(1812) Accipiter nisus melanoschistus.
THE INDIAN SPARROW-HAWK.
Accipiter melanoschista Hume, Ibis, 1869, p. 350 (Kotegarh, N.W. India). Accipiter nisus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 403 (part.).
Vernacular names. Basha , Bashin (Hind.).
Description. Differs from the preceding race in being very much darker above and, frequently , in having the lower parts very much more rufous, more especially in the male.
Colours of soft parts as in the Asiatic Kestrel.
Measurements, wing 212 to 219 mm.; culmen 16 to 17 mm. , wing 245 to 260 mm.; culmen 19 to 21 mm.
Distribution. Breeding throughout the Himalayas from Kashmir to Eastern Assam and through Tibet and Setchuan to North Burma; Yunnan.
Nidification. The Indian Sparrow-Hawk breeds in April, May and the first week in June at all heights from about 4,000 feet up to 10,000 feet, or perhaps higher still, though more commonly between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. It may sometimes build an entire nest for itself but in the majority of cases if the nests are carefully examined they will prove to have as their basis an old nest of another bird. About Simla, the Murree Hills and Kuman the Jungle-Crow's nest is the favourite one, whilst in Assam we found either this or a pigeon's nest was generally taken possession of. It probably breeds occasionally in in the Hills South of the Brahmapootra but I have only recently been able to identify skins of breeding-birds from that Province. The nests are always built at a considerable height from the ground, often at a very great height, whilst the tree selected is invariably in the interior of forest and generally a tree with dense foliage. Four or five eggs are laid, sometimes only three and I have seen one clutch of six. The eggs are just like those of the English Sparrow-Hawk. The majority have a pure white ground-colour, just tinged with skim-milk blue. These are blotched boldly and handsomely with deep rich red-brown, the markings generally more numerous at the larger end. Other eggs have a pink tinge in the ground-colour and have much more numerous and smaller blotches of reddish-brown scattered over the whole surface. Others again are paler and dingier, whilst vet others are merely stippled with reddish- or yellowish-brown. Forty eggs average 39.1 x 32.6 mm. : maxima 40.3 x 32.0 and 40.0 x 33.0 mm.; minima 36.0 x 30.6 and 38.9 x 29.0 mm. Its nest has occasionally been found built on cliffs but this is very exceptional.
Habits. This bird is a resident wherever found, though it may wander lower into the hills and adjacent plains during the coldest months of the year. During the breeding-season its shrill " trek-trek-trek " ending in a scream soon draws attention to its presence, though the way it keeps to deep forest may make a sight of it difficult to obtain. It is a fine brave little bird, with a powerful dashing flight which it controls among trees in a marvellous manner. It feeds much on sparrows where these are obtainable but also on bigger birds up to the size of pigeons and also on small mammals, reptiles and big insects.