trees growing in open patches cleared in the midst of 
forest. Natural hollows and old Barbet's nest holes are used, but in 
some instances the birds enlarge holes for themselves by pecking 
away decayed wood round an existing small hole. The nest is a 
small pad of grass or green leaves. 

The clutch consists of three to five eggs. 

The egg is a moderately elongated oval, rather pointed towards 
the small end. The shell is fine and delicate with a distinct gloss. 
In colour it is a very delicate pale sea-green without markings. 

The average size is about 0-95 by 0-70 inches. 



THE BRAHMINY MYNAH 

TEMENUCHUS PAGODARUM (Gmelin) 
(Plate viii, Fig. 5, opposite page 154) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head, 
including a long bushy crest, black ; the sides of the head, the whole 
of the neck and the entire lower plumage rich buff, except the thighs 
and a patch under the tail which are white ; the feathers of the neck, 
throat and breast are elongated into hackles. The remainder of the 
upper plumage grey except the outer flight-feathers which are black ; 
tail rounded, brown, all but the central pair of feathers broadly tipped 
with white. 



aoz POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Iris greenish-white ; bill blue at the base, greenish in the middle, 
yellow at the tip ; legs bright yellow. 

Field Identification. Common plains species. A rather small, 
sprightly bird, grey above, warm buff below, with the top of the head 
black and crested ; the rounded tail is conspicuously edged with 
white in flight. 

Distribution. This is a familiar bird throughout India and 
Ceylon, extending on the west to the Valley of the Indus and on the 
east to the longitude of Calcutta. It is locally common everywhere 
except in the more arid and barren portions of the Punjab, Sind, 
and North-west Frontier Province, and in the more humid and over- 
grown localities of Lower Bengal. In the Outer Himalayas it extends 
ordinarily as a summer visitor up to 4500 feet, but in Gilgit and 
Chitral it is common even to higher elevations. In the main a resident 
species, but also locally migratory. 

Habits, etc. The Brahminy Mynah is partial to open, well- 
cultivated localities with plenty of trees, and is tame and familiar in 
its habits, neither avoiding nor seeking the neighbourhood of man, 
but rather being indifferent to his existence. It feeds for the most 
part on the ground, often in company with other species of Mynahs 
and Starlings, retiring when sated to the trees in which it normally 
lives. It is found singty, in pairs and in small parties. It is quite a 
good songster, with a pleasant warbling song and makes a charming 
pet ; it is also a good mimic, learning the songs of other birds with 
ease. 

Under the name of " Pawi " or " Papaya " it is familiar to Indians 
and comes a good deal into their folk-lore. 

The breeding season lasts from May to August, but in Upper India 
the majority of eggs are laid in June. 

The nest is placed in holes in trees at heights of from 15 to 30 
feet above the ground, and also in Southern India in holes in the 
roofs of buildings. The cavity is roughly lined with feathers and dry 
grass, or dead leaves and similar soft materials. Nest-boxes affixed 
to trees are much favoured by this species. 

The clutch consists of three to five eggs. 

The egg is a rather elongated oval, fine and hard in texture, and 
rather glossy ; in colour it varies from very pale bluish-white to pale 
blue or greenish-blue. There are no markings. 

In size the eggs average about 0-97 by 0*75 inches. 



THE COMMON MYNAH 203 



THE COMMON MYNAH 

ACRIDOTHERES TRiSTis (Linnaeus) 
(Introduction, p. xxviii) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Whole head, 
neck, and upper breast black ; remainder of body plumage rich 
vinous-brown, darker above and paling into whitish on the lower 
abdomen. Outer flight-feathers dark brown, with a large white patch 
at their base ; tail strongly rounded, blackish, all but the central pair 
of feathers broadly tipped with white. 

Iris reddish-brown, flecked with white ; bill and a fleshy wattle 
below and behind the eye bright yellow ; legs yellow, claws 
horny. 

Field Identification. One of the most general and abundant birds 
of India ; to be seen walking about in pairs on the ground everywhere 
in the plains. Rich vinous-brown in colour, with a conspicuous 
yellow face-wattle ; in flight the rounded white-edged tail and a large 
white patch in the wings are conspicuous. 

Distribution. The whole of the Indian Empire except Northern 
Kashmir, Baluchistan and Tenasserim, south of Mergui. A darker 
form found in Ceylon is separated under the name of A. t. melanosternus. 
The Mynah occurs in the Himalayas up to 8000 feet and is a strictly 
resident species. 

Of late years this species has been introduced into South Africa, 
Mauritius, New Zealand, and other countries, but not with happy 
results, as it has proved destructive to more interesting indigenous 
species. 

Habits, etc. The Mynah shares with the House-Crow the dis- 
tinction of being the commonest and best-known bird in India, being 
found wherever man is found, in populous city or in lonely jungle 
village. But the House-Crow, with all his audacity, has an uneasy 
conscience and is ever in expectation of the moment when his sins 
will find him out. The Mynah, on the other hand, has no such 
feelings. He is always perky and self-confident, secure in his 
occupation of some particular beat and ready to wage war on all 
who dispute it with him ; and the appearance of a snake, mongoose 
or bird of prey is sufficient to collect all the Mynahs of the neighbour- 
hood, whose harsh scolding reveals the presence of the intruder and is 
always worth investigation ; many a dangerous snake has lost its life 
through the information given to man by the Mynahs. 

Normally these birds live in pairs and there is a very obvious 
affection between them. They feed together on the ground, striding 
along with rapid, determined paces, stopping occasionally to preen each 



zo 4 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

other's feathers or to indulge in a few quaint remarks or gesticulations 
expressive of extreme self-satisfaction. The voice is a strange 
mixture of harsh gurglings and liquid notes, keeky - keeky - keeky, 
churr - churr, kok - kok - kok, and the last notes are invariably 
accompanied by a quaint, stiff bobbing of the head, generally close 
in front of the mate. If disturbed when feeding on the ground 
the birds rise with a querulous note of alarm. 

Several often collect into small parties, and at the roost these 
parties collect into large flocks which sleep in groves of trees after 
the most noisy and quarrelsome proceedings as they take up their 
places for the night. At intervals during darkness short bursts 
of chattering are to be heard. Such favourite roosting places are 
shared with House-Crows and Green Parrakeets, often, too, with 
Bank Mynahs and Starlings. 

The Mynah is very omnivorous in its tastes ; I have known them 
carry away the carcasses of small birds that I had skinned ; house 
scraps, fruit, grain, earthworms, insects of all kinds, grasshoppers, 
crickets, caterpillars, and grubs are all eagerly devoured. Flocks 
of grazing cattle and the various agricultural operations are invariably 
attended by a pair of these birds ; and their services in the destruction 
of locusts and grasshoppers must be very valuable to the Zamindar. 

The normal breeding season lasts from June to August, and the 
nests being usually in a very hot position the birds leave much of 
the incubation of the eggs to the temperature of the air. They 
themselves feel the heat a good deal and may constantly be seen 
walking about, with their beaks gaping. 

The nest is built in roofs of houses, and in holes in walls, trees 
and wells ; and the birds readily adopt nest-boxes or chatties which 
may be hung up for their use. Occasionally the old nest of a Kite 
or Crow or squirrel is adopted and relined, and instances are on 
record of their building nests in a creeper or on the bough of a tree. 

The nest is a shapeless and often large mass of miscellaneous 
material, straw, feathers, fine twigs, bits of cotton, strips of rag, pieces 
of rope and string, snakes' sloughs, and the like. 

Three to six eggs are laid, but the normal clutch consists of 
four or five. They are rather long, oval, pear-shaped eggs, hard and 
glossy in texture, varying in colour from pale blue to pure sky-blue 
or greenish-blue, without markings. The small black spots that are 
sometimes found on these eggs are the work of parasites. 

They measure about 1-20 by 0-86 inches. 



THE BANK MYNAH 205 

THE BANK MYNAH 

ACRIDOTHERES GINGINIANUS (Latham) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. The top and sides 
of the head black ; the whole body plumage slaty-grey except the 
centre of the abdomen which is pinkish-buff ; wing black, a patch of 
pinkish-buff at the base of the outer flight-feathers ; tail strongly 
rounded, black tipped with buff. 

Iris deep maroon-red ; bill gamboge ; a naked wattle beneath and 
behind the eye brick-red ; legs yellow. 

Field Identification. Plains of Northern and Central India ; 
gregarious ; strongly resembles the Common Mynah in demeanour 
and general effect, but the wattle is red instead of yellow, the body 
plumage slaty-grey instead of vinous-brown, and the wing-patch and 
tips of the tail-feathers pinkish-buff instead of white. 

Distribution. A purely Indian species, found throughout the 
whole of the northern half of India from the Himalayas southwards 
to a line between Bombay and Orissa, and from the North-west 
Frontier Province and Sind to Eastern Bengal. Normally a plains 
species it ascends the Outer Himalayas locally, venturing into the 
sheltered valleys. A resident species, but wandering locally in 
obedience to the food-supply. 

Habits, etc. The Bank Mynah is often found in company with 
the Common Mynah and is very similar to it in habits, but differs 
in one or two important particulars. Although sometimes found 
in crowded market-places, scavenging on the ground amongst cattle 
and people, or wandering about busy station platforms, it is more 
a bird of cultivation and the open country-side, and is in particular 
addicted to the neighbourhood of water, feeding about the banks of 
rivers, in old water-logged brick-kilns and borrow-pits. It is also 
much more social in its habits, not merely flying, feeding and roosting 
in flocks, but also breeding in very definite colonies with a breeding 
economy quite different to that of the common species. 

The breeding season lasts from the middle of April to the middle 
of July, but most eggs will be found in May. 

It builds almost exclusively in earthen banks and cliffs, in holes 
which it excavates for itself, always in the vicinity of water and 
generally over running water. A few small colonies also breed 
below the surface of the ground in the sides of wells, in holes in 
the brickwork or in tunnels driven into the sandy soil. The nest 
chamber is situated at the end of a tunnel some three inches in 
diameter and anything up to seven feet in length, and these tunnels 
usually twist about in all directions and also communicate with each 



206 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

other, so that a large colony may be a regular warren. In the nest 
chamber a loose nest of feathers, roots and grass is constructed, and 
it also often contains pieces of snake's slough. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs, but five are often laid. 

The eggs are short and broad ovals, hard in texture with a high 
gloss. They are unmarked, of various shades of very pale sky-blue 
or greenish-blue, generally slightly darker in tint than the eggs of 
the Common Mynah. 

In size they average about 1*05 by 0*82 inches. 



THE JUNGLE MYNAH 

^ETHIOPSAR FUSCUS (Wagler) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. Top and sides of 
the head black ; remainder of upper plumage ruddy cinerous-brown ; 
wings black with a large white patch at the base of the outer flight- 
feathers ; tail broadly rounded, the feathers tipped with white ; lower 
plumage dark ashy-brown, whitish under the tail. 

Iris bright yellow or blue ; bill basal half bluish-black, remainder 
orange-yellow ; legs orange-yellow. 

There is a curious erect tuft of feathers above the nostrils. 

Field Identification. A shy forest Mynah, chiefly found in hill 
ranges ; to be recognised from the Common and Bank Mynahs by 
the darker plumage, the absence of a bare face wattle and by the tuft 
of erect feathers above the nostrils. 

Distribution. The Jungle Mynah is widely spread in the 
Himalayas, in portions of India and through Assam and Burma 
to Siam and the Malay Peninsula. It is divided into races, of which ' 
we are only concerned with two. 

The typical race, slate-coloured above with a yellow iris, breeds 
throughout the Himalayas, from Hazara eastwards, from the foot- 
hills up to about 7000 feet. It is also found in Lower Bengal and 
the Chota Nagpur area to Bundelkund and Raipur. 

A browner race, IE. /. mahrattensis, in which the iris is grey, 
bluish-white or pale blue, occurs in the Shevaroys and down the 
Western Coast, chiefly on the Ghats, from Ahmedabad to Cape 
Comorin. Though abundant in many localities it is rather a local 
species. A resident bird in the main, but also a local migrant. 

Habits, etc. As its name denotes, this Mynah is properly a bird 
of the forest, though it often associates with the Common Mynah, 
and frequents the neighbourhood of houses. Except when actually 
paired for breeding it is found in parties and flocks that feed mostly 
on the ground, taking to the trees when disturbed. In flight, habits, 
gait, and behaviour it greatly resembles the Common Mynah, except 



THE JUNGLE MYNAH 207 

that it is neither so bold nor such a scavenger, and it is probably 
mistaken by most people for that species. 

The breeding season lasts from March to July, but most eggs will 
be found in April. 

The vast majority of the nests of this species are built in holes 
in trees, generally in large trees at a considerable height from the 
ground ; but nests may be found in holes in other situations, in walls 
and ruins, in chimneys, and in the thatch of old houses. The nest is 




FIG. 29 Head of Jungle Mynah (-} -i- nat. size) 

merely a lining to the hole selected, and varies in size and materials, 
being a collection of fine twigs, dry grass, feathers, moss, wool, and 
the like. 

There is a distinct tendency for the birds to nest in colonies. 

The clutch varies from three to four eggs, but the majority of 
nests contain five eggs. 

The egg is in shape rather a long oval, usually somewhat pointed 
towards the small end ; the texture is hard and glossy. It varies in 
colour from that of skim milk to pale blue or greenish-blue, and 
there are no markings. 

The average measurement is about 1-20 by 0-83 inches. 



THE PIED MYNAH 
STURNOPASTOR CONTRA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length ' 9 inches. Sexes alike. The entire head 
and neck black, except for an elongated white patch from the base 
of the beak through the eye backwards ; upper plumage, wings and 
tail black or blackish-brown, except for the lower rump and a broad 
line along the shoulders white ; remainder of lower plumage pale 
vinaceous-grey. 



208 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



Iris yellowish-white, eyelids and a bare patch in front of the eye 
orange ; bill basal half deep orange, remainder white ; legs yellowish- 
white, claws horny. 

Field Identification. Common plains species in cultivation. A 
conspicuously pied black and white bird found in parties feeding on 
the ground and flying up into a tree when disturbed ; an obvious 
Mynah in habits and bearing. 

Distribution. The Pied Mynah is common and widely distributed 
in India and the Burmese countries to Java, being divided into several 
races, of which two are found within our area. The typical race is 

found in Eastern Bengal 
and Assam. A paler bird, 
S. c. dehrce, is found in 
continental India east of a 
line through Ludhiana, 
Hissar and Sehore, extend- 
ing down to Hyderabad in 
the Deccan and eastwards 
to Western Bengal, Bihar 
and Orissa. It is a resident 
species, though there are 
signs of small local migra- 
tions. 

Habits, etc. The Pied 
Mynah differs from the 
Common Mynah in the fact 
that it is a bird of open 

cultivation, never entering in or perching on houses, though it may 
frequently be found in gardens. Wherever found it is common, 
living generally in small parties that spend their time hunting over 
grassland where the pied plumage renders them conspicuous. Like 
the Common Mynah, this species is a frequent attendant on cattle, 
and on the grazing grounds of the Northern Circars vast flocks of 
several hundreds collect together. 

In diet it is undoubtedly chiefly insectivorous, catching grass- 
hoppers, crickets, and beetles on the ground, and extracting caterpillars, 
ants, worms, and other insects from amongst the roots of grass. But 
it feeds, too, on fruits and berries, being very partial to the fruits 
of the genus Ficus, and it also does a certain amount of damage to 
crops. Like the Common Mynahs, and indeed often in company 
with them, the Pied Mynahs roost in huge vociferous mobs in 
groves of trees. 

The breeding season lasts from May to August, but the majority 
of eggs are laid in June and July. 

This species builds in trees, generally out in open fields, at 




FIG. 30 Pied Mynah (J nat. size) 



THE PIED MYNAH 209 

heights of 10 to 30 feet from the ground ; sometimes the nests are 
in colonies, numbers being placed in one large tree. The nest is a 
large clumsy lump of material, variable in shape, but usually domed, 
depending for safety not on concealment but on its position in the 
midst of thorns or towards the extremity of a bough ; it is built 
of straw, grass and twigs, and roots and rags, the last often trailing 
in streamers below the nest. The egg cavity is thickly lined with 
feathers. Very rarely the nest is placed in a hole in a tree. 

The eggs are four to six in number, but most clutches consist of 
five eggs. They are moderately broad ovals, a good deal pointed 
towards the small end, and there is a high gloss. In colour they vary 
from a delicate bluish- white to a pure though somewhat pale sky-blue, 
the blue being often tinged with green. There are no markings. 

They measure about i- 10 by 0-82 inches. 



THE BAYA WEAVER-BIRD 

PLOCEUS PHILIPPINUS (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xiii, Fig. 2, opposite page 264) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male in breeding plumage : A 
mask, including the sides of the head, chin and throat dark blackish- 
brown ; remainder of the head and the breast bright yellow ; upper 
plumage brownish-black, the feathers broadly margined with bright 
yellow ; rump and remainder of lower plumage fulvous ; wings and 
tail dark brown, edged with fulvous. 

Male in winter plumage, and female : The whole upper plumage 
is fulvous, streaked with blackish-brown, the streaks dying away on 
the rump ; wings and tail dark brown edged with fulvous ; a clear 
fulvous line over the eye ; remainder of plumage clear fulvous, darker 
on the sides of the head, breast and flanks. 

Iris brown ; bill yellowish-horn, becoming in the breeding male 
dark horny-brown, yellowish about the base ; legs flesh-colour. 

Bill rather heavy and conical. 

Field Identification. Abundant plains bird, found in flocks ; 
majority are fulvous birds streaked heavily with blackish on the 
upper parts, but males in the breeding season have a conspicuous 
dark brown mask emphasised by surrounding yellow ; yellow on the 
breast distinguishes this from other species of breeding Weavers. 
Will usually be noticed in connection with long woven grass nests 
hanging in colonies from boughs of trees. 

Distribution. This Weaver is found in India, Ceylon, and Burma, 
extending eastwards to Siam, the Malay Peninsula, Java, and Sumatra* 
It is divided into several races. 

O 



210 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The typical race is found throughout Ceylon and the greater 
part of India, extending in the north-west to about the line of the 
Sutlej. In the Eastern sub-Himalayas and Bengal it is replaced by 
P. p. burmanicus, which differs in the smaller extent of yellow on 
the throat and breast and in Travancore by the darker P. p. travan- 
coreensis. While largely a resident this Weaver is also locally migratory. 

Habits, etc. As in the case of the Tailor-bird, our common 
Indian Weaver-bird is known by its nest to thousands who jvould 
never recognise the owner thereof. Out of colour the parties of 
Weavers would pass with most people as parties of Sparrows, and 
never be given a second thought, but when the male dons his 
yellow breeding plumage and dark mask he is a handsome bird and 
easily recognised. This species avoids heavy forest and is really 
a bird of open cultivation where babool trees and palms stand in 
the midst of grasslands and arable fields, damp and well-watered 
localities being rather preferred. It feeds on seeds of various 
kinds, and does a good deal of damage in certain crops, though, 
like the Sparrow, it largely compensates for this by the caterpillars, 
grasshoppers, and various insects on which the young are fed. A 
colony of Weavers' nests is one of the most familiar and typical of 
Indian country scenes. The nests are long, graceful structures of 
woven grass, retort shaped, with the mouth of the retort pointing 
downwards to the ground. These nests hang in groups of ten or a 
dozen on a tree, suspended by short plaited ropes from the ends of 
the outer boughs, or in vacant spaces in the centre of the tree, and 
the soft greens and browns of the nests, the rounded swelling lines 
of their construction, contrasting with the hard yet feathery foliage 
of an acacia, form a picture of nature hard to beat. Large colonies 
may consist of fifty to a hundred nests, occupying several adjacent 
trees ; while many colonies are built in lofty palm trees, hanging 
like tassels from the crown of leaves. 

The nests are built of strips of sarpat grass, rice-grass, plantain 
leaf, coir, jowar leaf or coco-nut fronds. These strips the bird 
prepares for itself by cutting a notch in the side of a blade of grass 
and tearing off the strip above it, a foot or two long. They are cut 
when green, and new nests may be recognised from old by their 
colour, and the same difference of colour betrays old nests which 
have been repaired and used again. 

The construction of the nest has often been described, but 
Mr Salim Ali appears to be the first observer who has correctly 
unravelled the economy of a breeding colony. According to his 
account, the colony is founded by a number of fully adult males in 
breeding condition but still ui mated. Each bird selects a suitable 
twig and winds a number of strands about it until a firm support 
for the intended nest is secured. From this depends a mass of 



THE BAYA WEAVER-BIRD 211 

strips which are worked up into a pendant loop to form the skeleton 
of the structure. Porches are built over the upper part on each 
side, one developing and broadening out later into the egg-chamber, 
the other which is not so bulgy being produced into the entrance 
tube. About the time that the egg-chambers are complete hen-birds 
begin to arrive in the colony and though the various cocks press 
their attentions on them it appears that each hen deliberately makes 
choice amongst the nests, accepting later the cock whose nest has 
pleased her fancy. Henceforth the female occupies herself with 
making the interior of the nest to her liking whilst the male 
completes the entrance tunnel. The egg-chamber is left unlined, 
but small pellets of mud are often worked into the walls, a habit of 
which the original significance if any appears to be lost. As soon 
as the nest is completed, the eggs laid and incubation started by the 
hen, the cock proceeds to build a second nest which in due course 
is chosen by another prospecting female and the whole process is 
repeated till she too is safely on her eggs. If circumstances are 
favourable a third hen may be similarly provided for. 

It will be seen that this account explains the fact, often recorded, that 
males are apparently considerably in excess of females in the colonies, 
and also accounts for the unfinished " cock- nests, " second or third 
nests abandoned by males in which the reproductive fervour is waning. 

When entering the nest the bird flies straight up the tunnel without 
perching at the entrance. 

The breeding season is rather extended, from April to November, 
but most colonies are occupied during the rains. 

Two is the normal clutch of eggs, but three or four are sometimes 
laid. The egg is a rather long oval, somewhat pointed towards the 
small end ; the texture is fine, and the colour is a dead glossless 
white, unmarked. 

It measures about 0-82 by 0-59 inches. 



THE STRIATED WEAVER-BIRD 
PLOCEUS MANYAR (Horsfield) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Winter plumage : 
Upper plumage blackish-brown, the feathers edged with fulvous ; 
a yellow line over the eye and a short transverse yellow line on each 
side of the neck ; wings and tail blackish-brown the feathers edged 
with fulvous becoming greenish on the edges of the quill-feathers ; 
chin and throat white washed with pale yellow, the bases of the feathers 
blackish-brown ; remainder of lower plumage pale fulvous white, the 



212 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

feathers of the breast and flanks with broad blackish-brown shaft- 
streaks and the breast washed with buff. 

Summer plumage : In both sexes wear removes the fulvous edges 
of the feathers so that the upper plumage and sides of the head become 
dark brown, the chin and throat brown and the breast and flanks 
more harshly streaked ; the yellow transverse line on each side of 
the neck disappears. In the male the crown becomes bright shining 
golden yellow by moult. 

Iris brown ; bill brownish-horn, blackish in summer ; legs pale 
fleshy-brown, claws dusky. 

Bill rather heavy and conical. 

Field Identification. Plains of India. A streaked brown Sparrow- 
like bird with a yellow line over the eye and another behind the ear. 
In breeding plumage the male has a golden crown. Found in flocks 
usually in reed-beds. 

Distribution. India, Ceylon and Burma south to about Moulmein 
in Tenasserim : also in Java. The typical race is found in Java. 
Birds from India and Ceylon all belong to the race P. m. flaviceps 
which gives place in Burma to the dark richly coloured P. m. peguensis. 
In India this Weaver is found throughout the whole area south of 
the Himalayas, but owing to its dependence on water and reed-beds 
the distribution is very local and the bird will not be found at all 
through considerable tracts of country. 

An even more locally distributed species is the Black-throated 
Weaver-bird (Ploceus bengalensis) which is found here and there 
throughout Northern India down to Bombay and Bastar. It is very 
similar in plumage to the Striated Weaver-bird, but lacks the dark 
streaks on the lower plumage and has a black band across the breast. 

Habits, etc. There is little to say of the habits of the Striated 
Weaver-bird in distinction from those of the Common Baya except 
to emphasise that it is much more of a water-haunting species. As 
a rule, it only breeds where large stretches of water are choked with 
reed-beds or where rivers and canals exist whose banks are fringed 
with reed and rush or bordered with thickets of high grass. In such 
places it is often very numerous indeed, living and nesting in the reeds 
and feeding in flocks on the grass seeds or on insects found in the 
grass. Each individual colony is, however, small, consisting of some 
half dozen nests, and the colonies, though sometimes near to colonies 
of the other two species, are separate from them. 

The breeding season is from July to September. 

The nest is very similar in shape, materials and construction to that 
of the Baya. It differs from it, however, in one important particular. 
The nest of the Baya tapers above to a point and is suspended by 
that point alone from one twig or other support. The nest of the 
Striated Weaver is, on the other hand, suspended from some forty or 



THE STRIATED WEAVER-BIRD 213 

fifty ends of the grass or rushes which are bent over by the birds and 
incorporated in the top of the nest, giving it a cluster of supports 
and a clumsier and more massive appearance as regards the upper 
part. The tubular entrance is usually snorter in this species. Some 
nests have acacia flowers cemented to the nest with cow-dung. 

The usual clutch is of two eggs, but three, four and rarely five may 
be found. The egg is a moderately broad oval, a good deal pointed 
at the small end and of a perfectly pure, almost glossless white. The 
texture is fine and compact and the shell though thin is firm and 
strong. 

The egg measures about 0-80 by 0-58 inches. 



THE WHITE-THROATED MUNIA 

UROLONCHA MALABARICA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xi, Fig. 3, opposite page 220) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
and wings dull earthy-brown, except the outer flight-feathers which 
are black ; upper tail-coverts white ; tail dark brown, margined with 
rusty ; remainder of plumage pale buffy-white, flanks faintly cross- 
barred with rusty. 

Iris dark brown ; bill plumbeous-horn, tinged with lavender 
below ; legs pale purplish-pink. 

Bill heavy and conical. Tail rather long, graduated and pointed. 

Field Identification. A small, rather elongated brown bird, 
whitish below and on the base of the tail ; found in cheeping parties 
in thorn scrub or feeding on the ground ; rather tame and stupid ; 
several together are often disturbed out of big grass nests. 

Distribution. The White-throated Munia is found in Afghanistan 
and Baluchistan, and it extends from the Himalayas (in Hazara and 
Gilgit) across to Eastern Bengal and south to Cape Comorin and 
Ceylon. It ascends the Himalayas up to 4000 or 5000 feet, and is 
a sedentary species. 

Several other Munias are locally common. The best known is 
perhaps the White-backed Munia (Uroloncha striata) which is found 
along the Western Ghats, parts of the Madras Presidency, the Chota 
Nagpur area and much of the Outer Himalayas. This is blackish in 
colour with the rump and the lower parts from the breast white. 

The Rufous-beHied Munia (Uroloncha kelaarti) is a familiar bird 
in the Nilgiris. 

Habits, etc. The White-throated Munia has always seemed to 
me one of the dullest of our Indian birds ; it has no migrations, 

02 



214 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

no changes of plumage, no habits of interest, and in its breeding 
arrangements it has some of the failings that one generally expects 
to find amongst domesticated birds. 

It is a bird of open country, rather preferring arid spots and the 
neighbourhood of thorny scrub. It is found in small parties which 
are tame and dull, taking to flight in close order when disturbed and 
uttering a small cheet-cheet-cheet or tee-tee note. The bird lives on 
small seeds which it gathers often from the ground, though it is 
very partial to feeding on the heads of pampas grass and various 
crops like millet and dari. Some of these birds are generally to 
be found in a Weaver colony, showing a disposition to trespass in 
the nests and affording a hint as to the origin of the parasitic habits 
of other members of this family in Africa. 

The nest is a large globular structure, composed entirely of 
grasses of various sorts, particularly their flowering heads. A small 
circular entrance, moderately well concealed and rather difficult to 
find, leads into the egg chamber, which is lined with finer grasses 
and vegetable downs. It is usually built in thorn bushes, about 
5 to 10 feet from the ground, but occasional nests are placed in 
creepers or about the walls of houses. 

The ownership of these nests seems somewhat loosely defined, as 
it is no uncommon thing for more than one hen to lay in the same 
nest. I have myself found twenty-two eggs in one nest,' ranging from 
fresh to hard set, and twenty-five have been recorded ; while four to 
eight eggs appears to be the normal clutch. Even when the structure 
is not being used for its proper purpose it is often tenanted as a 
dormitory, and six or eight of these small birds may be disturbed 
from it in the evenings. Both birds of the pair frequently brood 
the eggs together. 

The main breeding season apparently commences with the rains 
and continues till the end of the year, but nests may be found in every 
month, and the species probably is very irregular in its breeding habits ; 
young birds on occasion breed before they are a year old. 

The eggs are pure white, spotless, and devoid of gloss ; typically 
they are rather broad and perfect ovals, but there is a good deal of 
variation in their shape. 

They average about 0-60 by 0*47 inches in size. 



THE SPOTTED MUNIA 215 

THE SPOTTED MUNIA 

UROLONCHA FUNCTULATA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate ii, Fig. i, opposite page 22) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Wings and upper 
plumage dull chocolate, barred on the rump with brown and yellowish 
and giving place to glistening yellow on the upper tail-coverts ; tail 
fulvous yellow ; sides of the head, chin and throat rich chestnut ; 
lower plumage white, all the feathers except on the abdomen banded 
with fulvous brown, giving a scaled appearance. 

Iris deep reddish-brown ; bill bluish-black, paler below ; legs 
plumbeous. 

Bill heavy and conical. The tail is rather long, graduated and 
pointed. 

Field Identification. A small bird, easily identified by the white 
under plumage with dark scale markings, the chocolate upper plumage 
with yellow above the tail and the chestnut of the face and throat. 
Found in pairs and flocks perching in bushes and hedges. 

Distribution. This Munia is found throughout the greater part 
of India, Ceylon, and Burma, extending eastwards to China. It is 
divided into two races, of which we are only concerned with U. p, 
lineoventer. This is found throughout the Himalayas as far west 
as Dalhousie up to a height of about 6000 feet and in the continental 
ranges and the Nilgiris to their summits. It is found also throughout 
the plains except in the North-west Frontier Province, the Punjab, 
Sind, and portions of Rajputana. This race also extends to Western 
Assam. It is a local migrant. 

Two species of Munia have black heads and chestnut upper parts 
and a black patch in the middle of the belly. The Chestnut-bellied 
Munia (Munia atricapilla) has the lower parts chestnut and is found 
along the base of the Himalayas, in Bihar and Orissa, South-east 
Bengal, and in Assam. The Black-headed Munia (Munia malacca) 
has the lower parts white. It is found locally in South India up to 
the Central Provinces. 

Habits, etc. The Spotted Munia avoids heavy forest and the 
more barren plains, and is most numerous in open country where 
scrub-jungle alternates with cultivation, and the vegetation is luxuriant. 
In such places it is found in flocks which feed largely in low-seeding 
herbage and settle in the bushes, flying when disturbed in close order 
like a swarm of bees, with a curious petulant little note of kitty-kitty- 
kitty. They are fairly tame and familiar and come freely into gardens. 

The breeding season is usually during the rains in July and 
August, but in the Nilgiris it is more extended from February to 
September. 



216 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The nest is a big clumsy structure, shaped liked a melon, and very 
large for the size of the bird. The entrance hole is placed on one 
side and is often difficult to find, so untidy are the walls of the nest. 
It is wedged into the fork of a tree or bush at heights from 5 to 
7 feet from the ground and occasionally higher, and the site is 
often prepared with a rough platform of the same materials as those 
of which the nest is constructed. These consist of coarse blades and 
stems of grass, rice, and barley straw, and leaves of bajera and jawar. 
The egg cavity is lined with fine grasses and roots. 

The situation chosen is generally a thick thorny tree or bush, but 
creepers on houses and trellis-work in gardens are also favoured. 

The clutch varies from four to ten eggs. 

The egg is pure white, a somewhat elongated oval, fine in texture 
and without gloss. 

It measures about 0-65 by 0-46 inches. 



THE RED AVADAVAT 

AMANDAVA AMANDAVA (Linnaeus) 
(Plate n, Fig. 2, opposite page 22) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Male in breeding plumage : The 
whole body plumage, except a black patch from the abdomen to 
under the tail, crimson more or less mottled with the ashy-brown 
bases of the feathers showing through ; a patch above the base of the 
tail, and the sides of the neck, breast and body spotted with white ; 
wings brown, the feathers nearest the body tipped with white ; tail 
blackish, the outer feathers tipped with white. 

In winter plumage the male resembles the female, but has a greyer 
throat and upper breast. 

Female : Upper plumage brown ; upper tail-coverts dull crimson 
with minute white tips ; wings and tail as in the male ; a blackish 
mark in front of the eye ; chin and throat whitish ; sides of the head 
and neck and the breast ashy-brown ; remainder of lower plumage 
dull saffron, flanks washed with ashy. 

Iris orange-red ; bill red, dusky about nostrils ; legs brownish- 
flesh. 

Bill short and conical. 

Field Identification. A tiny bird found in flocks in damp areas 
with reeds or in pampas grass ; males are reddish, females brown 
and yellow, both sexes much spotted with white. Well known under 
the name of " Lai " as a cage and aviary bird, netted in numbers 
for sale. 



THE RED AVADAVAT 217 

Distribution. The Red Avadavat is found from India, through 
Burma to Siam, Cochin-China, Singapore, and Java. It is divided 
into two races, but only the typical form occurs within our 
limits. In India it is found practically throughout the country 
from the foot of the Himalayas, which it ascends to about 2000 feet, 
down to Cape Comorin, and from Baluchistan and the North-west 
Frontier Province eastwards. It is, however, wanting in the more 
dry and barren plains of the North-west. In the Nilgiris it ascends 
to 6000 feet. A resident species. 

A closely allied species is the Green Munia (Sticospiza formosa), 
in which green and yellow are the dominant colours, whilst the flanks 
are strongly barred. Widely distributed in a broad belt across the 
centre of the Peninsula. 

Habits, etc. This Avadavat is chiefly found in well-watered and 
well-wooded localities, and it is very partial to heavy grass jungles 
and patches of reeds and grass on the outskirts of jheels. In such 
localities it is found in flocks which perch on the heads of the tall 
flowering grasses, whence they fly in a cloud with their shrill little 
call-note when disturbed. They are very bright and lively in their 
demeanour, and being tame and confiding are easily captured in 
numbers, and make delightful pets. They are to be seen in dozens 
in the cages of the bird-catchers, and are exported in large numbers 
to Europe for sale to aviculturists. 

The breeding season is very irregular and varies according to 
locality, so that nests may be found in every month of the year. 
The greater number, however, nest in the rains and early winter. 
Two broods a year appear to be raised. 

The nest is a large melon-shaped structure with the entrance at 
one side ; it is built of grasses of various types and the cock bird 
often continues to add material to it after the eggs are laid and the 
female is sitting. The cavity is lined with fine grass, downs, and 
sometimes with feathers. It is well concealed as a rule, being built 
in the bases of thick bushes or clumps of grass or reeds, never higher 
than 3 feet from the ground and often practically on it. 

The normal clutch consists of five or six eggs, but various numbers 
up to fourteen have been recorded, and probably sometimes two 
females lay in one nest. 

The eggs are very fine and delicate in texture, without gloss, a 
regular oval in shape, often rather pointed at one or both ends. The 
colour is pure white. 

In size they average about 0-55 by 0-43 inches. 



2i8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE BLACK AND YELLOW GROSBEAK 

PERISSOSPIZA ICTEROIDES (Vigors) 
(Plate xv, Fig. i, opposite page 308) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Male : The whole head, chin and 
throat, the wings and tail and the thighs dull black ; remainder of 
plumage bright yellow, tinged with orange on the hind neck. 

Female : The whole head and neck and the upper parts dull ^shy- 
grey, becoming more fulvous above the tail ; quills of the wing and 
tail black, the inner wing-quills and the central tail-feathers washed 
with ashy-grey ; breast ashy-brown ; remainder of lower plumage 
bright tawny fulvous. 

The bill is very heavy and conical in shape. 

Iris brown ; bill olive-green in male, horny-green in female ; 
legs fleshy-pink, claws dusky. 

Field Identification. West Himalayan form. A large heavily built 
Finch with a heavy conical greenish beak. The male is bright yellow 
with black head, wings and tail, the female dull ashy-colour with 
fulvous under parts. Conspicuous when feeding on the ground but 
difficult to see in trees and usually found through its distinctive call- 
note tre-ter tre-ter. 

Distribution. A resident species in the Western Himalayas from 
Naini Tal to Hazara and Chitral ; also in the Sufed Koh. It breeds 
in the spruce and silver fir forests between 7500 and 9000 feet, and 
in winter some drift lower to about 4000 feet. 

It must not be confounded with the very similar Allied Grosbeak 
(Perissospiza affinis) which is found in the Himalayas from Hazara 
to Bhutan. This species frequents the high level silver fir and birch 
forests between 10,000 and 11,000 feet. Its call notes are quite 
Distinct from those of P. icteroides. In this the male has the thighs 
yellow and the yellow of the upper parts more orange. The female 
is a greener bird. 

Both these Grosbeaks are easily distinguished by the bill from 
the Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus xanthornus) which many people 
confuse with them in spite of the different distribution (see p. 193). 

Habits, etc. This Grosbeak is a bird of the Himalayan forests 
where it is found in all types of forest both deciduous and evergreen, 
but more particularly in stretches of silver firs and deodars. It 
feeds a good deal in the undergrowth and on the ground, often 
venturing on to the roads, but otherwise keeps mostly to the highest 
trees so that it is more often seen than heard. For the call-note, 
tre-ter tre-ter or trekatree trekatree, trekup trekup, uttered by both 
sexes, is one of thefamiliar sounds of a Himalayan forest or a Himalayan 
sanatorium. The song note of the male is a pretty whistle, tre-trui t 
tre-trui or tra trui-tree. The feeding note is chuck chuck. 



THE BLACK AND YELLOW GROSBEAK 219 

The food consists of the fresh shoots of conifers and the seeds from 
their cones as well as the fruits of shrubs and plants in the undergrowth. 

Out of the breeding season the birds collect into parties and small 
flocks. 

The breeding season begins in April and continues until July 
and perhaps even until September, but most eggs are certainly to be 
found in June. 

The nest may be built at any height from 1 8 to 60 feet from the 
ground and the usual situation is against the main trunk of a conifer, 
preferably a spruce, deodar or silver fir. It is, however, on occasion 
built on a horizontal bough and also in a non-coniferous tree such as 
a yew, lime or wild cherry. The materials of the nest, which is a wide 
cup, are fine twigs, lichens and silvery, plant-stems with often a certain 
amount of moss. The cup is lined with dry grass and rootlets. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. 

The egg is broad in shape and rather pointed towards the small 
end ; the texture is smooth and hard with a slight gloss. The ground- 
colour is pale greenish-grey marked with numerous blackish-brown 
tangled lines, some thick and bold, some very fine twisted and inter- 
twined, in a zone round the broad end and more or less underlaid 
by faint inky-purple clouds. A few blackish-brown spots and odd 
streaks are also found on the rest of the egg's surface. 

The egg measures about I'oo by 0-08 inches. 



THE RED-HEADED BULLFINCH 
PYRRHULA ERYTHROCEPHALA Vigors 

Description. Length 5-5 inches. Male: A broad band of black 
round the base of the bill and extending round the eye ; head and 
neck rich reddish-brown, paler on the throat and breast ; back ash- 
grey ; rump white margined in front by a black band. The upper 
tail coverts and tail glossy black ; wings black with a band of greyish- 
brown ; abdomen greyish-white. In worn plumage the red of the 
head is tinged with yellow. Female : Similar to male, but the head 
and neck are yellowish-green and the lower parts brown or drab. 

Iris light brown ; bill black ; legs pale fleshy-brown. 

Field Identification. A low monosyllabic call note. The black 
'wings and tail and white rump are characteristic of all bullfinches. 
The white rump especially catches the eye at once when the birds 
are in flight. The red head in the male and yellowish-green of the 
female are characteristic of this species. 

Distribution. Himalayas from Kishtwar to Bhutan. In the 
breeding season this Bullfinch is found in silver fir, spruce, and 
deodar forests from 9000 to 12,000 feet where some birds remain 



220 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

throughout the year, while others in the autumn wander down to the 
valleys to about 6000 feet and occasionally as low as 3500 feet. It is 
common in winter in the vicinity of Simla, Naini Tal, Mussoorie and 
Darjeeling. Another species is the slightly larger Brown Bullfinch 
(P. nipalensis) ranging from Kangra to Bhutan at an elevation of 
from 6500 to 11,000 feet in summer ; at other seasons between 5000 
and 7000 feet. The general colour is ashy-brown with black wings, 
tail and rump ; this last has a white cross-band. The sexes are^alike, 
except that in the male the outer edge of the innermost feather of 
the wing is crimson, while in the female it is yellow. 

Habits, etc. In the non-breeding season this Bullfinch is found 
in small parties, not infrequently of one sex. Its food consists of 
seeds and fruits of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Small parties 
may sometimes be seen feeding on the seeds of rank nettles on the 
hillsides. At the end of April or May the birds pair and at this 
season frequent willows, attracted by the catkins. It is very tame 
and utters a low musical whistle similar to the British bird. 

The Red-headed Bullfinch is a late breeder and the eggs are laid 
as a rule in August. The nest is built on a branch of a tree some 
distance from the ground, and is the usual Bullfinch type ; thin twigs 
and moss, lined with fine roots. 

The eggs vary from three to four in number, and resemble those 
of a Greenfinch more than the common Bullfinch. They are a dull 
grey- white with a faint tinge of green, marked with small specks 
and blotches of brown or red-brown, some almost dark grey. 

The egg measures about 0-8 by 0-6 inches. 



THE COMMON ROSE FINCH 
CARPODACUS ERYTHRINUS (Pallas) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Adult male : Entire body-plumage 
dull crimson, largely mixed with brown on the back and sides, and 
brightest on the rump, chin, throat, and breast ; the lower parts 
grow paler posteriorly till under the tail they are whitish ; wings 
and tail brown, edged with rufous. 

In breeding plumage the margins wear off the feathers and so 
leave the bird a brighter crimson. 

Female and immature male : The whole plumage olive-brown 
streaked with brown, wings and tail margined with ochraceous ; a 
double whitish bar across the wing-coverts. 

Iris dark brown ; bill horny-brown ; legs dusky brown. 

Bill rather heavy and conical. 

Field Identification. Found in flocks in trees and crops ; a dull 
brown bird, the size of a Sparrow, streaked with dark brown and with 



PLATE XI 




i. Black-naped Flycatcher. 2. Dark-grey Bush-Chat. 3. White-throated Munia. 
4. Spotted Babbler. 5. Red-winged Bush-Lark, (f nat. size.) 



[Face p. 220 



THE COMMON ROSEFINCH 221 

a pale double wing-bar ; a small proportion of individuals consist of 
adult males in a dull scarlet dress. 

Distribution. Widely distributed over Eastern Europe and Asia, 
the Common Rosefinch is divided into several races differing in the 
extent and brightness of the red colour of the males : opinions differ 
as to the validity of some of these races, but the majority of Indian 
birds certainly belong to the form C. e. roseatus. This breeds 
throughout the higher Himalayas and the mountains of Central 
Asia generally at heights of 10,000 feet and upwards. It is 
migratory, and after breeding spreads over almost the whole of 
India and Northern Burma, going as far south as the High Range in 
Travancore ; it is most abundant in the central and western half of 
the Peninsula, while the South-eastern Punjab and Sind lie out of the 
main line of migration and only stragglers reach those parts. More 
data is required about the movements of this species, which arrives in 
the northern plains about September, and reaches Southern India at 
the end of November, and moves north again from March to May. 

Habits, etc. During migration and in the winter months in India 
the Common Rosefinch is generally met with in flocks which aie 
quiet and unobtrusive in behaviour, feeding as a rule in undergrowth 
or in millet and similar crops. They avoid heavy forest and are 
found in any type of open country, visiting gardens and the neighbour- 
hood of villages. The flocks are sometimes of some size and they 
feed very largely on the ground, flying up into trees when disturbed. 
The full-plumaged males are always in a minority, as first-year males 
breed in the female dress. 

The food consists of wild cherries, mulberries, and a variety of 
other seeds and fruits ; buds and shoots are also eaten. The bird 
is very fond of the watery nectar contained in the flower of the coral- 
tree, and particularly frequents that tree when in blossom. 

Ordinarily in India the bird is very quiet, but on the spring 
migration the males commence their loud pleasant song, which, 
albeit somewhat monotonous, is such a feature of the barren wastes 
of Gilgit, Ladakh, Spiti, and other Tibetan areas. There, during the 
summer months the birds frequent and breed in the scanty patches 
of scrub usually in the vicinity of water. 

The breeding season is from June to August. The nest is a cup- 
shaped structure of grass lined with finer roots and stems and 
occasionally hair. It is placed in low bushes and the bird is a very 
close sitter, allowing itself almost to be caught rather than leave the nest. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. They are rather broad 
ovals, pointed towards the smaller end, and fine and smooth in texture. 
In colour they are a beautiful deep blue, with a few scrawls and spots 
of chocolate colour, some pale, some almost black. 

They measure about 0-80 by 0-60 inches. 



222 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE HIMALAYAN GREENFINCH 
HYPACANTHIS SPINOIDES (Vigors) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : A broad line over the 
eye, some markings on the sides of the face, an indistinct collar 
round the neck, the rump and the whole lower plumage bright 
yellow ; remainder of upper plumage greenish-brown mixed 'with 
black and darkest on the head ; wings dark brown, variegated with 
yellow, black and a little white ; tail dark brown, all but the two 
central pairs of feathers largely mixed with yellow increasing externally. 

The female resembles the male, but is slightly duller with less 
yellow in the wing-coverts. 




FIG. 31 Himalayan Greenfinch (i nat. size) 

Iris brown ; bill fleshy-horn, tipped dusky ; legs brownish-flesh. 

The beak is conical, sharp and pointed. 

Field Identification. Himalayan species ; usually gregarious when 
breeding and gathering into flocks in winter ; recognisable in the 
field by the pleasant twittering note, the habit of flying high in the 
air, and the yellow under parts, eye-streak and wing-markings. 

Distribution. A Himalayan species, found throughout the whole 
of that range. It breeds commonly but locally at heights from 
4000 to 9000 feet, and occasionally higher to 11,000 feet, and in 
winter it wanders down into the foot-hills and the plains at their 
base. On the west it is common in winter in the Peshawar Valley, 
and even appears in the Afghan Hills down to the Samana. On 
the east it has been found in Manipur, and is replaced by a darker 
race in the Shan States and Yunnan. 

The well-known Goldfinch, conspicuous with its crimson face 
and golden wing-bar, is common in the Western Himalayas, Kashmir, 



THE HIMALAYAN GREENFINCH 223 

and Baluchistan, coming down to the North-west Frontier Province 
and Northern Punjab in winter. It lacks the black head marking of 
the English species and belongs to the Asiatic species Carduelis 
caniceps. 

Habits, etc. The Himalayan Greenfinch avoids heavy deciduous 
forest, and while breeding prefers to frequent patches of open 
deodar forest on hill-sides in the neighbourhood of cultivation. 
Several pairs breed more or less together in such suitable localities. 
Out of the breeding season the birds collect into flocks, often of 
some size, and these flocks wander about the lower hills in a very 
erratic manner, so that no regular calendar of their movements can 
be worked out* When in flocks they very definitely prefer open 
cultivation studded with trees, and their favourite food is the seed 
of the wild hemp which grows in large patches where buffaloes have 
been kept. They are easily attracted to gardens by planting sunflowers, 
as they are very fond of the seeds of that plant. 

The ordinary call-note is a cheerful twitter, twit-it-it or teh-teh- 
tahy rather reminiscent of the call of the English Goldfinch ; it has 
also a very sweet-toned note, twee-ah. The song, on the other hand 
is more like that of the English Greenfinch, a very amorous sounding 
screeee or treeee-tertrah. The love flight also resembles that of the 
latter bird. I have seen a bird flying past suddenly descend in a 
circle to a tree, with the wings spread and extended high above the 
head and the tail partly open. 

The breeding season is late, compared with most Himalayan 
birds, from July to early October, and this is correlated with curious 
features in the moults of plumage. 

The nest is a neatly-constructed cup of the familiar Linnet type, 
composed of fine grass roots, with a good deal of hair interwoven in 
the interior as lining, and the exterior is often blended with moss to 
assimilate it to its surroundings. It is usually placed in a deodar or 
spruce fir at a considerable height from the ground, and may be in 
a fork or clump of foliage close to the trunk or on the top of a vertical 
bough near its extremity. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. 

The eggs are regular ovals, slightly pointed towards the smaller 
end ; the texture is fine and delicate without gloss. The ground- 
colour is a very delicate pale sea-green, and the only markings are a 
number of fine black spots and specks, usually most numerous towards 
the broad end. 

The eggs measure about 0*70 by 0*52 inches. 



824 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE YELLOW-THROATED SPARROW 
GYMNORHIS XANTHOCOLLIS (Burton) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : The whole upper plumage 
ashy-brown ; wings brown, darker on the quills, with two wing-bars, 
the upper whitish the lower buff, a chestnut patch above the upper 
bar; tail brown, narrowly edged with paler; chin dull white; a 
conspicuous yellow patch on the throat ; remainder of lower plumage 
pale ashy, becoming whitish on the abdomen. 




FIG. 32 Yellow-throated Sparrow (f nat. size) 

The female has a less conspicuous yellow patch on the throat, 
and the chestnut patch on the wings is replaced with rufous-brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black or brown ; legs greyish-plumbeous. 
The beak is rather long, conical and pointed. 

