(1269) Aethopyga gouldiae gouldiae.
Mrs. Gould's Sunbird.
Cinnyris gouldiae Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 45 (Himalayas, Simla-Almora). Aethopyga gouldiae. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 352.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. - Male. Crown, forehead, chin, throat, a patch behind the ear-coverts and a spot beside the breast deep metallic purple-blue; lores, cheeks, sides of crown, neck, back, scapulars and lesser wing-coverts crimson ; rump bright yellow ; upper tail-coverts and two-thirds of central tail-feathers metallic purple-blue, the end of the tail-feathers black tinged with metallic purple, outer tail-feathers brown suffused with purple on the outer webs and with broad pale tips ; lower parts bright yellow, streaked with crimson on the breast and greenish on the posterior flanks,, vent, and under tail-coverts ; axillaries and under wing-coverts yellowish-white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris reddish-brown to crimson; bill black, a little paler and browner below ; legs and feet dark brown.
Measurements. Wing 53 to 58 mm.; tail 66 to 86 mm.; tarsus 14 to 15 mm.; culmen 14 to 16 mm.
Female. Upper plumage pale grey-green, the crown darker, with nearly concealed brown centres ; rump dull sulphur-yellow ; cheeks, ear-coverts, chin, throat and upper breast greyish olive-green, becoming more yellow on the abdomen, posterior flanks and under tail-coverts ; tail-feathers brown edged with violet-green.
Distribution. The Himalayas from the Sutlej Valley to the extreme East of Assam, Naga Hills, South of the Brahmaputra above 6,000 feet and also Mt. Victoria, in the Chin Hills, from 6,000 feet upwards.
Nidification. Col. Tytler found this Sunbird breeding in great numbers in the Naga Hills between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. A series of the nests given to me, with the eggs, are stout pear-shaped or oval affairs measuring 6 and 7 inches in length by about 4 to 4 1/2 inches in breadth and are made almost entirely of vegetable down, held together with moss, shreds of grass and spiders' webs, whilst in one nest there is a considerable amount of fibre used. They were all attached to thin branches of small bushes, within a few feet of the ground, growing in forest.
The eggs differ from those of the other Sunbirds in their very pale coloration; the ground is pure white and in most eggs the markings, freckles of pale reddish-brown, are very scanty and confined to the larger end. In one clutch the eggs are practically unmarked and in one other they are more numerous at the larger end, where they form caps. Ten eggs average 34.6 x 11.2 mm.: maxima 15.3 x 11.5 mm.; minima 14.2 X 10.9 mm. The breeding-season is June and early July and only two eggs are laid.
Habits. Mrs. Gould's Sunbird is one of high elevations, its place being taken from 5,000 feet downwards by the next race, isolata. In the Himalayas it certainly occurs up to 12,000 feet and probably up to 13,000 feet in Summer, breeding up to 11,000 feet or higher. In Winter it descends to 5,000 feet or lower and at this season both this and the next bird may be found in company at this elevation. They are extraordinarily active little birds on the wing, though their flight is never very prolonged and becomes jerky and weak after a hundred yards or so. They are shy birds but if one keeps absolutely motionless, they will often feed within a few feet of the watcher and they make a very beautiful picture when several gather together for feeding purposes, the rapidity of their motions being almost like that of the Sphinx Moth. The note, which is constantly uttered, is the usual shrill trill of the species. They are essentially birds of evergreen-forest but come more into open country in the non-breeding season.