(1263) Aethopyga siparaja mussooriensis.
The Kuman Yellow-backed Sunbird.
Aethopyga siparaja mussooriensis Stuart Baker, Bull. B.O.C., xlvi, p. 12 (1925) (Mussoorie).
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. This form only differs from AE. s. seheriae in being larger, with a very long, broad tail and in having the scarlet of the throat and breast even brighter.
Colours of soft parts as in seheriae.
Measurements. Wing 60 to 65 mm.; tail 79 to 89 mm.; tarsus about 15 to 17 mm.; culmen 19 to 21 mm.
Distribution. The North-West Himalayas from Garhwal and Kuman to the Afghan frontier. Aethopyga goalpariensis, of which the type-locality is Dehra Dun, is evidently only a synonym of seheriae, which is a bird of low levels, never being found in the Himalayas above 6,000 feet and seldom above 3,000, whereas mussooriensis is a bird breeding at high elevations only. Birds from equally high elevations in Native Sikkim appear also to be of this race and have wings of 60 mm. upwards. In the hills South of the Brahmaputra only the next form has been proved to occur but Tytler found a Yellow-backed Sunbird breeding at 6,000 and 7,000 feet in the Naga Hills and these may be mussooriensis also. It must be remembered, however, that South of the river one is still in tropical vegetation at 7,000 feet, whereas North of the river an elevation of less than 5,000 feet would have much the same temperature and general characteristics.
Nidification. Whymper took a number of nests of this form during July above Nairn Tal. The nests he describes as much like those of seheriae taken by Moller in Sikkim, pear-shaped nests made of fibre and lined with white vegetable down, showing through the network of fibre. A few dead leaves, strips of bark, etc. are attached loosely to the nest and there is generally a small porch over the entrance." The eggs are like the second type described as being laid by the preceding bird but are much redder than any I have seen of that bird except the two taken in Sikkim and the Naga Hills. The nests of the high-elevation birds also differ from those of the plains, in that they are always attached to small boughs of low bushes and are not found in dark forest ravines but rather in open forests and scrub-jungle. Fifteen eggs average 15.3 x 11.4 mm.: maxima 16.2 x 12.0 mm.; minima 14.4 x 11.5 and 15.0 x 10.5 mm.
Habits. Much the same as those of the preceding subspecies but it never seems to frequent the darker evergreen-forests, keeping to open, though well-wooded country, all the year round and at all times being common in flower gardens and in cultivated ground.