Field Identification. Plains and lower hills. A slim bird, dull in 
plumage, with a chestnut patch on the wing and a bright yellow 
patch on the throat ; arboreal and rather noisy in the summer ; in 
winter collects into flocks which feed on the ground, flying into 
trees when disturbed. 



THE YELLOW-THROATED SPARROW . 225 

Distribution. The Yellow-throated Sparrow extends from Iraq, 
Persia and Afghanistan almost throughout India. It is divided into 
two races. The Persian and Afghan race, G. x. transfuga, distin- 
guished by its pale coloration, extends into Sind and the South- 
western Punjab, while the birds of the remainder of the Punjab are 
somewhat intermediate in character. The typical race is found 
throughout the rest of India down to Travancore, and on the east 
to about Midnapur in Bengal. In the Himalayas and other ranges 
it ascends to about 4500 feet. While resident in the main it is also 
partly migratory. 

Habits, etc. The Yellow-throated Sparrow is a common and 
generally distributed species in all open country, cultivation and 
barren land alike, but it avoids heavy forest, and is not a house 
bird, though it will nest in trees in gardens, and readily use nest- 
boxes placed for the use of bir4s. It is essentially a Tree -Sparrow, 
and spends most of its time in the upper branches of trees, where its 
monotonous chirping note recalls, but is different from, the chirp of 
the Common House-Sparrow. Out of the breeding season it collects 
into large flocks, and these feed on the ground, searching under trees 
fSr their fallen seeds and for the seeds of grasses and weeds. It is 
very fond of the flowers of the wild caper, and its forehead is often 
stained with their pollen. 

It breeds from April to July and is probably double-brooded. 

The nest is usually a mere pad of dry grass thickly lined with 
feathers, but, as with many species that breed in holes, it varies a 
good deal according to its site, and is sometimes quite a pretentious 
structure built neatly of a variety of materials. It is placed in holes 
and hollows of trees, usually at a height of 15 to 20 feet from the 
ground, but sometimes much lower. The old nest-holes of Wood- 
peckers and Parrots are often appropriated. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. They are moderately 
elongated ovals, rather dull and glossless in texture. The ground- 
colour is greenish-white, very thickly streaked, smudged and 
blotched all over with very dingy brown of a tint between sepia and 
chocolate. 

In size they average about 0-74 by 0-55 inches. 



226 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



THE HOUSE-SPARROW 

PASSER DOMESTICUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Top of head ashy-grey, 
bordered from above the eye with chestnut which gradually encroaches 
until the whole hind neck, back and shoulders are chestnut streaked 
with black ; rump ashy-grey ; wings variegated chestnut and dark 
brown with two conspicuous pale bars ; tail dark brown edged paler ; 
a patch from the beak to the eye and a broad patch from the chin to 
the upper breast black ; cheeks and remainder of the lower plumage 
white, tinged with ashy on the flanks. 

In fresh autumn plumage the colours are somewhat obscured by 
ashy fringes to the feathers, but these gradually wear off. 

Female : A pale rufous-white streak over the eye ; upper plumage 
pale earthy-brown, streaked with black and rufous on the upper 
back ; wings dark brown, variegated with rufous and with two 
whitish bars ; tail dark brown edged paler ; whole lower plumage 
ashy- white. 

Iris brown ; bill brown, black in the male in summer ; legs 
brown. 

The bill is short and stout. 

Field Identification. Well known to everyone and almost universal, 
but it may be noted that the Indian bird differs from the European in 
the white cheeks of the male. 

Distribution. As is well known, the House-Sparrow is very widely 
spread through Europe, Northern Africa and the greater part of Asia ; 
it has also been introduced into America and Australia, and many other 
places. 

It is divided into a number of sub-species, of which we are 
concerned with two : P. d. griseigularis is the large, brightly-coloured 
breeding bird of the Inner Himalayas and Tibetan areas from 5000 
to 15,000 feet. It is partly migratory, and large numbers visit the 
plains of North-western India in winter. P. d. indicus is smaller and 
from its haunts often a dirty looking bird. This race is found through- 
out India to Ceylon, Assam, and Burma. The birds of the Outer 
Himalayas are intermediate between the two races. 

In the stations of Quetta and Darjeeling the Tree-Sparrow 
(Passer montanus) is common about houses. It is distinguished 
by the black spot in the middle of the white cheeks and the fact 
that the female doeS^npt differ from the male. 

Habits, etc. There can be no bird that is more universally 
known and recognised than the House-Sparrow. It avoids heavy 
forest, but is otherwise found everywhere, sometimes scarce but more 



THE HOUSE-SPARROW 227 

usually abundant, dependent only on food-supply : and its food- 
supply is generally connected in some way with man, on whom it 
has virtually become a parasite. The larger and more prosperous a 
city or village the more the Sparrow flourishes, and in the open shops 
and houses of the East it is only considered less of a pest than rats 
and mice, because it is less offensive to eye and nose. In the food 
shops it pilfers every variety of grain and cake, pattering over the 
floors, delving into the dishes and sacks, ejected one moment and 
returning again the next with undiminished ardour. In private 
houses it comes in more for shelter than for food, searching for 
nesting places in the rafters and on the walls, littering the whole place 
with a selection of the varied assortment of rubbish that in its eyes 
is the most suitable nesting material possible. And in private 
houses, having more leisure and inclination for song, it makes a 
further nuisance of itself with the noisy and incessant chirruping 
which serves it for that purpose. For the breeding note is a rather 
shrill chissicky differing but little from the ordinary tchirp of 
daily life. 

But, like all true townsmen, the Sparrow likes an occasional 
holiday in the country, and it times its holidays to coincide with the 
opportunities of visiting ripening corn or fruit in huge flocks which 
often do a considerable amount of damage. But in fairness credit 
must also be given for the considerable number of insect pests which 
are certainly destroyed by the Sparrow, who feeds its callow chicks 
to a large extent on insects and caterpillars. 

Nests may be found in any month in India, and more than one 
brood is certainly reared in the year ; but the main breeding season 
is apparently from April to June. 

The nest is a large, shapeless structure, based on an oval and 
domed plan with an entrance on one side, stuffed into any sort of 
hole or cavity available, provided that it has some connection wkh 
the works of man. Trees are on the whole seldom used in India. 
Grass, straw, rags, wool, and any other materials available are used 
in the construction of the nest, and the egg chamber is thickly lined 
with feathers. 

The clutch usually consists of four or five eggs. They are rather 
elongated ovals, fine in texture with a slight gloss. The colour is 
very variable, and the eggs in one clutch often vary amongst them- 
selves, one egg usually being much lighter than the rest. The 
ground-colour is greyish- or greenish-white, generally finely and 
uniformly spotted with dark and light shades of ashy-grey and brown. 
In some eggs these markings are replaced by big blotches and spots. 

In size they average about O'8o by 0-50 inches. 



228 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE CINNAMON SPARROW 
PASSER RUTILANS (Tcmminck) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Upper plumage and 
lesser wing-coverts bright cinnamon-rufous, streaked with black on 
the back ; wings black edged with rufous and fulvous and \\ith a 
white wing-bar ; tail brown with narrow greenish margins ; a small 
black patch from the bill to the eye ; a patch behind the eye pale 
yellowish-white ; chin and throat black, with a bright yellow patch 
on each side of the throat ; lower plumage greyish-yellow, growing 
yellower towards the tail. 

Female : Whole upper plumage ruddy-brown, streaked on the 
back with black and fulvous and reddish on the rump ; wings and 
tail dark brown edged with fulvous, a white bar across the wing ; a 
broad conspicuous fulvous line above the eye, with a broad dusky 
band through the eye ; lower plumage pale ashy-yellow. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill brown, black in male in summer ; legs 
dark reddish-brown. 

Field Identification. Himalayan species, common about hill 
stations ; smaller than the House- Sparrow ; male easily distinguished 
by cinnamon-red upper plumage and yellow lower plumage, female 
by the broad conspicuous pale band above the eye. 

Distribution. The Cinnamon Sparrow is a widely-spread species 
occurring throughout the Himalayas and farther eastwards to China, 
Japan and Formosa. It is divided into races, of which P. r. cinna- 
momeus breeds along the Himalayas from Chitral and Hazara to 
Kumaon and is replaced in the Eastern Himalayas by the larger 
P. r. schaferi and in Assam, Burma and Yunnan by the darker 
P. r. intensior. In the Himalayas it breeds at elevations between 
4000 and 8000 feet, and in winter collects into a lower zone along 
the foot-hills, on the east coming right down into the Duars. 

Immense flocks of dark Sparrow-like birds are often found swinging 
along the open hill-sides of the Inner Himalayas, both east and west, 
and feeding on the ground. These are usually Stoliczka's Mountain- 
Finch (Fringillauda nemoricola). 

Habits, etc. The pretty little Cinnamon Sparrow is really a 
forest Sparrow, though it lives mostly in oak and rhododendron 
forest in the near vicinity of houses and often frequents gardens. 
In winter it collects into large flocks which move down into the 
cultivation in the foot-hills and feed on the ground, picking up stray 
grains of rice and corn in the deserted fields, and flying up when 
disturbed into neighbouring trees. These flocks are often of con- 
siderable size. The call-note and pretence of a song are very similar 



THE CINNAMON SPARROW 229 

to those of the House- Sparrow, but they are distinguishable in tone 
and slightly more melodious. 

The breeding season is from April to August, and probably two 
broods are reared. The nest is a large, loose structure of dry grass, 
lined warmly with feathers, and it is usually built in holes in trees 
at no very great elevation from the ground. Some nests are built 
under the eaves of houses and in verandahs and old Swallows' nests. 

The clutch consists usually of four eggs, but five and six are 
sometimes laid. 

The egg is a moderately elongated oval, fine in texture and with 
a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white, with a greyish or greenish 
tinge, speckled, spotted, streaked, and blotched with various shades of 
brown, sometimes thinly with a tendency for the markings to collect 
at the broad end, at other times closely and thickly over the whole 
surface of the egg, almost concealing the ground-colour. 

The egg measures about 0*75 by 0-55 inches. 



THE WHITE-CAPPED BUNTING 

EMBERIZA STEWARTI Blyth 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : The top of the head and 
the ear-coverts pale grey ; a broad black line over the eye ; chin and 
upper throat black, produced down the sides of the lower throat 
which with the fore-neck is white ; sides of the head streaked with 
fulvous and rufous ; upper plumage chestnut, the concealed portions 
of the wings dark brown ; tail brown margined with rufous, the two 
outer pairs of feathers white ; a broad gorget over the breast chestnut ; 
remainder of lower plumage pale fulvous. 

In fresh autumn plumage the colours are obscured with dull 
fringes to the feathers but these gradually wear off revealing the 
colours. 

Female : Upper plumage ashy-brown streaked with blackish 
except on the sides of the face ; a patch above the base of the tail 
chestnut with blackish feather-shafts ; wings brown, the feathers 
edged with fulvous ; tail brown margined with rufous, the two outer 
pairs of feathers almost entirely white ; lower plumage pale fulvous 
streaked with brown. 

Iris brown ; bill brown, paler below ; legs pinkish-fleshy. 

Bill conical and sharply pointed, the edges of the two mandibles 
not completely in contact. 

Field Identification. Western Himalayas, extending to North-west 
India in winter; a quiet, unobtrusive little bird, often in parties in 

P2 



230 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

bushes and trees ; male, chestnut above with a chestnut band across 
the breast, greyish-white top to the head and blackish face markings ; 
female, dull-brown streaked darker ; in both sexes the flash of white 
feathers at the edge of the tail is conspicuous. 

Distribution. Breeds in Turkestan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, 
Kashmir, and the Western Himalayas as far as West Nepal, at heights 
from 4000 to 10,000 feet. From September to April it moves down 
into the foot-hills and extends into the plains of the Punjab .and 
Western United Provinces, Rajputana and Central India. 

A smaller and duller species resident in the Peninsula is the 
Striolated Bunting (Emberiza striolatd), which is found, usually in 
dry stony hills, in North-west India as far as Etawah, Saugor, and 
Cutch. It is a brownish-looking bird with a grey head, streaked 
with black. 

Habits, etc. This Bunting is somewhat local in its distribution, 
but when and where it occurs it is usually very numerous, avoiding 
thick forest and barren plains and preferring scrub-jungle on the 
edges of cultivation. It feeds mostly on the ground, collecting 
minute seeds, and except in the breeding season is generally found 
in loose scattered flocks, which when disturbed fly up and take 
refuge in the trees. When not feeding the flocks sit stolidly in trees 
and bushes. The call-note is a twitter, rather like that of a Linnet, 
and the breeding song is of the usual dull, reeling note of the genus. 

The breeding season in our area is from May to July. 

The nest is a cup composed of roots, dry grass, and fibres, and is 
situated in a hollow in the face of a bank or rock, generally fairly 
well screened with hanging grass. The clutch varies from three to 
five eggs. 

The egg is a short, broad, regular oval, fine in texture but with 
only a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white, mottled and clouded 
all over with pale purple-grey or slaty-grey, and superimposed are 
a few small dark brown spots. 

The egg measures about 0-78 by 0-59 inches. 



THE MEADOW-BUNTING 
EMBERIZA CIA Linnaeus 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Head, throat and 
upper breast pale bluish-grey, marked with two broad black lines 
along the crown, a black line through the eye, and one passing from 
the base of the beak below the ear-coverts and circling behind them 
up to the crown ; remainder of body plumage chestnut-brown, on 




THE MEADOW-BUNTING 231 

the back darker and streaked with black ; wings blackish-brown, 
the feathers edged with rufous and chestnut ; tail blackish-brown, 
the central feathers edged with chestnut, the three outer pairs with 
conspicuous white tips. 

In fresh autumn plumage the colours are obscured by pale fringes 
to the feathers which gradually wear 
off. 

Iris dark brown ; bill plumbeous- 
slate darker above ; legs fleshy-yellow. 

Beak conical and sharply pointed, 
the edges of the two mandibles not 
completely in contact. 

Field Identification. North-western 
India. A chestnut-brown bird with FIG. 33 Head of Meadow - 
a pale head, conspicuously lined with Bunting (nat. size) 

black, which shows a white flicker in 

the tail as it moves ; usually feeding on the ground, and abundant 
in open country round all hill stations of the Western Himalayas. 

Distribution. The Meadow-Bunting has a wide range through 
Southern Europe, North-western Africa, Transcaspia, the Himalayas, 
Northern China, and Eastern Siberia, and has in consequence been 
divided into a number of geographical races. E. c. stracheyi breeds 
throughout the Western Himalayas from 4000 to 11,000 feet from 
the Hazara country and Gilgit to about Kumaon. It is a resident 
species, though it undergoes a certain amount of seasonal elevational 
movement. Numbers of Meadow-Buntings appear in winter on the 
northern and western parts of the Punjab ; they, however, belong to 
a paler race, E. c. par, which breeds from Transcaspia to Chitral. 

Habits, etc. In the Western Himalayas this strikingly-marked 
little Bunting is one of the commonest birds. It avoids thick forest 
and is found on all the more open hill-sides in cultivation and grass- 
land alike, searching the ground and herbage for seeds and insects, 
or creeping about the roads and paths, where its tameness contrives 
to bring it into universal notice. It is very partial to the more 
open patches of deodar forest, isolated on otherwise bare hill-sides. 
Although almost entirely a ground-feeder, it flies up into the trees 
when disturbed, and its note, a slow, melancholy squeak, is one of the 
most familiar sounds of the Western Himalayas. The song is very 
poor, a mere jangle of odd notes and squeaks, uttered either from a 
tree or on the ground. 

The breeding season is very extended, lasting from April to 
September, and two or three broods are probably reared. 

The nest is a rather large but loosely built cup of dry grass, bents, 
roots, and similar materials, lined with fine roots and hair. It is 
usually placed on the ground under a large stone or in herbage at 



232 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

the foot of a bush or bank or between the rough stone blocks of the 
terrace walls of hill cultivation ; but occasionally it is built in the 
thick foliage of a tree, 2 or 3 feet from the ground. 

The clutch consists of three to five eggs, but the normal number 
is probably three. The egg is a moderately elongated oval, close 
and delicate in texture with very little gloss. The ground-colour 
is pale greenish-white, grey, or pale stone-colour. The markings 
consist of the most delicate and intricate tracery of blackish-brown 
lines drawn over faint and pale inky-purple streaks and marbling. 
These markings tend to be confined as a cap or zone to the broad 
end of the egg. Here and there a dark spot, like a fly caught in a 
spider's web, is seen amongst the network of lines, which are so 
characteristic of the eggs of the Bunting family, and are familiar to 
all through the English Yellow-hammer. 

The egg measures about 0-83 by 0-63 inches. 



THE BLACK-HEADED BUNTING 
EMBERIZA MELANOCEPHALA Scopoli 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male : Top and sides of the 
head black ; a yellowish collar on the hind neck connected with 
the deep yellow of the entire lower plumage ; remainder of upper 
plumage and lesser wing-coverts deep orange-chestnut ; the upper 
tail-coverts brown ; wings and tail dark brown edged with ashy- 
fulvous. 

In fresh autumn plumage the colours are much obscured with 
dark fringes to the feathers which gradually wear off. 

Female : Upper plumage fulvous-brown streaked with dark 
brown ; wings and tail dark brown edged with fulvous ; entire lower 
plumage delicate fulvous, washed with ochraceous on the breast and 
becoming yellow towards the tail. 

Iris dark brown ; bill pale greenish-horn, browner above ; legs 
fleshy-brown. 

The bill is conical and pointed and the edges of the mandibles 
do not entirely meet. 

Field Identification. Winter visitor to the plains in flocks, often 
particularly abundant. Females are streaked brown birds ; males 
are chestnut above, yellow below, with black heads ; yellow is the 
dominant impression given by the flocks which are usually found in 
crops, flying up into trees when disturbed, 

Distribution. This bird breeds in South-eastern Europe, Asia 
Minor, Palestine, Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, and Persia, but not 
within our limits, where it is only a winter visitor. It crosses to and 



THE BLACK-HEADED BUNTING 233 

from India by a route over the western boundary of Sind, passing 
through Sind in August and September and again in March and 
April ; thence it spreads into the plains generally as far east as Delhi, 
Nagpur and Chanda, and as far south as Belgaum. 

The Red-headed Bunting (Emberiza bruniceps) is another species 
with much yellow in the plumage, the males being distinguished by 
a chestnut head. It is also found in flocks as a winter visitor to the 
greater part of India. The wide breeding range includes Baluchistan. 

Habits, etc. As we know it in India, this Bunting appears in 
very large flocks, sometimes in company with the allied Red-headed 
Bunting. It affects cultivation and scrub-jungle and feeds chiefly on 
grain and seeds. 

On the spring passage vast clouds of these birds may be seen in 
the ripening crops ; on being flushed they fly into the nearest tree, 
making it appear a yellow mass, and it is noteworthy that these 
flocks then consist almost entirely of males. These flocks are very 
bold and are only driven with difficulty from a field where they have 
decided to feed, and owing to their numbers they can be responsible 
for a good deal of damage. In the autumn they also do a certain 
amount of damage to jowar and similar crops, but on that passage 
they are not usually so noticeable. 

The breeding season is about May in Western Asia and South- 
eastern Europe. The nest is a cup of straw and grass lined with 
hair and roots and it is usually placed in a vine, a bush or a small 
tree. The clutch consists of four to six eggs, and these are pale 
greenish-blue, spotted throughout with ashy-brown and grey, but 
mostly towards the broad end. 

They measure about 0*87 by 0-62 inches. 



THE CRESTED BUNTING 

MELOPHUS LATHAMI (Gray) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Male : Entire plumage including 
a pointed crest black, except the wing, tail and thighs which are 
chestnut, some of the feathers being tipped with black. 

In fresh autumn plumage the feathers have ashy fringes which 
gradually wear off. 

Female : Crest less conspicuous ; upper plumage dark brown, 
the feathers edged paler; wings and tail dark brown much marked 
with cinnamon ; lower plumage dull buff streaked and mottled on 
the throat and breast with dark brown and growing more rufous 
under the tail. 



234 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 




Iris dark brown ; bill blackish, fleshy at lower base ; legs fleshy- 
brown, toes darker. 

Field Identification. A solitary bird, found about bushes on rocky 
hill-sides ; conspicuous pointed crest ; male black with chestnut 
wings and tail; female much paler, brownish with cinnamon-tinged 
wings and tail. 

Distribution. The Crested Bunting 
is found along the Outer Himalayas 
from Hazara to Bhutan, at elevations 
up to 5000 or 6000 feet. In the 
plains it is found from the Koochawan 
Hills and Mount Aboo across to Ben- 
gal and as far south as Mahableshwar 
and Satara. Farther east it extends 
to Assam, portions of Burma and to 
China. It is, however, very local and 
capricious in its distribution, and is 
locally migratory, Indian birds all 
belong to the race E. I. subcristata. 

Habits, etc. The Crested Bunting 
is in the main a solitary bird, though 
occasionally it collects into small 
parties of four or five individuals. 
It avoids both bare plains and forests 
and is essentially a bird of rocky hills or of open cultivation on the 
hill-sides, where stony ground and low scrub-jungle provide fairly 
undisturbed resorts for it. It feeds on the ground at all times of the 
day collecting small grass seeds, but perches and sings on the tops of 
bushes. When old buildings and walls are found in the locality it is 
very partial to them, perching on them and seldom moving far away. 

In demeanour the Crested Bunting is a vivacious, lively, bold 
little bird, usually carrying the crest erect. On the ground and 
walking its attitude is very Peacock-like. The head and breast are 
held very upright, while the tail, which seems to trail behind, is 
rather expanded. It has a pretty, little simple call, but the song of 
the male is rather monotonous, one or two notes only, constantly 
repeated. 

The nests are rather variable ; some are loosely constructed, 
shallow saucers made of grass roots without lining ; others are neat 
cups of grass and moss, lined with fine grass, fibres, and the roots 
of moss and ferns or horse-hair. They are placed in holes in banks, 
in walls, under rocks, or in heavy herbage on the ground. 
The clutch consists of three or four eggs. 

The egg is a rather broad oval, usually blunter towards the small 
end ; there is very little gloss. The ground-colour varies from 



FIG. 34 Head of Crested 
Bunting ( j-J nat.^size) 



THE CRESTED BUNTING 235 

pale greenish- white to pale stone-colour ; the markings consist of 
spots, freckles and blotches of red, brown and purple, usually most 
dense about the broad end. These eggs entirely lack the fine hair- 
lines and scroll-like writing so characteristic of the eggs of the true 
Buntings. 

The egg measures about 0-79 by 0-63 inches. 



THE INDIAN SAND-MARTIN 

RlPARIA PALUDICOLA (Vicillot) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage greyish-brown, most of the feathers margined paler ; wings 
and tail darker brown ; lower plumage pale grey, growing whitish 
towards the tail. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs dark brown. 

The bill is very weak and flat, with a broad gape, the wings long 
and pointed and the tail slightly forked. 

Field Identification. Common plains Swallow, incessantly flying 
about sandy banks of water-channels in which its nest-tunnels are 
excavated. Highly gregarious, small and plain, dull brownish, paler 
below. 

Distribution. India, Assam and Burma and eastwards to Southern 
China, Formosa and the Philippines. It is found throughout the 
greater part of India from about the Central Punjab and the Indus 
valley in Sind on the west, and the Himalayan foot-hills on the north, 
down to the Bombay Presidency, the Deccan and Cuttack. While 
not strictly migratory it moves about a good deal locally. The Indian 
race is R. p. brevicaudata. It must be carefully distinguished from 
the Common Sand-Martin (Riparia riparia), which has the under 
parts white with a well-defined brown collar across the breast and a 
small tuft of feathers on the back of the tarsus above the hind toe. 
This has two races in India. R. r. indica breeds in the North-west 
Frontier Province and the North-western Punjab, while R. r. diluta y 
which breeds in Western Siberia, visits North-western India down 
to Sind in winter. 

Habits, etc. The Sand-Martin is extremely gregarious in its 
habits, spending its whole life in flocks whether in or out of the 
breeding season. It is amongst the earliest of breeding birds in 
India, nesting generally from November to February, though in 
some localities birds will be found at the nest-holes as late as May. 
The colonies nest in sandy cliffs and banks, generally choosing those 
in the vicinity of running water, though occasionally they occupy 
banks over ponds or in dry nullahs. They feed almost invariably 



236 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

in the vicinity of water and spend the greater part of their lives 
hawking insects, high or low in the air according to circumstances, 
over the surface of swiftly-flowing rivers or the placid waters of 
jheels and tanks. When not at the breeding colonies they roost 
in reed-beds and are early astir in the mists of dawn, flitting hither 
and thither like phantom moths and welcoming the day with their 
loud hard squeaks. They have no objection to the presence of man, 
and hawk freely over and about the houses of water-side villages ; 
while a forest fire with its wholesale dispersal of insect life is sufficient 
to draw them from their usual haunts, in company with other insecti- 
vorous birds to share the feast. The alarm-note is a harsh ret and 
the song is a chattering twitter, not so agreeable as that of most other 
Martins and Swallows. 

The nest is a slight pad of grass lined with feathers. It is placed 
in a chamber at the end of a narrow tunnel, a foot or two long, which 
is excavated by the bird itself in a sandy bank, numbers of nest- 
holes being situated together in colonies. The clutch varies from 
three to five eggs. 

The egg is a slightly elongated oval, rather pointed towards the 
smaller end ; the texture is fine and delicate and there is no gloss. 
The colour is pure white, without markings. 

In size the egg averages about 0-68 by 0-48 inches. 



THE DUSKY CRAG-MARTIN 
RIPARIA CONCOLOR (Sykes) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage, 
wings and tail dark sooty-brown, a white spot on the inner web of 
all the tail-feathers except the central and outermost pairs ; cheeks, 
chin, throat and fore-neck rufescent streaked with brown, remainder 
of lower plumage rufescent grading into sooty-brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs brown. 

The bill is very weak and flat, with a broad gape, the wings long 
and pointed, and the tail slightly forked. 

Field Identification. Plains species, generally in twos and threes 
about houses. Distinguish from Sand-Martin by larger size, much 
darker colour, and by the row of white spots on the tail ; also by the 
difference in nesting habits. 

Distribution. This is a purely Indian and Burmese species, 
the typical race extending from the foot of the Himalayas down to 
the Nilgiris. On the west it is found very locally about Kohat and 
Bannu and in the South-eastern Punjab, and it occurs in Rajputana 



THE DUSKY CRAG-MARTIN 237 

though not in Sind. On the east it extends to Behar and Chanda. 
It is a resident species. 

This species may be easily confused with the larger Crag-Martin 
(Riparia rupestris) which breeds in the Himalayas and is fairly common 
in winter in the hills of Western India from Mount Aboo to the Palnis. 

Habits, etc, Although generally distributed and familiar enough 
from its habit of breeding in towns, this little Martin is never very 
abundant and does not gather into the immense flocks in which others 
of the family may at times be found. A few may be seen wherever a 
range of cliffs or the ancient ruins of forts or mosques provide a shady 
lee in which they sail backwards and forwards in a very leisurely 
manner. Usually two or three will be found together, and as they 
hawk about they call to each other a soft, melodious chit-chit-chit, 
uttered rapidly. In some of the older towns they nest on the houses 
and then may be seen in the streets hawking above the heads of 
passers-by, though usually they prefer places that are not much 
frequented by mankind. 

The breeding season is extended, lasting from January to October 
according to locality ; two broods are reared. 

The nest is a semicircular cup composed of pellets of mud, and 
coming down into a well-defined point beneath. It is applied by 
the side to a perpendicular surface of wall or rock, but usually in 
sheltered positions in a niche or under a ledge in a cliff, or under 
balconies and eaves of houses. The nest is lined first with soft 
flowering grasses and fragments of straw and then with feathers. 
The nests are never built in colonies, though chance may cause two 
or three pairs to occupy any suitable site. 

The eggs are rather elongated ovals, sometimes rather pointed 
towards the small end. The texture is fine and fragile with a slight 
gloss. The ground-colour is white, and they are all more or less 
thickly speckled and spotted, and sometimes blotched, with different 
shades of yellowish- and reddish-brown. These markings tend to 
collect towards the broad end. 

In size the eggs average about 0-72 by 0-52 inches. 



THE WIRE-TAILED SWALLOW 
HIRUNDO SMITHII Leach 

Description. Length 5 inches, with a lengthened wire-like shaft 
to the outer pair of tail-feathers 7 inches extra. Sexes alike, except 
that the wire is shorter in the female. Top of the head bright chestnut ; 
sides of the head and neck and the whole upper plumage glossy 
steel-blue, concealed portions of the wings and tail dark brown ; all the 



238 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

tail-feathers except the two central pairs with a white spot on the 
inner web ; lower plumage white. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Bill weak with a broad gape ; wings long and pointed. 

Field Identification. PJains and lower hills ; invariably near 
water. A dark steel-blue swallow, with chestnut cap and white under 
parts. At a close range the wires in the tail afford easy identification, 
but at a distance it may be recognised from any other swallow by the 
pure shining white of the lower surface and wing lining. 

Distribution. The Wire-tailed Swallow is divided into two races ; 
one is purely African and is found in various parts of that continent. 
H. s. filifera, the Indian race, is widely spread, ranging from the 
Himalayas where it is found up to 5000 feet south to Mysore and 
the Nilgiris. On the west it ranges to the North-west Frontier Province 




FIG. 35 Wire-tailed Swallow (f nat. size) 

and Sind. On the east it is found as far as Bengal, reappearing again 
in Pegu and Tenasserim. In the main a resident bird, it is also 
migratory in many areas. 

The familiar Swallow of Europe (Hirundo rustled) breeds along 
the Himalayas, in very great numbers in Kashmir, and occurs through- 
out India in winter. The combination of the long forked tail, absence 
of a pale rump band, the red throat patch and dark gorget and the 
warm creamy flush to the white under parts allow of easy identification. 

Habits, etc. The Wire-tailed Swallow is essentially a bird of 
the neighbourhood of water. In particular it is fond of the great 
canals of Northern India, skimming over their surface with its long 
tail-wires conspicuous and its bright colours flashing in the sun. 
Where canals are not available it frequents the neighbourhood of 
rivers, streams and jheels, and also is partial to rice fields ; but in 
heavy forest, in desert areas, and over wide cultivated plains it will not 
be found. 



THE WIRE-TAILED SWALLOW 239 

This species never collects or breeds in colonies, though family 
parties are seen in the breeding season, and on migration a few join 
the flocks of other migrating Swallows and Martins. The twittering 
note and short sweet song are very similar to those of other Swallows. 
This species perches very freely on telegraph-wires and the parapets 
of bridges and wells, but it does not as a rule perch on trees, and only 
descends to the ground to gather mud for its nest. 

Long after they are able to fly the young are fed in the air by the 
old birds, parent and youngster circling round and round, and then 
with a complacent twitter clinging together for an instant during 
which the mouthful of insects is transferred. 

The breeding season is very prolonged and two broods are reared ; 
most eggs will be found from March to August, the time varying 
with the locality, but eggs have been found in every month of the 
year except December. 

The nest is a rather shallow cup composed of mud pellets, 
fastened at one side to a slanting or perpendicular surface of wall 
or rock. It is lined with feathers. The situation chosen may be 
under a bridge or culvert, under shelves of rock, or in the arches 
and under the roofs of buildings. If not immediately over water, 
where it is very often within a foot or two of the surface, it is always 
in its near vicinity, and nests have been recorded even down inside 
wells. Most of the building is done by the female, the male accompany- 
ing her but not as a rule carrying any mud. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. In shape they are a 
long narrow oval, rather pointed at the smaller end. The texture is 
fine and delicate with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white 
and the markings consist of speckles, spots and blotches of reddish- 
brown and brownish-red ; there is the usual tendency for the markings 
to collect towards the broad end. 

The eggs measure about 0*72 by 0-53 inches. 



THE CLIFF-SWALLOW 
HIRUNDO FLUVICOLA Jerdon 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
dull chestnut with black shaft-streaks ; a broad line through the eye 
dull brown ; back and shoulders glossy steel-blue ; wings, tail and 
rump dull brown ; entire lower plumage white, more or less tinged 
with fulvous and streaked with brown, except on the abdomen. 

Iris brown ; bill black ; legs dark brown. 

The tail is very slightly forked ; bill weak with a broad gape ; 
wings long and pointed. 

Field Identification. Plains species, highly gregarious, nesting in 



240 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

colonies near water and building immense clusters of mud nests. 
Very similar in size, shape and demeanour to Sand-Martins (with 
which it often flies), but distinguished by the chestnut cap and blue- 
black back. 

Distribution. A purely Indian species. It is found through a 
considerable portion of India, from Rawal Pindi and the foot-hills 
of the Himalayas (up to 2500 feet) in the north to Coimbatore in the 
south. On the west its boundary is not accurately known, but it is 
not found in Bind or the South-western Punjab ; it extends to the east 
as far as Gonda, Mirzapur and the Wardha Valley. A local migrant. 

Another small species, the Nilgiri Swallow (Hirundo javanica), 
with steel-blue upper parts, chestnut throat and grey below, is a 
common resident in the higher hill ranges of South-western India. 
It is very familiar about dwellings and builds the ordinary cup type of 
mud nest. 

Habits, etc. This is one of the purely social Swallows, spending 
all its life both in and out of the breeding season in big flocks which 
never separate. It is somewhat local and erratic in its distribution, 
but within its range it abounds wherever there is water, in combination 
with cliffs or masonry against which it can plaster its huge nest colonies. 

The flocks usually hawk about in the near vicinity of water, often 
in company with Sand-Martins, which in flight they somewhat 
resemble. On the wing the birds sing very often, the feeble twittering 
song typical of the family. They drink a good deal, sweeping down 
and taking mouthfuls from the surface of the water, and the newly- 
fledged young are fed on the wing. 

This species is double-brooded, nesting from February to April, 
and again in July and August. The nest is made of tiny pellets of 
clay which the birds collect from the ground with their beaks, and it 
consists of a small circular chamber entered through a short tubular 
mouth. This entrance tube is not applied to the surface against 
which the nest is constructed, after the fashion of the Striated Swallows, 
but it sticks out from the side of the nest into the air free of attach- 
ment. Numbers of nests are built together in a cluster, and with 
their tubular mouths they present rather a peculiar appearance, some- 
what like a honeycomb in which each cell is a separate nest. A colony 
may consist of any number of nests, from twenty to about six hundred, 
so that in the areas which it inhabits this Swallow is often very abundant. 
The nests are lined with dry grass and feathers. 

The favourite site for one of the colonies is on the face of over- 
hanging cliffs or beneath the arches of masonry bridges ; but 
perpendicular sites, like the walls of buildings, are not despised, and 
the bird appears to be indifferent whether the colony is in a secluded 
lonely spot or in a busy thoroughfare ; but the close vicinity of water 
is essential. 



THE CLIFF-SWALLOW 241 

The clutch consists normally of three eggs, but four are sometimes 
found. 

The egg is variable in shape but is normally a long oval, pointed 
towards the smaller end. The texture is fine and delicate, with a 
slight gloss. The ground-colour is pure white, some eggs being 
unmarked, others being slightly mottled, speckled or clouded with 
pale yellowish- or reddish-brown. These markings tend to congregate 
at the broad end. 

The eggs measure about 0-76 by 0-53 inches. 



THE RED-RUMPED SWALLOW 
HIRUNDO DAURICA Linnseus 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
glossy steel-blue, except the rump which is chestnut ; concealed 
portions of wings and tail dark brown, an indistinct white patch on 
the inner web of the outermost tail-feather ; sides of the head mixed 
rufous and brown, the ear-coverts and a more or less distinct collar 
round the neck chestnut ; the whole lower plumage pale rufous finely 
streaked with brown. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

The bill is weak and small with a wide gape ; wings long and 
pointed ; tail deeply forked. 

Field Identification. Rather more deliberate in flight than the 
other true Swallows, and the tail appears differently shaped owing to 
the different angle of the fork ; seen from above the chestnut rump 
is unmistakable, and from below the uniformly striated under parts. 

Distribution. The Red-rumped, Striated or Mosque Swallows 
are a widely-spread group which occur from Southern Europe and 
Africa to China, and in this great range are divided into a number 
of races. Within our area we are concerned with four : H. d. erythro- 
pygia breeds throughout the plains of India from about 4000 feet 
along the Outer Himalayas down into the Nilgiris ; on the west it 
extends to Cutch, the Punjab and the North-west Frontier Province 
(though not apparently to Sind) ; and on the east to about Calcutta. 
In the Himalayas it is replaced by H. d. nipalensis as a breeding bird ; 
to the west this form breeds in a higher zone from 4000 to about 9000 
feet ; to the east it replaces H. d. erythropygia even in the foot-hills. 
This race is rather larger, with a more deeply-forked tail, the rump 
patch is paler in colour, and the under parts are more heavily striated. 
A third form, H. d. scullii, like the last in colour but smaller, comes 
into our area as a breeding bird in Kashmir, Gilgit and the Afghan 
and Baluchistan borders. H. d. japonica, breeding in Manchuria, 
China and Japan, appears in India as a winter visitor. All races are 

Q 



24* 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



to some extent migratory, and in winter all will be found in similar 
localities in the plains, but their movements require working out. 

Habits, etc. Like other members of the family these Swallows 
are chiefly remarkable for their nesting habits. During the breeding 
season they are found in pairs which frequent the neighbourhood of 
buildings and therefore of man, and from their tameness attract his 
attention. On migration and during the winter they collect into 
small parties or into flocks numbering up to 200 or 300 individuals. 
They spend the greater part of the hours of daylight on the* wing, 
flying backwards and forwards over a self-appointed beat, hawking 
insects on the wing, occasionally resting on telegraph-wires and more 




FIG. 36 Red-rumped Swallow (J nat. size) 

rarely on trees and buildings. The flight is slower and more deliberate 
than that of the English Swallow and the note is rather different, a 
plaintive pin. The nest is a remarkable structure of fine mud pellets 
collected by the birds, a mouthful at a time, from the edges of puddles, 
and it takes several weeks to build ; it is usually described as " retort- 
shaped," and is always built under rocks or culverts or bridges or 
under the ceilings of houses and verandahs ; a narrow tubular passage, 
like a white ant gallery on a large scale, some 2 inches in diameter and 
from 4 to 10 inches in length, runs along the under surface of the rock 
or roof and enters a round hemispherical chamber also applied to the 
under surface of the site and with no other entrance than the passage. 
The whole affair is rather large for the size of the birds, and the egg- 
chamber is sparingly lined with pieces of dry grass and feathers. The 
same site is used year after year, though the actual nest is usually 
destroyed by the elements. 



PLATE XII 




Rufous-fronted Wren-Warbler. 2. Lesser Whitethroat. 3. Chiffchaff. 
4. Large Crowned Willow- Wren. 5. Indian Wren- Warbler. 

6. Brown Hill- Warbler. (All about nat. size.) 

[Face p. 242 



THE RED-RUMPED SWALLOW 243 

The breeding season lasts from April to August, but July is the 
month in which most eggs will be found ; probably because a structure 
of dry mud would be more likely to give way under the influence of 
the dry heat before the rains commence. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs though four may be 
found. They are long, oval in shape, slightly compressed towards 
one end, with shells of exquisite fineness and with a very slight gloss. 
The colour is pure unmarked white. 

They average about 0-78 by 0-55 inches. 



THE WHITE WAGTAIL 

MOTACILLA ALBA Linnams 
(Plate xiv, Fig. 6, opposite page 286) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Male in winter plumage : A 
patch on the back of the head roughly connected with a crescentic 
gorget on the breast black ; remainder of head and lower plumage 
white, tinged with ashy on the flanks ; upper plumage ashy-grey ; 
wings black, the feathers broadly margined with grey and white ; 
tail black, the two outer pairs of feathers largely white. 

In summer plumage from the chin to the breast is black. 

The female is duller and less distinctly marked. 

The above description applies to the adult winter male of M. a. 
dukhunensiSj but the species is very variable in its plumage according 
to age and season, as are the other races, and the identification of these 
Wagtails is a matter of much study. A rough guide to Indian birds is 
given below. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. The White Wagtails are small, dainty birds 
of black, white and grey plumage, which walk about on the ground, 
usually in parties, incessantly wagging their long tails up and down ; 
partial to the neighbourhood of water, wading in shallow portions of it. 

Distribution. The White Wagtail is a very widely-spread species, 
breeding in various forms almost throughout Europe, North-western 
Africa and Northern Asia. The dark resident form of the British 
Isles is known under the familiar name of the Pied Wagtail. Four of 
these races are found commonly in various parts of India. The only 
one of these four that breeds with us is M. a. alboides, which is the 
common breeding Wagtail of Kashmir, parts of the higher Himalayas 
and Southern Tibet. In the winter it moves down into the foot-hills 
from Kashmir to Assam and also Burma. M. a. personata breeds in 
Turkestan, Gilgit, Afghanistan and Eastern Persia, and is common in 
the plains of India in winter, extending to Belgaum in the south and 



244 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Calcutta in the east. It commences to arrive in August and September 
and departs in April and May. 

M. a. dukhunensis is the West Siberian breeding race whose 
range extends west to the Caucasus, Volga and Urals. It arrives 
about September and October and leaves again in April and May, 
having spread meanwhile throughout the whole of the plains down 
to Travancore. 

M. a. leucopsis breeds in Eastern Siberia and China, and in winter 
visits the eastern side of India to about Nepal and Mirzapur on the 
west and also Assam and Burma. 

The four races of White Wagtail that occur in India afford a 
curious case of parallelism ; they may be divided into two sections 
by the colour of the ear-coverts and sides of the neck, and in each of 
these sections in full breeding plumage one form has the back grey 
and the other black. All four races of White Wagtail can easily be 
distinguished from the Large Pied Wagtail by their white foreheads, 
the black on the head extending to the base of the beak in the latter 
species, which also has a different series of moults and plumages. 

M. a. dukhunensis and M. a. leucopsis both have the ear-coverts 
and sides of the neck white. In the former bird the back is grey 
and in the latter black in breeding plumage. 

M. a. personata and M. a. alboides have the ear-coverts and sides 
of the neck black. In breeding plumage here also the first form is 
grey on the back and the latter black. 

In all four races the back normally becomes grey in winter plumage, 
though usually a few black feathers remain in the black-backed forms 
to indicate the type of summer plumage. M. a. leucopsis and M. a. 
dukhunensis may then, however, be separated by the greater wing- 
coverts, which have their outer webs entirely white in the former 
and merely margined with white in the latter. M. a. personata and 
M. a. alboides have no distinguishing mark in the absence of black 
feathers on the back. There is, however, a great deal of variation in the 
plumage of Wagtails in India in winter, and considerable study is 
required before individuals can be correctly identified. 

Habits, etc. In winter the habits of all four races of White Wagtail 
are very similar, and indeed two or three races may often be found 
associating together. The White Wagtail is a sociable bird, usually 
occurring in parties which collect together into large flocks about the 
migration periods and often associate with other species. They occa- 
sionally perch in trees or on buildings, but most of their time is spent 
feeding on the ground, preferably in damp places or actually about the 
margins of water, into which they wade freely. Forest country is 
avoided, and in very dry localities they are comparatively scarce. 
Where possible they roost in reed beds anjl at suitable places very 
large numbers of White Wagtails, Yellow Wagtails, and Yellow-headed 



THE WHITE WAGTAIL 245 

Wagtails collect together at night. The most marked characteristic is 
indicated by the name ; as the bird runs about for it never hops the 
long tail is incessantly wagged up and down. The flight also is very 
characteristic in long, dipping curves, and on the wing the call-note 
chiz-zit is constantly uttered. The song is a pleasant but poor 
performance. 

Our only breeding race builds in Kashmir from May to July, a 
cup-nest on or near the ground, in hollows under stones or in heaps 
of drift wood. The nest is composed of dry grasses, roots, bents, and 
similar rubbish, and the cup is lined with hair. The clutch consists of 
four or five eggs. 

The egg is a rather broad oval, pointed towards the small end, 
fine in texture with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is greyish- 
white, speckled and spotted finely and closely, with pale brown and 
brownish-grey. There is a tendency for the markings to be thicker at 
the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-78 to 0*62 inches. 



THE LARGE PIED WAGTAIL 

MOTACILLA MADERASPATENSIS Gmelin 

Description. Length 9 inches. Adult male : A broad white 
streak over the eye from the nostril to behind the ear ; head, upper 
breast and entire upper plumage black ; wings black, the quills finely 
edged with white, and a broad tapering white patch running the 
whole length of the folded wing ; tail black, the two outer pairs of 
feathers largely white ; remainder of lower plumage white, tinged 
with ashy on the flanks. The female resembles the male, but the 
black is not so pure in tone being usually mixed with ashy-brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs black. 

Field Identification. Found singly or in small family parties by 
water, walking about on the ground and wagging the long tail. Rather 
larger and darker than the White Wagtails, and has the black of the 
forehead extending to the beak and enclosing a white eye streak. 
The only species of Wagtail that breeds in India south of the Himalayas. 

Distribution. Confined to India and Ceylon. This Wagtail 
occurs throughout India from the North-west Frontier Province 
and Sind (where it is rare) to the Duars and Western Bengal, and 
from the Outer Himalayas, which it ascends to 5000 feet, to Cape 
Comorin ; in the Nilgiris it is found at all elevations in the neighbour- 
hood of water. It avoids the low country of Bengal proper. A purely 
resident species. 

Habits, etc. This Wagtail is found solitary, in pairs or in family 
parties, in the neighbourhood of water, provided that it be running 

Q2 



246 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

water or ponds or tanks. In ordinary marshy ground, beloved of the 
Yellow Wagtails, it is not usually found. It feeds along the edges of 
the water, searching for insects, the long tail incessantly wagging up 
and down as the bird trips along. It perches freely on rocks and 
buildings, but practically never settles on trees. It is curiously partial 
to the clumsy ferry-boats that ply on the larger Indian rivers, and not 
only perches and voyages on them, but on occasion even nests in them. 
The flight of this and other Wagtails is rather distinctive, jerky ,^ with 
an incessant rise and fall in the air in a series of undulating curves ; 
and they share with the Larks and Pipits the distinction of being the 
smallest birds that walk and run on the ground as opposed to hopping 
like Robins and Sparrows. The call-note is a loud chiz-zit^ chiefly 
uttered in flight, and there is a short musical song. 

The breeding season is from March to May, but eggs have been 
found in December and January on the Cauvery. 

The nesting habits of this species are very variable ; it will nest in 
any sort of hole provided that it is close to water, though it occasionally 
stretches this definition to include the drainage holes on roofs. In 
such places it either lays its eggs on bare earth in the .bottom of the 
hole, or makes the very scantiest of nests consisting of a few blades 
of grass, or a tolerably well-made cup of all sorts of varied materials, 
grass, hair, wool, tow, roots, fibres, string and the like. In fact, 
Hume's description of it as an irregularly-minded bird is the only 
just way of describing its nesting habits. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs, though three or five are 
sometimes laid. The eggs, too, are variable, either long or broad ovals 
in shape, rather pointed towards the smaller end. The ground-colour 
varies from pale brownish to greenish-white. The markings are clouds, 
smudges, streaks, spots and specks of brown of various shades in every 
possible combination. 

In size the egg measures about 0-9 by 0-65 inches. 



THE GREY WAGTAIL 

MOTACILLA CINEREA Tunstall 

Description. Length 8 inches. Male and female in winter 
plumage : The upper plumage bluish-grey tinged with green ; a patch 
at the base of the tail yellowish-green ; a dull whitish line over the 
eye ; wings dark brown, edged with yellowish -white ; tail black, 
margined with greenish, the three outer pairs of feathers almost 
entirely white ; chin, throat and fore-neck white ; remainder of lower 
plumage yellow, growing brighter towards the tail. 

In summer plumage in the male the chin, throat and fore-neck 



THE GREY WAGTAIL 247 

become black, bordered with a broad white moustachial streak, and 
with white tips to the black feathers. 

In the summer plumage of the female the yellow is less brilliant 
than in the male, and a variable mixture of black, white and dull 
yellow take the place of the black patch of the male. 

Iris brown ; bill horn-colour, paler at the lower base ; legs fleshy- 
brown. 

Field Identification. A solitary bird, generally about water. 
Differs from all the other Wagtails in the comparatively longer and 
more slender tail and in the blue-grey colour of the upper parts. In 
flight the long tail and sulphur-yellow belly and under tail-coverts 
are conspicuous. 

Distribution. The Grey Wagtail is widely distributed, chiefly 
about mountain streams, in Europe and Northern Asia, migrating 
southwards to Africa and Southern Asia in winter. It is divided into 
races, of which only one concerns us. 

This Eastern race (M. c. melanope) breeds from the Yenesei across 
Siberia to the Pacific and south to the Himalayas. In winter it spreads 
throughout the plains of India to Ceylon, and eastwards to Malaysia. 

Habits, etc. During the breeding season in the Himalayas the 
Grey Wagtail is essentially a bird of the mountain streams and rivers 
where they flow with considerable strength through boulder-strewn 
beds. In winter when it appears in India from August until April, it 
is seldom able to discover these conditions, and then has to be content 
with tripping about the margins of a variety of tamer waters, and 
even with feeding on roads and other waterless places. It is a solitary 
species, and does not gather into flocks like the other Wagtails. 
The call-note is a rather shrill tzit-zee, which is chiefly uttered on 
the wing as the bird takes to flight and flies swiftly away low over the 
ground, rising and falling in buoyant curves and exhibiting conspicuous 
glimpses of the sulphur-yellow of the lower plumage. The tail-wagging 
of the genus is most pronounced in this species owing to the compara- 
tively greater length of tail. 

The breeding season in the Himalayas is in May and June. 

The nest is a neat cup of grasses, bents and various roots and fibres, 
thickly lined with hair. It is built on the ground under boulders in 
river-beds, or amongst stones and herbage at the edge of streams. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. 

The egg is a broad oval, rather compressed and pointed towards 
the smaller end, with a fine hard texture but little gloss. The ground- 
colour is yellowish or brownish-white, closely mottled and clouded all 
over with pale yellowish-brown and brownish-yellow, with a very 
uniform effect. A black twisted hair-line or two is generally present 
about the broad end. 

The egg measures about 0-70 by 0-54 inches. 



248 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE YELLOW WAGTAIL 
MOTACILLA FLAVA Linnaeus 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male in fresh winter plumage : 
Top of the head bluish-grey, the feathers tipped with olive ; upper 
plumage dull olive-brownish, wings dark brown, edged with fulvous ; 
tail black, narrowly edged with olivaceous, the two outer pairs of 
feathers white ; a broad band on the sides of the head dark slaty- 
blackish ; the whole lower plumage yellow sullied about the breast. 
In a few individuals there are traces of a white line over the eye. 

Male in fresh summer plumage : Top of the head dark slaty-grey ; 
upper plumage yellowish-green ; wings and tail as in winter but with 
the feather edges of the wings decidedly yellowish ; a broad band on 
the sides of the head black ; the whole lower plumage bright yellow. 
Traces of a narrow white line over the eye are sometimes visible. 

Female : Resembles the male, but has the head green and upper 
parts dark olive-brown, greenish-olive on the rump, the yellow of the 
lower plumage paler and more sullied on the breast, and the band on 
the sides of the head duller and browner ; a fulvous line over the eye 
is generally present. 

This description applies to typical specimens of the race M. f. 
thunbergi. Race, age and sex cause great variation in the plumages 
of this species which needs expert study. 

Iris brown ; bill blackish-brown, paler at base of lower mandible ; 
legs dark horn. 

Field Identification. Plains except in the summer ; typical Wag- 
tails found in mixed flocks containing two or three forms, of which a 
small proportion are in bright adult plumage, greenish above yellow 
below, while the majority are in dull nondescript plumages ; always 
feeding on the ground in damp grassy spots, active and wagging their 
tails. 

Distribution. In the Yellow Wagtails we have a most difficult 
group of birds ; the adult males may be distinguished with a certain 
amount of ease, but females and young birds are exceedingly hard to 
discriminate, and the whole group needs a great deal of study before 
one can claim to know even a little about them. Here it is possible 
only to indicate the outlines of the subject. 

Formerly it was the custom to treat the various forms of Yellow 
Wagtail as separate species. More recently various groupings have 
been adopted, but here I prefer to treat them as geographical races 
of one widely-distributed species which breeds throughout the greater 
part of Europe and the Mediterranean countries and Northern Asia, 
and migrates southward in winter. 



THE YELLOW WAGTAIL 249 

No race breeds in India, but we are concerned with the following 
three forms as common winter visitors : 

Syke's Yellow Wagtail (M. /. beemd) breeds in West Siberia. 
Winters in India, south to Belgaum and the Cumbum Valley and 
east to Calcutta. 

The Grey-headed Yellow Wagtail (M. /. thunbergi) breeds in 
North Scandinavia, Russia and Siberia ; migrates through Europe 
to Africa and to every portion of India, Ceylon and Burma. 

The Eastern Black-headed Wagtail (M. /. melanogrisea) breeds 
in Turkestan and winters in India south to Belgaum and east to 
Benares. 

The following key will serve to indicate the salient differences in 
the adult males of the three races in summer plumage : 

M. f. beema. Crown paler grey ; cheeks white ; a broad and 

distinct white superciliary streak over the eye. 
M. f. thunbergi. Crown dark slaty-grey ; cheeks blackish ; 

superciliary streak very indistinct or absent. 
M. f. melanogrisea. Crown black ; cheeks and ear-coverts 
deep black ; superciliary streak very indistinct or absent. 

Care must, however, be taken not to confuse the Yellow Wagtails 
with the three races of the Yellow-headed Wagtail (Motacilla citreold) 
that also appear in India in winter, and of which one race breeds 
commonly in the Himalayas. The adult males of this species have 
the entire head bright yellow, and at all ages and seasons the Yellow- 
headed Wagtails may be distinguished from the Yellow Wagtails by a 
broad yellow superciliary streak and by a certain amount of yellow on 
the forehead. 

An olive-brown Wagtail with two black bands across the breast, 
which wags its tail from side to side, not up and down, is the Forest 
Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus), found chiefly in North-east India, 
Assam, Burma, and Southern India. 

Habits, etc. The Yellow Wagtails, as we know them in winter, 
are birds of marked and typical habit. They commence to arrive in 
Northern India at the end of August and pass through on passage 
until about October ; they start to return to Northern India about 
February and have left again by the end of April. Farther south of 
course their status varies proportionately. 

They are found in flocks mingled irrespective of race, and spend 
their days feeding on the ground in open grassy places, preferably 
damp in character, or about the edges of jheels or in the pastures 
that surround the larger rivers. They are very partial to the neighbour- 
hood of droves of cattle, feeding all round the legs of the grazing animals, 
no doubt finding that their presence attracts or disturbs a varied 
insect life. In suitable places very large numbers collect, and morning 
and evening they flight in a most conspicuous manner, travelling at a 



250 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

moderate height above the ground with the dipping flight and shrill 
chiz-zit calls which are common to all Wagtails. They roost at night in 
reed-beds, and suitable places are used by immense congregations of 
the various forms of Yellow Wagtails, Yellow-headed Wagtails and 
White Wagtails. 

In their northern quarters the Yellow Wagtails breed about June, 
building a well-concealed nest of grasses and bents with a thick lining 
of hair. It is placed on the ground in thick vegetation in low-lying, 
damp ground or cultivation. 

The eggs vary from four to seven in number, and are rather 
broad ovals, pointed towards the small end, with a fine texture and 
little gloss. They are ochraceous-grey or brown in colour, so finely 
speckled as to be almost uniform, and generally exhibit one or two 
black hair streaks. 

In size the eggs average about 0-75 by 0-55 inches. 



THE INDIAN TREE-PIPIT 
ANTIIUS HODGSONI Richmond 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage brown with a greenish tinge, the feathers streaked or centred 
with blackish except on the rump ; wing dark brown, margined with 
fulvous ; tail dark brown, the two outer pairs of feathers tipped 
diagonally with white ; a broad streak over the eye fulvous, growing 
white posteriorly ; lower plumage pale fulvous, the whole breast and 
sides of the throat boldly streaked with black ; flanks washed with 
olivaceous and faintly streaked. 

Iris dark brown ; bill dark brown, base of lower mandible fleshy ; 
legs flesh-colour. 

In summer the greenish tinge wears off, and the eye streak becomes 
white. 

Field Identification. A small brown bird, whitish below, streaked 
with blackish above and about the breast ; found in parties feeding 
on the ground in shady spots and flying up into the trees when dis- 
turbed ; has a faint plaintive note and wags the shortish tail after the 
fashion of a Wagtail, only more slowly. 

Distribution. This Pipit breeds in Siberia, Northern China, and 
Japan, and on the higher Himalayas about 7000 to 12,000 feet. In 
winter it migrates southwards to Southern Japan, Southern China, 
Cochin-China, and India. At that season it is found in India through- 
out the greater portion of the plains, occurring as far west as Rajputana 
and Guzerat, and in the foot-hills of the Himalayas to Dharamsala. 



THE INDIAN TREE-PIPIT 251 

Southwards it extends to the Palni Hills. Himalayan breeding birds 
are heavily streaked and belong to the race A. h. berezowskii. Most 
birds found in winter in the Peninsula belong to the lightly streaked 
typical form. 

The closely-allied Tree-Pipit (Anthus trivialis) which lacks the 
greenish tinge on the upper parts and has a less conspicuous eye- 
stripe fulvous throughout, is a winter visitor practically throughout 
India. It breeds in Europe and Northern Asia, including the higher 
ranges of the Western Himalayas. 

Hodgson's Pipit (Anthus roseatus) which breeds at high elevations 
in the Himalayas and winters in Northern India and Assam, is rather 
similar to these two Pipits but may be recognised from them and all 
other Indian forms by the primrose-yellow under wing-coverts. In 
breeding plumage the throat and breast become vinaceous. 

Habits, etc. In winter this Pipit is found in small parties which 
frequent fairly open country with plenty of shady trees ; they are 
partial to gardens, groves of mango trees and similar situations, and 
feed quietly on the ground in sparse herbage, collecting small insects 
and the seeds of grass and weeds. When disturbed they fly up into 
the nearest tree with a short plaintive call and wait quietly there until 
the coast is clear for them to resume their feeding. When in trees 
they walk about on the boughs in a manner unusual amongst small 
passerine birds, and have a habit of swaying their tails up and down, 
after the fashion of a Wagtail. The flight is rather slow and dipping, 
similar to that of the latter bird. In the breeding season the male 
has a fine song, Lark-like in character, rather than the usual wheezy 
Pipit song. It is uttered as the bird flies into the air and then volplanes 
with wings and tail outspread down to the ground or to the topmost 
twig of a tree. 

The breeding season in the Himalayas is from May to July. The 
nest is a shallow cup composed of moss and dry grass, lined with 
fine dry grass-stems and a few hairs, and it is placed in a hollow in 
the ground, in the shelter of a tuft of foliage or a creeping plant, such 
as Cotoneaster. It is built either on an Alpine pasture above the limits 
of tree-level, or in open grassy glades in the midst of the higher 
mountain forests. The bird is very shy at the nest and is then observed 
with difficulty, either disappearing into the forests or rising into the 
air in a series of jerky flights. When flushed off the nest it sometimes 
flutters down the hill-side as if wounded. 

The clutch consists of four eggs. The egg is a slightly elongated 
oval, rather pointed towards the small end ; the texture is fine with 
a slight gloss. In colour the eggs are closely speckled with dingy 
rather purplish-brown, so closely and evenly marked that no ground- 
colour is visible. 

They measure about 0-90 by 0-65 inches. 



asa POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE INDIAN PIPIT 

ANTHUS RUFULUS Vieillot 
(PTate XIV, Fig. i, opposite page 286) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
fulvous-brown, the feathers centred with blackish-brown ; a fulvous 
streak over the eye ; wings dark brown margined with fulvous ; tail 
dark brown, the outermost feather almost entirely white, the next to 
it with an oblique white tip ; lower plumage pale fulvous, darker on 
the flanks, the sides of the throat and fore-neck and the whole breast 
streaked with dark brown. 

Iris brown ; bill brown, base of lower mandible yellow ; legs 
flesh-colour. 

The claw of the hind toe is long and slender, longer than the toe 
itself. 

Field Identification. A small brown bird, pale fulvous below and 
streaked on the breast, which runs about on the ground, rising with 
a plaintive note and a flash of white in the tail, to settle again but a 
short distance away. Distinguished from the Tree-Pipits by the long 
hind claw and the fact that it does not settle in trees. It must, however, 
be remembered that several species of Pipit are locally common in 
India, and their identification is a matter of considerable knowledge 
and experience. 

Distribution. This Pipit occurs throughout practically the whole 
of India, Burma and Ceylon, breeding in the plains and also in suitable 
places in the Himalayas and other ranges up to about 5000 feet. 
Farther east it extends to Siam, Lombok and Timor. In the main it is 
a resident species though it performs certain local migrations. There 
are several races. The typical race is found throughout the greater 
part of India, being replaced in the Punjab and Sind by the pale 
A. r. waitei and in the south-west and Ceylon by the darker A. r. 
malayensis. 

Practice is required to tell this species from the Tawny Pipit 
(Anthus campestris), a winter visitor to most of India except the extreme 
south. It is slightly larger, more sandy in colour, and when adult 
unspotted on the breast. 

There are two very large Pipits (length 8 inches) in India, easily 
separated by the length of the hind claw. The Brown Rock Pipit 
(Anthus similis) breeds in the Western Himalayas, Baluchistan, the 
Salt Range, the Western Ghats and the Nilgiris. It has a short hind 
claw. Richard's Pipit (Anthus richardi) with a long hind claw is a 
winter visitor to India, most common in Bengal and the Madras 
Presidency. 



THE INDIAN PIPIT 253 

Habits, etc. This Pipit is essentially a bird of cultivation with 
low crops and of grass-land ; it is particularly partial to the stretches 
of sandy soil with closely-grazed grass which are found about the 
margins of jheels and in the dry beds of the larger rivers. Here it 
runs and feeds on the turf, rising when disturbed with the slightly 
plaintive note which is typical of the genus. It is usually found in 
pairs, which are jealous of their respective territories, driving away 
birds of the same species and possible enemies such as Shrikes. 

This Pipit perches freely on bushes and tufts of grass, but usually 
only when breeding ; it does not settle on trees. In the breeding 
display the male rises in the air in one ascending succession of dipping 
curves, uttering all the time a jangling, rather Bunting-like song ; 
arrived at the highest point in the air he then falls to earth again, 
in an abrupt curve, with stiff, partly extended wings. When disturbed 
suddenly from the nest the female flutters along the ground as if 
wounded, a habit common to most of the Pipits. 

The breeding season extends from March to July and two broods 
are apparently raised. The nest is placed on the ground under or 
in the midst of tufts of grass ; it is usually cup-shaped, but in some 
examples there is a slight dome. It is composed of dry shreds and 
blades of coarse grass, or fine dry roots, with a slight lining of fine 
pieces of root and grass with a few hairs. 

Three or four eggs are laid, but the former number is more common. 

The eggs are moderately broad and rather perfect ovals, scarcely 
pointed at all towards the small end ; they are hard in texture with 
a slight gloss. In colour they are brownish- or greenish-stone colour, 
thickly streaked, clouded, and spotted with dull brownish- or purplish- 
red, with brown of different shades and pale purplish-grey. These 
markings often tend to form a cap at the broad end, and altogether 
there is a good deal of variation in shape and colour between different 
clutches. 

They measure about 0-8 by 0-6 inches in size. 



THE LITTLE SKYLARK 

ALAUDA GULGULA Franklin 
(Plate xv, Fig. 5, opposite page 286) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage, 
including a short indistinct crest, brown with darker centres and 
tawny margins to the feathers ; a pale fulvous streak over the eye ; 
wings dark brown, the feathers margined with rufous ; tail dark 
brown, margined with rufous, the two outer pairs of feathers largely 



254 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

pale buff ; lower plumage pale buff, washed with fulvous on the sides 
and breast, the throat spotted and the chest streaked with brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill and legs yellowish-brown. 

The hind claw is very long and straight. 

Field Identification. A streaked brown bird, huffish-white below 
and with pale buff edges to the tail which become conspicuous in 
flight. Feeds and settles on the ground in open country, but sings 
in a characteristic soaring flight. Distinguished from the Pipits by 
the heavier build, short crest, the more crouching gait, and the fact 
that when approached it squats instead of running. 

Distribution. The Little Skylark is found throughout a large 
area of Southern Asia from Turkestan eastwards to Siam and Cochin- 
China and southwards to Ceylon and Tenasserim. It is divided 
into several races distinguished by size and depth of coloration, and 
these are sometimes treated as races of the well-known Skylark of 
Europe (Alauda arvensis), of which one race, A. a. intermedia, arrives 
in North-western India in winter in large numbers. It appears, 
however, better to keep the two species separate. We are concerned 
with several races of the smaller bird which vary in small details of 
size and tint. The Turkestan race, A. g. inconspicua, just comes into 
our area in Baluchistan. A. g. lhamarum is the breeding bird of the 
higher Himalayas from Kashmir to Sikkim, at heights from 5000 to 
14,000 feet, wandering in winter in flocks down to the foot-hills. A. g. 
weigoldi breeds at high elevations in Bhutan and S, Tibet. A. g. 
punjaubi is the pale bird of the Punjab and the United Provinces as 
far east as Moghulserai and Dinapur. A. g. australis is the large and 
dark bird of the Nilgiris, Cochin and Travancore, whilst the typical 
race occupies the rest of Eastern, Central and Southern India and also 
Ceylon. 

The flocks of Skylarks (A. a. intermedia) which arrive in winter 
may be distinguished by the larger size and more pointed wing, 
the 5th primary falling short of the tip of the wing by over 5 millimetres. 

Habits, etc. The Skylark is a bird of open country, dwelling 
almost exclusively in cultivation or on grazing lands contiguous to 
it. In such localities it lives and feeds on the ground, picking up 
seeds and insects and fallen grains of all the cultivated cereals. On 
the ground it is quite inconspicuous, both owing to its protectively 
coloured plumage and to its habit of preferring to squat instead of 
running when approached. It squats as long as possible ; then 
suddenly springs into life with a liquid bubbling chirrup, and flies 
low over the ground with a fluttering undulating flight, only mounting 
high into the air if it proposes to travel far. 

In spring the n^ales have a well-sustained though rather monotonous 
song, into which the imitations of other birds' calls are introduced. 
When singing the bird mounts to a great height in the air, almost 



THE LITTLE SKYLARK . 255 

vertically, with the head to the wind and the wings fanning rapidly ; 
having attained its pitch it remains there for a long time, keeping 
roughly in the same place ; it starts to descend in the same fashion as 
it rose, but when it is some 25 yards or so from the ground the song 
ceases, and the bird falls rapidly with the wings held stiffly open. The 
song is also occasionally uttered on the ground. 

The breeding season is from March to July, and even later till 
November in the Southern Indian race. Two broods are reared. 

The nest is placed on the ground in a shallow depression scratched 
by the birds themselves, sheltered by a clod of earth, a tuft of grass 
or a small stunted bush. It is a shallow cup of dry grass, usually lined 
with finer grasses. Three to five eggs are laid. 

The egg is a moderately broad oval, rather pointed towards the 
smaller end, with a fine silky texture and a slight gloss. The ground- 
colour is greyish- or yellowish-white, concealed almost entirely by the 
markings which are fine spots and f recklings of pale yellowish-brown, 
purplish-brown or very pale inky-purple. 

In size the eggs measure about 0-83 by 0-62 inches. 



THE SHORT-TOED LARK 

CALANDRELLA BRACHY DACTYL A (Leisler) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
pale greyish mealy-buff, the feathers streaked with blackish-brown ; 
wings dark brown edged with fulvous ; tail dark brown edged with 
fulvous, the two outer pairs of feathers partly very pale buff ; a buff 
streak over the eye ; lower plumage dull whitish, washed with brown 
on the breast which is sometimes streaked ; a half-concealed blackish 
spot on each side of the breast. 

Iris brown ; bill dark horny-brown, fleshy below ; legs brownish- 
flesh-colour. 

Field Identification. Winter visitor in large flocks to the plains 
of India, feeding in stubbles and open barren country ; a small sandy- 
coloured Lark with a dull semi-concealed dark spot on each side of its 
breast in place of the usual streakings. 

Distribution. The Short-toed Lark is a widely distributed bird in 
Europe, Northern Africa and Asia, and is divided into a number of 
races, the identification and distribution of which are a matter of 
considerable difficulty. The differences are based on small details 
of colour, tint and measurement. Two forms are found amongst 
the hordes which appear as winter visitors in India. C. b. longipennis, 
the grey-tinted breeding bird of Eastern Central Asia, is found in the 
north-west of India down to a line roughly between Bombay and 



256 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Kumaon ; while to the south-east of that line down to about Belgaum 
and into Assam a more rufous bird (C. b. dukhunensis) appears. 

A very closely allied species (Calandrella acutirostris) also appears 
locally in India in winter. This may be distinguished without difficulty 
from the forms of C. brachydactyla by an examination of the tip of 
the wing, as it has the first four long primaries equal, whereas in 
C. brachydactyla the fourth long primary is considerably shorter than 
the first three which are equal. 

A third and smaller species of Short-toed Lark, the Sand-Lark 
(Calandrella raytal), with two races is found as a resident in India. 
This is most easily distinguished by the fact that it spends its whole 
life about the sand-banks of the larger rivers, running about near the 
edge of the water. 

Habits, etc. The Short-toed Lark is only a winter visitor to India, 
arriving about September and leaving in April. Numerically it must 
be very abundant, as it is found in flocks often of large size, and these 
flocks are common in open country, feeding both in stubbles and 
on waste ground generally, even on that of the most strictly desert 
character. The food consists of small seeds, but insects are also 
eaten. These birds never perch except on the ground, where owing 
to their small size and protective coloration they are practically invis- 
ible ; when approached the birds of a flock rise irregularly, a dozen 
or two at a time, and when all are in the air they join into a compact 
flock which flies with a peculiarly free and swinging motion. The 
call-note is low and rather harsh. This is one of the birds that is 
eaten in India under the name of Ortolan, a species which itself is 
never found amongst the great numbers of birds that figure on the 
table in India under its name. 

The breeding habits of the Short-toed Lark in its more northern 
home are similar to those of other Larks ; a small cup of dry grass 
lined with wool and hair is placed in a slight depression of the ground. 
The eggs vary from three to five ; the ground-colour is yellowish- 
or brownish-white, finely freckled and spotted with brownish- and 
ashy-grey spots. 

The egg measures about 0-75 by 0-55 inches. 



THE BENGAL BUSH-LARK 
MIRAFRA ASSAMICA McClelland 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dark ashy-brown streaked with blackish except on the rump ; wings 
dark brown, the coverts margined with pale ashy and the quills with 
much chestnut on both webs ; tail brown margined with ashy rufous, 



THE BENGAL BUSH-LARK 257 

the two outer pairs of feathers largely edged with pale rufous ; sides 
of the head mixed fulvous and brown ; chin and throat pale fulvous- 
white ; remainder of lower plumage darker fulvous, the breast coarsely 
streaked with triangular brown marks. 

Iris yellowish-brown ; bill dusky, fleshy-white below ; legs fleshy- 
white. 

Field Identification. Plains bird, found in open country feeding 
on the ground and perching often on bushes. Dark ashy-brown 
above, fulvous below with much chestnut in the flight-feathers. 
Distinguish from the Red-winged Bush-Lark by its rather heavier 
build and darker, more ashy upper parts. 

Distribution. This species of Bush-Lark is found throughout 
the north-eastern part of the Indian Peninsula north and east of a 
line drawn roughly from Ambala district to Cuttack, extending through 
Bengal into Assam and thence into parts of Burma. A permanent 
resident with no races. 

The Singing Bush-Lark (Mirafra javanicd) may be recognised 
from all other Indian Bush-Larks by having the inner web of the 
outer tail-feather largely white. It is a curiously local bird, restricted 
in places even to particular fields, but its general distribution includes 
almost the whole of India, except the Lower Punjab, Sind, Western 
Rajputana and parts of the Madras Presidency. 

Habits, etc. This Lark is found in the better watered and fairly 
well-wooded tracts of its range, frequenting open plains and cultivated 
fields and often being seen on the roads. It feeds on the ground, 
collecting small seeds and insects, but perches freely on bushes and 
small trees, and like the rest of its genus has a breeding flight in which 
the rather weak song is uttered. 

The breeding season is in May and June. 

The nest is a loose, flimsy pad of grass and roots, as a rule too 
loosely constructed to be removed undamaged ; it is placed on the 
ground in a depression overhung by tufts of grass and is usually 
surmounted by a sketchy dome of grass and roots, with the entrance 
hole at one side or at the top. 

The number of eggs varies from two to five. The egg is a moder- 
ately broad oval, fine and delicate in texture with a slight gloss. The 
ground-colour is white, faintly tinged with grey or stone-colour. 
The markings consist of fine freckles and spots of yellowish- or pale 
purplish-brown, with a tendency to collect in a cap or zone about the 
broad end. 

In size they average about 0-83 by 0-6 1 inches. 



258 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



THE RED-WINGED BUSH-LARK 

MlRAFRA ERYTHROPTERA Blyth 
(Plate xi, Fig. 5, opposite page 220) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
fulvous-brown, streaked with blackish-brown ; wings brown, the 
coverts edged with fulvous, and both webs of the quills largely chest- 
nut ; tail blackish-brown, the central pair of feathers pale brown 
margined with fulvous, and the two outer pairs of feathers partly pale 
fulvous ; a pale fulvous streak over the eye ; chin and throat whitish ; 
remainder of lower plumage pale fulvous, with triangular spots of 
blackish-brown on the breast. 

Iris brown ; bill horny-brown, fleshy below ; legs flesh-colour. 

Field Identification. A small unobtrusive Lark found in parties 
on the ground in sandy scrub-covered country broken with cultivation ; 
brown and fulvous in colour with much chestnut in the flight -feathers. 

Distribution. Confined to India. Found throughout the whole 
of India from the outer foot-hills of the Himalayas to about the 
latitude of Nellore and east to the longitude of Calcutta. It is divided 
into two races. A pale race, named M. c. sindianus, is found in Lower 
Sind r in portions of the Punjab, in Jodhpur, and eastwards to Etawah. 
The rest of the range of the species is occupied by the typical race. 
A purely resident bird. 

There is some doubt as to whether the well-known Madras Bush- 
Lark (Mirafra affinis) is not really a race of this species. It is larger 
and darker with less chestnut in the wings. It is found south of a 
line from Orissa through Hyderabad to Belgaum and also in Ceylon 
and in general is extremely common. 

Habits^ etc. This, like other species of Bush-Lark, is somewhat 
patchily distributed, being common in some localities and absent in 
others that appear equally suitable. It is typically a bird of sparse 
desert scrub-jungle, where thorn bushes, light grass and euphorbia 
grow on a sandy soil mixed with outcrops of rock, though it may 
also be found in cultivation. It is usually collected in small parties, 
which feed unobtrusively on the ground, squatting at the approach 
of an intruder and then suddenly springing into flight ; they fly 
fairly fast but with an erratic rather hesitating course, as if unable 
to decide in which direction to proceed, and soon settle again after 
being disturbed. In the breeding season the male has a singing 
flight in the air, parachuting down to settle either on the ground 
or on the top of a euphorbia or other bush. This species often perches 
on telegraph-wires. 

The breeding season is rather irregular, and extends from March 



THE RED-WINGED BUSH-LARK 259 

to October. The nest is a mere pad of grass mixed with a little 
vegetable fibre in the form of a very shallow saucer. It is built on 
the ground in various situations, in depressions on open ground or in 
cover at the base of bushes, and is difficult to find. 

The number of eggs varies from three to five, but the normal 
clutch is four. The egg is of a very perfect oval shape, fine in texture 
with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white tinged with greenish 
or brownish, finely speckled and dotted all over with reddish, brownish 
or purple ; tlie exact tint and density of the markings is very variable 
but their distribution is usually uniform. 

The egg measures about 0-76 by 0-59 inches. 



THE CRESTED LARK 
GALERIDA CRISTATA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage, 
including a sharp-pointed crest, earthy-brown, streaked with blackish ; 
wings brown, the feathers with sandy margins, and the quills with a 
large rufous patch on the inner webs ; tail brown, the feathers edged 
with sandy, the outer pair of feathers largely pale rufous ; a pale 
fulvous streak over the eye ; lower plumage pale fulvous streaked with 
brown on the breast and less distinctly on the flanks. 

Iris light brown ; bill and legs horn-colour. 

Field Identification. A typical sandy-brown Lark found in open 
country in Northern India and easily distinguished by the erect tuft of 
pointed feathers on the head. 

Distribution. A widely-distributed species found throughout the 
greater part of Europe and South-western Russia, in Northern Africa 
and a large extent of Asia. It is divided into over twenty races which 
to some degree are correlated with types of soil. Of these we are 
concerned with two only. G. c. chendoola is the resident bird of India. 
It is found throughout the north-west parts of Continental India, from 
the foot-hills of the Himalayas at about 4000 feet down to the 
Central Provinces and the boundary of Bengal. 

G. c. magnet, the breeding race of Central Asia, East Persia, 
Afghanistan and Baluchistan, is a winter visitor in considerable 
numbers to Sind, and probably other areas of the extreme north- 
west. It is recognisable by its larger size and more sandy colour. 
Two allied species, smaller and more rufous in colour, Sykes' 
Crested* Lark (Galerida deva) and the Malabar Crested Lark (Galerida 
malabarica) are residents in Peninsular India. The former is widely 
distributed from Sambhar and Etawah southwards through Central 
India, the Central Provinces, Bombay Presidency and Hyderabad 



a6o 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



to Mysore. The latter is confined to the west coast from Ahmedabad 
to Travancore and Mysore state. The Malabar Crested Lark is the 
larger and darker of these two species, with the breast more heavily 
streaked and the light parts of the tail much deeper rufous. 

Habits, etc. The Crested Lark is very common in the sand}) 
open plains of North-western India, both in and about cultivation 
and in the more desert areas. It lives and feeds on the ground, and 
likes, in particular, the neighbourhood of rough country tracks % and 
roads where it finds corn and insects about the droppings of passing 
animals. The resident race is usually found in twos and threes, but 
the large Central Asiatic race in 
winter may be found in large 
flocks of up to a hundred in- 
dividuals. The bird is far from 
shy, and on the ground allows a 
very near approach, walking about 
with its crest erected and merely 
flying for a short distance when it 
does rise. The call-note is a 
rather sweet tee-ur. The song is 
short and pleasant, and is uttered 
both on the ground, from the top 
of a bush or during a soaring 
flight. This Lark is frequently 
seen sitting on telegraph-wires. 

The breeding season lasts from 
March to June. The nest is placed on the ground in a depression 
in the shelter of a small plant or by a stone or clod of earth. It is 
a shallow, open cup, composed of dry grass with a lining of wool, 
vegetable fibres or fine grass, and occasionally a few feathers. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs, though four and five 
are occasionally found. The egg is a broad oval, rather pointed 
towards the small end, with a fine texture and slight gloss. The 
ground-colour is greenish- or yellowish-white, speckled, spotted and 
blotched, with various shades of brown and purple ; the markings are 
usually regularly distributed, but they sometimes tend to collect in a 
zone at the broad end. 

They measure about 0*87 by 0*65 inches. 




FIG. 37 Head of Crested Lark 
(^J nat. size) 



THE RUFOUS-TAILED LARK 261 

THE RUFOUS-TAILED LARK 

AMMOMANES PHCENICURA (Franklin) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
dark brown ; wings brown, margined with sandy-brown, much 
rufous on the inner concealed webs of the quills ; tail with its coverts 
deep rufous, a broad black bar across the end ; sides of the head 
mixed rufous and brown with a pale rufous streak over the eye ; entire 
lower plumage rufous, the chin, throat and breast streaked with brown. 

Iris brown ; bill horny-brown, base of lower mandible fleshy ; 
legs fleshy. The bill is thick and slightly curved. 




FIG. 38 Rufous-tailed Lark (J nat. size) 

Field Identification. Plains species ; found in parties on open 
plains ; a brown Lark, rufous below, and easily distinguished from 
all other Larks by the bright rufous tail with a black bar at the end, 

Distribution. This handsome Lark is found in North-western 
Africa, the Cape Verde Islands, East Persia, West Baluchistan, and 
India, being divided into several races. Only the typical race is 
found in India. Its western limit is roughly a line drawn from the 
Rann of Cutch up to Hissar and thence to the Ganges. The northern 
boundary is the Ganges itself to about Dinapur, and south of this 
the bird is found over the whole of the Peninsula down to about 
Coimbatore. It is a resident species but moves about locally. 

The sandy-coloured Desert-Lark (Ammomanes deserti), found in 
other races as far as North-western Africa, is resident in the low 
desert hills of the North-west. It is chiefly remarkable for the habit 
of building a little wall of stones round its nest. 

Habits, etc. The Rufous-tailed Lark finds its favourite haunts in 
open plains, stubbles and ploughed fields, and out of the breeding 
season is usually found in small parties. It normally keeps to the 
ground, where it feeds on seeds and insects, but in the breeding 
season it often perches on a low bush and thence utters its short 
twirling melodious note. It also perches on telegraph-wires. 

R 2 



a6a POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The breeding season lasts from February to April. The nest is 
placed in open fields or plains in a slight depression on the ground, 
either natural or scratched out by the birds themselves, and is sheltered 
generally by a clod, or stone or tuft of foliage. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. The egg is a moderately 
elongated oval, slightly pointed towards the smaller end ; the texture 
is fine and there is a slight gloss. The ground-colour is creamy or 
white tinged with yellowish, freckled and speckled all over with 
yellowish- or reddish-brown and a few secondary markings of pale 
inky-purple ; the markings tend to be most dense at the broad end. 

The eggs measure about 0-85 by 0-62 inches. 



THE ASHY-CROWNED FINCH-LARK 

EREMOPTERYX GRISEA (Scopoli) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Male : Upper plumage pale 
ashy-brown, concealed portions of the wings dark brown ; tail dark 
brown, central pair of feathers light brown, the outermost pair largely 
white ; a large patch over the ears, and the sides of the breast whitish ; 
remainder of the sides of the face and the lower plumage dark chocolate- 
brown. 

Female : Upper plumage and wings and tail dark brown tinged 
with grey and rufous ; the outer pair of tail-feathers largely white ; 
sides of the face and a line over the eye rufous ; lower plumage pale 
rufous. 

Iris brown ; bill bluish-flesh, darker above ; legs brownish-flesh. 

The bill is very short and deep, and curved on the upper surface. 

Field Identification. A small lark, sandy grey-brown in colour, 
with the lower surface dark chocolate-brown in the male. Found in 
flocks in open plains country and often very numerous. To be 
distinguished from the allied species, the Black-crowned Finch-Lark 
(Eremopteryx frontalis) of North-western India, which in the male has 
a black crown and white forehead. 

Distribution. This Lark is a purely Indian species, except that 
it occurs also in Ceylon, being found from the foot of the Himalayas 
to Cape Comorin and from the western borders of Sind and the 
North-west Frontier Province to the longitude of Calcutta. The 
birds of the North-west (Sind, Cutch, Punjab, Rajputana and the 
Western United Provinces), where the annual rainfall is less than 
25 inches, are paler in coloration and have been separated as a race, 
E. g. siccata. The Ceylon race (E. g. ceylonensis) has a heavy bill. 
Throughout its habitat the species appears to be resident. 



THE ASHY-CROWNED FINCH-LARK 363 

Habits, etc. This quaint little aberrant Lark is one of the most 
generally distributed birds of India : it is only found in open country 
away from trees, and though it occurs up to nearly 3000 feet in the 
Salt Range it is, strictly speaking, only a species of the plains. It 
prefers waste ground, fallow fields and semi-desert areas, feeding on 
the minute seeds that litter the ground. Found in pairs with a strictly 
defined territory while breeding, it collects, often, into large flocks 
at other times. On the ground their coloration renders these Larks 
very inconspicuous, and aft observer walking along is often astonished 
at the number which rise one by one around him and then fly away 
in a dense flock from ground which was seemingly empty of life. 




FIG. 39 Ashy-crowned Finch-Lark (J nat. size) 

The breeding season lasts from January to September, and 
apparently two broods are raised. While breeding the males are 
indefatigable songsters, singing both on the ground and in the air, 
in the latter case while the bird is rising and falling in a series of 
deep stoops, keeping over and about the same patch of ground ; 
reaching its highest pitch it closes its wings and falls steeply, to recover 
and mount again while still some height above the ground. Near the 
end of its fall, if the observer is close at hand, a whirr can be heard, 
due to the pressure of the air in the wing-feathers. The song is a 
sweet but monotonous trill, trrreeee, without variation. 

The nest is a slight pad of threads and soft vegetable fibres with 
a few feathers and pieces of fine grass. It is invariably placed on 
the ground either in a slight depression in the open or in the shelter 
of a clod of earth, stone or tuft of grass. 



264 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The clutch consists of two eggs, but three are sometimes found. 
The eggs are moderately elongated ovals, slightly pointed at one end, 
with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is yellowish-, greenish- or 
greyish-white, marked fairly thickly and in a variety of ways with 
various shades of yellowish-brown, earth-brown and grey. 

In size they average about 0*70 by 0*50 inches. 



THE WHITE-EYE 

ZOSTEROPS PALPEBROSA (Temminck) 
(Plate xiii, Fig. i, opposite page 264) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Sexes alike. The whole upper 
plumage greenish golden-yellow, the concealed portions of the wings 
and tail dark brown ; a white ring round the eye, emphasised in 
front and below by a black mark ; chin and throat bright yellow ; 
lower plumage greyish-white ; under tail-coverts yellow. 

Iris yellow-brown ; bill black, bluish-grey on base of lower 
mandible ; legs plumbeous. 

The bill is slender, curved and pointed. 

Field Identification. Plains and hills ; purely arboreal ; very 
abundant. A small, bright yellow bird with greyish-white breast 
and abdomen, liable to be mistaken for a Willow- Wren, but easily 
distinguished by the sharp little curved black beak and the white 
ring round the eye. The constant tseer-tseer note is also distinctive. 

Distribution. The White-Eyes or Zosteropidae are a large family 
of small birds spread over Africa, Southern Asia and Australia. The 
present species has a wide distribution in Asia and is divided into a 
number of races, of which we aVe concerned with four only, which 
differ only in small details of size and tint of coloration. The typical 
form is found from Sikkim and Bhutan eastwards to Assam and 
Yunnan, and southwards to Bengal and probably Orissa and the 
Eastern Central Provinces. Z. p. occidentis is found along the Himalayas 
from the extreme north-west to Nepal, breeding normally up to 8000 
feet and even higher. In the plains it is found as far west as Kohat, 
and from there it extends through the whole of North-western India 
south to Mysore. In Sind it is unknown except for a small isolated 
colony in the mangrove swamps of Karachi. Z. p. nilgiriensis is the 
race found in the Nilgiri and Travancore ranges, while Z. p. salimalii 
is confined to the Eastern Ghats as far north as the Godavari. In the 
main a resident species the White-Eye is also locally migratory. 

HdbitSy etc. The White-Eye is a purely arboreal species which 
practically never descends to the ground. It is found indiscriminately 



THE WHITE-EYE 265 

in all types of country where there is sufficient tree growth, though 
it, perhaps above all, prefers gardens and hill jungles close to cultivation 
where there is a mixture of trees and flowering shrubs, and in conse- 
quence a variety of food ; for it feeds both on insects, weevils, ants, 
and their eggs and larvae, and on vegetable matter, such as small buds, 
seeds and wild fruits. 

Except when separated up into pairs for breeding the White-Eye 
is found in small parties and in flocks, which do not as a rule associate 
with other birds but hunt busily through the foliage, invariably coming 
to notice through a rather monotonous querulous chee-chee-chee or 
tseer-tseer note which is uttered all the time ; they are very active 
and busy little birds, and when disturbed fly off still uttering their 
note to start operations afresh in another tree. 

In the breeding season the males sing freely ; the song is short 
and rather pretty. It begins so low as to be almost inaudible and 
becomes louder and louder until at the end it is almost harsh, and 
this is repeated over and again without variation. 

Most nests will be found about April, but there appear to be 
at least two broods, and the breeding season extends according to 
locality from January to September. 

The nest is a delightful little cup slung like a miniature Oriole's 
nest between two twigs, though very rarely it may be placed in an 
upright fork. It is usually composed of very fine grass-stems, coated 
exteriorly with cobwebs and studded with small cocoons and pieces 
of vegetable down, but in shape, depth and materials it is somewhat 
variable. In site, too, there is no uniformity. Many nests are placed 
in undergrowth and bushes not higher than 6 feet from the ground ; 
while as many are built in large trees, mangoes being perhaps the 
favourite, at any height up to 60 feet. 

The clutch varies from two to four eggs. 

In shape the egg is a somewhat lengthened oval, a good deal 
pointed toward the smaller end ; the texture is very fine, practically 
without gloss. The colour is a very delicate and pure pale blue or 
greenish-blue, without markings. 

The average size is 0-62 by 0-47 inches. 



THE YELLOW-BACKED SUNBIRD 

/ETHOPYGA SIPARAJA (Raffles) 

Description. Length 6 inches, including elongated central pair of 
tail-feathers i inch. Male : Front of crown metallic-green ; nape 
brownish-green ; sides of head and neck, back and smaller wing- 
coverts dull crimson ; rump bright yellow ; larger wing-coverts and 



266 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

quills dark brown, the feathers edged with brownish-olive ; tail violet- 
black, the central pair of feathers and the edges of the others 
metallic-green ; chin, throat and breast bright crimson, a conspicuous 
moustachial streak metallic-violet ; a pale yellowish-white patch 
under the wing ; abdomen dull greyish-olive. 

Female : Upper plumage, including the sides of the head and neck 
dull olive-green ; wings and tail dark brown, the feathers edged with 
golden olive and the outer tail-feathers tipped with whitish ; the 
whole lower plumage dull olive-yellow ; a pale yellow patch under *the 
wing. 

The immature male resembles the female but has the chin and 
throat pinkish-red. 

Iris dark brown ; bill blackish-brown, lower mandible horny-brown ; 
legs chocolate-brown. 




FIG. 40 Yellow-Backed Sunbird (i nat. size) 

The bill is long, slender, curved and sharply-pointed with minute 
serrations along the cutting edge of both mandibles towards the tip. 
In the male the tail is graduated, the central pair of feathers exceeding 
the rest by i inch and being sharply pointed. 

Field Identification. Male, scarlet with a yellow rump and olive- 
grey abdomen and long pointed tail ; Female, short-tailed and nonde- 
script olive colour, darker above. Bill sharp, thin and curved. A shy 
and active forest bird, found feeding at flowers. 

Distribution. The typical race of the Yellow-backed Sunbird is 
found in Sumatra. In our area we are concerned with four other races. 
The West Himalayan race (2. s . mussooriensis) and the East Himalayan 
race (&. s. seheria) agree with each other in plumage as described above 
but the western bird is slightly larger. This is apparently a summer 
visitor to the outer ranges up to 7000 feet, but is not known to occur 
yrest of Dharmsala. dE. s. seheria is found in the Eastern Himalayas at 
similar elevations and extends also through the greater part of Assam, 
both in the plains and in the hills up to 7000 feet. It is also found in the 
Chota Nagpur area. A third race (JE. s. miles) with dull grey under 



THE YELLOW-BACKED SUNBIRD 267 

parts is said to be found in Nepal. A fourth race (JE. s. vigorsi) is 
found along the western coast of India from the valley of the Tapti to 
the foot of the Nilgiris. It is a rather darker race than the others and 
is more particularly distinguished by having a patch of metallic-violet 
behind the ear in addition to the moustachial streak and by having the 
crimson of the under parts finely streaked with yellow. Other races are 
found in Burma and eastwards. 

There are several other Sunbirds of the long-tailed genus &thopyga 
which are locally common. The best known are the Nepal Yellow- 
backed Sunbird (IE. nipalensis) with the whole head and hind neck 
metallic green and the lower parts yellow flecked with red, and the 
Black-breasted Yellow-backed Sunbird (M. saturatd), a very blackish- 
looking species with violet and blue metallic feathers. Both are 
common in the Eastern Himalayas and parts of Assam. 

Habits, etc. Little seems to have been recorded about the habits 
of the various races of the Yellow-backed Sunbird. It is very largely 
a bird of heavy moist forest, more especially evergreen forest, and it is 
said to be particularly partial to ravines for breeding purposes. At 
Dharmsala a few used to come into my garden to visit the blossoms 
of a large orange-bush, covered with jasmine, at the side of the house, 
and they also fed from the flowers of a red gladiolus, a yellow iris and 
a weed with a small red flower. The iris flowers were pierced by the 
bird with a tiny hole at the base, the mouth of the flower being dis- 
regarded. The flight was swift and the birds were very active and shy. 
The call-note is a loud and distinct tssip which is very like the noise of 
scissor-blades opening and shutting. 

The breeding season in the Himalayas is from April to July but 
the Western Ghats race (vigorsi) apparently nests somewhat later, from 
May to October. The nest is pear-shaped with the entrance at one side 
and this is sometimes shaded by a little porch. 

The nest is usually slung from the roots of plants and bushes which 
are exposed by the rain washing away the sides of banks, but odd nests 
may be found attached to small bushes and even bamboo sprays. The 
materials vary a good deal. Some nests look like a mass of fine black 
rootlets loosely felted with grass ; others appear to be a tangle of wind- 
blown cobwebs which have caught in a branch. Oddments of all kinds 
are added as external decorations. The interior is lined with fine 
grass stems and the bottom of the cavity is thickly filled with fine silky 
seed-down. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. In shape they are broad 
blunt ovals, fine and very fragile in texture with no gloss. The ground 
colour is white or creamy, flecked, speckled and even blotched with 
brick-red, reddish-brown or brown, the markings tending to form 
indistinct caps or zones at the larger end of the egg. 

The egg measures about 0-6 by 0-45 inches. 



268 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE PURPLE SUNBIRD 

CINNYRIS ASIATICUS (Latham) 
(Plate iii, Fig. 3, opposite page 44) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Male in summer plumage : The 
'whole head, neck, upper plumage, throat and breast metallic-bjack 
with greenish-purple reflections ; flight-feathers dull brownish-black ; 
tail bluish-black ; a narrow band across the breast coppery-brown, 
of varying extent and sometimes absent ; remainder of lower plumage 
dull purplish-black ; a brilliant tuft of crimson and yellow feathers 
under each wing. 

Male in winter plumage, assumed only from about September to 
December, resembles the female with the addition of a broad stripe 
of dark metallic-violet from the chin to the abdomen. It retains the 
dark wings. 

Female : Upper plumage, wings and sides of the head and neck 
greenish-brown ; tail dark brown, the outer feathers narrowly tipped 
with white ; lower plumage rather bright yellow. 

Iris brown ; bill and legs black. 

Bill long, curved and sharply pointed, with minute serrations along 
the cutting edges of both mandibles towards the tip. 

Field Identification. Abundant garden bird in the plains ; a minute 
bird with a long curved beak ; male metallic-black, female brown and 
yellow. Active and feeds about flowers. 

Distribution. This Sunbird has a wide range in Southern Asia 
from Persia on the west to Cochin-China on the east, and is divided 
into races. The typical race is found in Ceylon and from about 
5000 feet along the Outer Himalayas throughout the whole of India 
except in the north-west. There in Sind and Baluchistan it is replaced 
by the Persian form, C. a. brevtrostris, with a shorter bill, while birds 
from the Punjab are mostly intermediate in character between the 
two races. In the main a resident species, it is also locally migratory, 
being found in North-western India only from March to September. 
In the ranges of Southern India it is found up to 7500 feet. 

The very similar Loten's Sunbird (Cinnyris lotenia) with a much 
larger beak is common in South India up to Bombay on the west 
and the Nallamallais on the east. In some areas it replaces the Purple 
Sunbird ; in others it is found with it. 

Habits, etc. From their small size and brilliant metallic plumage 
and occasional habit of hovering in front of a flower this and other 
Indian members of the numerous family of the Nectariniidae are respons- 
ible for the frequently found belief that Humming-birds occur in India. 
The true Humming-birds are, however, confined to America and its 



THE PURPLE SUNBIRD 269 

islands, and they belong to a totally different Order of birds allied to 
the Swifts and Nightjars. 

The Sunbird resembles the Humming-bird in being largely 
dependent on flowers for its food. It feeds at the blossoms of the 
various flowering shrubs and trees, taking from them not only their 
nectar but also the various small insects, caterpillars, spiders and flies 
that they attract, and in return assists to pollinate many species. The 
case of the flower of Loranthus longiflorus may be quoted as an instance. 
In this species the bud remains closed and therefore unfertilised until 
extraneous pressure is exerted. This is supplied by the Sunbird which 
hops about the plant gently squeezing the tops of mature buds in its 
mandibles. The pressure causes the bud to open. The bird thrusts 
its bill into the flower, sucks up the nectar with its specially adapted 
tongue and passes on to a second bud. In the process the anthers of 
one flower deposit their pollen on the forehead of the bird, only to be 
brushed off against the mature stigma of the next flower. The long 
tongue is almost tubular in structure and is capable of extrusion beyond 
the beak. 

The Sunbird usually perches on the twigs and stems of the plant, 
flitting actively from flower to flower and indulging in a variety of 
gymnastics to reach the desired food ; but when need arises it can 
hover with rapidly vibrating wings though only for a short time. By 
this dependence on flowers it is emancipated from preference for any 
particular type of country. In the dry desert areas of the north-west 
it flits and perches about the low-growing ankh and wild caper ; in the 
tropical forests of the south it feeds high from the ground about the 
blossoms of some lofty tree ; and throughout its range it is a familiar 
garden bird attracting notice by the boldness of its visits to the flowers 
that line verandahs or grow over porches. Its swift darting flight and 
shrill chirping note also call attention to its presence, and it has the rare 
merit in India of being a good songster. For the male perches on the 
topmost twig of a tree with a good many repetitions of the sharp chirp 
and then breaks into a loud full song which seems surprisingly good 
for so small a bird and recalls the notes of a Canary or Willow- Wren. 

The breeding season varies a good deal according to locality, and 
in different parts of India eggs may be found from January to August ; 
most nests will, however, be found in April and May. There are at 
least two broods, and these are reared in rapid succession, sometimes 
even from the same nest. 

The nest is a pear-shaped or oval structure with a small round 
or oval entrance at one side, often sheltered by a little projecting 
cornice. It is built of a most miscellaneous assortment of materials, 
hair, fine grass, twigs, dead leaves, chips of bark and fragments of 
decayed wood, seed cases, scraps of rag or paper, and especially cater- 
pillar droppings, all neatly plastered together with silky fibres and 



270 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

cobwebs. The whole structure is suspended from a twig by a short 
rope of these materials, and a pendant irregular tassel of the same 
generally hangs from the bottom of the nest. 

The nest is generally placed some 3 or 4 feet from the ground, 
hanging under a bough or a bush, at times suspended from the spines 
of a prickly pear bush, but occasionally it is attached to a hook or 
pendant piece of rope in the ceiling of a verandah. The interior of 
the nest is neatly and softly lined with seed-down. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. 

The egg is typically a moderately broad oval, somewhat pointed 
towards the small end, but the shape is rather variable. The texture 
is fine and fragile with very little gloss. The ground-colour is dull 
whitish with a tinge of green, grey or brown, and the markings consist 
of minute and ill-defined spots and freckles of grey, brown and dull 
purple of various shades. In some eggs these markings are regular and 
thickly disposed over the whole surface ; in others they chiefly collect 
in a zone or cap about the broad end. 

In size the eggs average about 0-64 by 0*46 inches. 



THE PURPLE-RUMPED SUNBIRD 

CINNYRIS ZEYLONICUS (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xiii, Fig. 4, opposite page 264) 

Description. Length 4 inches. Male : Top of the head metallic- 
lilac ; rump metallic-purple ; remainder of upper plumage dull 
crimson ; wings brown edged with rufous, metallic-lilac and dull 
crimson on the smaller coverts ; tail black with pale tips to the outer 
feathers ; sides of the head coppery-brown ; chin and throat metallic- 
purple ; a collar below the throat maroon ; remainder of lower plumage 
bright yellow, white under the wings. 

There is no separate winter plumage as in the last species. 

Female : Upper plumage ashy-brown ; wings brown margined 
with rufous ; tail black with pale tips to the outer feathers ; an indis- 
tinct white line above the eye, with a dark line below it through the eye ; 
cheeks, chin and throat pale ashy- white ; remainder of lower plumage 
yellow, white under the wings. 

Iris dull red ; bill and legs black. 

The bill is long, slender, curved and pointed, with minute serrations 
along the cutting edge of both mandibles towards the tip. 

Field Identification. Central and Southern India. A minute bird 
of brilliantly variegated, partly metallic, plumage in the male, lilac on 
the head, crimson on the back, purple on the throat, and yellow below. 
The female is dull in colour with a white throat contrasting with the 
yellow under parts. Active in trees about blossoms. 



THE PURPLE-RUMPED SUNBIRD 271 

Distribution. A purely Indian species. It is found throughout 
India south of a line passing through Khandesh, Raipur and Sambalpur 
in the Central Provinces, and Lohardaga, Burdwan and Dacca in 
Bengal ; also in Ceylon. In the Nilgiris it is found up to 2500 feet. 
This is the Common Sunbird of Bombay, Madras and Lower Bengal. 
A resident species. 

The Small Sunbird (Cinnyris minima) is common along the 
Western Ghats from Bombay to Travancore. It is the smallest 
of the group in India, and the male is very brilliant with a green cap, 
deep crimson breast and upper parts, lilac rump and purple throat. 

Habits, etc. This beautiful Sunbird is very common over large 
areas of India, preferring if anything well-watered tracts and extensive 
forests, though it also comes freely into gardens and about houses. 
It is found singly or in pairs, and is very active, incessantly flitting 
about from tree to tree and flower to flower in search of the insects 
and caterpillars on which it feeds, and is purely arboreal, never descend- 
ing to the ground. The call is a feeble shrill sort of chirp, easily 
distinguishable from the louder call of the Purple Sunbird. 

The breeding season is very extended, nests having been found in 
almost every month of the year, but normally the bird appears to be 
double-brooded, nesting about February and August. 

The nest is a most lovely structure, similar to that of the Purple 
Sunbird, a hanging purse with the entrance near the top on one side 
surmounted by a little portico. 

The body of the nest is chiefly composed of very fine grass or 
vegetable fibres, and it is thickly studded exteriorly with scraps of 
lichens, spiders' webs, fragments of bark, dried petals, and a variety 
of similar materials. The egg cavity is thickly lined with vegetable 
down or feathers. The nest is suspended from a fine twig, over 
which the top of the nest is firmly worked with fibres and down, and 
a tassel of the same material as the outside covering of the nest often 
hangs below it. ' 

The clutch consists of two eggs. The egg is a moderately broad 
oval, rather elongated and pointed, with a delicate close-grained shell 
almost devoid of gloss. The ground-colour is a dingy greenish- or 
brownish-white ; it is freckled, clouded and streaked with minute 
greyish-brown markings, which tend to collect in a zone or cap about 
the broad end. 

In size the eggs average 0-65 by 0-47 inches. 



272 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

TICKELL'S FLOWER- PECKER 

DICJEUM ERYTHRORHYNCHOS (Latham) 

Description. Length 3 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
ashy-olive, the feathers of the crown with dark centres, and the 
concealed portions of the wings brown ; tail dark brown ; lower 
plumage buffy-white. 

Iris brown ; bill pale fleshy-livid, darker above ; legs bluish- 
plumbeous. 

Bill curved, sharply pointed and finely serrated along the 
cutting edges. 

Field Identification. A tiny olive bird with paler under parts, 
and a curved beak, which rather resembles a female Sunbird. Has 
a sharp note and is purely arboreal, frequenting parasitic plants 
on trees. It is easily confused with the Nilgiri Flower-Pecker (Dicceum 
minullum), common along the Western Ghats, which is darker with a 
darker bill. 

Distribution. Confined to India, Ceylon (separated as D. e. ceylon- 
ense) and Southern and Western Burma. It occurs along the Himalayan 
foot-hills, up to elevations of 4000 feet, from Kangra to Assam. South 
of the foot-hills it is found virtually throughout India except in the 
dry regions of the North-west, Le. y North-west Frontier Province, 
Baluchistan, the Punjab, Sind, and Rajputana. It is a resident species, 
and in places like Bombay and Poona very abundant. 

Habits, etc. Tickell's Flower-Pecker is a bird of far more import- 
ance than would seem to be warranted by its small size and inconspicu- 
ous plumage ; for its distribution appears to be entirely dependent on 
the presence or absence of the harmful parasitic plants of the genus 
Loranthus, and the spreading of these parasites appears in turn to be 
largely the work of the Flower-Pecker. 

In Western India, for example, Loranthus longiflorus is found on 
over a hundred species of trees and in particular it is a serious scourge 
to the mango. Its beautiful clumps of flowers will be noticed up on the 
trees in every month in the year and a little observation will show that 
this Flower-Pecker, which is entirely arboreal, seems to have regular 
feeding territories in which it flits about the Loranthus at all hours of 
the day. The bird is very restless. It flies from tree to tree, often high 
in the air ; it flies from clump to clump and on the clumps it hops 
from bunch to bunch of flowers ; and all the time it utters a loud, 
almost incessant squeak chik-chik-chik, which is occasionally varied by a 
series of twittering notes which might be called its song. Each berry 
is tested with the mandibles. If ripe it is plucked and swallowed, 
broad end first. After finding and bolting down three or four ripe 
berries, one after another, the bird retires to the extremity of some bare 



TICKELL'S FLOWER-PECKER 



273 



bough and sits quiet for a few minutes with the feathers partly puffed 
out. It is during this interval that the mischief is done ; for hardly has 
the bird been there a couple of minutes than you see him becoming 
uneasy and presently one of the seeds is extruded, evidently with some 
effort. The seed is invariably extruded broad-end first and by a final 
jerky and dipping motion 
of the posterior part of the 
body, during which the bird 

often pivots round from its / 

normal crosswise position 
on the branch to one nearly 
along it. The extruded 
seed which is copiously 
covered with viscous matter 
and has a viscid thread- 
like process at each end 
promptly adheres to the 
perch. Digestion is ex- 
tremely rapid and each seed 
appears to pass out some 
three or four minutes after 
the berry was eaten. Im- 
mediately it has got rid of 
the unnecessary ballast the 
Flower-Pecker flies off to 
another clump uttering its 
lively note, and the process 
starts afresh. In this man- 
ner the parasitic seed is 
conveyed not only to other branches of the same tree but to other 
trees in the neighbourhood. 

The breeding season is from February to May. 

The nest is very similar to that of the Purple Sunbird, being a 
small pear-shaped structure, suspended by the stalk from a twig 
with the entrance high on one side. It is placed in a tree at heights 
of 10 to 20 feet from the ground. It is constructed of fine vegetable 
fibres, externally covered with cobwebs, small chips* of bark, splinters 
of rotten wood and the excreta of caterpillars, while the interior is 
lined with the softest, silkiest downs and fibres. The female sits looking 
out through the entrance. 

One to three eggs are laid. These are rather elongated ovals, pure 
white and glossless. 

In size they average about 0*58 by 0-41 inches. 




KG. 



FIG. 400; TickelPs Flower-pecker 
( nat. size) 



274 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE THICK-BILLED FLOWER-PECKER 

PIPRISOMA AGILE (Swahison) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
ashy-brown, washed with olive-green above the tail ; wings dark brown, 
edged with olive-green ; tail dark brown, edged with olive-green, 
the feathers tipped slightly with white, growing broader on the outer- 
most feathers ; sides of the head and neck ashy-brown ; chin and throat 
white ; remainder of lower plumage creamy-grey streaked on the breast 
and flanks with ashy-brown. 

Iris orange-brown ; bill bluish-slate, darker above ; legs dull 
bluish-slate. 

The bill is short and coarse with the lower mandible unusually deep 
and swollen. 

Field Identification. A tiny dull-looking bird, ashy-brown above 
and dull creamy-grey below, with the breast faintly streaked. Has a 
sharp note and is purely arboreal, frequenting parasitic plants on trees. 
May easily be distinguished from other Flower- Peckers by the swollen- 
looking bill. 

Distribution. The typical race is found throughout India from the 
foot-hills of the Himalayas, which it ascends locally to 5000 feet, down 
to Ceylon. Ceylon birds are separated at P. a. seylonicum. It is not 
found west of a line from Kangra to Sirsa and Baroda or east of Sikkim 
and Midnapur. In Assam and Burma to Siam it is replaced by P. a. 
modestum which is greener above and has the lower mandible less 
swollen. 

Habits, etc. At first sight there is not very much to distinguish the 
habits of the Thick-billed Flower-Pecker from those of Tickets 
Flower-Pecker. It is generally distributed and fairly common in well- 
wooded country and it has the same habit of flying about singly from 
clump to clump of the parasitic Loranthus that grows on the branches 
of trees ; its feeding circuits are also well defined. Its voice and notes 
are similar to those of the other species though they are perhaps 
distinguishable as being somewhat shriller and more metallic. It 
twists its little tail from side to side as it feeds amongst the clumps. 
There is, however, a difference in the feeding habits of the two species 
and this is evidently correlated with the different types of beak. As has 
been related above, TickelPs Flower-Pecker swallows the ripe fruit of 
the Loranthus whole and voids the viscous seeds on to the bough where 
it sits for digestion. The Thick-billed Flower-Pecker, on the other 
hand, does not swallow the fruit entire. It plucks it off the clump and 
with its finch-like beak separates the fleshy epicarp from the sticky seed, 
swallowing the former and getting rid of the latter by scraping it off on 
a neighbouring twig with a sweeping side-to-side motion of the head. 



THE THICK-BILLED FLOWER-PECKER 375 

In this way three or four berries are eaten before the bird flies off again 
on its endless round. It will be noted that in this way the deposition 
of the seeds is confined to the neighbourhood of the parent clump and 
they are not dispersed so widely as by TickelFs species. 

In addition to Loranthus berries this species feeds on a variety of 
other fruits, particularly those of the Lantana scrub and the figs of 
Peepul and Gulair trees. It also eats the soft juicy parts of Mhowa 
flowers and small spiders. 

The breeding season is from February to June. The nest is a most 
remarkable structure, a small, rather full-bottomed, purse-like bag, 
hung from a small twig as nearly horizontal as possible, the entrance 
hole being immediately below the twig. It is composed of a felt-like 
fabric, so soft and pliable that it may be rolled and unrolled in the hand ; 
this is made from fibres, spiders' webs and the down taken from the 
young shoots and flower-buds of various plants. The down of Loranthus 
is commonly used. The nest is hung in trees at all heights up to 30 feet 
from the ground. Mango-trees are particularly favoured. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs, but four may be found. 
These vary a good deal in shape and colour but are typically rather 
elongated ovals, somewhat coarse in texture and without gloss. The 
ground-colour varies from rosy-white to a decided pink and it is 
speckled, spotted and even blotched with markings that vary from 
brownish-pink to claret colour. They are most numerous towards the 
broad end, often forming a zone or cap. 

In size the egg measures about 0-65 by 0-45 inches. 



THE INDIAN PITTA 
PITTA BRACHYURA (Linnaeus) 

(Plate xvi, Fig. 4, opposite page 330) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Top of head pale 
fulvous, with a broad black band down the centre, which is joined 
by a very broad black band from below the eye ; a narrow white line 
over the eye ; back and shoulders green ; lower rump shining pale 
blue ; tail black, tipped with dull blue ; wing black with a conspicuous 
white patch in the flight-feathers, and with the coverts green and 
blue ; chin and throat white ; remainder of lower plumage fulvous, a 
patch of bright scarlet under the tail. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs pale purplish-flesh. 

Field Identification. A coarsely-built bird with a short tail and 
strong legs, adapted for life in heavy jungle ; plumage variegated 
with blue, green, black, white, fulvous and crimson, but not conspicu- 
ously bright in the shade though the lines on the head are distinct. 
Shape and upright carriage are distinctive. 



276 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Distribution. This Pitta is found throughout almost the whole 
of India from Dharamsala in the Himalayan foot-hills to Sikkim, and 
Eastern Rajputana in the plains to Calcutta. Southwards it extends 
down to Ceylon. It breeds in the Himalayan foot-hills and in Central 
and Western India and in the former area is a summer visitor only, 
wintering in Southern India and Ceylon. Exhausted birds on passage 
sometimes take refuge in outhouses and other unexpected places. 

These lovely birds invade the sal forests of the submontane tracts 
of the United Provinces about the middle of May. The forests soon 
ring with their loud four-noted musical calls (they have no song). 
They start breeding at once and continue throughout the rains after 
which in September they begin to migrate south. As these forests 
are very malarious in the rains they are scarcely ever visited at the 
breeding season of the Pittas so that few Europeans, or even Indians, 
have seen these beautiful birds in their forest home. 

Habits, etc. The Indian Pitta belongs to a family of birds which 
has no equivalent in Europe. All its members are compact, stoutly- 
built birds with a short stumpy tail, broad rounded wings and long 
stout legs, and, as this structure suggests, they are essentially ground- 
living birds, hopping and running with great facility and spending 
only a small portion of their time either on the wing or in trees. 
All are of great beauty, and the distribution of the various members 
of the family is very sporadic 2nd curious. Most of them occur to 
the east of our area but the Blue-naped Pitta (Pitta nipalensis), a 
large brown species with a blue hind-neck, is common in the lower 
ranges of the Eastern Himalayas and in Assam. 

The nearly allied Long-tailed Broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousia) is 
found along the lower Himalayas from Mussoorie eastwards. It is a 
gaudy-looking bird, green with blue in the wings and tail, a black head 
and a yellow throat and is remarkable for the flat broad bill and the tail 
of narrow graduated feathers. 

The Indian Pitta, by preference, lives in deciduous forest or scrub- 
jungle, but it may also be found in gardens and comparatively open 
country, especially if there are small ravines overgrown with bushes 
and trees to afford it the cover that it requires. It is not shy and 
may easily be approached. It has a sweet call wheel pe-u or pea-to-yew, 
a loud, clear and far-reaching note which is uttered again and again. 
When calling, the head and shoulders are thrown right back, the chest 
out and the bill points upwards after the manner of a cock crowing. 
The food consists largely of beetles, ants and other insects. 

The breeding season is from June to August. 

The nest is a huge globular structure with a circular entrance at 
one side. It is composed of dry leaves and grasses wound round with 
strips of fibre or held together with twigs and roots, and is lined with 
green leaves or fine twigs and roots. Some nests are found on the ground 



THE INDIAN PITTA 277 

or near it in low branches, but the majority are built in the forks of 
trees at heights from 10 to 30 feet from the ground. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs. In shape they are broad 
and regular ovals, so broad as to be almost spherical. The texture is 
very fine and hard with a high gloss. 

The ground-colour is china-white, and the markings consist of 
spots, speckles and sometimes hair-lines of deep maroon, dark purple 
and brownish-purple, with secondary markings of pale inky-purple. 
These rich colours, together with the spherical shape and high polish, 
give the eggs of this species a very distinctive appearance. 

In size the eggs measure about i-oo by 0-86 inches. 

The word Pitta is due to the latinisation of a Telugu word, meaning 
" small bird." 



THE SCALY-BELLIED GREEN WOODPECKER 

PlCUS SQUAMATUS Gould 

Description. Length 14 inches. Male : Top of the head and 
crest crimson ; upper plumage green, strongly tinged with yellow at 
the base of the tail ; wings brownish-black washed with green, all the 
quills conspicuously spotted and banded with yellowish-white and 
white ; tail brownish with narrow white bars, the lower surface 
washed with yellow ; a broad yellowish-white line over the eye, 
bordered above and below with blackish lines ; another broad yellowish- 
white line below the eye from the base of the beak ; throat and breast 
pale greyish ; remainder of lower plumage greenish-white, with scale- 
like markings of black. 

Female : Has the crimson of the head replaced by black, marked 
with leaden and greenish-grey. 

Iris dark pinkish-red, with an outer ring of pale pink ; bill yellow, 
horn-coloured about nostrils ; legs greenish-plumbeous. 

This and the following Woodpeckers have these peculiarities of 
external structure. The bill is long and stout and modified into a 
cutting weapon with the end of the upper mandible vertical and 
chisel-shaped. , The tongue is excessively long, worm-like and capable 
of great protrusion ; it is supplied with viscid mucus from the large 
salivary glands and the point is horny and barbed. The toes are 
arranged in two pairs, the 2nd and 3rd toes pointing forwards, the 
4th toe being directed backwards with the ist toe or hallux. The tail 
is graduated, with very stiff-pointed feathers. 

Field Identification. Himalayan forest form : a medium-sized 
greenish bird with pale under parts scaled with black which climbs 
up the trunks of trees in a series of jerks, and moves from tree to 
tree with noisy undulating flight. Distinguish from a similar species, 

S2 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



the Black-naped Green Woodpecker (Picus canus), which is found in the 
same area and farther eastwards into Assam and Burma ; this has the 
lower plumage unsealed and only the front half of the top of the head 
crimson in the male. 

Distribution. This Woodpecker is distributed through Transcaspia, 
Baluchistan, Afghanistan, and the Western Himalayas ; it is divided 
into two races, of which the typical race is found in the Western 
Himalayas from the Valley of Nepal to Chitral and Gilgit, from about 
5000 to 11,000 feet. A resident species with little, if any, altitudinal 
seasonal movement. 

A very similar but smaller species the 
Little Scaly-bellied Green Woodpecker 
(Picus xanthopyg&us) is locally distributed 
throughout India, but not west of a line 
from Ambala to Mount Aboo. 

Habits, etc. This fine Woodpecker is 
a common resident in the Western Hima- 
layas and is found in all types of forest, 
also occasionally wandering out into trees 
in the open cultivated country. It is not 
very shy, and is easily observed as it 
works its way up the trunk of a tree, now 
stopping to dislodge a piece of bark and 
then hammering lustily with its chisel-like 
beak at a piece of grub-infested wood. 
Occasionally it feeds on the ground, 
searching there for ants and termites. 
When not feeding it sometimes rests 
in a commanding position on an up- 
right bare stump of a bough at the top 
of a tree, whence a clear view can be 
obtained. In such a situation it sits for 
a considerable time, moving the head, 
neck and upper part of the body from side to side with a swaying 
motion, varying the proceedings by occasionally drumming rapidly 
with its bill on the wood. The ordinary spring call is a loud, clear, 
wild-sounding melodious klee-gu or pea-cock, or simply the syllable 
peer, which echoes through a nullah and is audible a long way off. 
While hunting for food a constant tjupk-tjupk-tjupk-tjupk note is kept 
up, and this repeated loudly is also the alarm cry. The flight is 
strong, fast and undulating, the hard coarse wing-feathers making 
a distinct noise. 

The breeding season extends from March to May, but most eggs 
will be found in April. The nest hole is excavated in the trunk or 
bough of a tree and consists of a passage running down from 20 




FIG. 41 Scaly-bellied Green 
Woodpecker (J nat. size) 



THE SCALY-BELLIED GREEN WOODPECKER 279 

to 30 inches into the nest chamber which is often a natural decayed 
hollow inside the wood. In this the eggs, five or six in number, are 
laid on chips and debris. 

The egg is a rather elongated oval, somewhat compressed towards 
the smaller end. The texture is very fine and delicate, with a brilliant 
gloss ; the colour is pure china-white. 

The eggs measure about 1-28 by 0-93 inches. 



THE BROWN-FRONTED PIED WOODPECKER 

DRYOBATES AURICEPS (Vigors) 

(Plate xvi, Fig. 3, opposite page 330) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Male : Forehead and crown 
umber-brown ; crest golden-yellow in front, crimson behind ; sides 
of the head and neck and the chin white finely mixed with black ; 
ear-coverts very pale brown ; upper parts black, broadly barred with 
white across the upper back and shoulders ; wings black, conspicuously 
spotted with white ; tail black, the outer feathers barred with buffy- 
white ; lower parts fulvescent-white, tinged with yellow in the centre 
of the abdomen, streaked with black, and bordered on the sides of the 
cheeks by a brown band which becomes black and breaks up into 
spots on the sides of the neck ; a patch of pale crimson under the base 
of the tail. 

The female lacks the gold and crimson on the crest which is merely 
yellower than the forehead and crown. 

Iris crimson ; eye-patch plumbeous ; bill horny-plumbeous ; legs 
dull plumbeous-green. 

Field Identification. Common West Himalayan form. A dull- 
coloured Woodpecker, black barred with white above, whitish with 
dark streaks below, a reddish patch under the tail and a yellow and 
brown top to the head, crested in the male with crimson. Quiet and 
familiar in its habits. 

The complete red crown of the male and the black crown of the 
female easily distinguish the very similar Fulvous-breasted Pied 
Woodpecker (Dryobates macei) which is common at low elevations 
throughout the whole length of the Himalayas from about Murree 
eastwards. It is also found in Lower Bengal and towards Vizagapatam. 

Another common species, confined to the Western Himalayas 
and particularly noticeable in Kashmir, is the Himalayan Pied Wood- 
pecker (Dryobates himalayensis). This is black and white with the 
crown crimson in the male, but the back is black with a white patch 
on each shoulder, not barred. 



280 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

In appearance the Sind Pied Woodpecker (Dryobates scindianus) of 
the more barren areas of North-west India is very similar. 

Distribution. Found throughout the Western Himalayas from 
Chitral and Hazara to Nepal at elevations between 2000 and 7500 
feet and in smaller numbers up to 9000 feet. Here it is a resident 
species, but it is also found in Afghanistan, and from there wanders 
in winter into the Samana and Kohat. 

Habits, etc. This is the ordinary common Woodpecker of the 
hill stations of the Western Himalayas from Murree to Mussoorie. 
It is found chiefly in the forests of oak and cheel pine, but wanders 
into cultivation and gardens, and is a familiar species, very indifferent 
to the near neighbourhood of man. I have known a pair roost nightly 
on the top of the pillars supporting a verandah roof of a forest rest- 
house, and one winter a single bird slept regularly in a nest-box affixed 
to a tree near my house. 

The call-note is a rather loud plaintive peek, repeated at regular 
and monotonous intervals. It is traced to its source with difficulty, 
as the sound at times can be very ventriloquial, and then at last the 
bird will be found sitting at the extremity of some dead bough at the 
top of an oak, continually jerking its body and twisting its head and 
neck from side to side as it surveys the world below, glancing here, 
there and everywhere on the alert for possible danger. When the 
bird is down on a tree trunk busy feeding the sound is easier to locate, 
and as this Woodpecker is far from shy and very common it is easy to 
observe and procure if required. 

The breeding season is in April and May. The nest hole is the 
usual cleanly excavated tunnel and nest chamber in the trunk or 
large bough of a tree, and no nest is made, the eggs being laid on 
chips and debris at the bottom of the hole ; very occasionally a natural 
hollow in a tree is used. The site of the nest may be at any height from 
5 to 40 feet from the ground. 

The clutch varies from three to five eggs. 

The egg is a rather lengthened and pointed oval, fine and glossy 
in texture, and pure unmarked white in colour. 

In size it averages about 0-92 by 0*68 inches. 



THE MAHRATTA WOODPECKER 
DRYOBATES MAHRATTENSIS (Latham) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Male : Forehead and crown 
brownish-yellow, a small crest scarlet ; back of neck smoky-brown ; 
back and shoulders brownish-black and white irregularly mixed ; 
wings blackish-brown heavily spotted with white ; tail blackish- 
brown, spotted with white, which from below appears fulvescent ; 



THE MAHRATTA WOODPECKER 



281 



chin and throat and the front and sides of the neck whitish, with a brown 
stripe on the sides of the neck which breaks up into longitudinal 
streaks on the sides of the breast ; remainder of lower plumage 
streaked with brown, a bright scarlet patch in the middle of the lower 
abdomen. 

The female lacks the scarlet on the crest. 




Fie. 42 Mahratta Woodpecker (i nat. size) 



legs 



Iris deep red ; eye-patch plumbeous ; bill clear plumbeous ; 
bright plumbeous. 

Field Identification. Abundant plains species. A small dingy 
Woodpecker, spotted sooty-brown and white on the upper parts with 
a brownish-yellow top to the head, and in the male a scarlet crest. 

Distribution. This Woodpecker is found in India, Northern 
Ceylon, Upper Burma, and Cochin-China. In India it is found 
from the foot of the Himalayas, which it ascends to about 2500 feet, 
or more, down to the extreme south. In the north-west it is found 



aSa POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

at Peshawar and Rawal Pindi, but it is scarce to the west of the Indus 
and in Sind and Rajputana, nor is it found in South-eastern Bengal. 
It is a strictly resident species. The typical race belongs to Southern 
India, and northern birds may be separated as L. m. aurocristatus, 
but the line of demarcation is not very marked. 

The Indian Pygmy Woodpecker (Dryobates hardwickii) is well 
distributed throughout India south of the Himalayas, except in Sind 
and the greater part of the Punjab and Rajputana. Its dull plumage 
and small size for it is only as big as a Sparrow readily distinguish 
it from the rest of the family. 

Another species, the Himalayan Pygmy Woodpecker (Dryobates 
nanus) is found along the foot-hills of the Himalayas. 

Habits y etc. This little Woodpecker, though common, is somewhat 
locally distributed, and it avoids both the drier, more open plains and 
heavy forest. It is a bird of cultivation and groves, roadside avenues, 
low scrub-jungle and gardens, and in such localities it feeds quietly on 
the tree-trunks and branches, paying little or no attention to passers-by. 
Owing to its small size it is rather apt to get into trouble with other 
small birds and squirrels, but it is a courageous bird and resists with 
spirit their endeavours to trespass in its laboriously constructed nest 
hole. It is always found solitary, except when paired for the breeding 
season. Like many other Woodpeckers, this species drums with its 
beak on a dead bough, apparently as an outlet for sexual emotion. 

The ordinary call-note is a rather weak peek, uttered at short 
intervals. 

The breeding season lasts from February to April, but most eggs 
will be found in March. The nest hole is excavated in a bough of a 
tree, usually one leaning out of the perpendicular, and the entrance 
hole is made on the underside of the bough. It is small, about i\ inches 4 
in diameter, and the entrance tunnel is about 15 inches long. No nest 
is made, the eggs being laid merely on chips of wood at the bottom 
of the irregular chamber to which the tunnel leads. 

The clutch consists of three eggs. These in shape are a rather 
lengthened oval, fine and glossy in texture, and pure white in colour. 

In size they average about 0-87 by 0*68 inches. 



THE RUFOUS WOODPECKER 

MlCROPTERNUS BRACHYURUS (Vieillot) 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. The whole plumage 
chestnut-brown, duller and darker on the lower parts and with the 
following markings ; top of the head washed with dusky brown, the 
feathers slightly paler at the edges ; upper parts from the mantle and 
the wing- and tail-feathers with black transverse bars ; a patch of 



THE RUFOUS WOODPECKER 383 

feathers under the eye tipped with crimson ; feathers of the chin and 
throat broadly edged with fulvous. 

The plumage is very variable. The colour varies from dull to 
bright chestnut or bay and the head from chestnut to dark brown while 
the barring on the upper parts may be fairly general or virtually absent. 

The female is said to lack the patch of crimson under the eye, but 
there seems to be some doubt about this and I have had no opportunity 
of verifying the fact by dissection. 

Iris brownish-red ; bill blackish-brown, base of lower mandible 
plumbeous ; legs and feet greyish-brown. 

The first toe is very poorly developed. 

Field Identification, A chestnut-coloured Woodpecker with a 
certain amount of black barring on the back, wings and tail and a 
squamated throat. Found in open country and largely dependent on 
the Tree-ants for its economy. 

Distribution. There are three races of the Rufous Woodpecker in 
our area. Micropternus b. phaioceps, as described above, is found along 
the Eastern Himalayas from Nepal to Upper Assam, in Assam, Bengal 
and Bihar, in the Chota Nagpur area and rarely in the Central Provinces 
(Balaghat and Chanda). It is also found in Burma and Tennasserim. 
M. b. humei from the Western Himalayas (Garhwal and Kumaon) is 
slightly larger and paler. M. b. jerdonii, a smaller bird with the throat 
squamation dark chocolate and white in colour, is found along the 
western coast from the neighbourhood of Bombay to the South Travan- 
core hills, in the Sheveroy Hills and in Ceylon. All races are birds of 
low elevations from sea-level to about 4000 feet or occasionally 5000 feet. 

Habits, etc. The Rufous Woodpecker is not a bird of heavy forest. 
It prefers tea-gardens with light shade trees, open cultivated country 
with bamboo clumps or fairly open deciduous forest. On occasion it 
enters banana cultivation and clinging to the smooth trunks of the 
banana trees bores into the soft tissues near the base of the leaves and 
sucks the sap. It is not as a rule very numerous and will generally be 
found singly, feeding at no great height from the ground and sometimes 
even on it. The call is a high-pitched ke-ke-ke-ke somewhat of the 
timbre of the Common Mynah's call and the bird is much addicted to 
drumming. 

It is, however, in connection with the Tree-ants of the genus 
Cremastogaster that one usually thinks of this Woodpecker. In the first 
place the plumage of the bird is always smeared with some gummy 
substance, particularly on the head and breast and on the tail. It has 
also a strong peculiar smell and one presumes that both of these features 
are due to the formic acid of the ants and their larvae. These form a 
large part of the bird's food, but they also affect the plumage more 
directly. The ants are particularly ferocious ; they are instant to 
attack and once they get hold of anything they never let go. As the 



a8 4 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



Woodpecker climbs a tree it is always meeting with the wandering ants 
and the plumage, particularly the tail, rubs against them. They seize 
the feathers and are rubbed to pieces but the heads remain, sometimes 
in scores, adhering to the feathers. 



/ ' '. ] r i ' v^r^f 

' '- ^ * ''^^r 

,-f ^ ^ f ',,^'0^^''V-^ 




FIG. 43 Rufous Woodpecker (J nat. size) 

The connection of ant and woodpecker is, however, still more 
intimate, for the woodpecker is dependent on the ant for its nesting- 
places. 

The nests of the tree-ants of the genus Crematogaster must be well 
known to all who wander in Indian jungles. They look like large 
cellular balls of black papier-mache and measure anything from 



THE RUFOUS WOODPECKER 285 

8 inches to 2 feet in diameter and are built in trees and bamboos at any 
height from the ground between 7 and 70 feet, but most often between 
10 and 30 feet. They are usually built round the fork of a sapling and 
the material of the nest is exceedingly hard. 

In these ant-nests the woodpecker excavates its own nest hole, not 
when they are abandoned but whilst they are in active use and tenanted 
by their own makers. The entrance tunnel is made at one side and the 
cavity is some 5 or 6 inches in diameter. The ants do not interfere 
with the sitting bird or the eggs and young, and the woodpeckers do 
not apparently interfere with the owners of the occupied nest. This 
remarkable situation is emphasised by the character of the eggs. 

They are slightly elongated ovals, fine in texture and very strong 
and hard, and of course pure white. Their peculiarity is that the 
surface is mat instead of highly polished like most woodpeckers' eggs, 
and the shell is so translucent that the yolk does not give a pink tinge 
to the whole egg but shows through as a yellow ball. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs. The breeding season of 
all Indian races is from February to June. 

The egg measures about i-oo by 0-75 inches. 



THE GOLDEN-BACKED WOODPECKER 

BRACHYPTERNUS BENGHALENSIS (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xvii, Fig. 4, opposite page 352) 

Description. Length 1 1 inches. Male : Top of the head and a 
crest bright crimson, the feathers partly marked with black or white ; 
sides of the head and neck white, streaked with black along a narrow 
line at the edge of the crimson and in a broader band through the 
eye from the nostril to the nape ; hind neck, lower back and tail black ; 
upper back and shoulders rich golden-yellow, sometimes tinged with 
orange-red ; wing-coverts black at the shoulder, gradually changing 
to golden olive-yellow, the smaller feathers spotted with fulvescent 
white ; flight-feathers brownish-black boldly spotted with white, and 
all but the outer feathers with the outer webs washed with golden 
olive-yellow ; chin, throat and fore-neck black with numerous short 
white stripes, this pattern gradually merging into that of the breast 
where the feathers are buffy-white with broad black borders ; these 
black borders become cross bands on the flanks and below the tail and 
gradually die away on the lower abdomen which is practically white. 

Female : Differs from the male in having the front half of the crown 
black, each feather being tipped with white. 

Iris red-brown, eyelids greenish-plumbeous ; bill slaty-plumbeous ; 
legs dark greenish-plumbeous, claws dusky. 



a86 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Field Identification. Common plains bird. Found climbing up 
the bark of trees or flying from tree to tree with heavy undulating 
flight ; black and white plumage with vivid crimson crest and brilliant 
golden back immediately catch the eye, while the loud call is a well- 
known sound. 

Distribution. Found almost throughout India and Ceylon as a 
resident species divided into races. A pale and much spotted form, 
B. b. dilutus, is found in Sind, Baluchistan and the neighbouring 
portions of the Punjab, grading on the edges of its range into* the 
typical race which extends throughout Northern India from the 
foot-hills of the Himalayas to Eastern Bengal and Assam. It is found 
in the Central Provinces, but in Hyderabad State grades into B. b. 
puncticollis, with much more black on the throat ; this is found through- 
out Southern India with the exception of the rain area from Cannanore 
to Cape Comorin where the richly-coloured B. b. tehmince is found. 
B. b. intermedius of Ceylon is smaller and paler. 

This Woodpecker must be distinguished from the larger Tickell's 
Golden-backed Woodpecker (Chrysocolaptes guttacristatus) and the two 
smaller Golden-backed Three-toed Woodpeckers (Dinopium javanense 
and D. shorei). All four are very similar in appearance but the Golden- 
backed Woodpecker may be separated by the black rump (as opposed 
to red), by the presence of white spots on the shoulder and by having 
the chin and throat spotted black and white (as opposed to white with 
certain defined black lines). Also the female has a red crest, absent 
in the others. TickelPs Woodpecker is found along the base of the 
Himalayas as far west as the Jumna, the west coast from Khandesh 
southwards and locally from Chanda to Calcutta. D. javanense is 
found along the west coast from Goa southwards. D. shorei has the 
same distribution in the Himalayas as TickelPs Woodpecker. Both 4 
species lack the small first toe. 

The well-known Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) breeds in Kashmir and 
is a winter visitor to most parts of India. It is grey and brown like 
lichen-covered bark with the lower parts finely barred. 

Habits, etc. The Golden-backed Woodpecker is one of the 
best-known of our Indian species, both from its brilliant coloration 
and from the fact that it is a bolder bird than most of its family. It 
avoids forest areas, and is found, by preference, in open, cultivated 
districts and gardens where avenues of ancient trees provide it with 
a happy hunting ground. In such places it lives singly or in pairs, 
climbing busily about the trunks and branches of the trees ; it progresses 
in a series of jerks and always rests with the body in a perpendicular 
position with the head upwards ; it virtually never perches on a twig 
or branch crossways, and when it wishes to descend a foot or two to 
search some special crevice in the bark it moves down backward with 
the same awkward jerks with which it ascends. The wonderful adapta- 




[Face p. 286 



THE GOLDEN-BACKED WOODPECKER 287 

tion of the structure of a Woodpecker to its needs is easily apparent. 
The strong claws grasp the crevices of the bark and from their position 
automatically tilt the cone-shaped body backwards on to the stiff 
graduated tail which presses into the bark so that the bird's own weight 
increases the firmness of its stance. In this position the long neck 
affords a swing for the blows of the pickaxe beak which chip off the 
bark and rotten wood revealing the lurking places of insects and their 
larvae. Then the long-barbed tongue, with its sticky saliva, is extruded, 
collecting food from the borings and crevices. At the same time it is 
curious to note that although this and other Woodpeckers do feed on 
the wood-boring larvae of beetles and on tree-living termites, the 
major portion of their food undoubtedly consists of ants which might 
easily be obtained without any special adaptation of structure. These 
are mostly obtained on tree-trunks, though occasionally the bird 
descends to the ground to procure them. 

The flight is heavy and undulating, with rapid noisy beats of the 
wings : and one bird often follows another from tree to tree. 

The call is a loud harsh scream, of several syllables, which is uttered 
both from a tree and on the wing. 

The breeding season varies according to locality, from February 
to July. The nest hole is bored by the birds themselves in the branch 
or trunk of a tree, at any height from 4 to 40 feet from the ground. 
Normally the entrance, which is about 3 inches in diameter, runs in 
for a few inches horizontally and then turns downwards into a large oval 
chamber some 6 inches in diameter in which the eggs rest on chips and 
debris. But when tunnelling, the birds often hit upon a natural cavity 
in the wood which is then utilised, however deep or large it may be. 

The normal clutch consists of three eggs. The egg is a long oval 
rather pointed at the smaller end ; the texture is fine and hard with a 
high gloss, and the colour is pure unmarked milk-white. 

It measures about i- 10 by 0-80 inches. 



THE GREAT HIMALAYAN BARBET 

MEGAL^EMA VIRENS (Boddaert) 
(Plate xv, Fig. 2, opposite page 308) 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. Head and neck 
black with deep violet-blue edges to the feathers ; back and shoulders 
brownish-olive, the upper back streaked with greenish-yellow ; a 
broad patch above the base of the tail grass-green ; wings blackish- 
brown, washed with blue-green and olive-brown ; tail green above, 
below blackish, washed with pale blue,; upper breast dark olive-brown ; 
remainder of lower parts blue down the centre, striped yellow and brown 
on the sides with a scarlet patch under the tail. 



288 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Iris brown ; bill yellow ; legs greenish-horny. 

In this and the following species of Barbet the bill is large and 
somewhat flattened and swollen, with a wide gape fringed with hairs ; 
the feet have the ist and 4th toes directed backwards and the 2nd and 
3rd toes directed forwards as in the Woodpeckers, but the claws are 
weaker, as the Barbets perch like ordinary birds and do not climb on 
perpendicular trunks and boughs. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form, best known by the* call, 
a loud melancholy mee-ou which resounds through a whole nullah. 
In spite of the gaudy plumage when closely examined, in the forest 
it appears a dark dully-coloured bird, chiefly conspicuous for the 
large yellow bill and the red patch under the tail. Purely arboreal. 

Distribution. This handsome Barbet extends from the Salt Range 
throughout the Himalayas into Assam and Burma and eastwards to 
China. It is divided into two races, of which we are concerned with 
only one. This race, M. v. marshallorum, is found throughout the whole 
of the Himalayas from Hazara on the west to Bhutan and Assam on the 
east. It breeds at elevations from 4000 to 8000 feet, and in winter 
moves down to a lower zone, even extending into the foot-hills and 
the plains that border thereon. 

Habits, etc. During the breeding season this Barbet is an inhabitant 
of shady wooded nullahs, preferably those clothed with deciduous 
trees, and though seldom seen, except when it ventures into roadside 
bushes after fruit, is well known about the hill stations as a disembodied 
voice. The bird sits high up in some shady tree, uttering monotonously 
time and again its mournful cry, a weird melancholy peeee-oh or mee-ou 
or pyillo, which is audible half a mile away as it resounds through the 
nullah, and being partly ventriloquial, as the bird turns its head from 
side to side, is traced to its origin with difficulty. Another characteristic 
note is gyok-gyok-gyok, and occasionally a harsh karr-r uttered with 
reiteration. Often two or three of the birds answer each other from 
different trees, each appearing as if it were trying to outdo the others 
with the loudness of its voice. 

The hillmen have a legend that the bird is the reincarnation of 
the soul of a suitor, who died of grief at the unjust termination of 
his lawsuit, and that eternally his plaint rises to heaven un-nee-ow, 
un-nee-ow injustice, injustice. 

In winter these birds collect into small parties and then move 
down into the lower and more open hill jungles, where they feed on 
various fruits and are then very tame. 

The flight is strong and vigorous, with great undulations like the 
flight of a Woodpecker, the beat of the wings producing a similar noise. 

This bird breeds in May and June and excavates its own nest 
hole in the trunks and boughs of the larger trees, usually at a great 
height from the ground, but occasionally within easy reach. The 



THE GREAT HIMALAYAN BARBET 289 

entrance passage is usually short and leads into a rounded chamber 
in which the eggs rest on chips and debris ; sometimes the passage 
leads straight into a natural hollow, which saves the birds the trouble 
of excavating an egg chamber. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs. They are variable in 
shape but are normally rather lengthened ovals, regular and somewhat 
obtuse at both ends. They are very fragile, fine in texture, and pure 
white with little gloss. 

They measure about 1-37 by 0-98 inches. 



THE GREEN BARBET 

THEREICERYX ZEYLANICUS (Gmelin) 
(Plate xvi, Fig. i, opposite page 330) 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. Head, neck and 
breast brown, with narrow pale shaft-streaks ; upper plumage bright 
green, in places with narrow pale shaft-streaks terminating in whitish 
spots ; flight-feathers brown, edged paler ; tail bright green, washed 
below with pale verditer-blue. 

Iris reddish-brown ; a large naked space round the eye to the 
base of the beak orange ; bill dead fleshy-pink ; legs light yellowish- 
brown. 

Field Identification. Common arboreal plains bird, best known 
from its loud resounding call, kotur-kotur-kotur. In appearance a 
coarse green bird, with brownish head and a swollen conspicuous 
beak. Needs to be distinguished from the closely allied Lineated 
Barbet (Thereiceryx lineatus) of the Lower Himalayas, in which the 
pale stripes are much broader and the naked eye-patch does not extend 
to the base of the beak. 

A third species of very similar appearance, but smaller, the Small 
Green Barbet (Thereiceryx viridis) is extremely common in the 
Shevaroys and along the west coast from Khandala to Cape Comorin. 

Distribution. This Barbet is confined to India and Ceylon ; it 
is divided into three races. The typical form, small and dark, is 
found in Travancore and Ceylon. T. z. caniceps, the largest and 
palest race, is found in Northern India. Its distribution is rather 
irregular ; it is found in the North-west Provinces, and along the 
foot of the Himalayas up to about 2500 feet as far west as Kangra 
and Gurdaspur, in Eastern Guzerat, the Central Provinces and 
South-western Bengal, the forest tracts between the Ganges and 
Godavari, and in portions of the Madras Presidency ; also about 
Mount Aboo. An intermediate race, T. & inornatus, is found along 
the west coast from Bombay to Coorg. It is a strictly resident species. 

T 



290 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Habits \ etc. Like several other birds in India, this Barbet is exceed- 
ingly well known by sound to many people who do not know it by 
sight. It is purely arboreal, affecting richly-wooded and well-watered 
localities, especially in the neighbourhood of hills which it ascends 
to an altitude of about 3000 feet. It feeds chiefly on the fruit of wild 
fig trees, such as the banyan and peepul, and living high from the ground 
amongst their heavy foliage, is hard to see ; for the green plumage 
blends with the leaves, and the curious flesh-coloured beak #nd 
yellow eye-patch simulate the berries ; as if aware of this protective 
coloration it relies on it for concealment and is still and silent in the 
presence of danger. The flight is strong but rather heavy and 
undulating. 

The presence of the bird is, however, revealed by the call, which 
is one of the familiar sounds of India. It may be heard throughout 
the year, though it is most persistent from January to June, when 
the breeding season urges the bird to its greatest efforts. It occasionally 
calls at night. The call is loud and monotonous and starts with a harsh 
sort of laugh, followed by a disyllabic call, which may be written 
tur-r-r-r kutur-kotur-kotur ; another method of expressing it is by a 
repetition several times of the word Pakrao. 

The eggs are laid in March and April. The nest hole is a chamber 
excavated in one of the larger branches of a soft-wooded tree with a 
short entrance tunnel which is neatly cut and rounded. It is excavated 
by the birds themselves, and they work very hard and continuously 
until it is finished. The hole is at any height from 6 to 50 feet from the 
ground. There is no nest, the eggs being merely laid on chips at the 
bottom of the hole. 

The clutch consists of two to four eggs, which are laid rather 
irregularly, so that eggs in different stages of incubation may be 
found in the same clutch. The eggs are somewhat elongated very 
regular ovals, dull white, slightly glossy and unusually fragile for 
their size. 

They measure about 1*20 by 0*87 inches. 



THE BLUE-THROATED BARBET 

CYANOPS ASIATICA (Latham) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
crimson, broken by a transverse black band above the eyes which 
turns backwards and borders the red over the ears ; the transverse 
band has a yellow border in front ; remainder of upper plumage 
grass-green, the flight-feathers blackish-brown, and the under surface 
of the tail washed with pale blue ; sides of the head, chin, throat 



THE BLUE-THROATED BARBET 291 

and fore-neck pale verditer-blue, with a crimson speck on each side at 
the lower base of the beak, and with a large crimson spot on each side of 
the neck ; remainder of lower plumage yellowish-green. 

Iris brown ; eyelids orange ; bill greenish-yellow, blackish above ; 
legs dingy green, claws blackish. 

Field Identification. Sub-Himalayan species with a conspicuous 
call, kuttooruk ; a bright green bird with a gaudy mixture of black, 
crimson and blue about the head. Purely arboreal. 

Distribution. This rather gaudy species is found from the Hima- 
layas to Assam, Burma and Siam, and is divided into several races. We 
are merely concerned with the typical form, which is a resident species 
throughout the Lower Himalayas and the Sub-Himalayan forests from 
Chamba eastwards, extending also into Lower Bengal, Assam and 
Burma. It is found from the level of the plains up to about 6000 feet. 

Habits, etc. The Blue-throated Barbet is found not so much in 
thick forest as in the more open hill jungles, where villages and 
cultivation have let in the sun and caused the growth of that rich 
and varied tree flora which is a great feature of the lower hills. In 
such places wild fruits of various kinds are extremely common, and 
on these the Barbet lives, wandering freely from tree to tree without 
fear of man, even nesting in the middle of the villages. It is purely 
arboreal and never descends to the ground, the variegated green 
plumage rendering it almost invisible in the thickly foliaged trees. 
Invisible it may be but inaudible it is not, especially in the spring ; 
Bussant Bairi the old woman of the spring has a loud hard voice 
which echoes through the villages with its incessant call of kuruwak- 
kuruwak-kuruwak or kuttooruk. By some hill tribes this bird is killed 
for food. 

The breeding season lasts from April to July. 

The nest hole is excavated in the trunk or bough of a tree generally 
at a height of 10 or 15 feet from the ground, a small or medium-sized 
tree being usually chosen. The entrance hole is only about a foot 
long, and in the nest chamber the eggs are laid merely on debris, 
though occasionally a pad of fibres, grass and other materials is found 
beneath the eggs. 

The clutch consists of three eggs. These are pure white in colour, 
fine and compact in texture, sometimes with a slight gloss. The shape 
is a rather broad or elongated oval, somewhat pointed towards the small 
end. 

The egg measures about 1*09 by 0-83 inches. 



29* POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



THE COPPERSMITH 

XANTHOL^MA IUEMACEPHALA (P. L. S. Miiller) 

(Plate x, Fig. 4, opposite page 198) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. A broad patch 
across the forehead and a broad gorget across the fore-neck bright 
glistening crimson ; a streak above the eye and a broader patch below 
it and the chin and throat bright yellow ; a golden-yellow band round 
the lower edge of the crimson gorget ; a black band through the eye 
from the nostril and another from the gape below the cheeks, both 
merging into a broader black band which passes behind the ears 
and over the top of the head ; remainder of the upper plumage 
olivaceous-green tinged with greyish on the back and sides of the neck, 
and slightly streaked with yellowish on the back : concealed portions of 
the flight-feathers blackish ; lower plumage yellowish-white, streaked 
broadly with olivaceous-green especially on the flanks ; tail faintly 
washed below with verditer-blue. 

Iris brown ; eyelids dull crimson ; bill black ; legs coral-red, 
claws black. 

Field Identification. Plains species, purely arboreal, and most 
familiar from its monotonous call ; a small heavily-built greenish 
bird with gaudy yellow, crimson and black markings about the head. 

Distribution. Widely distributed through the greater part of 
the Indian Empire and Ceyfon, and farther eastwards to the Malay 
Peninsula, Sumatra, and the Philippines. In India we are concerned 
only with one race, X. h. indica. This is not found in Baluchistan, the 
North-west Frontier Province or the South-western Punjab. With 
these exceptions it is found throughout India from the outer foot-hills 
of the Himalayas below 3000 feet, right down to the south. It is, 
however, rare in Sind and Cutch and in Southern Malabar. A strictly 
resident species. 

A very similar bird, the Crimson-throated Barbet (Xantholcema 
rubricapilla), with the chin and throat crimson and the lower parts 
pale green unstreaked, is common along the west coast from above Goa 
to the extreme south. It is represented in Ceylon by a yellow-throated 
race. 

Habits, etc. The Coppersmith or Crimson-breasted Barbet is 
another of those Indian birds whose voice is more familiar to most 
people than its form. It is found in every type of open country where 
large trees abound and is purely arboreal, sitting and feeding amongst 
the green leaves with which its plumage assimilates, and never descend- 
ing either to bushes or the ground. The flight is fairly strong and 
straight, 'with quick regular beats of the short wings, and the bird has 



THE COPPERSMITH 293 

no hesitation in flying high from tree to tree, often for a considerable 
distance. 

The outstanding characteristic of the bird is its voice ; the note is 
a loud but mellow took, in which is the unmistakable ring of metal, like 
the tap of a small hammer on metal ; and this is repeated indefinitely 
at regular intervals as if a veritable coppersmith were at work ; its 
monotony can be most exasperating as the sound never changes or 
varies except that it is somewhat ventriloquial ; when the bird turns 
its head from side to side the call appears to come from different direc- 
tions, as if two smiths were smiting alternately the same anvil. As the 
thermometer rises so does the persistence of the bird grow, and then 
its note may be definitely included amongst the hot weather worries of 
India. It usually calls from near the top of a tree, sometimes indeed 
clinging to the side of an upright twig. The call may be heard through- 
out the day, but not after dark. 

The food consists almost entirely of the fruit of the various species 
of wild fig. 

The breeding season is from February to May. 

The eggs are laid in a hole in the bough of a tree, which is used and 
lengthened year by year until it may attain the length of 4 or 5 feet. 
The entrance is invariably a neat round hole cut by the birds themselves, 
usually on the under surface of the bough ; but though the gallery and 
nest chamber may both be the work of the birds themselves, the gallery 
often cuts into a natural decayed hollow which is then smoothed and 
used. When the passage of several years has lengthened the hollow 
unduly a new entrance is frequently cut nearer to the egg chamber. 
There is no nest, the eggs merely lying on chips and debris. The nest 
hole is at any height from 7 to 40 feet from the ground. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. They are long, narrow 
and nearly cylindrical in shape, very fragile and smooth in texture, 
with little or no gloss. The colour is pure unmarked white. 

In size the egg averages about 0-99 by 0-69 inches. 



THE BLUE-JAY 

CORACIAS BENGHALENSIS 
(Plate xvii, Fig. 2, opposite page 352) 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
bluish-green ; back and sides of the neck deep vinous ; upper plumage 
dull greenish-brown, a patch of blue above the base of the tail ; wings 
mixed blues and greens, the quills being deep purplish-blue marked 
conspicuously with a broad band of pale blue ; tail deep blue, with 
a broad subterminal band of pale blue, interrupted by the central 

T2 



294 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

pair of feathers which are dull greenish ; sides of head and throat 
purplish-lilac, streaked with whitish ; breast vinous, also faintly 
streaked with whitish ; remainder of lower plumage pale blue. 

Iris greyish-brown ; naked skin round the eye gamboge ; bill 
blackish-brown ; legs brownish-yellow. 

The three front toes are more or less united at the base. 

Field Identification. One of the best-known birds of India ; a 
heavy lumpy-looking nondescript-coloured bird which, as it takes 
to flight, reveals glorious Oxford-blue wings and tail, banded with 
Cambridge-blue. 

Distribution. The Blue-Jay or Indian Roller is widely spread 
throughout India, Burma and Ceylon, occurring also to the west as 
far as Amara, and to the east to Siam and Cochin-China. Several 
races have been distinguished. The typical race extends from the 
Persian Gulf throughout Northern India to Eastern Bengal. In 
the southern half of the Peninsula and Ceylon it is replaced by 
C. b. indica, while the darker and more mauve Burmese bird is known as 
C. b. affinis. The Common Roller of Kashmir, however, which may be 
easily distinguished by having the lower parts pale blue throughout and 
by lacking the wing and tail-bars, is C. garrula semenovi, a race of the 
European bird. This species is very plentiful on migration in the plains 
of North-western India. It should be emphasised that these birds are 
in no way related to the true Jays which belong to the Crow family. 

The Indian Roller is a plains bird, and does not ascend the Hima- 
layas over about 4000 feet ; while in the main a resident species, it is 
locally migratory. 

Very similar in appearance is the Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus 
orientalis, not rare in the foothills of the Himalayas, from Kumaon 
eastwards. It also occurs in South-west India and Ceylon but is 
far from common. It is a dull blue colour with a very distinct pale 
blue wing bar noticeable in flight. , 

Habits, etc. Under the familiar name of Blue-Jay this Roller is 
one of the best-known of our Indian birds. It is a bird of open country, 
avoiding heavy jungle and preferring cultivation. There is very little 
variation in its habits ; except in the breeding season it is found singly, 
but is so common that single birds will be met all over the country- 
side every quarter mile or so. It chooses an elevated open perch on 
which to sit, a dead bough of an ancient tree, the woodwork over a well, 
a ruined building, a telegraph post or wire, or in default of something 
better, a thorn bush or stone heap. On such a spot it sits motionless, 
the bright colours concealed or blending with the variegated tints of an 
Indian landscape ; but all the while the large dark eyes are watching 
the ground in every direction ; and a grasshopper has only to walk 
along a blade of grass, or a cricket or mouse to emerge from its burrow, 
and the Roller has launched itself straight at the spot to capture the 



THE BLUE-JAY 295 

toothsome morsel, settling on the ground beside it, and then flying 
back to its perch. To my last day in India I shall never lose the thrill 
that comes to me every time that I see the sudden transformation, as 
the dark lumpy bird reveals the banded glory of its wings and tail. 

Tn early February the Roller betrays the secret of its name ; its 
sedateness is exchanged for the love flights in which it rises and falls 
in the air with wildly flapping wings and harsh grating screams, 
advertising to all and sundry that Spring is in the air. The ordinary 
flight is strong and buoyant with slow but continuous flapping of the 
wings ; occasionally it pursues insects on the wing, but this is not usual. 

This bird is sacred to Shiva, who is said to have assumed its form. 

The breeding season lasts from the end of March until July. The 
nest is invariably built in a hole, either in a tree or a building. It is a 
formless pad of tow, vegetable fibres, grass, old rags and similar 
materials, but it varies in size according to the circumstances of the 
hole adopted, and occasionally the eggs are merely laid on debris and 
chips in the bottom of the hole without any real nest being constructed. 

The eggs are four or five in number. They are very broad ovals, 
sometimes almost spherical, highly glossy and hard in texture, of an 
unmarked pure china-white. 

In size they average about 1-30 by 1-05 inches. 



THE GREEN BEE-EATER 

MEROPS ORIENTALIS Latham 
(Plate x, Fig. i, opposite page 198) 

Description. Length 9 inches, including 2 inches for the elongated 
central pair of tail-feathers. Sexes alike. Entire plumage bright green, 
in places tinged with blue, markedly so on the chin and throat ; the 
crown to the upper back tinged with golden-ferruginous ; flight-feathers 
rufous, washed exteriorly with green and finely tipped with blackish ; 
a mark in front and below the eye and a fine gorget-line black. 

Iris blood-red ; bill black ; legs dark plumbeous. 

The bill is long, slender and curved ; the feet are feeble with the 
three anterior toes united at the base, and the two central tail-feathers 
are long and pointed. 

Field Identification. Abundant plains species, easily identified 
by its long slender shape, with long beak and elongated central tail- 
feathers, and by the green plumage, with a coppery sheen from the 
wings in flight. Smaller than all other Indian Bee-Eaters. Hawks 
from trees and telegraph-wires. 

Distribution. This little Bee-Eater has an extensive range from 
Egypt through India, Ceylon and Burma to Siam and Cochin-China. 



296 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

In this wide area it has, of course, been divided into several races, 
of which we are concerned with two. The typical race is found 
throughout India and Ceylon, with the exception of Sind, the Punjab, 
North-west Frontier Province and Baluchistan where it is replaced by 
M. o. beludschicus, a rather paler bird with a bluer throat. While 
ordinarily a plains bird, this Bee-Eater ascends the Outer Himalayas 
and other hill ranges occasionally to a height of 5000 to 6000 feet and 
even higher. It is locally migratory, though the movements still 
require to be worked out. 

Habits, etc. The Green Bee-Eater avoids heavy forest and the 
wetter tracts of India, and is most abundant wherever the country is 
open, frequenting both cultivation and desert areas. It is certainly 
one of the commonest birds of India, and attracts attention from its 
beautiful coloration and from its favourite perch being on the telegraph- 
wires. It also settles on trees, low bushes and walls, but only visits the 
ground for nesting purposes, the small and weak feet rendering the bird 
incapable of progression by walking or hopping ; like other Bee-Eaters 
it spends its life hawking insects from a perch to which it returns after 
every flight, usually carrying a captured insect of some size which is 
battered to death and eaten there. The flight is free and graceful, and 
when the bird is travelling it is somewhat undulating. The note is a 
pleasant, cheerful but rather monotonous trill, tree-tree-tree-tree, which 
is usually uttered on the wing. 

These birds are fond of living in small parties and they are very 
social at the roost, two or three hundred often collecting to sleep in a 
clump of trees. 

The breeding season lasts from the middle of March until the 
beginning of June. 

The eggs are laid in a circular chamber reached by a tunnel excavated 
in the ground, usually in the face of a perpendicular bank or cutting ; 
the entrance tunnel may be anything up to 5 feet in length, and the 
opening is circular and very neatly cut, all the work being done by the 
birds themselves. No nest is built, the eggs being merely laid on the 
bare floor of the cavity. 

The clutch varies from three to five eggs. They are nearly spherical 
in shape, pure white in colour without markings, and the texture is hard 
and brilliantly glossy. 

They average 0*75 by 0*7 inches in size. 



THE BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER 297 

THE BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATER 

MEROPS SUPERCILIOSUS Linnaeus 
(Plate xvi, Fig. 2, opposite page 330) 

Description. Length 12 inches, including elongated central pair of 
tail-feathers 2 inches. Sexes alike. A broad black streak from the beak 
through the eye, bordered narrowly above and broadly below by blue ; 
upper plumage green tinged with rufous passing on the rump into 
verditer-blue ; the wings more rufous-green than the back and tipped 
with blackish ; tail verditer-blue, dark brown below, the long central 
pair of feathers tipped with black ; throat chestnut passing into green 
on the breast, and this in turn into blue under the tail. 

Iris crimson ; bill black ; legs dusky-plumbeous. 

The bill is long and curved, the three exterior toes are united 
about their bases, and the central pair of tail-feathers are elongated 
and pointed, projecting 2 inches beyond the others. 

Field Identification. Common plains species, partial to the 
neighbourhood of water. Easily identified by long slender shape, 
with long sharp bill and central tail-feathers ; distinguish from Green 
Bee-Eater by large size, chestnut throat and greenish under parts and 
generally duller coloration. 

Distribution. Throughout the greater part of the Oriental region. 
We are concerned with only two races. M. s. javanicus, as described 
above, occurs from India, Ceylon and Burma to Java. It is generally 
but locally distributed almost throughout India, except in Sind. It 
occurs along the foothills of the Himalayas up to about 3000 feet. 
M. s. persicus is more of a desert bird and is confined in India to parts of 
the North-west. It is a bluer, less bronzy-green below ; there is more 
blue on the sides of the head and the upper surface of the tail is green. 

The European Bee-Eater (Merops apiaster) breeds very abundantly 
in Kashmir. The brilliant yellow throat and blue under parts immedi- 
ately identify it, whilst the brown and yellow upper parts are conspicuous 
in the field. 

Habits, etc. This fine Bee-Eater is common in well-cultivated and 
open country, provided it is not too dry. It is particularly partial to the 
neighbourhood of water, and may be found in large flights on the banks 
of rivers and about j heels and tanks. These birds perch on open 
elevated situations, such as tall half-withered trees standing in water or 
on telegraph-wires, and continually dart into the air to take a passing 
insect which they take back and eat on their perch : but it is a familiar 
sight, especially in the evenings, to see a flock drifting along through the 
air, flying fast with beating wings for a few yards and then soaring with 
stiff open pinions, catching insects as they go. The call-note is freely 



3 9 8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

uttered on the wing and is a rather mellow and characteristic sound, a 
rolling whistle or chirp teerp. The food consists entirely of insects, 
chiefly dragon-flies and bees. 

The breeding season is from March to June. The birds nest in 
colonies, excavating their nest holes in the face of natural banks or in 
mounds like those that mark the site of old brick-kilns. The eggs are 
laid on the soil in a rounded chamber which is reached by a tunnel some 
4 to 7 feet long. This tunnel is usually not quite straight. 

The clutch normally consists of four or five eggs. 

The egg is pure white with a very high gloss and fine hard texture. 
In shape it is a spherical oval. 

The average size is about 0-88 by 0-75 inches. 



THE CHESTNUT-HEADED BEE-EATER 
MEROPS LESCHENAULTI (Vieillot) 

Description. Length 8-5 inches. The sexes are alike. A line 
under the eye and through the ear-coverts black ; head, neck and 
lower back chestnut ; upper tail coverts pale blue ; wings and tail 
green tinged with black ; throat very pale yellow separated from 
the breast by a dark chestnut band, bordered on the posterior margin 
with black ; breast, abdomen and under tail coverts grass-green 
varying in shade. 

Iris crimson ; bill black ; legs dusky black. 

Field Identification. From other Bee-eaters described above this 
species is distinguished by the square tail, the two middle tail feathers 
not prolonged, and the chestnut back. 

Distribution. The Himalayan Terai from the Kumaon foothills 
eastward through Assam and Burma to the Malay Peninsula and 
the Andaman Islands. The species is very rare on the east side of 
the Peninsula, but on the Malabar coast it is not uncommon though 
local, and is found from Belgaum to Travancore and Ceylon. In 
the thicker forests in Kanara, both above and below Ghats, it is 
generally distributed, and in the Nilgiri and Pulney Hills is common 
up to 5000 and 3000 feet respectively, while in the Travancor Hills 
it is not rare. It occurs in Mysore and Hyderabad but is local. 
In the Himalayas it is not found above 4000 feet. Another striking 
species is the Blue-bearded Bee-eater (Alcemerops aihertoni) grass- 
green in colour except the forehead, throat and upper breast which 
are blue. It is a forest bird found from Kuman along the lower 
Himalayas to Assam and south to Tenasserim, also on the Malabar 
coast from Belgaum to Travancore, and has occurred in south-west 
Behar and Orissa. 

Habits, etc. In some parts of its range in South India, this 



THE CHESTNUT-HEADED BEE-EATER 299 

Bee-eater is locally migratory. No birds are found in the western 
slopes of the Nilgiri Hills between June and November, and in Coorg 
large flocks seen in June disappeared by the end of the month. In 
the non-breeding season the species is met with in small parties of 
from four to eight birds, or in flocks of a hundred or more. As a 
rule it is restricted to forested country or maidans interspaced with 
trees, and occasionally frequents the vicinity of cultivated areas 
surrounded by forests. The birds roost in company in trees or in 
tall reeds on river banks, and towards sunset collect in flocks preparatory 
to settling down for the night. At this time they behave like flocks 
of starlings and there is much calling and flying about. The note 
is not to be distinguished from that of the Blue-tailed Bee -eater. 

The eggs are laid from February to May, according to the latitude. 
The nest is at the end of a tunnel, excavated by the birds themselves, 
and is an enlarged chamber some six by eight inches without any 
nesting material. The tunnel is about two inches in diameter and 
varies very much in length according to the material in which it is 
excavated. It is usually from three to eight feet, at times as much 
as ten feet when in soft sand, but if in hard earth or clay it may not 
be more than a foot or so. The nests are generally near water, in a 
bank of a river or stream, and sometimes even in a sandbank in a 
river. Not infrequently the birds are flooded out and betake them- 
selves to nearby nullahs where they make a new tunnel. The birds 
sit very close and both remain in the nesting chamber at night. 
Sometimes they breed in colonies, but more often several pairs breed 
within a short distance of one another. 

The eggs are four to eight in number, pure glossy white. 

They measure 0-87 by 0-76 inches. 



THE PIED KINGFISHER 
CERYLE RUDIS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 12 inches. Male : Top of the head with 
a small crest black streaked with white ; a conspicuous white line 
over the eye ; a black line from the beak through the eye connecting 
with a narrow black line to the black gorget ; an indistinct white 
collar on the hind neck ; upper plumage mixed black and white ; 
flight-feathers white with irregular black bars ; tail white, with a 
broad black terminal band ; lower plumage silvery-white with two 
black gorgets across the breast, the upper being the broader ; some 
black spots on the sides of the throat and flanks. 

The female lacks the hinder gorget and has the other broken in 
the centre. 

Iris* brown ; bill and legs black. 



300 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The bill is long, heavy and pointed ; the feet are weak, the outer 
toe being largely united to the centre toe. 

Field Identification. Common plains bird, always found by water, 
and conspicuous for its habit of hovering and plunging for fish. Pied 
black and white plumage, with a big sharp bill. 

Distribution. This Kingfisher has a wide distribution from Egypt 
to China, but in India we are concerned only with the race C. rudis 
leucomelanura, which is found practically throughout India, Burma and 
Ceylon in the plains. It does not ascend higher than about 2500 feet 
in the hill ranges, being replaced above that height in the Himalayas by 
the larger Himalayan Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle lugubris) of rather similar 
coloration. It is a strictly resident species. 




FIG. 44 Pied Kingfisher (J nat. size) 

Habits, etc. The Pied Kingfisher is to be found in the plains 
wherever "there is water, except in the midst of forest. As a breeding 
species it is largely confined to the banks of rivers, but having a voracious 
appetite and strong flight it wanders far afield and appears at every jheel 
and tank, also to some extent visiting tidal creeks and backwaters where 
the water is brackish ; in places it may even be found on the seashore. 

In such situations this bird may readily be watched at its fishing, for 
it is very common and its diet consists entirely of small fish. It flies 
over the Water at a height of some 10 to 20 feet above the surface, and 
suddenly catching sight of a shoal of fish below checks itself dead in 
mid-air and hovers with the wings vibrating rapidly and the bill pointing 
perpendicularly downwards, as if taking aim. From this position it 
plunges headlong into the water, and if the aim has been true it emerges 
with a small fish in the bill and flies away with it, uttering cries of satis- 
faction ; but often the plunge is unsuccessful, or the bird checks itself 
in mid-dive and hovers again, or goes off finally without diving at all. 
In flight a sharp querulous twittering cry is freely uttered. When not 
fishing the bird rests on a high bank or post, and these favourite perches 
are often marked by the pellets of indigestible fish-scales which the bird 



THE PIED KINGFISHER 301 

disgorges, like the castings of the birds of prey. When resting the bird 
at intervals gives its tail a sharp upward flick. 

The breeding season is very early, commencing about December and 
lasting until April. The eggs are laid in a circular chamber at the end of 
a tunnel, i to 5 feet long, which is invariably excavated in a perpendicular 
bank face over running water. There is no nest, but the floor of the 
egg-chamber is partly covered with fish-scales and similar debris from 
broken-up pellets. 

The clutch consists of four to six eggs. They are very broad ovals, 
often almost spherical, of a hard texture with a high gloss. The colour 
is pure china- white. 

They average about 1-20 by 0-95 inches in size. 




E COMMON KINGFISHER 



ALCEDO ATTHIS (Linnaeus) 

(Plate xvii, Fig. 5, opposite page 352) 

Description. Length 7 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
finely banded with black and blue ; a band from the beak below the 
eye to the side of the neck bright ferruginous ending in a conspicuous 
white patch ; a black mark in front of the eye ; a broad moustachial 
stripe bright blue ; upper plumage bright blue becoming greenish on 
the sides and wings ; hidden portions of wings and underside of tail 
brown ; chin and throat white ; remainder of lower plumage ferruginous. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black, sometimes orange-red at lower base ; 
legs coral-red, claws dusky. 

The bill is long, heavy and sharply pointed ; the feet are weak, the 
3rd and 4th toes being partly united. 

Field Identification. Generally common by water over which when 
disturbed it flies low and fast, uttering a hard sharp squeak ; a small 
stout bird with disproportionately \Jarge^beak and brilliant plumage, 
green and blue above and chestnut^below^ 

Distribution. The Common Kingfisher is a widely-spread species in 
Europe, Northern Africa and Asia, and has in consequence been divided 
into a number of races ; of these we are concerned with three. A. a. 
pallasii of Western Siberia and Persia is the bird which is so common in 
summer about the waterways and lakes of Kashmir, appearing in winter 
in Baluchistan and as far as Sind in the plains. A. a. bengalensis is 
a smaller resident species throughout the plains of India, except in 
the extreme south, occasionally ascending the mountain ranges up 
to a height of about 6000 feet. These races differ only in size but 
A. c. taprobanus of Ceylon and the lower part of Southern India is a 
much bluer bird. 



302 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

A much larger species (length 15 inches) with a very heavy beak the 
Stork-billed Kingfisher (Ramphalcyon capensis) is locally distributed 
through the wetter parts of India, Ceylon, Assam and Burma. The top 
of the head is brown, a collar and the lower parts buffy yellow and the 
back, wings and tail greenish-blue. 

Habits, etc. The Common ^Kingfisher is, as is well known, purely a 
water-bird, frequenting fresh water of every description, and occasion- 
ally also wandering to the confines of tidal creeks and the seashore. % Its 
food consists of tiny fishes and various aquatic insects, larvae and other 
organisms. 

This Kingfisher usually captures its food by plunging obliquely into 
the water from an overhanging bough, stump or clump of reeds or 
similar vantage point on which it sits motionless waiting for something 
to come within its reach ; but at times it hovers over open water with 
the body erect at right angles to the surface, and some 10 to 15 feet 
above it, and from this position dives perpendicularly into the water. 

The flight is very swift and straight, generally low above the surface 
of the water, and as the bird goes it utters a loud call cKkee which draws 
attention to the short shuttle-shaped form and brilliant colours of the 
passing bird. It is a very pugnacious species, and once a pair have 
established their right to a stretch of water they are very intolerant of 
the presence of others of their kind. 

The breeding season is rather irregular, but the majority of eggs will 
be found from March to June. 

The nest is excavated in the face of a perpendicular bank, generally 
at the edge of water, but occasionally at a considerable distance from it. 
The entrance tunnel is anything up to 3 feet in length, and is very 
narrow, about ^ inches in diameter ; it terminates in a circular chamber 
some 5 inches in diameter and 3 or 4 inches in height. The chamber and ' 
passage always contain minute fish bones disgorged by the birds, but no 
nest is constructed, the eggs lying merely on the floor of the chamber. 

The clutch consists of five to seven eggs. These are almost spherical 
in shape, pure unmarked china-white in colour, of hard texture with a 
high gloss. 

In size they average about o ( 8 by 0*7 inches. 



THE WHITE-BREASTED KINGFISHER 303 

THE WHITE-BREASTED KINGFISHER 

HALCYON SMYRNENSIS (Linnaeus) 
(Plate xvii, Fig. 3, opposite page 352) 

Description. Length n inches. Sexes alike. Head, neck and 
lower plumage deep chestnut-brown, with a conspicuous white patch 
extending over the chin, throat and central breast ; remainder of upper 
plumage blue, tinged with greenish, a blackish band along the side of 
the wing ; flight-feathers black with a conspicuous white patch towards 
their base. 

Iris brown ; bill dark dull red ; legs coral-red, claws dusky. 

The bill is long, very heavy and pointed ; the feet are weak, the 
2nd and 3rd toes being partly joined together. 

Field Identification. Found over water or land indifferently, and one 
of the most characteristic birds of the plains. Noisy, and conspicuous 
with the heavy red beak, the white breast-patch set in deep chestnut 
and the greenish-blue upper parts ; in flight the white wing-patch is 
very noticeable, as is the large beak. 

Distribution. This handsome bird has an immense range from Asia 
Minor through Persia, India, Ceylon, Burma, and the Malay Peninsula 
to Southern China. Of the races into which it is divided we are con- 
cerned with two. The typical form, H. s. smyrnensis, is found through- 
out India except in Travancore where it is replaced by H. s. fusca of 
Ceylon which is a darker chocolate-brown and a bluer green in colour. 
This species wanders occasionally into the Himalayas and other ranges 
up to a height of 6000 feet. It is strictly resident. 

Habits, etc. While the other Kingfishers described in this work 
are purely water-birds, living chiefly on fish, this very typical King- 
fisher is mainly a land bird and feeds largely on insects, lizards, frogs 
and such small fry, which it captures after the manner of a Roller, 
flying down to them on the ground from an elevated perch. It is 
said very occasionally both to plunge into water after fish and has 
been observed diving after fresh-water crabs which it beats to pulp 
before swallowing, also to take insects on the wing. The flight is 
strong and direct, and on the wing a loud screaming cry is uttered 
which is one of the familiar sounds of India. This species avoids 
heavy forest and actual desert areas, but is found in every other type 
of country, either wet or dry. 

The breeding season lasts from March to July. The eggs are laid 
in the usual chamber at the end of a tunnel, which, as in the case of 
the other species, is excavated in the faces of banks and borrow-pits, 
usually, but by no means always, in the vicinity of water. The shafts 
of unbricked wells are sometimes selected as a nesting site. 



304 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDAIN BIRDS 

The eggs are four to seven in number. They are almost spherical 
in shape, pure unmarked china-white in colour, with a hard texture and 
high gloss. As incubation proceeds they lose their gloss and become 
stained, and are sometimes covered with small black spots apparently 
the excreta of parasites. 

In size they average 1-15 by 1-05 inches. 



THE GREAT HORNBILL 

DICHOCEROS BICORNIS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 52 inches. Sexes alike. Head black ; neck 
fulvescent white ; upper plumage and wings black, a broad white 
bar across the wing and all the quills with their bases and ends white ; 
tail and its upper and under coverts white, a broad black band near 
the end of the tail ; breast black ; abdomen white. 

Iris, male blood-red*, female pearly white ; bill and casque yellow, 
tinged with red at the tip and with orange in the middle. In the male 
the front and back of the casque are black, together with the ridge 
of the bill just in front of the casque. In the female the back of the 
casque is red. Bare skin round the eye fleshy pink, eyelids black ; 
legs greenish plumbeous. 

Bill large, stout and much curved. A broad casque covering the 
head and the base of the bill, broad, flattened and rounded behind 
rising at the sides and projecting in two points in front. Conspicuous 
eyelashes. Tail long and rounded. Toes joined at their base. 

Field Identification. Western Ghats and Lower Himalayas only. 
A large ungainly forest bird of black and white plumage, unmistakable 
from the heavy double casque over the huge curved beak. Very noisy 
and in flight recognisable by the noise made by the wings. The white 
neck suffices to distinguish this species from the smaller black and 
white Hornbills of the genus Hydrocissa found in the Western Ghats, 
Peninsular India and the Himalayas which have the neck black and 
the casque single. 

Distribution. Widely distributed from India, Assam and Burma 
through the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra. All but Sumatran birds 
belong to the typical race. In India this is confined to the Western 
Ghats from near Bombay to Cape Comorin and to the lower Himalayan 
ranges up to 5000 feet from Kumaon eastwards. 

Habits, etc. The Great Hornbill is a forest bird and generally 
keeps to the largest trees where it may be found in parties of half a 
dozen birds or upwards. It is difficult to overlook the presence of 
this species. In flight it may be heard a mile away by the loud droning 
noise of the air rushing through the base of the outer wing-quills 



THE GREAT HORNBILL 



305 



which are not fully covered by their under-covert feathers in the 
usual manner. In a tree they are noisy, apt to indulge in the most 
extraordinary rattling roars, cacklings and bellows. 

The flight is an alternation of a series of flapping of the wings 
and of sailing with the wings motionless, but the flapping predominates 
and the flight is less undulating than in some of the other species of 
.Hornbill. 




FIG. 45 Great Hornbill (J nat. size) 

The food mainly consists of fruit and this is picked with the tip 
of the bill, jerked into the air and caught in the throat and swallowed. 
These Hornbills are, however, omnivorous feeders and readily take 
insects, lizards, grain and other food, all of which is jerked into the 
air and caught in the manner described. 

Nothing is known about the purpose of the curious casque, which 
is not solid but cellular and partly hollow in structure. Captive birds 
are said to be very destructive, using the bill as a pickaxe if this 

U 



306 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

habit is general in the wild state it is possible that the casque is in 
the nature of a shock-absorber. 

The breeding season is from January to April. The breeding 
habits do not appear to differ in any important detail from those 
described at length under the Grey Hornbill. The same nest hole 
is used year after year for long periods. 

The eggs vary in shape from very broad ovals, obtuse at both 
ends to moderately elongated ovals, distinctly pointed at the small 
end. The shell is tolerably hard and compact but is very commonly 
covered with tiny pimples and roughnesses and in most specimens 
the entire surface is somewhat conspicuously pitted with pores. The 
colour is pure white with a certain amount of gloss, but as the interior 
of the nest is intolerably dirty the eggs become dirty and stained to a 
uniform chocolate-brown. 

They measure about 2-60 by 1-88 inches. 



THE GREY HORNBILL 

TOCKUS BIROSTRIS (Scopoli) 

Description. Length 24 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
light brownish -grey, with pale whitish streaks over the eyes ; the 
cheek and ear-coverts blackish-grey ; flight-feathers dark brown, 
fringed and tipped with grey or white ; tail long and graduated, 
brown, each feather with a broad sub-terminal darker band glossed 
with green and a white tip ; chin to the breast grey merging into 
white on the abdomen. 

Iris red-brown ; bill black, whitish about tip ; feet dark plumbeous. 

Bill large, curved and laterally compressed, with a small pointed 
spur above, known as a casque ; eyelids furnished with lashes. 

Field Identification. A large ungainly grey bird with a long 
graduated tail and a small pointed casque on the top of the narrow 
curved beak. Arboreal plains species, with a peculiar squealing cry. 

Distribution. A purely Indian species. It is found from the 
base of the Himalayas at about 2000 feet throughout the better wooded 
parts of India, except from Bombay to Travancore along the Malabar 
Coast where it is replaced by an allied species, the Malabar Grey 
Hornbill (Tockus griseus), which lacks the casque on the beak. It is 
absent from the North-west Frontier Province, the Northern and 
Western Punjab, Sind, and portions of Eastern Rajputana. It is rare 
in the Gangetic delta of Lower Bengal which forms its eastern boundary. 
A resident species. 

Habits, etc. The Grey Hornbill is an entirely arboreal species, 
which is found about old trees in well-timbered, fairly open country, 



THE GREY HORNBILL 



307 



coming into gardens and avenues, and avoiding thick forest. It is 
found in small parties which fly about from bough to bough, eating 
the various species of wild figs and other fruits and seeds, green leaves, 
and a certain quantity of insects, such as hornets. When flying from 
tree to tree across the open the flight is heavy and undulating with 
alternating flappings and glidings, and all the movements of the bird 
are clumsy and ungainly. The cry is a harsh squeal, distinctly 
reminiscent of that of the Common Kite. 

The breeding season is from April to June, and, like other Hornbills, 
this species is chiefly remarkable for its curious nesting arrangements. 

The eggs are laid without the construction of any nest in a large 
hole in the trunk of a tree, at any height from 10 feet upwards. The 




FIG. 46 Grey Hornbill (J nat. size) 

cotton tree or the peepul is usually selected. When ready to lay the 
female enters the nest-hole and remains therein until the young are 
about a week old. She spends the first two or three days in plastering 
up the entrance to the hole with her own ordure, which is very viscid 
and strong and hardens into a clay-like substance. For this work she 
uses the flattened sides of her beak as a trowel. 

When the work is completed only a narrow vertical slit is left r 
about the width of a man's finger and two or three inches deep. After 
this the droppings are thrown out daily through the slit. The female 
is now completely a prisoner and is dependent on the male for all her 
food. This he brings held in his beak ; he perches on a neighbouring 
bough and then flies to the entrance of the nest hollow, where he 
clings with his claws to the bark and feeds the female who extrudes 
the point of her beak through the slit to receive the food. This habit 



308 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

is perhaps responsible for the curious fact, observed in captivity with 
reference to some species of Hornbill, and perhaps connected with 
all, that at intervals the epithelial layer of the gizzard is cast in the 
form of a closed sack containing the seeds of fruit on which the bird 
has been feeding. 

During the period spent incubating in the nest the female becomes 
very fat and dirty, and on first emergence is so stiff that she can hardly 
fly. In some species of Hornbill the moult apparently takes place 
during the period of imprisonment. 

The clutch varies from one to five eggs. 

The eggs are broad rather perfect ovals, very fine and smooth in 
texture and without gloss. They are a dull uniform white with a 
creamy tinge, and naturally become somewhat discoloured as incubation 
progresses. 

In size they average about 1-7 by 1-22 inches. 



THE HOOPOE 
UPUPA EPOPS Linnaeus 

Description. Length 12 inches. Sexes alike. Head and a long 
fan-shaped crest, the feathers increasing in length from front to back, 
rufous-fawn, the feathers of the crest broadly tipped with white and 
black ; back and sides of the neck and a broad patch across the 
shoulders to the bend of the wing dull ashy-fawn colour ; remainder 
of the back broadly banded with black and fawny-white, the bands 
continuing across the wing-coverts ; quills of the wing and tail black, ' 
the primaries with a white band across their tips, the secondaries with 
three or four white bands evenly distributed throughout their length, 
and the tail with a single white chevron-shaped band near the centre ; 
chin whitish ; throat and breast pale rufous-fawn, ashy on the sides 
of the breast ; remainder of the lower plumage white, largely streaked 
with black and ashy-grey. 

Iris red-brown ; bill horny-black, fleshy at lower base ; legs 
plumbeous-slate. 

The bill is long, slender and curved, with a very short tongue ', 
wing rounded. 

Field Identification. The fawn-coloured plumage and the black 
wings and tail, banded with white, the long curved bill, and the broad 
fan-shaped crest, freely lowered and raised, put the identity of this 
species beyond all doubt at the first glance. 

Distribution. Widely distributed in Europe, Africa and Asia, 
the Hoopoe is divided into a number of sub-species, of which we 



PLATE XV 




I 

EC 




2 
O 



[Face p. 308 



THE HOOPOE 



309 



are concerned with three ; these are not very easily recognised, and 
vary in small details of size and coloration. U. e. orientalis is the 
resident species of Northern India, and southwards it shades about 
the Bombay Presidency into U. e. ceylonensis which extends to Ceylon, 
and is also a resident bird. The typical form U. e. epops breeds in 
the Himalayas and in winter migrates southwards into the plains ; 
at that season it is common in Sind, the Punjab and the United 
Provintes. The typical race has a patch of white in the longer feathers 
of the crown between the fawn and the black, this colour being either 
absent or only represented by a slight trace in the two resident races, 




FIG. 47 Hoopoe ( nat. size) 

which are also slightly smaller. The southern bird is also more richly 
coloured. 

Mention must be made of two .curious birds the Red-headed 
Trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus) of the Eastern Himalayas and 
Assam and the Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus) from the 
Malabar Coast and the Chota Nagpur area. The male of the former 
is rose-pink and chestnut; the male of the latter is chestnut with a 
black head and red belly. They are arboreal birds with soft mewing 
calls and remarkable for soft dense plumage and long square-ended 
tails. 

Habits, etc. The Hoopoe avoids areas of thick forest and is 
found very commonly in open country, mdfe especially' in the neigh- 
bourhood of groves of trees, thin scrub-forest, and the outskirts of 

- -- -------- --'" " ' " uV 



310 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

villages where it frequents mud-walls and deserted or ruined buildings 
It feeds almost entirely on the ground and is very partial to-grassy 
lawns, the neighbourhood of avenues and other similar localities 
favourable to the various ground-feeding larvae which form the greater 
portion of its food. It walks and runs with great ease and methodically 
quarters the ground, probing the roots of grass and the interstices of 
the soil or turning over leaves and rubbish for the insects, caterpillars 
and grubs that shelter there. When disturbed it flies up into tree^s or 
on to buildings, but does not usually feed anywhere except on the 
ground. 

While feeding the crest is depressed and closed, but it invariably 
erects it for a moment on settling after flight. Ordinarily the flight 
is slow and hesitating with a good deal of undulation as if the bird 
were uncertain of its destination ; but its extended migrations and 
wanderings show that this weakness is only apparent, and the bird 
has no difficulty in avoiding capture by trained falcons, mounting 
easily into the air away from them. 

The call is a loud rather mellow hoot or hud repeated two or three 
times, which has given rise to the names current in various languages, 
all onomatopoeic in origin. There is also a harsh grating note which 
is generally used at the nest. 

The presence of definite names for this species in numerous 
languages indicates the hold that the Hoopoe has obtained on the 
imagination and interest of man from the earliest ages ; nor is this 
strange in view of its tame disposition and striking appearance. 

Realistic portraits of the Hoopoe have been found in mural paintings 
both of ancient Egypt and of Crete, and from that time onwards 
mention of the bird runs through literature and legend to the present 
day. In Western legend the bird is most familiar as the form assumed 
by Jereus, King of Crete, for his punishment ; while Mohammedan 
countries regard the bird as the favourite and confidante of Solomon 
whose magnificence dowered its crown. The Hoopoe is the Lapwing 
of the Bible. The most prominent attribute of the bird, however, in 
literature, is its use in magical or medical prescriptions ; use of its 
different parts is recommended by various authors, most frequently 
in connection with visions or the power of memory, from Egyptian 
days down to the Pharmacopoeia Univer sails of Dr R. James (1752). 

The breeding season extends from February to July, but the 
majority of nests will be found in April and May. 

The nest is a very poor affair, being merely a slight collection of 
grass, hair, leaves or feathers, placed roughly on the floor of the hole 
selected. For the site the chief requisite is darkness, and the bird 
nests in holes of every sort, in trees, walls and roofs, or even on the 
floor in closed and deserted huts. 

When breeding the female develops an unpleasant smell, and as 



THE HOOPOE 311 

she seldom leaves the nest, being largely fed therein by the male, and 
never cleans it out when the young are hatched, the nest becomes 
very offensive and smelly ; this fact was well known to the classical 
authors, and doubtless accounts for the Hoopoe being " unclean " in 
the Jewish law. ,_ It-is, however, freely eaten by_. Christian populations 

in Southern Europe. s ~ 

The-' "clutch " varies from three to ten eggs, and as incubation 
commericSs with the laying of the first eggs, there is generally a good 
deal of variation in the size of the young in a nest. 

The egg is a rather lengthened oval, often somewhat pointed at 
the smaller end, and sometimes also at the broader end as well. The 
texture is smooth and hard and without gloss. There are no markings, 
and the colour, when fresh, varies from pale greenish-blue to pale 
olive-brown, though as incubation progresses the eggs become stained 
a dirty brown. 

The egg averages about i-oo by 0-66 inches in size. 



THE INDIAN SWIFT 
MICROPUS AFFINIS (Gray) 

Description. Length 6 inches. Sexes alike. A broad white band 
across the rump, and the chin and throat white, the feathers more or 
less dark-shafted ; remainder of the plumage dark blackish- brown, 
somewhat glossy, paler on the top of the head and under the tail, 
and with a deep black spot in front of the eye. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs vinous-brown. 

Bill short and hooked with an excessively broad gape ; wings 
stiff and sickle-shaped, specialised for great speed ; tail short and 
rather deeply forked ; feet weak and adapted to clinging to perpendicular 
surfaces, the four toes being directed forwards, though the first is 
more or less reversible. 

Field Identification. A small black bird with a white rump, entirely 
aerial and gregarious in its habits, the narrow sickle-shaped wings 
indicating the extreme specialisation of its structure. Abundant over 
towns and villages. 

Distribution. From North-western Africa through South-eastern 
Asia, India, Ceylon and Burma to the Malay Peninsula. It is divided 
into races, of which we are concerned merely with the typical race. 
This is found throughout India and Ceylon, very common in some 
places and wanting in others, with no apparent reason for its capricious 
distribution. In the Himalayas it is not common, but may be found 



312 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

up to a height of 6000 feet. It is locally migratory, but information 
on this point is sadly defective. 

A similar but larger species, the White-rumped Swift (Micropus 
pacificus) is found along the Himalayas and in Assam, and with it in 
the Western Himalayas one meets also the Common Swift (Micropus 
apus) which lacks the white rump. 

The Alpine Swift (Micropus melba) will be found locally and 

seasonally common throughout % the 
Himalayas and India. It is twice 
the size of the Indian Swift and can 
be easily recognised by having the 
under surface of the body white, 
with a dark band across the breast. 
The still larger Needle-tailed Swifts 
of the genus Hirundapus (Himalayas 
and South-western India) are 
probably the fastest flying birds in 
the world. They owe their name to 
the stiff and pointed ends of the 
shafts of the tail-feathers which 
extend beyond the vanes like needles. 
Habits, etc. The Common 
Indian Swift is highly gregarious, 
being usually found in flocks of fifty 
or more individuals, which breed 
together in colonies, and spend the 
hours of daylight in company hawking 
insects including small beetles, often 
at an immense height from the ground. The nest colonies are perhaps 
most frequently found about buildings, whether these be the ordinary 
dwelling-houses of an Indian village or town, or ruined temples, 
shrines and forts. They also nest under bridges and rocks on steep 
hill-sides or in precipitous nullahs. 

The birds occupy these nest colonies continuously. Not only do 
individuals breed somewhat irregularly so that a large colony will 
be found at any time to have eggs or young in some of the nests, but the 
nests are also used for sleeping and resting. Otherwise the whole of 
their life is spent in the air, rushing with swift curving flight, several 
rapid beats of the wings and then a glide, and at times uttering the 
curious squealing call which so aptly seems to express the fierce joy 
of an aerial creature in its element. The flocks usually feed in loose 
open order, but at times, especially in the evenings, they collect 
together into a " ball," mounting high into the air as a squealing, 
careering mass. 

Owing to its highly specialised structure this Swift is quite unable 




FIG. 48 Indian Swift 
(J nat. size) 



THE INDIAN SWIFT 313 

to perch on a tree or to visit the ground. Should it tumble accidentally 
to the ground, the short curious legs and feet are of no assistance 
in helping it to rise, but a stroke or two of the wings will generally 
lift the bird off the ground. 

The nest colonies are very conspicuous ; they consist of a number 
of large globular nests composed of feathers, grass and straws cemented 
together with saliva so as to form a tough material. These nests are 
constructed on the under surfaces of rocks or roofs singly, or in a mass 
with one nest built against another ; while in some instances the nests 
are built inside a hole with merely a little material plastered around 
the entrance. These birds feel cold greatly, and wet weather or a cold 
snap may send them half torpid to their nests. 

The eggs are very long and narrow ovals, much pointed towards 
the small end ; the texture is rather frail and almost without gloss. 
In colour they are a pure and spotless white. 

They average in size about 0-85 by 0-55 inches. 



THE PALM-SWIFT 

CYPSIURUS BATASSIENSIS (Gray) 

Description. Length 5 inches. Sexes alike. Dull brown above, 
head slightly darker, wing and tail feathers much darker ; beneath 
pale greyish-brown, chin and throat palest. 

Iris reddish ; bill black ; legs dusky-brown. 

Bill short with a wide gape ; toes arranged in two pairs, the ist 
and 2nd inwards, the 3rd and 4th outwards ; tail deeply forked ; 
wing narrow and sickle-shaped. 

Field Identification. Aerial in its habits, hawking in company 
round palm-trees ; distinguish from the Indian Swift by its smaller 
size, slower flight, longer tail, and absence of the white rump band. 

Distribution. This Swift is found throughout Ceylon and the 
whole of India except in the Punjab and Sind. In Rajputana it is 
only found about Mount Aboo. It is represented by another race, 
T. b. infumatusy in Assam and Burma and the farther East. 

Habits, etc. This quaint little Swift may be said to be parasitic 
on the toddy- tree or fan-palm (Borassus flabelliformis), and it is only 
found in the areas where that tree grows, though very occasionally it 
breeds in some other species of palm. The nest is built in the palm 
and the birds spend their lives hawking for insects including small 
beetles in the vicinity, flying round and about with a rather irregular 
flight which is somewhat slower than that of most species of Swift. 
They sometimes cluster together on the leaves of the palms between the 
ribs of the fronds, and move up and down the leaf with a shuffling 



3 i4 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

mode of progression owing to the shortness of their legs ; colonies of 
bats are found in similar situations and a single tree may contain a 
colony of both bird and mammal. 

Although the birds live in colonies, not more than two or three 
pairs usually nest in the one tree. It is interesting to note that in 
the Garo and Naga Hills where the people thatch their houses with 
palm-leaves the allied race, T. b. infumatus, nests in the leaves on 
the roofs as well as on the trees. 

The breeding season lasts almost the year round according to 
locality, and at least two broods appear to be reared. 

The great fan-leaves of the palm get bent by the wind and hang 
down so that the points of the leaves turn somewhat inwards, and it 
is to the under surface of that portion of the leaf which is bent inwards 
that the nest is attached. The bent portion of the leaf stands at an 
angle of from 40 to 70 degrees, so that the under surface becomes in 
fact an upper surface, and presents a sloping furrowed bank to which 
the nest is attached. In one of these furrows formed by the large 
pleats of the leaf, and always about the centre of this latter is firmly 
glued a tiny nest, shaped like a watch-pocket, composed of fine vege- 
table down or fine feathers cemented together by the bird's own saliva. 
The main body of the nest is fairly soft, but the rim of the front is 
matted into a sort of cord to withstand the pressure of the bird's weight. 

The usual clutch consists of three eggs, but four or five are some- 
times laid. 

The egg is a long oval, slightly compressed towards one end ; 
the texture is fine, the colour white, and there is usually no gloss. 

In size the egg measures about 0-70 by 0*45 inches. 



THE INDIAN CRESTED SWIFT 
HEMIPROCNE CORONATA (Tickell) 

Description. Length, 9 inches. Male : Crest dark ashy-blue ; 
upper plumage dull ashy-blue, including the innermost flight-feathers ; 
remainder of wings and tail black, glossed with greenish-blue ; a 
velvet-black patch in front of the eye with a very narrow white line 
above it ; a streak below the beak and a large patch behind and below 
the eye chestnut ; chin paler chestnut ; lower plumage ashy-grey 
becoming white under the tail. 

Female : Similar to the male but the chestnut streak below the 
beak is replaced by white and the chestnut patch behind the eye by 
the colour of the upper parts ; chin ashy-grey. 

Iris dark brown ; bill black ; legs pinkish-brown. 

Bill short with a very wide gape ; a distinct crest on the forehead ; 



THE INDIAN CRESTED SWIFT 315 

wings and tail long, the latter deeply forked ; a patch of silky down 
feathers on each flank. 

Field Identification. An ashy-grey bird with wings and tail glossy 
blackish. The male has a bright chestnut patch on the ear. Resembles 
a Swallow rather than a Swift with its long pointed wings and deeply 
forked tail. Found in parties hawking insects and settling on trees. 
A loud call. 

Distribution. Confined to India, Ceylon, Assam, Burma and 
Siam. No races. In India it is found locally throughout the whole 
country from the sub-Himalayan area southwards, except in the 
Punjab, Sind and parts of Rajputana. A resident species which 
occurs at all elevations up to 4000 feet and possibly higher. 




FIG. 49 Indian Crested Swift (? nat. size) 

Habits. The Crested Swift is a bird of forests and well-wooded 
country where it is found in small parties and sometimes even in 
flocks that hawk about for insects with a wheeling graceful flight 
which in character and pace recalls that of a Swallow rather than a 
Swift. It constantly perches in trees, usually preferring the topmost 
branches and those which are dead or bare of leaves. It sits upright 
and erects the crest. The call is loud and Parrot-like, tet-chee, 
and this is uttered frequently, both on the wing and from a branch, 
whilst the bird is particularly noisy in the evenings when preparing 
to roost. Should there be a tank or pool of water or river near its 
haunts this Swift is fond of descending rapidly from the air to the 
surface of the water, touching it and mounting again in one graceful 
curve. 

The breeding season in India is from March to June. 

The nest is a most remarkable structure. It is a very shallow 
half-saucer, composed of thin flakes of bark and a few small feathers 
gummed together with inspissated saliva on the side of a horizontal 



3i6 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

branch. The nest is nowhere more than an eighth of an inch in 
thickness, and is at most half aji inch deep in the deepest part. The 
largest outside measurement is 2 inches, which is to say that the 
nest can be covered by a crown-piece. The branch chosen is usually 
a dead one often at the top of a high tree, but many nests are built 
much lower on small trees growing in open scrub -jungle. Viewed 
from below the nest has all the appearance of a knot and would seldom 
be detected were it not for the fact that the female returns at frequent 
intervals to it. The single egg completely fills the nest. The parent 
bird sits across the nest and the branch to which it is attached so that 
the latter takes her weight. 

The egg is a very elongated oval, obtuse at both ends and with 
little or no gloss. It is white with a slight greyish-blue tinge. 

It measures about 0-94 by 0-6 1 inches. 



THE INDIAN NIGHTJAR 
CAPRIMULGUS ASIATICUS Latham 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. Upper parts 
yellowish-grey, with black elongated spots down the centre of the 
crown, and very narrow black shaft stripes on the back ; on the hind 
neck a broad buff collar broken with dusky markings ; a series of 
large black spots and bright buff markings on the sides of the back ; 
some buff patches on the wing-coverts ; the first four flight-feathers 
with a conspicuous white or pale buff spot ; central pair of tail-feathers 
like the upper plumage but with narrow broken black cross-bars, 
the two outer pairs tipped with patches of white ; lower plumage buff 
faintly barred and mottled with brown ; a white spot on each side of 
the throat. 

Iris dark brown ; bill dark brown ; legs pinkish-brown. 

This and other species of Nightjar have the following peculiarities 
of structure : Eye large and lustrous ; bill short, weak and 'hooked, 
but when opened displaying an enormously wide gape fringed with 
long stiff hairs ; three toes in front, one behind, the long central 
toe having the claw pectinated inside probably to clean insect scales 
from the gape bristles ; the plumage is very soft and loose in character. 

Field Identification. A Nightjar is a large softly-plumaged, dully- 
mottled brown and grey bird, with an erratic flight like a moth, which 
hawks about open spaces near trees as dusk turns into darkness. 
Travellers by motor-car at night often find Nightjars sitting in the 
roads, their eyes gleaming uncannily in the light of the lamps. This 
is the smallest of the Indian species, and size and the call described 
afford the only chance of identifying it from the others in the field. 



THE INDIAN NIGHTJAR 317 

There are several Nightjars in India which are difficult to identify 
without close study, their call-notes and the arrangement of spots 
on the wing and tail being the chief guides. Franklin's Nightjar 
(Caprimulgus monticolus) utters a loud grating chirp choo-ee which 
when close at hand sounds exactly like a whip-lash cutting the air. 
Horsfield's Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) has a very loud resonant 
chaunk like the blows of an adze on a plank, with a surprising volume 
of sound when close. The Jungle Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus) 
gives a monosyllabic chuck chuck chuck repeated some half a dozen 
times at the rate of five chucks in two seconds. The European Nightjar 
(Caprimulgus europeus) whirs like a gigantic grasshopper. All these 
calls can be heard at night for a considerable distance. 

Distribution. Practically throughout India and Ceylon and in 
Burma down to about Moulmein. On the West it reaches portions 




FIG. 50 Indian Nightjar (J nat. size) 

of the Eastern and Southern Punjab and Sind, but is scarce and local 
in these two provinces, being replaced there by other species. Status 
uncertain, but probably locally migratory. 

Habits, etc. This is a bird of the plains and of open and cultivated 
country, where it is found in gardens and groves, often in the near 
vicinity of houses. It spends the day upon the ground sleeping in 
some secluded spot under a bush or tree, and only awakes to activity 
at dusk, being entirely nocturnal in its habits. With the dark it takes 
to wing and then hawks for insects, moths and beetles. The flight is 
very characteristic, a long-tailed, long-winged bird, flying like a moth. 
It is very erratic in direction, the bird wheeling hither and thither, now 
diving, now shooting straight upwards, with rapid flappings of the 
wings combined with gliding movements in which the wings and tail 
are widely extended. The whole performance takes place in absolute 
silence, owing to the soft texture of the feathers, except sometimes 
for an audible smack when the wing-tips meet above the head, and 
for a slight chuckling note which is occasionally uttered. The long 
central toe prevents progression on the ground. 

The breeding-call is very characteristic. It is best described as 
chak-chak-chak-char-r-r-r or tuk tuk tuk tukaroo resembling the sound 



3i8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

of a stone skimming over the surface of a frozen pond, the note being 
repeated slowly at first and then more quickly ; it is audible for a 
considerable distance. When perching on a tree the Nightjar sits 
lengthwise on a bough, not crossways after the fashion of most birds. 

The plumage of this and other Nightjars, of which many forms 
occur in India, provide the most perfect example possible of protective 
coloration. During the long hours that the bird spends by day sitting 
motionless on the ground it is absolutely invisible, and it is uncon- 
sciously aware of that fact, only springing into life when the intruder 
comes within a yard or two. 

To the huge mouth is due the name and the legend widely spread 
in many countries and languages that the " Goatsucker " feeds from 
the udders of cows and goats. It is considered of evil omen. 

The breeding season varies, according to locality, from March to 
September. No nest is made, the eggs being simply deposited on 
the ground in some undisturbed spot, often under the shelter of a 
tree or bush. The clutch consists of two eggs. 

The egg is a long cylindrical oval with very little difference in 
the two ends ; the texture is fine and there is a slight gloss. The 
ground-colour varies from pinkish stone-colour to deep salmon-pink, 
blotched, clouded, spotted and streaked with different shades of 
pale reddish- and purplish-brown, with faint secondary markings of 
inky-purple. 

The egg measures about 1-04 by 0*77 inches. 



THE CUCKOO 
CUCULUS CANORUS Linnaeus 

Description. Length 13 inches. Adult male : The whole upper 
plumage dark ashy, a patch at the base of the tail rather paler ; wings 
browner and rather glossy, the quills being barred on their inner webs 
with white ; tail long and slightly graduated, blackish-brown tipped 
with white, the concealed inner webs notched with white and with 
white spots along the shafts ; chin, throat, sides of the neck and upper 
breast pale ashy ; remainder of lower plumage white, narrowly barred 
with blackish. 

The adult female is rather browner in tint, and has an ill-defined 
and variable buffy-brown breast band. The female is dimorphic, 
having a rather scarce reddish " hepatic " phase. 

Iris yellow ; bill dark brown, lower mandible greenish ; mouth 
rich reddish-orange ; legs yellow. 

Nostrils round ; wing long and pointed ; the tarsus is partly 
feathered in front ; the feathers of the rump are long and thick and 



THE CUCKOO 3 !9 

somewhat stiff, forming a sort of pad. Toes arranged in pairs, the 
ist and 4th pointing backwards. 

Field Identification. Very Hawk-like in shape and swift flight ; an 
ashy-grey bird with whitish under parts, barred with black from the 
breast downwards ; presence in a breeding locality heralded by the 
well-known call long before the bird is seen, as it is shy and keeps 
largely to leafy trees. 

Distribution. The Cuckoo has been succinctly described as a 
migratory bird found at one season or other throughout the greater 
part of the Old World and even in Australia. Of the various races 
into which it has been divided we are concerned with two. C. c. 
telephonus breeds in Northern Asia eastwards to Japan and southwards 
to the Himalayas, but it is replaced in the North-west by the typical 
race, C. c. canorus, which is more broadly barred on the under parts. 
This breeds in the Himalayas and also apparently in some of the ranges 
of Central India, at least as far east as Ranchi. Both races in winter 
migrate to the plains of India, some birds even reaching Ceylon. 

Cuckoos also breed very numerously in the hills of Assam south 
of the Brahmaputra, and these may be separable as a third race under 
the name C. c. bakeri. 

Three other species of the genus Cuculus are locally common in 
India and the Himalayas. In plumage they nearly resemble the 
Common Cuckoo, but their calls are very distinctive. The Himalayan 
Cuckoo (Cuculus optatus) has a dull booming note, hud-hud-hud-hud, 
rather similar to that of a Hoopoe. The Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus 
micropterus) has a call of four syllables, variously described as bouko- 
tako, kyphul-pakka, orange-pekoe or kithe-toppan. The Little Cuckoo 
(Cuculus poliocephalus) is smaller than the others and has a wild 
screaming note, resembling the words " that's your smoky paper." 

Habits, etc. The familiar call of the Common Cuckoo, with all 
its treasured memories of the woods and meadows of an English 
Spring, is a welcome sound about the Himalayan stations, recognised 
with pleasure by all the European population. It is curious, however, 
and indicative of the Indian attitude towards nature that the hillmen 
appear to have no knowledge of the breeding habits of the Cuckoo 
or interest in the bird ; for in Europe, literature and legend have 
combined to make this one of the best known of birds, whilst its 
habits of imposing its domestic duties on other birds are familiar to 
everyone. 

In the Himalayas the Cuckoo arrives about the end of March or 
beginning of April, and is noisy until about June. The calls of the 
male cuck-oo or cuck-cuck-oo sometimes preceded by a harsh know- 
wow-wow are easily recognised, but the equally loud " water bubbling " 
call of the female is not so universally known. In India the bird is 
found in every type of wooded country, but rather prefers open cultiva- 



330 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

tion to heavy forest. The food consists chiefly of injurious insects, 
large hairy caterpillars being particularly favoured. The resemblance 
of a Cuckoo on the wing to a Hawk is most marked. 

In its breeding habits the Cuckoo is a parasite, the eggs being 
laid in the nests of other species to whom the duty of hatching them 
and of rearing the chicks is entirely left. A great variety of foster- 
parents are chosen, the favourites in India being perhaps various 
Pipits and Chats. In the majority of instances the Cuckoo settles on 
the chosen nest and lays its egg in the ordinary way. In some 
cases, however, this is clearly impossible from the site or size of 
the nest, and then the Cuckoo apparently clings to the outer surface 
of the nest or its containing site and ejects the egg from the vent 
into the nest cavity, sometimes with unfortunate results. 

When the young Cuckoo is hatched, a curious provision of nature 
comes into play. It proceeds to eject the rightful eggs or young of 
the nest by getting them on to its back and gradually pushing them 
over the side, to die unnoticed below the nest. A hollow formation 
of the back in the early days of the Cuckoo's life is obviously adapted 
to this purpose and the reason for it is evident. The great bulk 
of the Cuckoo, compared with the size of the foster-parents, requires 
all the food that the latter can bring. So great is this disproportion 
in size that the foster-parents frequently have to perch on the back 
of the young Cuckoo, after it has left the nest, in order to place food 
in its mouth. 

In the Himalayas the Cuckoo lays in May and June. 

Estimates vary as to the number of eggs that a hen Cuckoo lays, 
but it is believed that the number may reach twenty in a single season. 
No hen normally lays twice in the same nest, though she frequents 
one particular locality, and as far as possible prefers to lay in the 
nests of one particular species of bird. If two or three Cuckoos' 
eggs are found in one nest they are usually the produce of as many 
hens. The species probably does not pair, mating taking place 
promiscuously. 

The eggs are broad ovals, very blunt in shape, with the shell thick 
and heavy in texture and with only a slight gloss. They vary greatly 
in colour, the ground-colour being white, pink or stone-colour, spotted, 
streaked and mottled with brownish or yellowish-red and pale purple. 
Small black spots are nearly always present. Occasionally blue eggs 
may be found. 

The egg measures about 0*97 by 0-72 inches. 



THE COMMON HAWK-CUCKOO 321 

THE COMMON HAWK-CUCKOO 

HIEROCOCCYX VARIUS (Vahl) 

(Plate xvi, Fig. 5, opposite page 330) 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. -Upper plumage 
ashy-grey, the flight-feathers browner and broadly barred with white 
on their inner webs ; tail grey tipped with rufescent, and with four or 
five rufescent bars, the terminal bar broadest ; chin and throat white 
tinged with ashy ; fore-neck and breast rufous mixed with pale ashy, 
the lower breast with bars ; abdomen white tinged anteriorly with 
rufous and partly barred with grey. 

Iris yellow ; eye-rim yellow ; bill greenish, black $long top ; legs 
yellow. 

Structure as in the Common Cuckoo. In this genus the remarkable 
resemblance of adult Cuckoos to Hawks is carried a stage further, 
in that the immature plumage also resembles the immature plumage 
of Hawks. 

Field Identification. Common plains bird, Hawk-like in appear- 
ance and arboreal in habits, and in the field not easily to be recognised 
from the Common Cuckoo except by its remarkable call of brain-fever ; 
in the hand the bands on the tail are distinctive. 

Distribution. This species is confined to India and Ceylon. In 
India it is very generally distributed from the base of the Himalayas 
southwards. Its western boundary is roughly a line through Ambala, 
Jodhpur and Cutch, and on the east it has been recorded in North 
Cachar in Assam and Dacca in Eastern Bengal. While generally 
speaking a resident species it is also locally migratory. 

Habits, etc. The Common Hawk-Cuckoo is a bird of well-wooded 
country, and it is almost entirely arboreal. Like most of the Cuckoos, 
it is remarkable for its voice, on account of which it is usually called 
the Brain-fever bird, a name which is given erroneously to the Koel 
in areas where the Hawk- Cuckoo does not occur ; but the name rightly 
belongs to the Hawk-Cuckoo, both because its call is infinitely the more 
wearisome of the two and because it resembles the words, brain-fever, 
brain-fever, uttered again and again in loud crescendo tones, each 
repetition higher in the scale ; this cry may also be written pipeeha- 
pipeeha-pipeeha, and a third rendering which includes the overture 
that precedes the triple note is Oh, lor, oh, lor, how very hot it's getting 
we feel it, we feel it, WE FEEL IT. There is also a call which I can 
only describe as a whirring ascending trill. The brain-fever call is ex- 
ceedingly loud and shrill and can be heard for a considerable distance, 
uttered as it is from the top of a tree, and as the bird repeats it at 
intervals for an hour or more at a stretch, either by day or night, it 

X 



323 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

often becomes a very real nuisance. The call is uttered at any time 
of the year, but the bird is most vociferous from early spring into the 
rains, when it is breeding. The food consists of berries and fruits 
as well as insects, and like other Cuckoos it is very partial to those 
hairy caterpillars which most birds will not eat. 

The breeding season lasts from April to June and the bird is 
parasitic, laying its eggs in the nests of various Babblers ; the egg is 
distinguishable from those of its hosts with difficulty ; in colour it is 
a similar deep blue, but it is somewhat larger as a rule, with a sorter, 
more satiny surface, a less glossy and thicker shell, and a more spherical 
shape. It is almost impossible to distinguish between the eggs of the 
Hawk-Cuckoo and the Pied Crested Cuckoo. When hatched the 
young Hawk-Cuckoo ejects the young of the rightful owners of the 
nest. 

The egg measures about i-oo by 0*8 inches. 



THE INDIAN PLAINTIVE CUCKOO 

CACOMANTIS MERULINUS (Vahl) 

Description. Length 9 inches. Male : Entire upper plumage 
dark ashy ; wings dark brown, washed with greenish-bronze, the 
edge and a patch on the underside of the flight-feathers white ; tail 
nearly black, the outer feathers banded obliquely on the inner webs 
with white ; lower parts ashy, paling to white under the tail. 

Female : Whole upper plumage bright chestnut, the back and 
wings barred with black, the head, neck and rump irregularly spotted 
with black ; tail chestnut, a few black marks on the shafts of the 
feathers, a black bar and a white tip at the end of each feather ; lower 
parts white, lightly barred with black, the chin, throat and upper breast 
suffused with chestnut. 

The plumages and plumage-stages of this Cuckoo are very variable, 
but the above are descriptions of normal adults. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill dark brown ; legs dingy yellow or 
brownish-grey. 

The bill is slightly curved ; wing pointed ; tail graduated. The 
toes are arranged in pairs, the ist and 4th pointing backwards. 

Field Identification. A small active Hawk-like bird with pointed 
wings and graduated tail which, in the rains, attracts attention by its 
loud plaintive whistle. The male is dark ashy-grey ; the female 
chestnut above and on the throat and white below, largely barred with 
black. 

Distribution. Very widely distributed throughout India, Ceylon, 



THE INDIAN PLAINTIVE CUCKOO 323 

Assam, and Burma eastwards to the Malay States, South China and 
Hainan. We are concerned with two races. C. m. passerinus is the 
ordinary Indian form which is found practically throughout the 
Peninsula down to Ceylon from the Outer Himalayas as far west 
as Abbottabad and as far east as the Brahmaputra. It is not, however, 
found in the Punjab Plains, Sind, Cutch, Kathiawar or most of 
Rajputana. In the Himalayas it is most common in a zone between 
1500 and 3000 feet, rarely occurring above 6000 feet. In the Peninsula 
it is found at all elevations. The Burmese race, C. m. querulus, is found 
in Assam, Eastern Bengal and occasionally farther west as far as Nepal, 
Behar, Raipur and the Cumbum Valley. In this form the male has the 
white of the lower parts replaced by rufous. Both races are to some 
extent migratory, but their. movements have not yet been worked out. 

The Banded Bay Cuckoo (Penthoceryx sonneratii) may easily be 
confused with the females of the Plaintive Cuckoos, as its upper 
plumage is banded with dark brown and bay and the lower parts are 
white, finely barred with brown. The heavier bill is distinctive. It 
is widely distributed in India, but is most common along the Western 
Ghats. 

Habits, etc. Like many others of the family this Cuckoo is best 
known to many by its call which well justifies the popular name. 
The ordinary call is a clear loud plaintive whistle ca-weer which is 
somewhat difficult to locate as the bird turns its head about, producing 
a ventriloquial effect. There are also more complicated calls, an 
ascending whistle of four notes and another which may be syllabised 
as ye h chelte rahi. Like other species this Cuckoo not only calls by 
day ; it calls freely in the gathering dusk and on moonlight nights 
may be heard at midnight. The bird is found in all types of lightly 
wooded country, in scrub, open forest, gardens, groves, tea gardens 
and similar places and may be known by its small size and swift flight. 
It calls often from the tops of bushes and trees but also from inside 
them, and in general is very restless and active. The food consists 
largely of caterpillars. 

The breeding season is in the rains from July to October. The 
bird is parasitic and is believed to lay chiefly in the nests of the Indian 
Wren- Warbler, the Fantail- Warbler and the Tailor-bird. The eggs 
are long narrow ovals with one end appreciably smaller than the 
other. The shell is stout and heavy but fine in texture and there is 
a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white or pale blue marked with 
light reddish blotches. The egg, therefore, agrees fairly well with 
those of the foster-parents. The degree of selective specialisation 
thus attained is further emphasised in the Deccan where a bright 
pink egg is commonly laid in the nest of the Ashy Wren- Warbler, 
whose own egg is a bright brick red. 

The egg measures about 0-75 by 0*55 inches. 



324 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE PIED CRESTED CUCKOO 
CLAMATOR JACOBINUS (Boddaert) 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
including the crest black, glossed with green ; flight-feathers dark 
brown with a broad white band running through them ; tail long and 
graduated, the feathers tipped with white, most broadly on the outer 
feathers ; lower plumage white, sometimes sullied by the dark bases 
of the feathers. 

Iris red-brown ; bill black ; legs leaden-blue. 

Upper portion of the tarsus feathered ; toes arranged in pairs, 
the ist and 4th pointing backwards. 

Field Identification. A conspicuous bird black above, white 
below, with a white band through the wing visible in flight and white 




FIG. 51 Pied Crested Cuckoo' (| nat. size) 

tips to the long tail-feathers ; a rather noticeable crest. Arboreal, 
and attracts attention by the loud call. 

Distribution. This Cuckoo is found in a wide area in Africa 
(Abyssinia and the Sudan to British East Africa ; also West Africa) 
and throughout India, Ceylon and part of Burma. In India it is 
found throughout the plains and hills alike, and in the Outer Himalayas 
extends up to about 8000 feet. 

The typical race is a resident in Ceylon and part of the Madras 
Presidency. The rest of India and Ceylon is inhabited by a larger 
form, C. j. picay which is migratory. Its movements have not been 
fully worked out, but there is good reason to believe that it winters in 
Africa. 

The larger Red-winged Crested Cuckoo (Clamator coromandus\ 
common in Assam and Burma, is found in smaller numbers in the 
Himalayan foot-hills from Garhwal eastwards and in Ceylon. It is 
a straggler in the Peninsula. 



THE KOEL 337 

to the position of the Common Cuckoo in Europe, in that they are 
all familiar with its call and welcome its arrival, and to some extent 
are acquainted with its appearance, but on the other hand they mostly 
appear to be ignorant of its parasitic breeding habits. 

It is a bird of groves and gardens, haunting patches of large trees in 
whose shady boughs it finds concealment and whose fruits it eats. It* 
never descends to the ground. The usual diet consists of fruit, especially 
of the banyan, peepul and other figs, but snails are also eaten. 

The call is known to everyone in India. It consists of two syllables 
ko-el repeated several times, increasing in intensity and ascending in 
the scale, with an indefinable sound of excitement in it. This call 
appears to be uttered by both sexes and it is often heard at night 
an unmistakable token of the hot weather. Another call ho-y-o is 
apparently the property of the male alone. A third call of the " water- 
bubbling " type is probably common to both sexes. These are all 
breeding notes and the bird is silent out of that season. In places 
where the Hawk- Cuckoos are little known the Koel is sometimes 
called the Brain-fever bird, but that name rightly belongs to the bird 
which calls " brain-fever." 

The Koel is parasitic on the Common House Crow (Corvus 
splendens) in whose nests it lays, destroying one or two of the rightful 
owner's eggs ; the birds are numerous and it is not unusual to find 
two or three of their eggs in one Crow's nest, while as many as eight 
have been recorded. The breeding habits of this Cuckoo have not 
been sufficiently studied, but the young probably eject the eggs or 
young of the Crows, and it is said that the female Koel often feeds 
her own offspring after they are fledged. Great enmity exists between 
the adult Koels and House Crows, and the latter are often to be seen 
chasing the former ; but considerable respect is due to the Koel as 
the one living creature that persistently gets the better of that clever 
scoundrel the Crow. 

The male nestling Koel is black like the adult. The female provides 
an exception to the ordinary rules of plumage inheritance and is much 
blacker than the adult, evidently in order to deceive the foster-parents. 

The majority of Keel's eggs are laid in June, but they are dependent 
on the local breeding season of the Crows. The eggs roughly resemble 
Crows' eggs but are considerably smaller. They are a moderately 
broad oval, somewhat compressed towards the smaller end ; the 
texture is compact and fine and there is no gloss. In colour they are 
variable ; the ground-colour may be of various shades of green or 
stone-brown. They are marked with specks, spots, streaks, and 
clouds of olive-brown, reddish-brown, and dull purple, these markings 
being predominantly streaky in character, and often tending to coalesce 
towards the large end. 

The eggs average about 1-20 by 0-9 inches in size. 



328 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



THE SMALL GREEN-BILLED MALKOHA 
RHOPODYTES VIRIDIROSTRIS (Jerdon) 

Description. Length 15 inches. Upper parts dark ashy with a 
green gloss which becomes much stronger and more metallic on the 
wings and tail ; feathers of the tail broadly tipped with white ; under 
parts dark ashy, the throat and breast streaked with greyish-white and 
the belly washed with fulvous yellow. 

Iris claret, a fine outer ring white ; loose crinkled bare skin round 
the eye sky-blue ; bill apple-green ; legs olive-slate ; claws dusky. 



J 




FIG. 53 Small Green-billed Malkoha ( nat. size) 

Bill deep with the top of the upper mandible sharply curved ; feathers 
of the throat and breast forked, there being no web to the end of the 
shaft so that the feathers look as if damp and partly stuck together ; 
tail long and graduated. 

Field Identification. A clumsy-looking ashy-coloured bird with 
green beak and sky-blue eyepatch and a long graduated tail tipped 
with white ; found skulking in bushes and hedges. 

Distribution. Confined to India and Ceylon. It is a strictly resident 
species found in Orissa and in Peninsula India from Hyderabad State 
southwards. 

The larger but very similar Green-billed Malkoha (Rhopodytes 
tristis) of the Central and Eastern Himalayas, Assam, Burma and further 



THE SMALL GREEN-BILLED MALKOHA 329 

east is usually treated as a separate species. It has the eye-patch 
crimson. 

Habits, etc. This quaint Cuckoo is a very sedentary species and 
individuals appear much attached to particular localities, being usually 
to be found within a radius of a few hundred yards. They are met 
with singly or in pairs in lightly wooded and scrub country of the 
deciduous type, in bush jungle on hill-sides, in bamboo forest or in 
large hedges of prickly Euphorbia. They are skulkers with much the same 
habits as the Crow-Pheasant, but unlike that bird are seldom seen on 
the ground, keeping more in the cover of low bushes and trees and 
making their way through the branches with great adroitness. If a 
bird is caught in the open it will often " freeze, 11 sometimes in the most 
grotesque attitude, hoping thereby to escape detection. The flight is 
feeble and it unwillingly takes wing and that for no distance. 

The food consists of large insects, grasshoppers, mantides, cater- 
pillars and the like. 

The breeding season is from March to August. 

The nest is a slight structure of sticks, a mere shallow saucer, 
little better than that of a Dove, and it is lined with a few leaves which 
are fresh and green when plucked but of course soon fade. It is 
placed in the centre of a thorn bush or cactus some 5 or 6 feet from 
the ground. 

The clutch consists of two eggs. In shape they are almost spherical 
being very blunt and rounded at both ends. The texture is fine, but 
very chalky and quite without gloss and the colour is dull white. 

The egg measures about 1-12 by 0-90 inches. 



THE SIRKEER 
TACCOCUA LESCHENAULTII Lesson 

Description. Length 17 inches. Sexes alike. Upper surface, 
wings and central tail-feathers dark olive-brown, the wing and tail- 
feathers slightly glossed with satiny olive-green ; outer tail-feathers 
black with broad white tips ; chin, throat and breast and a patch 
under the tail olive-brown, very pale almost buff on the chin ; abdomen 
dark rufous ; the shafts of nearly all the feathers are dark glistening 
brown, which is especially noticeable on the breast. 

Iris reddish-brown ; bill cherry-red, yellow at the tip ; legs 
plumbeous. 

The bill is curved and sharply hooked ; a curious grille of stiff 
black curved eyelashes with white bases protects the eye. Tail long, 
broad and deeply graduated ; two toes in front and two behind. 

Field Identification. A large dull olive-brown bird with a heavy 



330 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

tail and a striking red and yellow beak. Usually found walking about 
on the ground amongst bushes or thick cover. 

Distribution. Confined to Ceylon, India and Assam. In India 
it is very generally distributed and resident, but is absent or very rare 
north-west of a line from Simla to Jodhpur and Cutch. Divided into 
three races. The typical race is found in Ceylon and Southern India, 
certainly as far north as Hyderabad. T. /. sirkee from the Northern 
Punjab,^ Mount Aboo, Northern Guzerat, Cutch and Sind is a paler 
bird with a yellowish throat and breast. A darker and larger race, 
T. L infuscata, is found in the Eastern Himalayas. These races all 
intergrade. Occurs at all elevations up to 6000 feet and even 
occasionally higher. 

Habits^ etc. The Sirkeer is by preference a bird of scrub-jungle, 
secondary growth, large gardens and other places where comparative 
quiet and freedom from disturbance are combined with patches of 
dense cover in which it can take refuge. It is largely terrestrial in 
its habits, stalking about the ground in search of a very mixed diet of 
fruits, seeds and berries, grasshoppers, beetles and other small fry. 
It is a poor flier and as a rule is very loath to take to wing, preferring 
to thread its way into the centre of a thicket. It runs well, keeping 
the body in a horizontal position and stopping at intervals to raise 
itself and have a good look round. 

The display savours of the grotesque, both birds taking part in it, 
opening their beaks and bowing low to each other, meanwhile expand- 
ing the tail to make the most of the black and white markings of the 
outer feathers. During the display curious clicking sounds are uttered, 
but the Sirkeer is normally a very silent bird. 

The normal breeding season is not well known, but nests have 
been found from March to August. 

The nest is a broad saucer-shaped structure of twigs lined with 
green leaves, usually those of the tree in which it is built. It is placed 
in some foliage-shrouded fork in a low or thick tree or even a bush 
and is seldom at any great height from the ground. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. The egg is a broad, 
very perfect oval with a rather coarse and chalky texture. The colour 
is pure white. Many eggs are covered with a pale yellowish-brown 
glaze of uncertain origin which is readily removed by washing or 
scraping. 

The egg measures about 1-40 by 1-05 inches. 



PLATE XVI 




i Green Barbel. 2. Blue-tailed Bee-Eater. 3. Brown-fronted Pied Woodpecker. 
A Indian Pitta. 5. Common Hawk-Cuckoo. (All about J nat. size.) 



[Fact p. 330 



THE CROW-PHEASANT 331 

THE CROW-PHEASANT 

CENTROPUS SINENSIS (Stephen) 

Description. Length 19 inches. Sexes alike. Wings chestnut, 
the quills tipped with dusky ; the remainder of the plumage black, 
glossed with green, steel-blue and purple. 

Iris crimson ; bill and legs black. 

The bill is deep and rather curved ; the wings are short and 
rounded ; the tail long, broad and graduated ; the feathers of the 
head, neck and breast are harsh and coarse ; the hind toe has a long 
straight claw, recalling that of the Skylark. 

Field Identification. A big black bird with chestnut wings, which 




FIG. 54 Crow-Pheasant (j- nat. size) 

from its size and voluminous tail is often mistaken for a game bird. 
Common about hedgerows and gardens and feeds much on the ground. 

Distribution. The typical race of the Crow-Pheasant is a bird of 
wide distribution, extending across from China to North Assam, the 
Himalayas to Kashmir, and the plains of Northern India down to 
Sind. South of Bombay and from the Ganges to Ceylon it is replaced 
by a smaller form C. s. parroti. It is an entirely resident species. 

A much smaller species, the Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis), 
is found in the Himalayan terai, in Orissa and Bengal and South- 
western India. Whilst the adult resembles the Crow-Pheasant in 
coloration, the immature plumage with brown and white streaking 
is very different. 

Habits, etc. The Crow-Pheasant is one of the common birds of 
India, and owes this name, as well as the familiar sobriquet of the 
Griffin's Pheasant, to the fact that its heavy build and slow gait and 
its habit of feeding on the ground leads it to be mistaken by new arrivals 
in India for a game bird. It avoids forest, and is found in cultivation, 



33* POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

bush-jungle, or waste land, and is pre-eminently a bird of the broad 
strips of bush and tree growth mixed with pampas grass which grow 
along the sides of village roads or the banks of rivers and canals. It 
is found also in gardens and about villages. In such situations it 
walks about sedately on the ground, picking up wasps, beetles, cater- 
pillars, locusts and grasshoppers and catching small lizards, snakes, 
and other similar food, and when disturbed it flies or runs into the 
heavy masses of bush and grass. The call is a peculiar dull-booming 
sound, hood-hood-hood. 

Although a member of the family of the Cuculidae, the Crow- 
Pheasant belongs to the big group of the non-parasitic Cuckoos. 
It is one of those birds that breeds in the rains, and eggs may be 
found from June to September. 

The nest is normally a large globular domed affair, with the 
entrance at one side from which the tail of the sitting bird projects. 
Occasionally, however, a rough saucer nest is made. The nests may 
be placed at any height from the ground, either in the centre of a dense 
thorny bush or clump of pampas grass, or in exposed positions in the 
forks of trees. They are either fairly neat structures of dry twigs 
lined with green leaves, or loosely built balls of dry reeds and coarse 
grass. 

The eggs vary from three to five in number. 

They are broad, regular ovals, symmetrical at both ends ; in 
texture they are rather coarse and chalky and dull pure white in 
colour ; but the surface is frequently covered with a sort of epidermis 
of pale yellow-brown glaze which gives a certain amount of gloss 
and can readily be removed. 

In size they average about 1-4 by 1*2 inches. 



THE LARGE INDIAN PARRAKEET 
PSITTACULA. EUPATRIA (Linnasus) 

Description. Length, including long pointed tail, 19 inches. 
Male : Upper plumage grass-green, rather darker on the wings and 
brighter on the forehead and rump ; a large deep red patch near the 
bend of the wing ; median tail-feathers passing from green at the 
base into verditer-blue and then into yellowish at the tip ; lower 
surface of tail yellow ; a dark line from the nostril to the eye ; a rose- 
pink collar round the sides and back of the neck, with a bluish-grey 
tinge to the nape above it ; chin and a stripe from the lower base of 
the beak to the rose-collar black ; lower plumage dull pale green 
growing brighter towards the tail. 

The female lacks the rose-collar and the black stripe that joins it. 



THE LARGE INDIAN PARRAKEET 333 

Iris pale yellow with a bluish-grey inner circle ; bill deep red ; 
feet plumbeous. 

In this and the following Parrakeets the bill is thick and deeper 
than long, the upper mandible is movable, sharply pointed and curved, 
coming down over the short square lower mandible ; a fleshy cere * 
at the base of the bill ; tongue short, swollen and fleshy. The tail 
is very long and graduated, the central feathers narrow, pointed, and 
exceeding the others in length. The foot has two toes in front and 
two behind. 

Field Identification. Green plumage, massive head and hooked 
red beak, long pointed tail, swift flight and screaming cries easily 
identify a bird as a Parrakeet. Entirely green head (except for black 
chin and stripe and rose-pink collar) separate this from all other Indian 
Parrakeets except the Green Parrakeet, which is at once recognised 
by the smaller size and absence of red shoulder-patches. 

Distribution. The Large Indian Parrakeet is found practically 
throughout India, Ceylon, and Burma. It is divided into four races 
which are separated on size and comparative details of coloration. 

The typical race is South Indian, found in Hyderabad, Mysore, 
Travancore, and Ceylon. P. e. nipalensis is found in Northern and 
Central India from the valley of the Indus (though not indigenous to 
Sind), and the Himalayan foot-hills (up to 4000 feet), and Assam 
down to Kamptee, Raipur, Sambalpur, and the Northern Circars ; 
also to the Satpura Range in Khandesh. P. e. indoburmanicus is 
found in Burma and P. e. magnirostris in the Andaman Islands. A 
resident species. 

Habits, etc. This fine Parrakeet is found in practically any type 
of country in which large trees are numerous. It lives in parties and 
flocks, which may be observed at all times of the year, though individual 
pairs often separate while breeding ; but as many pairs usually breed 
together in suitable spots, the birds when off the nest are social and 
fly about together. 

The flocks collect to roost in large avenues and groves of trees, 
and in the evenings they have a very regular flight to such roosting 
places, travelling for miles to them at a great height with a swift direct 
straight flight. While flying they frequently utter the loud shrill call. 

The food consists of various grains, seeds and fruits, both wild 
and cultivated, and as the birds are numerous, large and greedy, they 
do a considerable amount of damage in cultivation. This species is 
a common cage-bird in Northern India and becomes very tame though 
it seldom learns to talk. 

The breeding season is from February to April. No nest is made, 

* Cere (from cera, wax) is a term applied to the soft, generally rather 
swollen sjcm which covers the base of the upper bill, especially well defined in 
parrots and birds of prey. 



334 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

but the eggs are laid in holes in buildings and trees, usually at a con- 
siderable height from the ground. The hole used in a tree is generally 
a deep natural hollow, but a certain amount of shaping and excavating 
is done by the birds themselves. 

The eggs vary from two to five in number. They are broad and 
regular ovals in shape, stout and rather coarse in texture, with a slight 
gloss. The colour is pure unmarked white. 

They measure about 1*32 by i-oo inches. 



THE GREEN PARRAKEET 

PSITTACULA KRAMERI (Scopoli) 
(Plate xvii, Fig. i, opposite page 352) 

Description. Length 16 inches. Male : Upper plumage bright 
green, washed with pale bluish-grey about the back and sides of the 
head and paler about the bend of the wing ; median tail-feathers 
green at the base then bluish-grey, other tail-feathers green with 
yellow inner webs, tipped with yellow and yellow underneath ; a fine 
blackish line from the nostril to the eye ; a rose-collar round the neck 
except in front ; chin and a band from the lower base of the beak to 
the rose-collar black ; lower plumage yellowish-green. 

The female has the rose-collar and black band replaced by an 
indistinct emerald-green ring. 

Iris pale yellow ; bill cherry-red, lower mandible blackish ; feet 
dusky slate or greenish. 

Field Identification. Most abundant and well-known plains 
species, usually in parties ; easily distinguished by the green plumage, 
massive hooked red bill, long pointed tail, swift arrow-like flight, and 
the harsh screaming notes. There is no red wing-patch in this species. 

The Blue-winged Parrakeet (Psittacula columboides) of the Western 
Ghats- and Nilgiris has the head and breast grey with a complete 
black ring (followed in the male by an emerald-green ring) round 
the neck. The green and blue wings are scale-marked with yellow. 

Distribution. The typical form is African. We are concerned with 
two races. The northern form, P. k. borealis, with the lower mandible 
either red or black is found from Baluchistan across to Assam and 
Burma. It intergrades gradually and an arbitrary boundary may be 
fixed at the 20 of latitude into P. k. manillensis of Southern India 
and Ceylon which is slightly smaller and darker and has the lower 
mandible black. This bird does not ascend the Himalayas above 
4000 feet and it avoids most hill-ranges and tracts of unbroken forest. 
A resident species. 



THE GREEN PARRAKEET 335 

Habits, etc. The Green Parrakeet is one of those species in India 
which everyone knows. It is excessively abundant, living in pairs 
in the breeding season, and gathering into parties and flocks at other 
times, which from their universality, the damage that they do in 
gardens and fields, their noisiness, and their brilliant coloration, are 
known to all and sundry. 

Normally this Parrakeet is arboreal and it is a wonderful climber, 
being equally at home in every position, but it flies down to feed on 
crops and garden plants, and occasionally settles on the ground to 
pick up food-stuffs, and there its awkward sidling gait, due to the 
long tail and the short zygodactyle feet, is very quaint. But specially 
adapted for climbing and for holding food these feet amply compen- 
sate for their awkwardness on the ground. There is something 
especially sedate and knowing about the demeanour of the Parrakeets, 
which is further heightened when they sit on one foot and with the 
other hold up a piece of food to be eaten bite by bite. The flight is 
very swift and straight and these birds have the habit of an evening 
roosting flight, flock after flock hurrying in succession along the same 
line to some patch of trees where they roost in company with flocks 
of Crows and Mynahs. The ordinary call is a harsh, rather shrill, 
inarticulate scream, but when courting the male has a pleasant 
murmuring warble which he utters as he scratches the head of the 
hen with the point of his bill, and joins his beak to hers in a loving 
kiss. The hens are very accomplished flirts and their behaviour ip 
the presence of the favoured male is most amusing. This species of 
Parrakeet is one of the universal cage-birds of India and it becomes 
delightfully tame ; individuals may be taught to say a few words, but 
the best of them never talk as well as the African Grey Parrots. 

The breeding season extends from February to May, though most 
eggs will be found in March. 

No nest is made, but the eggs are laid on debris in holes in walls 
and buildings or more commonly in trees. The hole may be a natural 
one, but often the bird excavates a tunnel and chamber very similar 
to those of the Woodpeckers. 

Four to six eggs are laid. The egg is a moderately broad oval, 
slightly pointed towards one end ; the texture is hard and compact 
with a slight gloss, and the colour is pure unmarked white. 

The average size is 1*20 by 0-95 inches. 



336 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE BLOSSOM-HEADED PARRAKEET 

PSITTACULA CYANOCEPHALA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 14 inches. Male : Head red, washed \vith 
blue, giving the effect of the bloom on a plum, sharply defined with 
a narrow black collar from the chin round the neck ; behind the 
black collar extends an area of verdigris-green ; upper plumage 
yellowish-green, becoming verdigris on the wings and rump ; the 
quills are green with pale edges, and there is a deep red patch near 
the bend of the wing ; the median tail-feathers pass from green at 
the base into blue with conspicuous white tips ; the remaining 
tail-feathers are largely yellow with the greater portion of the outer 
webs green ; lower plumage bright yellowish-green. 

The female has the red head replaced by dull bluish-grey (plum- 
blue) and a yellow ring replaces the collars of black and verdigris. 

Iris yellowish-white ; bill orange-yellow, lower mandible blackish ; 
legs dull green. 

Field Identification. Distinguish from the other species by the 
smaller and more slender build, the more pleasing call, the plum- 
coloured head (red-plum in male, blue-plum in female), the orange 
beak and the conspicuous yellow tips to the tail-feathers. 

Care must be taken not to confuse the female with the slightly 
larger Slaty-headed Parrakeet (Psittacula himalayand) of the Himalayas 
in which both sexes have a slate-grey head. It is useful to remember 
that the tip of the tail, usually very conspicuous in flight, is whitish 
in the Blossom-headed Parrakeet and bright yellow in the Slaty-headed 
Parrakeet. 

Distribution. The Blossom-headed Parrakeet is found almost 
throughout India, Ceylon and Burma, extending still farther eastwards 
to Cochin-China, Siam, and Southern China. It is divided into two 
races, of which we are only concerned with the Western and typical 
race. This is found in India throughout the plains to Mount Aboo, 
Sambhar and the Eastern Punjab, extending still farther west along 
the Himalayan foot-hills to the neighbourhood of Murree. It extends 
eastward to about Sikkim where it joins on to the range of the paler 
eastern form P. c. bengalensis. In the Western Himalayas it ascends 
to about 5000 feet. Locally migratory. 

Habits, etc. This beautiful Parrakeet is, to a large extent, a forest 
bird, though it is found anywhere also in well-wooded but cultivated 
districts. Like other Parrakeets, it is a social species, being found 
in parties, which feed on seeds and fruits in forest trees ; but this 
species very seldom descends to the ground. The flight is very strong 
and swift, faster than that of the other two species dealt with in this 



THE BLOSSOM-HEADED PARRAKEET 337 

work, and of the three kinds it has much the most musical call. It is 
not usually kept in captivity by the natives of India. 

The ordinary breeding season is from February to May, though 
in the South it also breeds in December. 

Four to six eggs are laid in the nest hole which is usually excavated 
by the birds themselves, being a tunnel and nest-chamber like those 
of a Woodpecker in the branch of a tree, usually at some height from 
the ground. Occasionally a natural hole in a tree is utilised. In 
either case no nest is built, the eggs lying on chips and debris in the 
bottom of the chamber. 

The egg is a broad oval, rather pointed towards the small end. 
The texture is fine though without gloss. The colour is pure white, 
but it loses its freshness as incubation progresses. 

The egg measures about i-o by 0-80 inches. 



INDIAN LORIKEET 

CORYLLIS VERNALIS Sparrman 

Description. Length 5-5 inches. Grass green above, wings and 
tail darker, rump and upper tail coverts crimson, lower parts yellowish 
green. The male has a small patch of blue on the throat which is 
absent in the female. 

Iris yellowish white ; bill coral red, tip yellow ; cere darker red ; 
legs and feet yellowish or pale orange. 

Field Identification. A very diminutive parrot, about the size of 
a sparrow, bright green with crimson rump. 

Distribution. The Indian Lorikeet ranges from the Nepal Terai 
eastward through Eastern Bengal and Assam to Burma and Siam. 
In the peninsula of India it is only known on the east coast from 
the vicinity of Vazagapatam ; on the west side it is by no means 
uncommon in many areas between Bombay and Cape Comarin, 
ascending the Nilgiris to some 6000 feet and extending east as far as 
the Pulney Hills. 

Habits, etc. This little parrot is a bird of open deciduous and 
evergreen forests and small tree and bamboo jungle, as well as orchards 
and plantations. In the Himalayan foothills it is found up to about 
3000 feet. To some extent it is migratory depending on the blossoming 
of certain trees and the ripening of fruits. The food consists of 
various kinds of fruits and berries as well as the seeds of bamboos 
and, at certain times of the year, it feeds to a great extent on the 
nectar of flowers, especially those of the Coral tree (Erythrina). 
Curiously enough, that of the Silk Cotton tree (Bombax malabaricus) 

Y 



338 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



so much sought after by many birds is not much patronised. The 
small figs of the Peepal and Banyan trees are a great attraction, and 
a flock of Lorikeets feeding in one of these trees is very difficult to 
see owing to their small size and green plumage blending with the 
leaves. When feeding they warble and utter a twittering note, but 
there is no clamour as when parrakeets are present. The flight is 
swift with rapid wing beats and on the wing they utter a chee-chu- 




FIG. 540 Little Lorikeet. 

chu. Small parties have a curious habit of collecting on the top 
of a tree, then a single bird will suddenly dash off and fly around, 
wheeling in circles, whistling loudly and dash back again to the tree, 
settle down, and another will fly off. Lorikeets have been known 
to raid jars attached to Toddy Palms and afterwards picked up, 
intoxicated, from having indulged too freely in the liquor. They 
roost at night suspended by their feet with the head downwards. 

The eggs are laid from February to April, according to the locality. 



LITTLE LORIKEET 339 

The nest is a small natural hole in a tree, from ground level to 
about fifteen feet up, and at times the nesting chamber is actually 
below the level of the ground. 

The clutch is from three to four in number, broad, blunt ovals, 
white in colour, but often stained with the rotten wood in the nesting 
chamber. 

They measure 0*75 by 0-6 inches. 

THE MOTTLED WOOD-OWL 

STRIX OCELLATUM (Lesson) 

Description. Length 18 inches. Sexes alike. Top of the head 
and neck tawny ferruginous, the feathers tipped with black containing 
white spots ; remainder of the upper parts finely mottled with black 
and white and barred and streaked with black, the partly concealed 
bases of the feathers tawny ferruginous ; an irregular white stripe, 
crossed by fine black bars, down each side of the back ; wings similar 
to the back, the outer flight-feathers being dark brown crossed with 
paler mottled bars, the base of the inner webs largely tawny ferrugin- 
ous ; tail tawny at the base, mottled black and white towards the 
end, the feathers crossed with pale mottled bands and black bars, 
the outer feathers tipped with white ; face mottled and barred with 
black and white ; a large white patch on the throat ; lower plumage 
white barred with fine black lines, the bases of the feathers pale tawny 
ferruginous. 

Iris dark brown ; eyelid orange ; bill black ; claws dusky. 

This and other Owls are remarkable for the following features. 
The head is large, and the eyes are directed forwards in a facial disc, 
composed of feathers radiating from each eye, the outer margin being 
surrounded by a conspicuous ruff of close-textured feathers ; bill 
short and hooked, with the nostrils set in a cere almost concealed by 
a mass of bristly feathers ; the orifice of the ear very large though 
concealed with feathers ; plumage soft and very copious ; outer toe 
reversible ; claws sharp and curved. 

Field Identification. A large Owl with a typical Owl " face " but 
no ear-tufts. Most beautifully barred and mottled in brownish-black 
and white with tawny patches wherever the feathers are ruffled. 
Nocturnal but may be seen by day sleeping in large trees. 

Distribution. Peculiar to India. Generally distributed through- 
out the country up to the base of the Himalayas except in Sind, the 
North-western Frontier Province and most of the Punjab. A strictly 
resident species. In the Himalayas it is replaced by races of the 
European Brown Owl (Strix aluco\ a mottled grey or brown bird 
of similar aspect, which is found at all elevations from 4000 feet up 
to the limits of tree level, occurring in all the hill stations. 



340 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

In Southern India and Ceylon another representative of this group 
is the Brown Wood-Owl (Strix indranee)^ a very dark brown bird, also 
found sparingly in the Himalayas. 

Habits, etc. Very little has been recorded about the habits of 
the Mottled Wood-Owl which lives the secluded life of its genus. 
It is not a bird of dense forests but is found in well-wooded country 
where large mango-topes or roadside avenues of ancient trees provide 
it with holes to nest in and cover to spend the day. In such localities 
it sleeps away the day in some shady refuge, emerging at nightfall 
to hunt the surrounding country. It lives entirely on squirrels, rats 
and mice and must be one of the birds most beneficial to Indian 
agriculture. The call is said to be a loud harsh hoot. 

The breeding season extends according to locality, for it is said 
to be somewhat earlier in the southern half of India than in the north, 
from November until April. There is little or no nest, the eggs being 
laid on a little dry touch-wood, a few dry leaves or the miscellaneous 
rubbish that collects in some large cavity in the trunk or a bough of 
an ancient tree or in the depression at the fork of two or more large 
branches. Such a site may be chosen at heights from 8 to 25 feet from 
the ground. 

The clutch varies from one to three eggs, but two is the normal 
number. The egg is rather large for the size of the bird, a very round 
oval of fine texture and little gloss. The colour is white with often a 
very delicate creamy tinge. 

The size is about 1-99 by 1-67 inches. 



THE BROWN FISH-OWL 
KETUPA ZEYLONENSIS (Gmelin) 

(Plate xviii, Fig. 2, opposite page 374) 

Description. Length 22 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
rufescent-brown with broad black shaft-streaks, the upper back and 
wing-coverts much mottled with brown and fulvous ; there are some 
buff and white spots along the shoulders ; flight- and tail-feathers dark 
brown with paler mottled whitish-brown bands and tips ; throat 
white ; lower plumage whitish, streaked and narrowly and closely 
barred with wavy brownish-rufous markings. 

Iris bright yellow ; bill dusky greenish-horn ; legs dusky yellow. 

In this species there is an aigrette of long and pointed feathers 
over each eye ; the tarsus is bare of feathers and granular, with prickly 
scales on the soles. 

Field Identification. A massive, solemn, brown bird with yellow 



THE BROWN FISH-OWL 341 

eyes surmounted by ear-tufts (the head recalling that of a cat) ; 
plumage grey and brown with pronounced streaks. Sleeps by day 
in trees and on the ground. Immediately distinguished from the 
Eagle-Owls by the bare tarsus. 

Distribution. This fine Owl is a widely-distributed species, 
ranging from Palestine on the west through India, Burma and Ceylon 
to China in the east. It is divided into several races, but all Indian 
birds belong to the race K. z. leschenaultL In India it is found 
throughout the Continent from the foot-hills of the Himalayas on the 
north, and Sind and the North-west Frontier Province on the west. 
In Southern India it is found up to the summits of the hill-ranges. 
The typical race from Ceylon is smaller and darker. A resident 
species. 

Habits, etc. This large Owl is always found in the vicinity of 
water, and its food, though including birds and small mammals, 
consists very largely of fish and crabs which it catches at the edge 
of rivers and streams. In view of this diet its feet and claws are 
unlike that of most other Owls. The tarsus is almost entirely free 
of feathers which are replaced by granular scales, and the soles of the 
feet are thickly covered with prickly scales particularly adapted for 
holding slippery prey, while the large well-curved claws have sharp 
cutting edges as well as highly-sharpened points. In fact the whole 
foot very strongly resembles that of the Osprey, the well-known 
Fish-Hawk. 

The Fish-Owl sleeps by day in some large heavy-foliaged tree or 
in the face of some rocky cliff, and with the fall of dusk wings its 
way to the neighbouring water, uttering a strange screaming call 
which resembles that of an Eagle or Norfolk Plover rather than that 
of an Owl. 

Another call is described as a loud dismal cry haw-haw-haw-ha, 
or a deep triple note hu-who-hu. 

The breeding season is from December to March, but most eggs 
will be found in February. This Owl nests in clefts and ledges 
of rocky banks or mud cliffs, in holes and hollows of ancient trees, 
or in the deserted nests of Fishing-Eagles and Vultures. These 
varied sites are lined with a few sticks and feathers or dry leaves 
and grass. 

The clutch consists of two eggs. These are very perfect broad 
ovals, close-grained and compact in texture, with a slight gloss, though 
the whole surface is freely pitted. The colour is white with a faint 
creamy tinge. 

In size they average about 2*38 by 1-88 inches. 



Y2 



342 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE ROCK EAGLE-OWL 
BUBO BENGALENSIS (Franklin) 

Description. Length 22 inches. Sexes alike. Head and neck 
bright tawny-buff, heavily streaked with rich dark brown ; above the 
whitish facial disc edged with a blackish ruff two conspicuous " horns " 
or " aigrettes " of feathers deep blackish-brown edged with fulvous ; 
upper plumage deep rich brown, mottled and spotted buff and white, 
most conspicuously on the sides of the wings and above the tail ; 
flight-feathers rich deep tawny with brown bars, dusky at the tip ; 
tail barred buff and brown, the central pair of feathers mottled with 
those colours ; chin and throat whitish ; remainder of lower plumage 
buff, broadly dashed with dark blackish-brown on the breast and 
streaked and cross-barred with the same on the abdomen and flanks, 
the markings dying away again under the tail and on the legs. 

Iris orange-yellow ; bill horny-black ; claws dusky. 

The tarsus is thickly feathered. 

Field Identification. A large solemn bird, mottled tawny-buff 
and blackish-brown, with conspicuous tufts above large orange eyes, 
which sits motionless by day amongst rocks and ravines and occasion- 
ally in trees. This bird and the Brown Fish-Owl are difficult to 
distinguish in the field when the legs are not visible. The Fish-Owl 
carries the ear-tufts lower and is reddish-brown in general colour 
while the Eagle-Owl is yellowish-tawny with more black on the head. 

Distribution. The Rock Eagle-Owl is virtually confined to India, 
though it is found rarely in Burma. It is found in the Western 
Himalayas and Kashmir up to about 5000 feet. In the plains it occurs 
from the North-west Frontier Province and Sind across to Upper 
Bengal and southwards generally, though it is not found in Ceylon. 
A resident species. 

The Long-eared (Asio otus) and Short-eared (Asio flammeus) Owls 
are medium-sized species of very similar type to the Eagle-Owls. 
They appear as winter visitors to the plains, the former confined to 
North-western India. The latter is widely distributed and is usually 
flushed from ground cover, often in parties. 

Habits, etc. This is the commonest of the larger Owls of India, 
being very abundant in Northern and Central India. It lives by 
preference in hollows and clefts of rocky cliffs or ruined buildings, 
in broken rain-worn ravines, and in brushwood on stony hill-sides, 
and when these are wanting takes refuge in clumps of trees. Though 
mainly nocturnal, it sometimes moves by day and long after sunrise 
may be seen perched on the summit of a rocky scree, looming large 
in view against the clearness of the new-born sky. It feeds on frogs, 



THE ROCK EAGLE-OWL 



343 



lizards, snakes, mammals, birds and insects. The call is a loud dur- 
goon or to-whoot, solemn and deep in tone, but when disturbed by 
day it will sit on a rock bowing and squawking at the intruder, and 
hissing and snapping with its bill. 

The breeding season extends from December to May, but most 
nests will be found from February to April. 

No nest is made, the eggs merely lying in a hollow scraped 
in the soil, generally in a ledge or recess of a cliff or bank-face, 




FIG. 55 Rock Eagle-Owl (} nat. size) 



but some eggs are laid on the ground at the foot of a tree or 
under a bush. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs, but two or three are some- 
times laid. 

The egg is a very perfect broad oval, white with a faint creamy 
tinge. The texture is close and fine, with a distinct gloss. 

The egg measures about 2-10 by 1-73 inches. 



344 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE DUSKY EAGLE-OWL 
BUBO COROMANDUS (Latham) 

Description. Length 23 inches. Sexes alike. The whole plumage 
including aigrettes on the head greyish-brown with dark shaft-stripes, 
the feathers finely mottled and vermiculated with whitish especially 
on the lower surface ; a few buff and white spots about the shoulders ; 
flight- and tail-feathers brown with pale mottled cross-bands and tips. 

Iris deep yellow ; bill horny-whitish ; claws black. 

The tarsus is thickly feathered. 

Field Identification. Very similar in the field to the Rock Horned- 
Owl, but it is a grey, not a tawny bird, and it is always found sitting 
in trees ; the eyes are paler. 

Distribution. This fine Owl is found throughout the greater 
part of the Indian Peninsula extending from the Indus Valley right 
away to Eastern Bengal, and south to the Carriatic and Mysore, 
though it is absent from various areas such as the Bombay Deccan, 
the Western Ghats and the Malabar coast. It is strictly resident. 

Habits, etc. This Owl avoids the most heavily afforested tracts 
and lives in woods and groves in open country in well- watered areas. 
It is particularly partial to the avenues of large trees which grow 
along the great canal systems of Northern India. By day it sleeps 
in the trees, sitting in a thickly foliaged bough or close up to the 
trunk, and wakes to activity about dusk, though it begins to call 
an hour or two before sunset. The call-note is very characteristic, 
wo-wo-wo, wo-o, 0-0, a deep solemn hoot which almost resembles the 
distant sound of a train puffing its way along. The eared head of 
this bird with its great yellow eyes is particularly cat-like, especially 
when it is seen looking over the edge of a nest. 

The food consists chiefly of Jungle and House Crows which 
often roost in great numbers in the groves that it inhabits ; it also 
takes various small mammals, birds, lizards and frogs, and also robs 
nests of their eggs and young. 

It breeds very early in the year, from December to March. The 
nest is a large rough cup of sticks placed in a fork of a large tree some 
30 or 40 feet from the ground. It is generally lined with green leaves 
or dry grass, and is sometimes a large structure added to and used 
year after year. While the female is sitting the male sleeps nearby 
in an adjacent tree, the spot being marked by the remains of meals 
that strew the ground below. It is comparatively common for this 
Owl to appropriate the old nests of Eagles and Vultures, and occasion- 
ally also it lays in the hollows of trees or in depressions at the junctions 
of branches, depositing a few leaves in the place by way of lining. 



THE DUSKY EAGLE-OWL 345 

The normal clutch consists of two eggs, but one, three or four 
eggs are also rarely found. Incubation commences with the laying 
of the first egg. 

The egg is typically a broad oval, but variations in shape and 
size are common ; the texture is rather coarse with more or less 
gloss ; the colour is dead white with a rather creamy tinge. 

In size the eggs average about 2-33 by 1*39 inches. 



THE COLLARED SCOPS-OWL 
OTUS BAKKAMCENA Pennant 

Description. Length 10 inches. Sexes alike. Facial disc light 
brown, faintly banded darker ; broad streaks over the eyes merging 
into aigrettes buffy-white, mottled with blackish ; ruff buffy-white 
with dark brown edges ; upper plumage buff, closely vermiculated, 
streaked and speckled with blackish except for a conspicuously paler 
collar round the back of the neck and a buff and black-spotted band 
down the shoulders ; flight-feathers brown with paler mottled bands 
and tips ; tail brown with pale cross-bands, the feathers more or less 
mottled ; lower plumage buffy-white, irregularly black shafted, and 
except towards the chin, tarsus and tail much stippled with fine 
broken wavy cross-bars. 

Iris brown ; bill greenish- or yellowish-horny ; feet greenish- 
yellow. 

The tarsus is thickly feathered. 

Field Identification. A small Owl with conspicuous ear-tufts and 
dark eyes, the general effect of the plumage being buff, rather richly 
marked with dark brown, especially about the head. Presence seldom 
detected until the call is heard. 

Distribution. This handsome little Owl is found throughout the 
Oriental region generally, from Muscat on the west to Japan on the 
east. It is divided into a number of races, of which the following 
occur in our area as resident birds. They differ merely in details of 
colour, tint and size, and in the amount of feathering on the toes. 
The typical race is found in Ceylon and Southern India up to Madras 
and the Southern Konkan. O. b. marathee is found in the Central 
Provinces to Sambalpur and Manbhum in Southern Bengal. 
O. b. gangeticus is found in the United Provinces east to Allahabad 
and at Mount Aboo. O. b. deserticolor is the pale bird of Sind 
and Baluchistan. In the Lower Himalayan ranges up to 6000 feet 
there are two forms : O. b. plumipes is found from Hazara to 



346 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Garhwal, while the bird of Nepal, Sikkim and Burma is known 
as 0. b. lettia. 

The Scops-Owls are a large and difficult group ; this species 
may be distinguished from the others by the wing formula : the first 
primary is shorter than the eighth, while the 
second primary is in length between the sixth 
and seventh or the seventh and eighth. 

Habits, etc. The Collared Scops-Owl is 
thoroughly nocturnal, only awaking to activity 
just as the dusk has almost merged into night ; 
at this hour its low mournful call whaat uttered 
slowly and sedately at long intervals may be 
heard in the depth of a well-foliaged tree, and 
thus it may be heard again and again until dawn 
brings the first flush of light. That is all that is 
generally known of this Owl unless by chance it 
is noticed fast alseep in a tree in the daytime ; 
though tWs is seldom, as it hides itself carefully 
away. 

The food consists chiefly of insects. 
Two other very nocturnal species are only 
known to most people by their calls in the 
Himalayan hills stations. A very regular and 
rhythmic wuck-chug-chugj which goes on end- 
lessly like the working of a pump-engine, is the call of the Indian 
Scops-Owl (Otus sunia). A plaintive double whistle with a slight 
interval between the two notes phew-phew, with the tone of a 
hammer on an anvil, is uttered by the Himalayan Scops-Owl (Otus 
spilocephalus), A single clear four-noted whistle, often repeated 
also a familiar night sound of the hill stations indicates the presence 
of the Pygmy Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei), which is little larger than a 
Sparrow. 

The breeding season extends from January until April. The 
eggs are laid in a natural hole in a tree which is slightly lined with 
leaves and grass. A pair once deposited their eggs in a large nest- 
box placed in a tree in my garden. The clutch varies from two to 
five eggs. These are almost spherical in shape, pure white, fine in 
texture and fairly glossy. 

They measure about 1-25 by 1-05 inches. 




FIG. 56 Collared 
Scops-Owl 
(i nat. size) 



THE SPOTTED OWLET 347 



THE SPOTTED OWLET 

ATHENE DRAMA (Temminck) 
(Plate xix, Fig. 4, opposite page 396) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Forehead and a 
streak above the eye whitish ; upper parts, wings and tail greyish- 
or earthy-brown, the top of the head with small white spots, the 
rest of the upper plumage more or less boldly spotted and in places 
almost barred with white ; an indistinct whitish half-collar on the 
hind neck ; the quills with pale broken cross-bars ; the tail with four 
to six white cross-bars ; chin, throat and sides of the neck white ; a 
broad brown band, somewhat broken in the centre, across the throat ; 
lower plumage white with brown bands and spots on the feathers, 
dying away towards the tail. 

Iris pale golden-yellow ; bill and feet greenish-yellow. 

The facial disc and ruff are very indistinct in this Owl. 

Field Identification. One of the most familiar birds of the plains. 
A small spotted brown and white Owl with bright yellow eyes, which 
is very wide awake by day and makes most extraordinary noises about 
dusk ; found everywhere, especially in gardens about houses, in twos 
and threes. 

The eerie long-drawn shriek also heard round houses is the cry 
of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), unmistakable with its queer pinched 
face and figure and buffy yellow and white plumage. 

Distribution. Throughout the Peninsula of India from the North- 
west Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Sind to Assam and Cachar, 
and from the foot-hills of the Himalayas (up to 3000 feet) to Cape 
Comorin. It also occurs in parts of Burma and Siam. It is divided 
into races, distinguished by slight differences in coloration. The typical 
race occurs in Southern India up to about Bombay ; while north of 
that all Indian birds, including those of Baluchistan, belong to the 
race A. b. indica. A strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. In the Spotted Owlet we have the most common 
and familiar Owl of India, known to everyone who spends even the 
shortest time in the country. It affects desert, cultivation and forest 
alike, living equally at home in rocks and ruins, in trees and houses. 
It is particularly partial to gardens. This quaint little bird is, of 
course, nocturnal in its habits, and towards dusk emerges from the 
hole in which it has spent the day, and signalises its emergence by 
the most varied assortment of squeaks and squeals and chatterings, 
uttered in short bursts as if moved by the spirit to sudden vituperation. 
It then flies off to commence its hunting, flying with a characteristic 
undulating flight with quick flappings of the wings, though seldom 



348 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

going far at a stretch. It hovers occasionally some 15 or 20 feet above 
the ground, much after the fashion of a Kestrel, though not so grace- 
fully and skilfully. About houses and streets it perches often in the 
glare of lamps to profit by the insects attracted to them, and where 
people dine out in their gardens it hunts round the table with a perfect 
disdain for their presence. 

But though 'truly nocturnal, it is less sleepy by day and intolerant 
of the light than most Owls. It sits out in the sunlight near % the 
entrance to its hole, and is then wide awake enough, promptly bowing 
and nodding and glaring if looked at, finally taking to wing or popping 
back into its hole to avoid the annoyance ; occasionally it calls and 
chatters by day, but not very often. Three or four often live together. 
The food consists almost entirely of insects, and the nest holes and 
resting places will be found littered with pellets containing the indi- 
gestible portions of beetles and crickets, proving the amount of good 
done by these little birds. Small mammals and birds and lizards are, 
however, occasionally taken. 

The breeding season is from February to May, most nests being 
found in March and April. No very definite nest is made, but the 
eggs generally rest on a few feathers, dry grass and other rubbish 
which is usually already present in the hole, though perhaps sometimes 
gathered by the Owlet itself. The favourite nesting site is a natural 
hole in a tree, but holes in buildings and clefts in rocks are often used. 

The number of eggs varies from three to six. They are pure 
white in colour, moderately broad ovals of a close uniform satiny 
texture. 

They average in size about 1-25 by 1-04 inches. 



THE JUNGLE OWLET 

GLAUCIDIUM RADIATUM (Tickell) 

Description. Length 8 inches. Sexes alike. Whole upper plumage 
dark blackish-brown finely barred with pale rufous on the head and 
neck and with white on the remainder, some white and rufous blotches 
on the wing-coverts; wing-quills blackish-brown barred with pale 
chestnut, the bars becoming more distinct towards the body ; tail 
sooty blackish with narrow white cross-bars ; lower plumage banded 
blackish-brown and white or pale rufous, the dark bands gradually 
disappearing towards the tail and on the thighs ; chin, a line below the 
cheeks, a large patch on the upper breast and the centre of the 
abdomen pure white. 

Iris yellow ; bill greenish-horny, cere greenish ; feet dirty greenish- 
yellow, tips of claws blackish. 



THE JUNGLE OWLET 349 

me facial disc and ruff are indistinct. Legs feathered and toes 
covered with coarse hairs. 

Field Identification. A small dark-looking Owl, finely barred \vith 
blackish-brown, white and chestnut, which is partly diurnal in its 
habits. Lives in trees and has an easily recognisable call. 

Distribution. A sedentary species confined to India and Ceylon. 
The typical race is fairly generally distributed, except in the Eastern 
Ghats, throughout India from Saharunpur, Gwalior and Mount Aboo 
to North Cachar and Hylakandy in Assam. In the Himalayas it is 




FIG. 57 Jungle Owlet (J nat. size) 

found only in the outer and warmer valleys. In Peninsular India it 
is found both in the plains and in the hills up to about 5000 feet. 
It is confined to the dry zone in Ceylon. 

This species must not be confused with the very similar Large 
Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides) which is very common through- 
out the Lower Himalayan ranges where its rising crescendo of squawks, 
supplemented by a long quavering whistle in the breeding season, is 
a familiar sound by day. 

Habits, etc. The Jungle Owlet is usually confined to the more 
jungly and fc *est-clad tracts of both the plains and the lower hills 



350 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

though in the cultivated plains of the United Provinces a pair or two 
may be found in almost every mango tope. 

As a rule, it is an inveterate skulker, remaining in its hole in spite of 
any noise. When disturbed it settles on a branch and remains perfectly 
still, sitting bolt upright and staring intently at the intruder until 
it senses that it is discovered, instantly taking wing to a fresh place 
of concealment, and if pursued it repeats the performance. Sitting 
thus it looks exactly like the stump of a dead bough. It sees well 
by day and Vidal records how one dashed out of a tree to capture a 
Phylloscopus he had shot which was fluttering slowly to the ground 
in the full blaze of the sun. 

The Jungle Owlet makes its appearance in the evening a little 
later than the Spotted Owlet and retires as a rule a little earlier in 
the morning, its principal feeding hours being apparently the hour 
after sunrise and the hour before sunset. If undisturbed the pairs 
sit together and sun themselves before retiring to their hole, sometimes 
remaining thus up till midday. Like the Spotted Owlet it often 
perches on telegraph-wires. 

This Owlet calls both by day and night. The call is peculiar but 
rather pleasing, something of a chirp in several different keys very 
different to the discordant noise of the Spotted Owlet. It is described 
as too-to-to-too, drawn out to a considerable length and sometimes 
terminating in double or treble notes. 

The flight is both rapid and strong, the wings being often partially 
closed. It kills and devours all kinds of small birds as well as locusts, 
lizards, crickets, ants and even butterflies. 

The breeding season is from March till June. 

No nest is constructed, but the eggs are laid in holes in small trees, 
usually some 10 or 20 feet from the ground. 

The clutch consists of three or four eggs. They are normally very 
broad ovals, smooth and satiny to the touch but with scarcely any gloss. 
The colour is pure white. 

The egg measures about 1-25 by 1*05 inches. 



THE KING VULTURE 

SARCOGYPS CALVUS (Scopoli) 

Description. Length 32 inches. Sexes alike. Glossy black, 
brownish on the shoulders and lower back and rump ; the crop 
is dark brown almost surrounded with white down ; a large white 
and downy patch on each flank by the thighs. 

Iris reddish-brown or yellow ; bill dark brown ; cere dull red ; 
legs dull red. 



THE KING VULTURE 351 

The head and neck are bare, deep beefsteak-red in colour with a 
flat pendent wattle behind each ear ; there are conspicuous bare red 
patches on each side of the crop and in fro^t of each thigh. 

Field Identification. Black plumage and the bare red head and 
neck wattles are distinctive both on the ground and in flight ; in 
flight also the white thigh-patches are conspicuous at all distances, 
and place the identification beyond all doubt ; the wings appear 
rather pointed in flight, and a whitish line generally seems to run 
through them. 

Distribution. This fine Vulture 
is found throughout India and 
Burma, though not in Ceylon, 
extending on the south-east into 
the Malay Peninsula, Siam and 
Cochin - China. In the Outer 
Himalayas it breeds up to a height 
of 5800 feet and ranges in search 
of food up to about 8000 feet. It 
is a strictly resident species. 

Habits, etc. Although generally 
distributed and common through- 
out India, this species is never 
abundant, as it is not colonial like 
most of the large Vultures but lives 
solitary or in pairs ; only one or 
two will ever be found at a carcass 
with scores of the other species, 
which mostly hold this bird in 
wholesome respect and give way 
before its superior spirit and de- 
meanour ; hence the name of 
King Vulture, though it is also 
frequently known as the Black or 
Pondicherry Vulture. It is *not partial to very heavy forest or pure 
desert, and is most common in open cultivated plains where it rests 
upon the trees ; it never settles on cliffs. In flight the wings are held 
well above the line of the back. 

The breeding season lasts from the latter end of January until the 
middle of April, but most eggs are probably laid in March. The 
nest is a large flat structure of sticks, lined towards the centre with 
leaves and dry grass, and it is probably repaired and used for several 
years in succession. The nest is placed as a rule on the extreme top 
of large trees, 30 to 40 feet from the ground, but in localities where 
large trees are scarce it has no hesitation in building on cactus, on 
low thorny trees and even on low bushes close to the ground ; but 




FIG. 58 King Vulture 
(Vo nat. size) 



352 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

under no circumstances does it ever breed on rocks or buildings. 
Occasionally it utilises the old nests of Eagles. 

Only a solitary egg is laid. The normal shape is a round oval ; 
the shell is very strong with a moderately fine texture, usually without 
gloss. When freshly laid the colour is a nearly unsullied pale greenish- 
white, but as incubation advances the shell becomes discoloured. 

In size the eggs average about 3-35 by 2-50 inches. 



THE HIMALAYAN GRIFFON 

GYPS HIMALAYENSIS Hume 

Description. Length 4 feet. Sexes alike. Head and neck naked 
save for some yellowish-white hair-like feathers on the head and 
yellowish-white down on the neck ; a ruff of loose-textured pointed 
feathers round the neck whitish and pale brown ; back whity-brown, 
unevenly coloured, with traces of pale shaft-stripes ; lower back 
whitish merging into buff ; wings dark brown with pale tips to the 
coverts, the quills and tail-feathers blackish-brown ; lower plumage 
light buff-brown, darker on the crop, with broad whitish shaft-streaks. 

Iris brownish-yellow ; bill pale horny-green ; cere pale brown ; 
legs dingy greenish-white. 

Build squat and heavy, accentuated by the bare head and neck 
with the loose ruff. The beak is deep and laterally compressed with 
the upper mandible strongly hooked. 

Field Identification. The huge pale-coloured Vulture found 
commonly throughout the Himalayas. Seen from below it is pale 
khaki with the hinder margins of the open wings and the tail black, 
and it flies high in the sky with the appearance of an aeroplane. 
Khaki-colour, down-covered head and neck and white neck ruff are 
distinctive when the bird is sitting still. 

Distribution. A resident mountain species found throughout the 
whole length of the Himalayas from KUbul to Bhutan ; also in the 
Pamirs, Turkestan and Tibet. 

The exact relationship between this species and the Griffon 
Vulture (Gypsfulvus) is not very clear nor are they ordinarily separable 
in the field. The Griffon is apparently common over the greater 
part of North-western India, occurring in diminishing numbers 
southwards to the Deccan and eastwards to Assam. 

The smaller Vulture of similar coloration but remarkable for its 
dark head and neck bare of down is the Long-billed Vulture (Gyps 
indicus). This is common throughout India generally except in the 
alluvial plains of the North-west. 

Habits, etc. This Vulture is familiar to all who have visited the 



THE HIMALAYAN GRIFFON 353 

hill stations of the Himalayas, as it is the great khaki-coloured bird 
which may be seen at all hours wheeling and soaring in the sky often 
at immense heights, or flying fairly low over the hill-side, travelling 
straight and fast with a tearing noise. The wings are held stiff and 
straight in a line with the back and the whole bird irresistibly recalls 
the passage of an aeroplane. Seen at a distance, the wings appear 
very broad and square ended, and at short ranges it can be seen that 
the pressure of the air causes the feathers at the ends of the wings to 
splay out and turn upwards like the fingers of a hand. Like other 
Vultures, this species has its fixed resting places, which are usually 
on the rocky face of some magnificent cliff or mountain spur ; here 
the birds congregate to digest a recent meal, sitting motionless, hunched 
up in the traditional Vulture attitude, or squatting and sunning on the 
ledges like gigantic chickens. These favourite spots have doubtless 
been used for hundreds of years, and the white stains about them are 
often visible two or three miles away. Immediately after a heavy 
gorge at a carcass the Griffons congregate on trees in the immediate 
vicinity until digestion has started and they feel able to face the flight 
to the resting place. The food consists entirely of carrion from carcasses 
and the bird never kills a prey for itself. 

The breeding season is from December to March. The birds 
nest in small colonies, seldom of more than four to six pairs, on the 
rocky ledges of precipices and crags. Sometimes the solitary egg 
lies on the bare ledge, at other times it is supported merely by a few 
twigs and roots or a little dry grass, but generally there is a huge nest 
of sticks. 

The egg is somewhat variable in shape, but is typically a rather 
long and pointed oval. The texture is rather coarse and there is 
practically no gloss. In colour it is greenish- or greyish-white ; 
some eggs are unmarked, but the majority are more or less blotched 
and streaked with various shades of brown, some quite heavily. 

In size they average about 3-75 by 2-75 inches. 



THE WHITE-BACKED VULTURE 
PSEUDOGYPS BENGALENSIS (Gmelin) 

Description. Length 35 inches. Sexes alike. Sparse brownish 
hairs cover the bare head and neck and at the back of the neck white 
downy tufts introduce a ruff of short pure white down ; upper, plumage 
blackish-brown with a large white patch above the base of the tail ; 
crop black, bordered on each side by white down ; breast and abdomen 
brownish-black with narrow whitish shaft-streaks. The under wing-- 
coverts, upper flanks and thigh-coverts white, 

Z 



354 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



Iris brown ; skin of the head and neck dusky-plumbeous ; bill 
dark plumbeous, whitish along the top, the cere polished horny- 
black ; legs blackish. 

Field Identification. A huge humped-up square-looking bird 
which broods on the trees with the naked head and neck shrunk 
into the shoulders. Dark leaden colour with conspicuous white 
rump-patch prevent adults being confused with any other Vulture. 




FIG. 59 White-backed Vulture (^ nat. size) 

In flight if the white rump-patch is invisible the rather pointed wings 
with their white lining and the white sides combined with the general 
blackish colour render identification easy. 

Distribution. Found throughout India and Burma (but not 
Ceylon) to th6 Malay Peninsula and Annam. It is not found in 
Baluchistan, but is otherwise very generally spread throughout our 
area, working even up to 8000 feet in the Western Himalayas, 
where, however, it does not breed above 3600 feet. It is a resident 
species, but wanders a good deal according to food-supply, and our 
campaigns on the North-west Frontier usually lead to a temporary 



THE WHITE-BACKED VULTURE 355 

extension of its distribution in areas where it is not normally found. 
This is the commonest of all the Vultures of India, and must be 
familiar to those who have visited the Towers of Silence in Bombay. 

Habits. The White-backed Vulture breeds in colonies in large 
trees on the outskirts of populous towns, near villages, and in the 
avenues of huge trees that line roads or canals. Here they settle to 
the work of preparing the nests often as early as September and will 
be found at them until well into March ; but the majority of eggs 
will be found in November, December and January. In addition 
to these colonies there are favourite roosting and resting sites where 
the birds may be found all the year round though their numbers sensibly 
diminish in the nesting season. When not sitting sluggishly at either 
nest-colony or roosting site, the White-backed Vulture spends its 
life on the wing, usually at an immense height from the ground, soaring 
in wide circles with almost motionless wings held level with the body 
or slightly backwards ; when travelling to fresh ground it flies with a 
direct but somewhat laboured flight with regularly beating wings. 

For years scientific controversy raged over the method by which 
Vultures found their food, and there were two schools of thought 
that pressed respectively the claims of sight or smell. The explanation 
is so simple that it is difficult to realise that there was ever any doubt 
about it. 

An animal dies somewhere, whether in the open or under cover ; 
if it has not been watched before death by the crows and pariah dogs, 
it is soon found by one or other of them ; a single crow or a single 
dog pulling at a carcass is immediately noticed by others of the tribe 
and a number collect ; the carcass is fresh, the skin unbroken, so in 
the first stages of the feast there is more confusion and skirmishing 
than actual feeding. This attracts the kites, which wheel round back- 
wards and forwards over the scene looking for detached morsels, 
which they snatch with a dashing swoop. One or two of the carrion- 
feeding eagles sitting heavily on the tops of trees within a mile or 
so of the spot observe the kites and join the melee, the others yielding 
them place of honour at the feast. By this time it is inevitable that 
the concourse has caught the eye of one of the Vultures which are 
patrolling the sky far overhead ; it descends lower to verify the existence 
of a carcass and finally descends to the ground nearby with the peculiar 
tearing rush that unmistakably indicates food. Vulture follows 
Vulture, as they patrol with a lively interest in each other's movements, 
the circle of interest widening like the ripples of a stone thrown into 
water. Settled on the ground the Vultures run in clumsily on foot, 
bickerings ensue, and the weaker scavengers give place to the jostling, 
striving mass of Vultures which cover the carcass and gradually devour 
everything but the largest bones. Gorged, they sit around on the 
ground, or with difficulty rise into surrounding trees, till digestion 



356 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

allows them to wing a heavy way to the resting place ; and there they 
sit and meditate until returning hunger again sends them on patrol. 

This species never nests upon rocks or buildings, but invariably 
on trees. The nest is a large irregular structure of sticks, either 
wedged in the fork of a tree or right on top of it ; it is repaired and 
reoccupied year after year until it often attains great dimensions. 
A slight hollow on the top is lined with green leaves to receive the 
single egg. While pairing these birds indulge in a loud roaring noise. 
They pair on the nest. 

The eggs are fairly regular ovals in shape, the shell very thick 
and strong, and generally without gloss. The majority are greyish- 
or greenish-white in colour, unmarked, but some eggs are slightly 
speckled, spotted and blotched with pale reddish-brown. 

They average about 3-25 by 2-40 inches in size. 



THE NEOPHRON 
NEOPHRON PERCNOPTERUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 24 inches. Sexes alike. The whole plumage 
is white except the flight-feathers which are black and brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill horny, cere yellow ; legs fleshy-white. 

The head and upper neck are naked with the skin deep yellow ; 
the bill is slender and lengthened, straight at the base and deeply 
hooked at the end ; the neck is surrounded by a ruff of hackle-like 
feathers ; wings long and pointed ; tail wedge-shaped. 

Field Identification. Exceedingly abundant about the haunts 
of man. A large white bird with dark wing-quills and a bare bright 
yellow head, accompanied by dark chocolate-brown birds which are 
the immature of the species. The bird might easily be mistaken for 
a very large hen, except for something peculiarly repulsive about its 
appearance. 

Distribution. The Neophron or Egyptian Vulture has a wide 
range in Southern Europe, in Africa and in Asia. The typical or 
Western race extends to the North-western corner of India, being 
found in Sind, Baluchistan, North-west Frontier Province, Upper 
Punjab, and the Western Himalayas. In the remainder of India 
it is replaced by N. p. ginginianus, which is a rather smaller bird 
with a yellow bill, the typical race having the bill dark brownish- 
horn with a dark tip. Intermediate birds are found about Delhi. It 
is a resident species, but there are indications of slight local migration. 

Habits, etc. This Vulture is only to a slight extent social, and 
is usually found singly or in pairs, though a number may often collect 
in the neighbourhood of food. It haunts towns and villages, and while 



THE NEOPHRON 357 

ready to eat any form of garbage or carrion appears mainly to live on 
human excrement ; hence the detestation in which this species is 
commonly held by all classes. It has no fear of man, and perches on 
buildings and trees in the most crowded bazaars, or stalks sedately 
about open spaces, graveyards and camping grounds, looking in gait 
and appearance much like a large, disreputable old hen ; hence the 
name of " Pharaoh's Chicken," which is often applied to the Western 
race in Egypt. 

The breeding season lasts from the end of February to the end 
of May, but most eggs will be found in March and April. The nest 
is placed on rocky precipices, earthy cliffs, buildings and trees, often 
in very exposed and frequented situations. 




Fro. 60 Neophron (J nat. size) 

The nests are the most filthy, disreputable structures, a foundation 
of sticks, lined with old rags, wool, earth, and anything else soft that 
comes to hand, the dirtier the better apparently. The eggs are laid 
in a shallow hollow on top of the mass. One to three eggs are laid, 
but the usual clutch consists of two. 

The eggs are variable in shape, size and colour, and are often 
very handsome ; the normal shape is rather a broad oval, somewhat 
compressed towards one end ; the texture is coarse and generally 
rather chalky, but in some specimens there is a fine surface glaze. 
The colour is dirty white overlaid with a wash of varying shades of 
deep rich brown-red, sometimes so dark as to be deep purplish-red, 
and sometimes fading to light yellowish-red with much of the ground- 
colour visible. Other eggs are spotted and blotched with purplish-red 
and ashy shell-marks. 

In size they average 2*6 by i'98 inches. 



Z2 



358 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE LAMMERGEIER 

GYPAETUS BARBATUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 4 feet. Sexes alike. A marked patch from 
above the eye to and including the stiff bristles over the nostrils and 
a beard of bristles under the chin black ; remainder of head ^and 
throat white speckled with black ; neck and lower plumage wnite, 
tinged often very richly with bright ferruginous, and usually with 
an imperfect black gorget across the breast ; upper back and lesser 
wing-coverts black with narrow white shaft-stripes ; the remainder 
of the upper plumage, wings and tail deep silvery-grey, the shafts of 
the feathers white and the edges blackish. 

Iris pale orange, the sclerotic membrane blood-red ; bill horny, 
darker at tip ; legs plumbeous-grey. 

The bill is high, compressed, and much hooked at the end ; wings 
long and pointed, with an expanse of 8 to 10 feet ; tail long, pointed 
and graduated. 

Field Identification. Almost always seen in flight, a huge bird 
with long pointed wings and wedge-shaped tail ; this last feature is 
distinctive from every large bird in India except the Neophron, 
The beard is distinct up to some distance and shows black against 
the pale head and bright rufous neck and breast of the adult ; upper 
plumage silvery and black. Immature birds, however, are dull blackish 
all over, but can be identified by the same shape and beard as in the 
adult. 

Distribution. The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture is widely 
distributed as a mountain bird in Southern Europe, Africa and Central 
Asia, being divided into several races. It is a common bird along the 
Himalayas and tributary ranges down the North-western border of 
India, and birds from this area, although sometimes considered identical 
with European birds, are described as forming a separate race 
G. b. hemachalanus. A resident species. 

Habits, etc. Like other species that have fired the imagination 
of mankind from the earliest days of his civilisation, the Lammergeier 
has several well-known names in different languages. Lammergeier 
or the Lamb-Eagle is a relic of the days before this grand bird had 
become extinct in the Alps, when confusion with the more courageous 
Golden Eagle and the innate propensity of the multitude to exaggera- 
tion combined to credit the bird with all manner of depredations 
amongst sheep, goats and chamois, and even children. Another 
well-known name, Ossifrage or Bone-breaker, being based on a real 
observation, is found in several languages. For the Lammergeier 
prefers, above all things, to feed on bones, swallowing the smaller 



THE LAMMERGEIER 359 

whole and carrying the larger high up into the air and dropping 
them to shatter in pieces on the rocks below, where at its leisure 
it collects and devours the fragments. From this habit, applied 
also to tortoises in the Levant, is due the legend of the death of 
^schylus, who is said to have been killed by the dropping of a 
tortoise on his head. 

The bird is purely a mountain species, and it spends its days 
beating along the hill-sides, following the major contours or soaring 
high over the ravines ; living things it seldom kills, but it descends 
to offal of every description, picking trifles on foot even from a rubbish 
dump at a hill station. Carcasses it does not dispute with the Vultures. 
It waits till they have finished and then descends to the feast of its 
desires, the blood-stained bones that lie drying in the sun. 

In flight the wings are held in a line with the body, but from 
their shape and the pressure of the air they slope downwards and 
up again at the tips, so that in horizontal section the bird has the 
shape of an unstrung bow ; like this it travels and soars indefinitely 
without flapping, merely banking slightly from side to side, though 
now and again it rings the changes on majestic flapping and gliding. 
By way of courtship it indulges with its mate in aerial gymnastics 
which reveal its perfect mastery of the science of flight. Normally 
it is silent, but when courting it indulges in loud squealing. 

The breeding season commences in November and lasts until 
March, and most eggs will be found about January. 

The nest is placed in some almost inaccessible situation in the 
face of a cliff, usually on a ledge under a projecting rock. It is a huge, 
shapeless heap of sticks strewn about and mixed with rags, large bones, 
feathers and droppings. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. These are typically 
rather broad ovals, pointed towards the smaller end. The texture 
is rather coarse and glossless, the colour of the shell appearing pale 
dingy yellow when held up against the light. 

The colour is rather variable, from pale uniform salmon-buff to 
reddish- or orange-brown, clouded, blotched and mottled with deeper 
markings of the same tint ; or the egg may be dull white with 
spots, streaks, and blotches of pale washed-out reddish-brown and 
purple. 

In size the egg measures about 3*25 by 2-65 inches. 



360 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



THE TAWNY EAGLE 

AQUILA RAPAX (Temminck) 
(Plate xviii, Fig. i, opposite page 374) 

Description. Length : Male 25 inches, female 28 inches. Sexes 
alike. The coloration is very variable, but is generally uniform 
brown, varying from a dirty buffish-brown to deep rich umtier- 
brown ; the quills are dark blackish-brown, mottled and barred with 
whitish about the base, and the tail is dark greyish-brown with more 
or less distinct cross-bands. In some specimens there is a very distinct 
dark mask on the front of the head and face, and parts of the plumage 
are often spotted with light brown. 

Iris hazel-brown ; bill pale bluish-grey, blackish at tip ; cere 
dull yellow ; feet yellow, claws black. 

The nostril is ear-shaped ; bill strong, curved and sharply hooked ; 
top of the head very flat ; legs feathered down to the toes. The 
plumage is coarse in texture. 

Field Identification. A large brown or blackish-brown bird of 
rather fierce appearance with its flat head, sharply-hooked beak, 
and feathered legs armed with sharp claws, which sits heavily on 
the tops of trees or soars in great circles above the Kites, from which 
it is easily distinguished by the rounded tail. There are, however, 
several other common species of Eagle, and it requires some knowledge 
and practice to distinguish them from it. Of these the most easily 
recognisable is the very large Steppe-Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), which 
in flight exhibits two pale wing-bars. A winter visitor to India as far 
south as Seoni and Raipur. 

A very black-looking Eagle, seen above tree-level in Baluchistan 
and the Himalayas, is usually the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus). 
A longish tail and often light patches in the wing and tail- quills assist 
recognition. 

Distribution. A. rapax vindhiana, the common Eagle of India, 
is the Oriental race of A. rapax, which is found throughout the greater 
part of Africa. It is found throughout most of India from -Baluchistan 
and the North-west Frontier Province to Lower Bengal and Upper 
Burma ; but it is wanting on the Malabar coast and in Ceylon. In 
the Himalayas it occurs and breeds up to about 4000 feet. It is a 
resident species. 

Habits, etc. This Eagle avoids heavy forest and the damper 
portions of the country-side, being particularly a bird of those dry 
sandy plains with a moderate amount of tree growth which are such 
a feature of Northern India. It divides its time between" soaring 
high in the air like the Vultures, and with them keeping watch for 



THE TAWNY EAGLE 361 

carcasses, or sitting lumpily on the summit of a tall tree watching 
the surrounding country-side. Although in being partial to carrion 
it offends against the traditional idea of an Eagle, it is a fine lordly- 
looking bird and has plenty of courage, taking hares and large birds, 
and in particular chasing and robbing falcons and hawks of their booty. 
This habit causes it to be a great nuisance to the falconer as it chases 
trained falcons mistaking their jesses for prey. At other times no quarry 
is too small for it. I have seen it robbing a Babbler's nest of young 
and a Plover's nest of eggs, and when locusts or termites swarm it 
always joins the feast ; while frogs, lizards and snakes are readily 
devoured. 

Eggs are laid from the middle of November until June, but the 
majority will be found in January. 

The nest is a large flat structure of sticks and thorny twigs, lined 
as a rule with straw and coarse grass and often with green leaves. 
It is built not in a fork but on the extreme tops of trees so that the 
Eagle may settle in the nest without brushing its wings against the 
branches. The favourite tree is the dense thorny kikar or babool tree. 

The clutch consists of one to three eggs. 

The egg is normally a somewhat broad oval, slightly pointed at 
one end ; the texture of the shell is hard and fine, usually with a 
slight gloss. The ground-colour is dull greyish-white ; many eggs 
are unmarked ; others are marked, though generally sparingly, with 
streaks, spots and blotches of brown, red and purple of varying tints. 

The eggs average about 2-60 by 2- 10 inches. 



THE CRESTED HAWK-EAGLE 
SPIZAETUS CIRRHATUS (Gmelin) 

Description, Length : Male 26 inches, female 29 inches. Sexes 
alike. There are two main colour phases, of which the dark phase 
is usually considered adult and the pale phase immature. 

Dark phase : Crest black lightly tipped with white ; top and 
sides of the head and neck brown streaked with blackish-brown ; 
upper plumage umber-brown, the depth of colour in individual 
feathers variable ; wing-quills brown above, whitish below, barred 
and tipped with black, inner webs white towards the base ; tail brown 
above, whitish below with four or five broad umber-brown cross-bars 
and the tips of the feathers paler ; lower plumage white, heavily 
streaked with umber-brown, darkest on the breast ; thighs and a 
patch under the tail brown, partly barred with white ; feathers of the 
tarsus mottled rufous brown and white. 

Pale phase : Crest as above ; top and sides of the head and neck 



362 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



white overlaid with creamy brown, many of the feathers with dark 
brown shaft-streaks ; remainder of upper plumage dark umber-brown, 
some feathers paler and many broadly edged with white ; wing- quills 
and tail as above but dark bands are narrower and more in number. 
The whole lower plumage white, some of the feathers with dark 




FIG. 6 1 Crested Hawk-Eagle (J nat. size) 

brown shafts and rufous-brown spots, the thighs and feathers under 
the tail heavily mottled with brownish-rufous. 

Iris leaden-grey, pale straw-colour or golden yellow; bill 
plumbeous-black, cere plumbeous in dark phase, yellow in pale phase ; 
feet yellow, claws black. 

Nostril ear-shaped ; bill strong, curved and sharply hooked ; 
a tuft of long feathers springing from the back of the crown ; legs 
feathered to the base of the toes. 



THE CRESTED HAWK-EAGLE 363 

Field Identification. A lightly-built, slender Eagle with a pro- 
portionately long narrow tail, upper parts dark brown ; lower parts 
either pure white becoming rufous towards the tail, or white heavily 
streaked with blackish-brown. Underside of the wings in flight 
is white barred and spotted with blackish-brown. A curious tuft 
of long black feathers springs from the crown. Found amongst trees 
and rather noisy. 

Distribution. The typical race is very generally distributed in 
India south of the Indo-Gangetic plain and a smaller race, S. c. 
ceylanensis, occurs in Ceylon. A rather paler race, S. c. limnaetus, 
with little or no crest, which is also found in a melanistic phase 
practically black throughout, is found in the sub-Himalayan terai 
from Garhwal to Eastern Bengal, Assam and still farther eastwards. 
The very similar Hodgson's Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus nipalensis) of the 
Himalayas and Western Ghats and Ceylon has the lower parts much 
more definitely barred. The correct classification and distribution 
of the various I lawk- Eagles is not yet satisfactorily known. 

The curious crest of these Hawk-Eagles, whilst very distinctive, 
may lead to confusion with the Crested Honey-Buzzard (Pernis 
ptilorhynchus) found throughout India and the rarer and more local 
Crested Hawks of the genus Baza. None of these, however, have 
the legs feathered more than half-way down the tarsus. The Honey- 
Buzzard, moreover, has very distinctive scale-like feathering on the 
face, whilst the Bazas have the lower parts transversely banded and 
are much smaller. 

Another very courageous bird of similar size and appearance is 
Bonelli's Eagle (Hieraetus fasciatus) which is found sparingly throughout 
India. It has, however, no crest. 

Habits, etc. The Crested Hawk-Eagle is a bird of forests and 
also of well-timbered country in the neighbourhood of cultivation. 
In habits it resembles the Hawks far more than the Eagles, and it 
soars far less than the true Eagles, being more often seen flying 
through the trees than above them. It spends much of its time 
sitting on the tops of high trees watching the surrounding ground 
for prey to appear. A covey of partridges or a young pea-fowl has 
only to feed out into the open, a hare to move from its form, and the 
Hawk-Eagle dashes down and pounces on it. It also feeds on jungle- 
fowl and other ground-feeding species as well as squirrels, rats, lizards, 
and the like. The call is a prolonged shrill scream and the bird is 
very vociferous, while the young bird in the nest is extremely noisy 
when it is being fed. 

The breeding season lasts from December to April, most eggs 
being found in January. The nest is a large and comparatively deep 
structure of sticks, loosely put together with the twigs hanging down 
untidily. It is always profusely lined with green leaves, preferably 



364 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

those of the mango. It is built, very high up as a rule, in the fork 
of a large tree and, though the favourite tree appears to be a mango, 
any kind of tree may be selected. 

The clutch invariably consists of a single egg. The eggs are 
rather variable in shape and appearance, but the majority are rather 
broad and regular ovals, appreciably pointed at the small end. The 
shell is very strong and glossless, but by no means coarse. Held up 
against the light it is pale green. The colour is dull greenish-^hite, 
never quite unmarked but seldom well marked. The markings vary 
from an almost imperceptible stippling to a couple of dozen moderate- 
sized spots and lines, the latter thin and inconspicuous but occasionally 
arabesque in character. The markings are confined to the large end 
and vary in colour from reddish-brown to brownish-yellow. 

In size the egg measures about 2-60 to 2-0 inches. 



THE CRESTED SERPENT-EAGLE 
H^MATORNIS CHEELA (Latham) 

Description. Length 28 inches. Sexes alike. A short full crest 
black, the basal half of the feathers white ; upper plumage dark 
brown with a dull purplish gloss, some feathers tipped with white ; 
flight-feathers blackish with three bars brown above whitish below ; 
tail brown and black with the tip pale and a broad conspicuous whitish 
band ; lower parts brown, spotted with numerous white ocelli and 
barred finely with dark brown, there being great variation in the tints 
of the colour. 

Iris intense yellow ; bill plumbeous, blackish above and at tip ; 
cere, conspicuous bare skin in front of the eyes, and the gape yellow ; 
legs dingy yellow. 

The bill is rather long and deeply hooked ; wings short and 
rounded ; tail rather long ; legs strong, the tarsus bare of feathers. 

Field Identification. The full crest mixed with white, the peculiar 
purplish-brown coloration with the white ocelli beneath, the broad 
white bar in the tail and the barred wings are most distinctive ; these 
points combined with the noisy whistling calls render this Eagle easier 
than most to identify. 

Distribution. The Crested Serpent-Eagle is widely distributed 
in the Oriental Region from the Western Himalayas to Southern 
China, and is divided into a number of well-marked races ; those in 
India illustrate to a remarkable degree the tendency of Indian birds 
to decrease in size from north to south. 

The typical race is found in Northern India from Hazara to Sikkim 
along the Outer Himalayas (which it ascends to about 7000 feet) and 



THE CRESTED SERPENT-EAGLE 365 

in the plains from Rajputana to Bengal and Assam. In Peninsular 
and Southern India it is replaced by the smaller H. c. melanotis in 
which the breast is usually unbarred and the tail-bands are grey, not 
white. A still smaller form, H. c. spilogaster, is found in Ceylon. 

This Eagle is a resident species, though individuals apparently 
wander to some extent. In Sind and the Punjab it is very scarce. 

Another striking Eagle, found in open country throughout India, 
is the Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus ferox), which is noteworthy for 




FIG. 62 Crested Serpent-Eagle (I nat. size) 

its ability to hover stationary in the air like a Kestrel. It is brown 
above and white below, the crop-region being streaked and the flanks 
crescent-spotted with brown. The head appears larger than in most 
Eagles. 

Habits, etc. This handsome Eagle is found in well-wooded and 
well-watered country, being particularly partial to the pleasant sub- 
Himalayan valleys where mountain streams run down through the 
rice-fields and amongst big groves of mango trees. Its food consists 
chiefly of snakes, lizards and frogs, but insects are also taken. It is 
rather a noisy bird, frequently uttering on the wing a plaintive whistling 
call of several notes, kuk-kuk, queeear-queeear-queeear, the first two 



366 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

short notes being only audible at close range, the others carrying a 
great distance. It is very bold, and I have ridden up within a yard 
or two of one which was standing on the ground holding a snake in its 
talons. The claws are usually dirty with mud, indicating how large 
a portion of the food is procured about paddy fields and j heels. In 
flight the wings appear very broad and rounded, and they are held 
sloping backwards, while the long tail is only partly spread. This 
Eagle generally soars over forests and well-wooded ravines in preference 
to barren and open ground, and it often rises to an immense height, 
travelling fast or soaring in great circles. 

The breeding season lasts from March to May. 

The nest is always placed in trees, not on the topmost branches 
as in the case of the Tawny Eagle, but in a fork within the branches 
of the tree. It is small for the size of the bird, a cup loosely made 
of sticks and twigs and lined with fresh leaves, fine twigs and grass roots. 

The single egg is a broad oval, usually rather pointed at the smaller 
end ; the texture is rough and glossless and the shell strong. 

The ground-colour is bluish- or greenish-white, with specklings, 
spottings and clouds of pale purple or purplish-brown or brownish- 
red ; some eggs are very heavily marked and handsome. 

In size they average about 2-75 by 22 inches. 



THE WHITE-EYED BUZZARD 

BUTASTUR TEESA (Franklin) 
(Plate xix, Fig. 2, opposite page 396) 

Description. Length 17 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
brown, sometimes with a rufescent tinge, the feathers with dark 
shafts ; the white bases of the feathers below the back of the head 
show through and form a conspicuous patch ; sides of the wing 
mottled or barred with white ; quills brown above, whitish below, 
pure white at their bases and barred towards the tips, the tip of the 
wing black ; tail rufous-brown above, whity-brown below, with 
indistinct blackish bands ; chin and throat white with a dark brown 
stripe down the centre and a dark stripe down each side ; sides of 
the head and neck and the breast brown, with dark shafts on the 
breast and white spots and bands on the lower breast and abdomen ; 
thighs and a patch below the tail white with pale rufous bars. 

Iris pale yellowish-white ; cere, gape and base of bill orange, 
the tip black ; legs dingy orange-yellow ; claws black. 

The bill is compressed and sharply curved ; wing long and pointed ; 
tarsus bare with short toes, the scales forming a network instead of 
transverse shields on the front. 



THE WHITE-EYED BUZZARD 367 

Field Identification. A medium-sized brown Hawk, heavy in 
build with pointed black-tipped wings ; easily identified by the 
whitish eyes and the three dark stripes on the white throat. 

Distribution. Common throughout the greater part of India 
from the foot-hills of the Himalayas, which it occasionally ascends 
to about 4000 feet down to Central India ; south of this it becomes 
rare, though it is found throughout the Peninsula. On the west it 
extends to Baluchistan and the North-west Frontier Province, and to 
the east it is found throughout Northern Burma. While generally a 
resident species it is locally migratory. 

Habits, etc. The White-eyed Buzzard avoids both hills and 
forest and prefers open country with low scrub and cultivation. It 
is a dull, sluggish creature, unusually tame for a bird of prey, and 
spends most of its time sitting on a telegraph post, tree or low bush, 
from which it makesx>ccasional journeys to the ground to capture the 
grasshoppers and other insects which form its food. It also sits on 
the ground or on the mounds of earth that mark field boundaries and 
skims along low over the ground from one mound to another. Some- 
times it even walks about on foot. The flight is quick and strong 
with rapid beats of the wings. At the commencement of the breeding 
season it is fond of soaring and is very noisy, freely uttering its plaintive, 
mewing cry, pit-weer, pit-weer. 

The breeding season lasts from March to May, but most eggs 
will be found in April. The birds are very leisurely over the prepara- 
tion of their nests, which are shallow cups composed loosely of twigs 
and sticks without lining. They are built in the forks of trees about 
20 feet from the ground ; there is a tendency to prefer a thickly- 
foliaged tree like a mango, often one of a clump. 

The eggs vary in number from two to four, but the usual clutch 
is three. In shape they are broad ovals, of fine texture with a slight 
gloss, greyish-white or pale bluish-white in colour. They are usually 
unmarked, but occasional specimens will be found marked with 
reddish-brown, though this is very rare. 

In size they average about 1-85 by 1-50 inches. 



PALLAS 1 FISHING-EAGLE 

HALIAETUS LEUCORYPHUS (Pallas) 

Description. Length 33 inches. Sexes alike. Forehead whitish ; 
top of head and neck fulvous passing into dark brown on the rest 
of the upper plumage, wings and tail ; a broad white band across 
the tail towards the end ; sides of head and neck with the chin and 
throat whitish ; remainder of lower plumage brown, darker on the 
flanks and lower abdomen. 



368 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



Iris greyish-yellow ; bill dark plumbeous, cere and gape light 
plumbeous ; legs dull white, claws black. 

Bill strong, curved and sharply hooked ; top of the head very 
flat ; feathers on neck long and pointed ; upper third of the tarsus 
feathered ; plumage rather coarse in texture. 

Field Identification. Northern India. A large Eagle, common 
along the great rivers and the larger jheels, which is easily recognised 




FIG. 63 Pallas' Fishing-Eagle (J nat. size) 

by the combination of dark brown plumage with a whitish-looking 
head and a conspicuous white band near the end of the tail. Attracts 
attention by the loud call. 

Distribution. Southern Russia through Central Asia to Trans- 
baikalia and south to the Persian Gulf, Northern India and Northern 
Burma. In India it is not found on the coast, but is well distributed 
in the alluvial Indo-Gangetic plains. Its southern limit is not 
accurately recorded, but it certainly occurs as far south as the Indravarti 
River. A resident species with no sub-species. 

This species is only likely to be confused with the large Grey- 
headed Fishing-Eagle (Icthyophaga ichthyaetus) which is found 



PALLAS' FISHING-EAGLE 369 

throughout most of Northern and Central India. In this the tail is 
white except for a broad dark brown band at the end. 

The Osprey Pandion hali&tus is frequently seen in the cold weather 
in the vicinity of salt or fresh water, perched on a dead bough or sailing 
round in search of fish. It is of medium size, dark brown above, 
white below, and the head whitish with a dark streak along the side. 

Habits, etc. Pallas' Fishing-Eagle is a familiar species to all whom 
duty or pleasure takes about the great rivers of Northern India or 
the large j heels found in that alluvial plain. Sooner or later attention 
is attracted by the loud raucous call, which some compare to the 
shrieking of an ungreased cart-wheel, a sound which carries great 
distances in the flat open plains. The author of the call may be 
seen perched on the top of some gigantic cotton-tree or on a low 
mud-cliff or else beating up and down the river with somewhat hurried 
flight. It soars well and attains tremendous heights in the air where 
it still can be identified by the white band in the tail. 

The staple food of this Eagle is undoubtedly fish. It does not plunge 
for them like the Osprey but takes those which have ventured into the 
shallows or become stranded in drying pools. Its great strength allows 
it to capture quite large fish, the case of a thirteen-pounder taken being 
actually on record. When fishermen are dragging a river with nets 
they are often attended by one or more of these Eagles, which try to 
steal any fish left unattended on the bank. Mud-turtles, frogs and 
reptiles are taken and any wounded duck or goose on a river soon falls 
a prey to Pallas' Eagle, though it is hardly fast enough to take them 
when uninjured. It is also a pirate, trying to rob Cormorants and 
Terns of their fish or Harriers and Eagles of their varied booty. Water- 
side carrion is not too mean for its attention, and on the Ganges 
it habitually feeds on human corpses. But all things considered 
it is a fine bird and comes much nearer to the popular conception of 
an Eagle than many other of the Indian species of that group. It 
belongs to the same genus as the Bald Eagle, which is the national 
symbol of America. 

The breeding season is from the beginning of November until 
February, the majority of eggs being laid in December. 

The nest is a huge platform of sticks, some of which are often 
as thick as a man's arm, with a superstructure of thinner sticks and 
twigs. The slight depression made to hold the eggs is lined with 
fine twigs and green leaves and sometimes rushes and straw. The 
whole structure is rough and rugged and takes a long time to build 
as much of the material brought to it is rejected or dropped. It 
may be repaired and used again from year to year, having often been 
borrowed in the meantime by an Owl or Lugger Falcon or even a Vulture. 

The nest is placed right at the top of a large tree, generally an 
isolated one within easy distance of a jheel or river. The solitary 

2 A 



37<> POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

cotton-trees which stand as landmarks in an Indian river-bed afford 
favourite eyries. 

The clutch consists of two or three eggs. If the first egg is taken 
this species will still lay the remaining eggs of the clutch in the nest. 
The egg is normally a broad oval in shape and the texture is rather 
fine and smooth. The colour is greyish-white, but the shell appears 
intensely dark green if held to the light. 

The egg measures about 2-77 by 2-17 inches. 



THE BRAHMINY KITE 

HALIASTUR INDUS (Boddaert) 

Description. Length 19 inches. Sexes alike. Head, neck and 
lower parts down to the middle of the abdomen white ; remainder 
of the plumage chestnut, paler and duller under the wings and tail ; 
outer flight-feathers black and the tip of the tail whitish. Most of 
the feathers of the body plumage have a dark shaft line. 

Iris brown ; bill bluish horn, cere 
yellowish ; legs greenish-yellow. 

The bill is rather large and com- 
pressed and sharply hooked ; tail 
slightly rounded ; upper portion of 
the tarsus feathered. 

Field Identification. Unmistak- 
able ; a bright chestnut bird of prey 
with black wing tips and a white head 
and breast, found near water. 

Distribution. The Brahminy Kite 
is a bird of wide distribution, almost 
throughout the Indian Empire and 
Ceylon, and extending eastward 
through Siam, China, and the Malay 
Peninsula to Australia. All Indian 
birds belong to the typical race. It 
is not found in the North-west Fron- 
tier Province or Baluchistan or in the 
Himalayas above 6000 feet, but it is 
otherwise fairly generally distributed, 
common on the sea coast and in the wetter districts, and avoiding 
semi-desert areas and thick forest. It is locally migratory, but is 
resident in the greater part of its range. 

Habits, etc. The Brahminy Kite, so called from its traditional 
association with Vishnu, resembles the ordinary Pariah Kite in its 




FIG. 64 Brahminy Kite 
(| nat. size) 



THE BRAHMINY KITE 371 

flight and habits, but differs from it in always frequenting the neigh- 
bourhood of water. Its habits are rather variable. At certain seaports, 
such as Bombay, it is a scavenger pure and simple, haunting the har- 
bours and lifting refuse from the surface of the water with its claws, 
while it is bold enough to perch on the rigging of ships. Inland it is 
often a shy bird, beating backwards and forwards over the rice-fields 
like a Harrier, catching frogs on the ground and sweeping grasshoppers 
off the growing rice, or hunting the jheels and the neighbourhood of 
rivers. It sometimes robs Crows and Common Kites of their food. 
Termites and small fish are also eaten. 

The ordinary cry is a peculiar squealing note. 

The breeding season lasts from December to April, being rather 
earlier in the south than in the north. 

The nest is a large loose structure of sticks on which the eggs 
lie on a deep hollow, which may be either unlined, sparsely lined 
with green leaves, or fairly thickly lined with rags, wool, hair and 
similar substances. 

It is placed in the fork of a tree or the head of a palm, generally 
at a considerable height from the ground. The tree chosen is almost 
always in the vicinity of water. 

The eggs are normally two in number, but three may occasionally 
be found. They are moderately broad ovals only slightly pointed 
towards one end ; the texture is fine and hard with a slight gloss. 
The ground-colour is dingy greyish-white, sometimes unmarked, 
at other times feebly speckled, spotted and blotched, mostly towards 
the large end, with various shades of dull red and brown. 

The eggs average about 2 by 1-65 inches. 



THE COMMON PARIAH KITE 

MILVUS MIGRANS (Boddaert) 

Description. Length 24 inches. Sexes alike. Upper plumage 
brown, the top of the head and hind neck rather paler and the sides 
of the wings rather darker ; a dark patch behind the eye ; the outer 
flight-feathers blackish and the quills more or less banded with dark 
cross-bars and mottled with whitish towards their bases ; tail brown 
above, whity-brown below, with numerous darker cross-bars ; lower 
parts a paler brown than the upper, whitish about the chin and rufous 
towards the tail. The whole body plumage is more or less marked 
with dark shaft-stripes, and the white bases of the feathers are con- 
spicuous the moment the plumage is ruffled or worn. 

Iris brown ; bill black, cere and gape yellowish ; legs yellow, claws 
black. 



372 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

The bill is hooked but rather weak ; head flat ; legs short, feathered 
for about half the length of the tarsus ; wings long and pointed ; tail 
rather long and strongly forked. 

Field Identification. One of the most familiar birds of India : 
the large brown bird of magnificent easy flight which soars and 
scavenges about every bazaar and house. The forked tail at once 
identifies it. 

Distribution. The Common Pariah Kite, Milvus migrans govinda, 
a race of the Black Kite, which in various forms has a very wide 
distribution in the Old World, is found throughout India, Burma 
and Ceylon, extending still farther east to Hainan. Its abundance 
varies in accordance with that of the human population, but it avoids 
densely afforested tracts. It ascends the Himalayas up to about 
12,000 feet but is not common over 8000 feet. Mainly a resident 
species, it is in places locally migratory. 




FIG. 65 Common Pariah Kite (J nat. size) 

In the Kashmir Valley it is replaced by a larger race, M. m. lineatus, 
with the white wing-patch more pronounced. 

Habits, etc. There is very little need to introduce the Pariah 
Kite, which is one of the most noticeable and abundant birds of 
India, attracting the notice of the new arrival even before he has 
disembarked from the ship. 

It is a fearless scavenger, and more or less spends its whole life in 
attendance upon man, either robbing him of food that he would fain 
keep or scavenging the offal that he has thrown away. Numbers 
frequent every bazaar and village, sitting on the buildings and trees 
awaiting something worthy of their attention, or patrolling with 
sweeping easy flight in wide circles and searching the ground for 
food. The flight is quite unmistakable with its lightness and 



THE COMMON PARIAH KITE 373 

buoyancy, a mixture of flapping with long leisurely strokes and short 
glides, while the direction is continuously changing with spirals and 
cants. The wings are frequently flexed from the first joint, and the 
primaries often appear to be below the level of the body. All food is 
taken in the same way, 'with a swift stoop and snatch ; and as the bird 
flies away it transfers the morsel from its foot to its beak, though with 
larger fragments which cannot be eaten in the air, it flies to some 
favourite perch to feed at leisure. If there are several Kites about, 
the capture of food by one of them is the signal for an immense amount 
of chivying and stooping, combined with much shrill screaming, in 
the course of which the desirable booty frequently changes owners 
many times. 

When watching such a scene in the bazaar, it is interesting to 
remember that the allied Red Kite (Milvus milvus) was a similar 
scavenger in Mediaeval England, and that in the fifteenth century 
strangers in London were taken to see the Kites round London 
Bridge as one of the sights of the town. It was from seeing the birds 
float all day over their heads that our ancestors named the child's 
paper toy. 

At seaports this Kite joins the Gulls and Brahminy Kites in the 
harbour, perching on the rigging of ships and picking refuse off the 
water. 

The call of the Kite, a shrill mewing squeal, long drawn and 
almost musical, is most frequently heard in the breeding season, 
though it is uttered at all times of the year. To it is due the vernacular 
name of " cheel " used for the bird. 

The breeding season is rather variable according to locality from 
December to May, but the majority of eggs will be found in 
February. 

The nest is a large clumsy mass of sticks and thorny twigs lined 
and intermingled with rags,* leaves, tow and other rubbish. It is 
generally placed in the fork of a tree, but often also on a horizontal 
bough, usually 20 feet from the ground. The tree chosen may be 
ekher in the middle of the most crowded bazaar or solitary in the 
fields. Nests on buildings are very rare. 

One to four eggs are laid, but the usual clutch consists of two or 
three. They are a very perfect oval, sometimes slightly pointed at 
one end ; the texture is hard and fine, often with a slight glaze. In 
coloration they are exceedingly variable ; the ground-colour is pale 
greenish and greyish-white, blotched, clouded, speckled, streaked or 
spotted with various shades of brown and red from a pale buffy-brown 
to purple, and from blood-red to earth-brown. 

In size they average about 2-20 by 1*75 inches. 

* As Autolycus remarks (Winter's Tale, iv., sc. 3) " when the Kite builds, 
look to lesser linen." 

2 A2 



374 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE MARSH HARRIER 

CIRCUS ^RUGINOSUS (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 22 inches. Male : Head, neck and breast 
buff or pale rufous with dark shaft-stripes ; upper plumage dark 
brown ; remainder of lower plumage ferruginous-brown, striped 
darker ; the six outer flight-feathers black with their bases white ; 
remaining flight-feathers and a patch on the coverts dark silvery-grey ; 







FIG. 66 Marsh Harrier Adult Male (J nat. size) 

tail grey above isabelline below, with the upper coverts a mixture of 
white, rufous and brown. 

Female*: Very similar to the male except that the entire lower 
plumage, save for the creamy-buff chin and throat, is dark chocolate- 
brown, the feathers of the breast with rufous and buff edges. Tfce 
silver-grey of the wings and tail is replaced by dark brown. 

Iris yellow or yellow-brown ; bill black, cere and base greenish- 
yellow ; legs yellow, claws black. 

Build strong and slender ; bill weak and sharply curved ; a ruff of 
small crisp feathers extends across the throat and up the sides of the 
neck ; wings long and pointed ; tail long and even at the tip ; long 
bare legs with sharp claws. 

Field Identification. A large brown Hawk with long wings and 
tail, which beats backwards and forwards over marshy ground, and 
robs the sportsman of wounded birds. The adult male is distinguished 
by the silvery wings and tail. Females and immature birds are dark 



THE MARSH HARRIER 375 

chocolate-brown with a variable amount of creamy-buff on the head 
and shoulders, in the young forming a distinct cap on the head. 

Distribution. The Marsh Harrier is found throughout the greater 
part of Europe, Africa and Asia either as a breeding bird or a winter 
visitor, and it has been divided into two races. The typical race is a 
winter visitor to practically the whole of India, Ceylon and Burma, 
arriving about mid-September and leaving at the end of March or 
early in April. 

Habits, etc. The Marsh Harrier is a large, long-legged, long- 
winged and rather slender Hawk which is found very commonly in 
swampy plains and about the marshy ground of jheels and the edges 
of tanks and other similar places in which frogs congregate. It also 
visits irrigated cultivation. The major portion of its life is spent on 
the wing, beating backwards and forwards with great regularity over 
the ground, some 20 or 30 feet in the air, searching endlessly for food. 
The flight is light and graceful, though rather slow ; first the wings 
beat with regularity, then for a few yards the bird sails along with 
stiff outspread wings banking at intervals and turning from side to 
side as if unable to decide on its ultimate direction. It chiefly feeds 
on frogs, but having a taste also for flesh it has learnt to wait on shoot- 
ing parties in jheels ; and all sportsmen in India know the chocolate- 
coloured bird with buff crown and buff shoulders which is prompt 
to make a meal of the wounded teal, duck or snipe, that fall some 
distance ahead of the line of guns, and which often by hunting in 
front of the line puts up numbers of snipe well out of shot. When 
not hunting it rests on the ground or on any post or dead tree that 
forms a suitable lookout. At times it rises into the sky and soars in 
wide circles, with the wings held well above the level of the back, 
apparently merely for pleasure. 

In its northern breeding grounds the Marsh Harrier nests about 
April, building in reed-beds or rank marsh vegetation. The nest is 
a large heap of dead reeds and sedges, with the hollow lined with 
finer marsh grasses. The eggs number from four to six, and they 
are broad regular ovals, bluish-white in colour without markings. 

They measure about 1-95 by 1-5 inches. 



THE PALE HARRIER 
CIRCUS MACROURUS (S. G. Gmelin) 

Description. Length : Male 18 inches, female 19 inches. Adult 
male : Forehead and a patch round the eye white ; upper parts pale 
ashy-grey, more or less washed with brown ; wing-quills ashy-grey, 
whitish at base, the outer quills largely black towards their tips ; 



376 



POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 



upper tail-coverts barred grey and white ; tail white, barred with 
grey, the central pair of feathers pale grey throughout ; lower parts 
white, the throat and upper breast washed with grey. 

Female : A line from the beak over each eye and a large patch 
under the eye buffy white ; sides of the head dark brown, ruff 
feathers buffy white with broad brown shaft-streaks ; upper plumage 




', 



FIG. 67 Pale Harrier (J nat. size) 

dark brown, feathers of the head and hind neck and of the shoulder 
broadly margined with pale rufous ; wing-quills dark brown above, 
whitish below, with blackish brown cross-bands, most of the quills 
and largest coverts lightly tipped with whitish ; upper tail-coverts 
white, streaked with brown ; central tail-feathers greyish-brown, 
outer tail-feathers buff, all with dark brown cross-bands ; lower 
plumage creamy white, washed with buff and streaked with dark 



THE PALE HARRIER 



377 



brown and buff, the streaks diminishing in number and growing 
more rufous towards the tail. 

Immature birds of both sexes resemble the female but the upper 
parts have conspicuous buff fringes ; there is a pale spot on the nape 
and the ruff is pale creamy buff outlining the dark face conspicuously. 
The under parts are bright uniform rufous -buff. 

Iris yellow in adult, brown in immature birds ; bill black, cere 
greenish ; legs yellow, claws black. 

Structure as in Marsh Harrier, but a more slightly-built bird. 

Field Identification. A slender Hawk with long narrow wings 
and tail which is almost always seen on the wing, hunting low over 
the ground with an easy gliding flight. Adult male grey and white 
with black wing tips. Adult females and immature birds are dark 
brown above with barred wings and tail and a white patch over the 
base of the tail. Adult females are streaked below, immature birds 
rich uniform rufous. 

Distribution. No sub-species. Breeds from the Baltic Sea 
provinces east to Tarbagatai and the Tian Shan, south to Rumania, 
Southern Russia and Ferghana. Winters in Africa, India, Ceylon, 
and Burma. It is generally distributed throughout India in winter. 

Three other Harriers are fairly common winter visitors to India. 
Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus) is found throughout the country 
to Ceylon. The Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is confined to the 
north. The Pied Harrier (Circus melanoleucus) keeps more to the 
south and east. Much practice is required to distinguish the females 
and young males of these species from each other and the Pale Harrier. 
The adult males are, however, fairly distinctive in the field. That 
of the Pied Harrier is conspicuously pied black and white. Both 
Montagu's Harrier and the Pale Harrier are grey and white with black 
wing tips. Montagu's Harrier may, however, be known by a black 
bar through the inner flight-feathers and marked rufous streaking on 
the flanks and abdomen. The Hen Harrier is very similar to the Pale 
Harrier but is slightly larger with heavier black wing tips, while the 
throat and breast are dark grey. 

On account of its grey and white plumage with black on the wings 
the Black- winged Kite (Elanus ccrruleus) may be mistaken for a Harrier. 
The very different flight, the habit of hovering like a Kestrel, the 
short tail, the crimson eye, and the fact that the black of the wings is 
on the shoulders, not at the tips, immediately separates it. Found 
throughout India and is resident. 

Habits, etc. The Pale Harrier and the other three species men- 
tioned above are all very difficult birds to learn much about in their 
winter quarters in India. The Marsh Harrier, as already noted, 
obtrudes itself on the notice of the sportsmen, but these species are 
all very shy and elusive. One usually sees them in the distance as 



3 ?8 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

they hunt over a wide expanse of country and travel ceaselessly, doing 
a great deal of work to satisfy their voracious appetites. They chiefly 
frequent stony open country, cultivated fields, grassland or light 
scrub-jungle, and they travel but a few feet above the ground, ready 
to drop silently on mouse or bird, insect or reptile, surprised on the 
ground below them. When gorged they rest on the ground, sitting 
out in the open beyond possibility of sudden danger. They roost 
in reed-beds or similar cover, and the number of individuals which 
consort to a favourite roost is surprising, all the species in the neigh- 
bourhood coming to the same place. All Harriers soar high in the 
air at times, and all have the same type of flight as described under 
the Marsh Harrier. 

In its more northern breeding range the Pale Harrier nests in 
April and May. The nest is placed on the ground in a natural hollow 
lined with grass and leaves, usually out on a dry open plain, but also 
in swamps. 

The clutch consists of four or five eggs or occasionally six. These 
are broad obtuse ovals. The ground-colour is white sometimes 
unmarked, but more commonly spotted or blotched, sometimes quite 
heavily, with reddish-brown. 

The egg measures about 1*75 by 1*35 inches. 



THE LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD 
BUTEO RUFINUS (Cretzschmar) 

Description. Length : Male 22 inches, female 24 inches. Sexes 
alike. Colour very variable, with two main phases and innumerable 
intergradations between them. 

Pale or rufous phase : Upper plumage brown, the feathers with 
white bases and broad light rufous edges, the sides of the head generally 
paler than the top ; the flight-feathers are tipped with blackish-brown 
and mottled with white and grey and brown towards their bases ; 
tail pale rufous, mottled towards the base with grey and white, and 
often with indistinct brown bands ; throat and breast buffy-white 
with dark shaft-stripes ; remainder of lower plumage white, rufous 
or brown, spotted or banded especially on the flanks with dark 
rufous-brown. 

Dark phase : The entire plumage dark chocolate- or blackish- 
brown, with the base of the flight-feathers white, and with indistinct 
whitish bars in the tail. 

Iris brownish-yellow ; bill plumbeous, tip black ; cere yellowish- 
green ; legs dingy yellow. 



THE LONG-LEGGED BUZZARD 379 

The bill and legs sire rather weak ; tarsus partly feathered at the 
top ; wings and tail ample and rather rounded. 

Field Identification. A heavy lumpish bird which sits dully on 
trees and on the ground ; varies in colour from pale buffy-brown 
and white to almost black, but most examples have the rounded tail 
rufous. In soaring the rounded tail is spread and the wings seen 
from far below are peculiarly moth-like in the arrangement of pattern, 
a crescent-shaped patch at the base of the outer flight-feathers being 
distinctive. 

Distribution. This Buzzard is divided into races which are widely 
spread throughout South-eastern Europe, North-eastern Africa and 
Asia. The typical form breeds from Greece through Southern 
Russia, Asia Minor and Palestine to West and Central Asia, including 




FIG. 68 Long-legged Buzzard (J nat. size) 

the mountain.ranges that border the North-western corner of India. 
In winter it is an abundant visitor to the plains of the north-west, 
including the North-west Frontier Province, Baluchistan, the Punjab, 
Sind, Rajputana, and the United Provinces. Its time of arrival varies 
from August to November, and it leaves in February and March. The 
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) is also found in India, and the two 
species are difficult to separate. 

Habits, etc. As a winter visitor to India this fine Buzzard is very 
common in the wide plains of the north-west, especially those which 
are semi-desert in character. It is most abundant in those tracts 
where desert gerbils and lizards afford it an easy sustenance, but 
it is also common enough in cultivation and in marshy ground. It 
is rather a sluggish bird, and is usually met with sitting lumpily on 
the ground or in a tree, and when travelling its flight is slow and 
heavy ; but it is gifted really with considerable powers of flight, and 
soars easily high above the ground for long periods, moving in great 



380 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

spirals with the broad rounded wings held stiffly outstretched and 
slightly raised, and the wide tail partly fanned. In this position it is 
easily recognised by the very moth-like pattern of the wings and in 
certain phases of plumage by the rufous tail. 

The breeding season in the ranges of the North-west Frontier 
Province is believed to be from March to July. The nest is apparently 
placed on either a tree or the ledge of a cliff, and is a fairly large structure 
of sticks, lined with dry twigs. The eggs, two to four in number, are 
indistinguishable from those of the Common Pariah Kite, being*broad 
regular ovals, greenish-white in ground-colour and richly blotched 
with reddish-brown. 

They measure about 2-30 by 1-80 inches. 



THE SHIKRA 

ASTUR BADIUS (Gmelin) 

Description. Length : Male 12 inches, female 14 inches. Male : 
Upper plumage ashy blue-grey, the sides of the head and neck paler 
and more rufescent and sometimes with a rufescent collar ; flight- 
feathers blackish at the tips, the remainder of the inner webs whitish 
marked with blackish bars ; tail marked with four or five broad dark 
brownish bars interrupted on the central and outer pairs of feathers ; 
chin and throat buff or white with usually a median grey stripe ; breast 
rusty red with numerous white bars, the red gradually fading away 
towards the tail. 

The female is a browner grey on the upper plumage, and there are 
traces of barring on the central pair of tail-feathers. 

In immature plumage both sexes are brown above, and the lower 
parts are marked with brown streaks and spots. 

Iris orange-yellow ; bill livid at base, blue-black at tip ; cere 
greenish-yellow ; legs yellow, claws black. 

Bill short, stout and curved ; wing short and rounded ; feet rather 
long and stout. 

Field Identification. The common species of small Hawk in India ; 
a small, stout Hawk grey above, rusty below with whitish bars, and a 
fierce orange eye ; found sitting in trees or soaring over fairly open 
country. Distinguished from the true Sparrow-Hawk (Accipiter nisus), 
which also occurs, by the stouter feet and shorter toes, and by the 
paler coloration. 

Distribution. The Shikra has a wide distribution from Central 
Asia and Southern Persia throughout India, Burma and Ceylon, 
and eastwards to Southern China. It is divided into several races, 
distinguished by details of size and shade of coloration. A. b. 



THE SHIKRA 381 

dussumieri is found throughout India, from the North-west Frontier 
Province and Kashmir to Northern Assam, extending in the Himalayas 
up to about 5000 feet. In Travancore and Ceylon it is replaced by 
the smaller and darker A. b. badius. These two races are resident, 
.but in the winter the Central Asiatic race, A. b. cenchroides, a large 




FIG. 69 Shikra (J nat. size) 

and pale bird, visits Baluchistan, Sind, North-west Frontier Province, 
and the Punjab. 

Although it is seldom observed in a wild state the magnificent 
Goshawk (Astur gentilis) must be mentioned as the 'species most 
often observed in the hands of Indian falconers. The female is the 
" Baz " and the male the " Jura " of that fraternity. 

Habits, etc. The Shikra is one of the commonest and best- 
known Hawks in India. It avoids very heavy forest and desert but is 



382 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

found in every other type of country, preferring cultivated tracts with 
plenty of large trees. It spends most of its time sitting up in the 
leafy branches of large trees, but is also fond of soaring high in the 
air, circling for a time with wings outstretched and then flapping 
them vigorously. It is rather a noisy Hawk, and the shrill call of twa 
notes titu-titu is a familiar sound in the breeding season. 

The ordinary food consists of lizards, frogs, grasshoppers and 
small birds, but in the hands of the expert falconer it is very bold, 
taking quails, crows and partridges most successfully. It is a favourite 
bird with Indian falconers as it is easily trained and will take small 
birds within ten days of being caught ; it is often used by them to 
catch food for their more valuable falcons and goshawks. On the 
fist it is carried unhooded ; when flown at its quarry it is thrown 
from the hand, in which it is held tightly grasped round the wings, 
the belly resting on the palm of the hand, with the legs stretched 
backwards under the tail. 

The breeding season lasts from April to June. The nest is a 
loosely-built cup of twigs and sticks, lined with fine grass roots ; it 
is placed in a high fork of a tree fairly well screened by leaves. The 
time occupied in building the nest is usually out of all proportion 
to the result. 

Three to five eggs are laid. They are moderately long ovals, 
slightly pointed at one end, smooth, fine and glossless in texture. In 
colour they are a delicate pale bluish-white, normally unmarked, 
but occasionally slightly speckled with grey. 

In size they average about 1*55 by 1-22 inches. 



THE LUGGER FALCON 

FALCO JUGGER J. E. Gray 
(Plate xix, Fig. 3, opposite page 396) 

Description. Length : Male 16 inches, female 18 inches. Sexes 
alike. Forehead and a line over the eyes whitish with dark streaks ; 
top of the head brown with rufous edges ; a broad streak from the 
eye and a moustachial streak dark brown ; remainder of upper 
plumage brown with an ashy tinge, the outer flight-feathers with 
broad white bars on their inner webs ; tail brown tipped with white, 
all the feathers except the central pair with whitish bars on the 
inner webs ; lower parts white marked with brown streaks on the 
breast and brown spots on the abdomen, and the flanks largely brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill bluish-grey, the tip blackish ; legs yellow, 
claws black. 



THE LUGGER FALCON 383 

The bill has a marked tooth behind the hooked tip ; wing long 
and pointed ; the tarsus is bare except on the upper part ; claws 
curved and sharp. 

Field Identification. The ordinary resident true Falcon of India ; 
ashy-brown above, white with brown markings below. Found in 
pairs in open plains ; in flight the pointed wings and full tail are 
noticeable. Ashy-brown upper parts distinguish it from the Falcons 
of the Peregrine type, while the Saker Falcon may be separated from 
it by having white spots on the central tail-feathers. 

Distribution. This Falcon is fairly common throughout India 
from about 2500 feet in the foot-hills of the Himalayas down to about 
Southern Madras. On the west it occurs in Baluchistan and the 
North-west Frontier Province extending to Cachar in the east and it 
has once been obtained in Manipur. Outside these limits it has not 
been found and towards the south of its range it is not common. 
Wherever found it is a strictly resident species. 

The well-known Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) of Europe, of 
which the adult has the upper parts bluish-grey with a black cheek 
stripe and the lower parts fulvous-white with dark barring, is a winter 
visitor to the whole of India and Ceylon. The Saker Falcon (Falco 
cherrug) with the upper parts brown and the lower parts white spotted 
with brown, is a winter visitor to the semi-desert areas of the north-west. 

Habits, etc. This Falcon avoids areas of heavy forest and is a 
bird of the open plains, wherever trees are found either in cultivation 
or in semi-desert country. It mates for life, and the birds of the pair 
keep very much together ; it is a very pretty sight to watch a pair 
hunting as they deliberately work together, driving the quarry towards 
each other and stooping at it in turn. They often attend sportsmen 
out shooting and take birds that are wounded. The Lugger is a fine 
flier and on occasion can be courageous enough, but it belongs to the 
Saker or Desert Falcon group rather than to the Peregrine group, and 
has not quite the build and speed and courage of the latter. Its food, 
therefore, consists more frequently of lizards, gerbils, insects and 
small birds than of bigger game. It can be and often is trained by the 
falconer to kill crows, partridges, and similar quarry, but is naturally 
usually neglected in a country where nobler Falcons can be so easily 
obtained. The male, however, is frequently kept by the falconer 
as a decoy hawk with which to catch either Sakers or Peregrines. 
Silent as a rule, both sexes indulge in a harsh chattering scream when 
excited. 

The eggs may be found from January to April, but the majority 
are probably laid in February. 

The nest varies a good deal ; the eggs may be laid in a hollow 
scraped on a rocky ledge of a cliff, or in a slight nest of sticks in a 
similar situation. A larger nest of sticks and twigs lined with grass, 



384 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

straw or leaves is also built on buildings or in trees, or old nests of 
other birds in similar situations are appropriated and repaired. Such 
appropriated nests always seem to be large ones, generally those of 
Eagles or Vultures. 

Three to five eggs are laid. In shape they are a broad oval, 
slightly pointed at one end, of a dull, glossless, slightly chalky texture. 
In colour they are rather variable. The ground-colour is reddish, 
brownish or yellowish-brown, very thickly speckled and spotted all 
over with a darker and richer shade of the ground-colour ;* these 
markings sometimes collect in a cap at one end ; some eggs are 
lightly and dully marked ; others are richly coloured with large 
blotches and clouds. 

The average size is about 2*00 by 1-55 inches. 



THE TURUMTEE 

FALCO CHICQUERA Daudin 
(Plate xix, Fig. i, opposite page 396) 

Description. Length : Male 12 inches, female 14 inches. Sexes 
alike. Top of the head, ear-coverts, and a narrow cheek-stripe 
chestnut ; upper plumage ashy-grey, the shoulders and sides of 
the wings more or less barred with brown ; outer flight-feathers 
blackish-brown, closely barred with white on the inner webs ; tail 
grey with narrow black bars, a very broad black band close to the 
end, and a white tip ; lower parts white, lightly streaked on the 
breast and barred on the flanks and abdomen with blackish. 

Iris brown ; bill greenish-yellow, blue-black at tip ; cere and 
eyelids yellow ; legs yellow, claws black. 

The bill has a sharp tooth inside the hooked tip ; wings long and 
pointed. 

Field Identification. A very pretty little ashy-grey Falcon with 
barred white under parts, easily recognised by the bright chestnut 
head. Found in pairs in open country. 

Distribution. The Turumtee or Red-headed Merlin is found 
almost throughout the plains of India from the foot-hills of the 
Himalayas right down to the south, and from the North-west Frontier 
Province and Sind across to Assam. It is a resident species. 

Habits, etc. This delightful little Falcon is usually found in wide 
cultivated plains, especially those where small groups of trees and 
long shady avenues are common. It avoids heavy forest. It pairs 
for life, and the birds of the pair usually go about together, and are 
very clever at hunting in company ; for instance, I have seen one of 
a pair " waiting on " above a thorn tree in which some doves had 



THE TURUMTEE * 385 

taken refuge, while its mate made strenuous, though unsuccessful, 
endeavours to drive them out to it. For its size it is one of the most 
courageous of the Falcons, and is pugnacious to boot, a fact that is 
known to every crow and kite that lives anywhere in the vicinity of 
the tree where it elects to build its nest. The bird is well known to 
all Indian falconers, and it is occasionally trained and flown at rollers, 
crows, larks, and other similar small quarry. The flight is very swift 
and graceful with regular wing-beats, and the bird stoops at its quarry 
with wonderful skill and speed, a most finished performer. It has 
the same screaming cry as other Falcons, but is rather noisier than 
most of them. 

The breeding season is from January to May, but most eggs will 
be found in March. All its nests are placed on trees, and never on 
cliffs or buildings. 

Although this Falcon occasionally utilises the old nest of a Crow 
it usually builds its own nest afresh every year, placing it in one of the 
highest forks of a tree. It is a neat, well-built cup of sticks and fine 
twigs, the egg cavity being lined with fine roots and straw with a few 
feathers and shreds of cloth. 

The normal clutch consists of four eggs, but three or five are 
occasionally found. 

The egg is a regular rather long oval, and the texture is fine, but 
rather chalky, with very little gloss. The ground-colour is reddish- 
white, virtually concealed by frecklings and specklings of dull brownish- 
red, but many eggs are more dingy yellowish-brown in coloration. 

In size the egg measures about 1-66 by 1*27 inches. 



THE KESTREL 
FALCO TINNUNCULUS Linna3us 

Description. Length 14 inches. Male : Top of the head and 
sides of the neck ashy-grey with fine black shaft lines ; a dark grey 
cheek-stripe ; sides of the face whitish with dark streaks ; upper 
parts brick-red with a vinous tint and with scattered triangular black 
spots ; a patch over the base of the tail ashy-grey ; flight- feathers dark 
brown, their inner webs much indented with white ; tail ashy-grey 
above, whitish below, with a broad black band near the end and 
white tips to the feathers ; lower plumage rufous-fawn with the breast 
and flanks streaked and spotted with brown. 

Female : Upper plumage bright rufous-brown, streaked on the 
head, and banded elsewhere with brownish-black ; flight-feathers 
dark brown, their inner webs much indented with white ; tail rufous- 
brown, barred with black, and with a broad black band near the end ; 

28 



386 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

lower plumage rufous-fawn, the breast and flanks spotted with 
brown. 

Iris dark brown ; bill bluish-black, paler at base ; gape, cere and 
eyelids yellow ; legs orange-yellow, claws black. 

The bill is short and with a sharp tooth behind the hooked tip ; 
wings long and pointed ; tail long and slightly graduated. 

Field Identification, A small Falcon with pointed wings and rather 
long fan-shaped tail, easily recognised by a peculiar habit of havering 
stationary in the air with flickering wings. The colour is reddish with 
a broad black band across the end of the tail ; the female has the back 




FIG. 70 Kestrel Adult Male (J nat. size) 

cross-barred with black, the male more lightly spotted, while the male 
has the upper surface of the head and tail bright blue-grey. 

Distribution. The Kestrel is a bird of wide distribution found 
throughout the Pakearctic area, and divided into a number of races 
which are often separated with difficulty ; of these we are concerned 
with two. The typical race of Europe and Northern Asia is the 
breeding form of the Himalayas at all altitudes and there it seems 
to be more or less a resident. This race is also a very abundant winter 
visitor to the whole of India. A darker form, F. t. objurgatus, is resident 
in the Nilgiris and, no doubt, also the Travancore ranges. The 
heavily-barred race of China and Japan (F. t. interstinctus) is a winter 
visitor to Eastern and Southern India and Ceylon in small numbers. 

Habits, etc. The Kestrel is necessarily a bird of open country as 
it feeds on lizards, grasshoppers and mice which it takes from the 



THE KESTREL 387 

ground ; small birds are also occasionally caught. It therefore 
spends most of its time hunting over cultivated tracts, bare hill-sides 
and open grassy plains ; its flight is fast and strong, and it usually 
flies at a considerable height from the ground, travelling straight for 
a while and then moving in wide circles. Its course is constantly 
checked by the bird hanging stationary in mid-air, the head to wind, 
the wings fanning very rapidly, and the tail depressed and outspread. 
In this position it scans the ground intently, watching for some moving 
insect or mouse. If the chance is good, it drops perpendicularly to 
earth and makes its capture, or checks half-way and hovers again 
before the drop ; or the quarry takes cover and the Kestrel flies on 
farther to undisturbed ground, to hover and search anew. This 
hovering is very characteristic, and to it are due the English country 
names of " Stannel " and " Windhover " ; while the perpendicular 
drop to earth is very distinct from the stoop of most of the Falcons 
and Hawks. 

It perches a good deal on rocks or trees, and thence watches for 
food, its head incessantly turning and bobbing. Then silently it 
leaves the perch and flies with half-bent wings towards the ground, 
putting on a desperate dash and spurt as it approaches the object of 
its stoop. All the movements of this little Falcon are graceful and a 
pleasure to watch. 

The call is a shrill scream, kee-kee-kee, and when breeding the 
Kestrel is rather noisy and pugnacious, chasing and mobbing eagles, 
kites, and crows that approach the eyrie. 

In Southern India the eggs are laid from February to April, and 
in the Himalayas from April to June. 

The eyrie is, in our area, almost invariably in holes and rocky 
ledges of cliffs ; though occasionally, as elsewhere, it is placed on ruined 
buildings and in trees. The nest, which is often a mere apology, is 
composed of twigs, roots, rags, strips of cloth, and other rubbish. 

The clutch consists of two to six eggs, but four or five are the usual 
number. 

The eggs are broad ovals, somewhat pointed towards one end ; 
the texture is fine and rather chalky, and there is no gloss as a rule. 
The ground-colour is red, of various shades ; it is blotched, mottled, 
freckled and spotted with darker tints of the same, the markings being 
thickly and evenly distributed. Some eggs are rather browner or 
yellower in general appearance. 

In size they average about 1-55 by 1*20 inches. 



388 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

THE COMMON GREEN PIGEON 
CROCOPUS PHCENICOPTERUS (Latham) 

(Plate xxi, Fig. i, opposite page 440) 

Description. Length 13 inches. Sexes alike. Head, neck and 
upper breast, save for a grey patch round the back of the head, 
greenish-yellow, deeper on the upper breast and hind back ; an 
ashy-grey collar round the base of the neck ; upper plumage 
yellowish olive-green ; a lilac patch near the bend of the wing ; quills 
and the larger coverts blackish, conspicuously edged with yellow ; 
tail terminal half dove-grey, basal half yellowish-green above, black 
beneath ; lower breast, abdomen, and whole inner surface of the 
wings light ashy-grey, in strong contrast with the yellow breast ; 
lower flanks dark green with broad yellowish white edges ; under tail- 
coverts dull chestnut with buff-tips. 

Iris blue with an outer circle of pink ; bill soft and swollen at 
base and greenish, the hard anterior portion bluish-white ; legs 
orange-yellow, claws bluish. 

A stout heavily-built bird with a rather swollen beak. 

Field Identification. Entirely arboreal, found in flocks in large 
fruit-bearing trees. A heavy stout pigeon, greenish-yellow and ashy- 
grey in colour, the wings blackish with very bright yellow edgings to 
the feathers ; a small lilac patch on the shoulder. 

Distribution. The Green Pigeon is found almost throughout 
India, Burma and Ceylon, and farther east to Cochin-China and 
Siam. It is divided into races of which two concern us. The typical 
race has its main stronghold in Bengal and the strip of similar country 
that runs up under the Himalayas westward to the Jumna. C. p. 
chlorogaster, distinguished by having the lower breast and abdomen 
yellowish-green like the upper breast, instead of ashy-grey as in the 
typical form, is found throughout the Peninsula of India and Ceylon. 
No Green Pigeons of this species are found in Sind, Baluchistan, the 
North-west Frontier Province, the Himalayas, or in the desert regions 
of the North-west ; but there is a large area of Northern India in which 
both races and intermediates between them are found on the same 
ground and in the same flocks. 

Two smaller species of Green Pigeon are locally common in North- 
East and South- West India and Ceylon. These are the Orange- 
breasted Green Pigeon (Dendrophassa bicinctd) with violet and orange 
patches on the breast and the Grey- fronted Green Pigeon (Dendrophassa 
pompadora) which has the back deep maroon, in both cases in the male. 

Habits, etc. These Green Pigeons are stoutly built, sluggish 
birds, usually rolling in fat, which are found in flocks and lead an 



THE COMMON GREEN PIGEON 389 

entirely arboreal existence. Their feet are strong and adapted for 
climbing, and they move about the branches of a tree much like a 
parrot, in pursuit of the wild figs and fruits on which they feed ; they 
are very fond of the figs of the banyan and peepul trees and frequent, 
therefore, in particular the large avenues of these trees which are 
common in Northern India. In colour they so closely resemble the 
leaves of the trees that they inhabit, and they are so sluggish in their 
movements, that the entire flock easily escapes notice in a tree ; 
but when flushed the flight is strong and the birds travel well like 
other pigeons, though they are loath to desert their particular grove. 
At the nest the female sits close and will only leave on the near approach 
of the climber. The call is a peculiar, rather musical, whistle. They 
appear to drink very rarely, probably obtaining sufficient moisture 
from the fruits which form their food. 

The breeding season is from March till June. 

The nest is a slight platform of interlaced twigs, and is so sketchy 
in construction that the eggs are visible from below through the 
bottom : it is unlined and has only a slight depression on which the 
eggs rest. It is placed about 20 feet from the ground in a tree, often 
so as to be concealed by a bunch of foliage. 

Two eggs are laid ; they are similar to the eggs of all pigeons, 
a broad regular oval, pure unmarked white in colour, with a hard 
close texture and a good deal of gloss. 

In size they average about 1-25 by 0-95 inches. 



THE KOKLA GREEN PIGEON 

SPHENOCERCUS SPHENURUS (Vigors) 

Description. Length 13 inches. Male : Head, neck and lower 
plumage yellowish-green, tinged with rufous on the crown, and with 
orange and pink on the upper breast ; upper back greyish, passing 
into maroon-red on the middle of the back and at the bend of the 
wings ; a patch above the base of the tail and the sides of the wings 
olive-green, quills blackish narrowly bordered with yellow ; tail olive- 
green, the outer feathers and the under surface grey ; lower flanks 
and thighs dark green with pale yellow edges ; a patch of cinnamon 
buff under the tail. 

Female : Similar to the male, but lacks the orange on the breast 
and the maroon-red on the wings and back which are olive-green ; 
the patch under the tail is dark green with broad buff borders. 

Iris bright blue with an outer ring of pink ; bill and skin round 
the eyes blue ; legs lake-red. 

2 B2 



390 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

Bill swollen and soft at base ; tail rather long and graduated, the 
under coverts being as long as the outer tail-feathers. 

Field Identification. Himalayan form ; purely arboreal and 
comes to notice through the remarkable whistling call. Long graduated 
tail in combination with deep maroon on the back and wings, and 
orange and pink breast separate the male from other green pigeons. 

Distribution. The typical race of this Pigeon is found throughout 
the length of the Himalayas from Kashmir and Hazara to Bhutan, 
at elevations from 4000 to 8000 feet ; to the east it extends through 
Assam, the Chin Hills and Shan States into Tenasserim. In the 
Western Himalayas it is purely a summer visitor, but in the eastern 
portion of its range it appears to be chiefly a resident species. 

The Pin-tailed Green Pigeon Sphenocercus apicicauda, is very 
similar in colour but wants the maroon-red on back and has the two 
middle tail feathers greatly lengthened. It is found in the Himalayas 
from Kumaon, the Assam Hills and Burma. 

Habits, etc. The Kokla is a bird of shady wooded glens and 
hill-sides and is strictly arboreal in its habits, being only very 
occasionally seen on the ground and that only for drinking purposes. 
These pigeons feed entirely on fruits, and while in pursuit of them in 
the trees are very active, gliding about the branches almost like 
squirrels ; with their strong short legs they are able to lean over and 
reach out to berries in the most wonderful manner. When not feeding 
they are rather sluggish and sit motionless in the trees, escaping 
notice from their colour ; their presence, however, is betrayed by 
the beautiful call-note. This is a long melodious but slightly grating 
whistle, which from its length and tunefulness seems to be human 
rather than to proceed from the throat of a bird, much less a pigeon ; 
it is roughly described by the words Why, we what cheer ; what are 
we waiting for ? The courting note is a low coo-coo. In summer 
this species is found only in pairs or small family parties, but in 
winter they collect into flocks like other green pigeons. 

The flight is direct and swift in spite of the whole nature of the 
bird which is essentially dull and sluggish. 

The breeding season is from April to June. The nest is a slight 
platform composed of coarse grass and small dry twigs placed in a 
branch of a tree at any height from 6 to 50 feet from the ground. 

Two eggs are laid. These are in shape a very elongated oval, 
narrow and rounded at the ends ; they are fine in texture with a 
fair gloss, and are pure spotless white. 

They measure about 1-18 by 0-89 inches. 



THE GREEN IMPERIAL PIGEON 391 

THE GREEN IMPERIAL PIGEON 

MUSCADIVORA #:NEA (Linnaeus) 

Description. Length 17 inches. Sexes alike. Whole head, neck 
and lower parts ashy-grey with a pink tinge ; back, rump and sides 
of the wings bright metallic green with a high gloss ; wing quills 
blackish washed with ashy-grey ; tail black washed above with metallic 
green, a dull liver-coloured patch under the tail. 

Iris crimson ; eye-rim purplish-red ; bill horny grey, region of the 
nostrils dull purplish-red ; legs purplish red, claws dusky horn. 

Field Identification. A large heavy Pigeon with ashy head, neck 
and underparts and bright metallic green saddle, wings and tail. A 
tree-haunting species with a peculiar resonant call. 

Distribution. A widely-spread species found in India, Ceylon, 
Burma, the Malay countries and islands to the Philippines, Borneo, 
Java and Flores. In India it is a resident with local movements based 
on food supply and is divided into two races merely on the question of 
size. M. ce. pusilla is the smaller race. It is found in Ceylon and in 
South India, extending up to about the 2oth degree of latitude though 
on the Malabar coast it is rare above North Kanara. On the eastern 
side it intergrades through Orissa and Bengal into the larger M. a. 
sylvatica of Assam and the Himalayas from Nepal eastwards. It is 
found in the plains and the lower hills and valleys up to at least 3000 
feet. 

Jerdon's Imperial Pigeon (Ducula badid) is another large species 
but dull black, brown and ashy-grey in plumage found in South- 
west India with another race in the Eastern Himalayas and Assam. 

Habits, etc. The Green Imperial Pigeon is a forest-haunting bird 
found in many types of forest both heavy and light, evergreen and 
deciduous ; it also visits low scrub. It goes about as a rule singly or 
in pairs or occasionally in small parties of three or four birds, but after 
the breeding season and in the neighbourhood of plentiful supplies 
of food it often collects into flocks comprising up to thirty individuals. 
These flocks have regular roosting places and may travel miles to their 
feeding grounds. The flight is rapid and powerful and is started with 
the loud fluttering put-put-put of the wings which is common to many 
of the family. 

This pigeon apparently never descends to the ground even to drink. 
It feeds chiefly in the mornings and evenings, resting during the heat 
of the day in a shady tree. In disposition it is somewhat shy. 

The food consists of wild fruits and berries which although often 
of large size are swallowed whole. The gape and gullet are remarkably 
capacious and elastic and can be extended to take in fruit a couple of 



392 POPULAR HANDBOOK OF INDIAN BIRDS 

inches in diameter. According to Jerdon the flocks visit the large salt 
swamps of the Malabar coast in order to eat the buds of Aricennia and 
other shrubs and plants that grow in brackish soil and tidal ground. 
This bird is not quarrelsome like many of the Green Pigeons and the 
members of the parties are always gentle and sociable together. If a 
bird is wounded by a sportsman, however, it erects its feathers so as to 
double its size in appearance and strikes out violently with the wings. 

The call is remarkable and easily recognised. It is a deep resounding 
boom wuh-wooh or gur-gur goom goom goom astonishingly powerful 
for the size of the bird but only uttered at considerable intervals and 
that when the bird is at rest. It resounds through a valley and has 
something almost weird and eerie about its tone. 

The main breeding season is from February to April. The nest 
is built at a height of some 10 to 30