(298) Schaeniparus dubius mandellii.
THE ASSAM TIT-BABBLER.
Schaeniparus mandellii Godw.-Aust., A. M. N.H., (4) xviii, p. 33 (1876) (Naga Hills) ; Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 169.
Vernacular names. Dao-chitter (Cachari). Description. Differs from the last in having the upper plumage more olive and the chin and throat buff like the centre of the breast; the black supercilium and black markings of the head and upper back more pronounced; and the sides of the neck are distinctly striped with black and buff. Colours of soft parts as in S. d. dubius.
Measurements. Wing 56 to 64 mm.; tail about 62 mm.; tarsus 25 mm.; culmen 12 mm.
Distribution. Assam, Chin Hills and W. Burma.
Nidification. This handsome little Babbler breeds in great numbers during April, May and June at all elevations above 3,000 and fully up to 6,000 feet. It may be found in almost any kind of cover but prefers forest with an undergrowth of bushes, bracken and raspberry vines. The nest is practically invariably placed on the ground, generally under the protection of some thick patch of cover and always on a more or less sloping bank. The materials used are dead leaves mixed' with bracken, grass, roots etc. and the shape is either a deep, semi-domed cup or a completely domed, egg-shaped affair measuring about 7 to 8 inches high by about 5 to 6 inches broad. The full complement of eggs is three or four but sometimes two only are laid. The eggs are like those of the last bird and two hundred average 20.8 x 15.6 mm.; the maxima are 22.0 X 16.0 and 19.5 x 16.1 mm., and minima 19.4 x 15.3 and 20.7 X 15.0 mm.
Habits. During the winter the Assam Tit-Babbler collects in small flocks of half-a-dozen to a dozen individuals, haunting forest with ample undergrowth and to a less extent bamboo-jungle and scrub. It is most common from 3,000 feet upwards and is found up to at least 6,000 feet and possibly a good deal higher. It is a restless, energetic little bird feeding partly on the ground, partly on the low bushes and trees, constantly changing its position and now and then fluttering from one perch to another as well as scrambling and hopping through the cover. Whilst engaged in feeding they utter a constant " chir-r-r-r " alternating with a sharp " chit." In the breeding season their habits alter greatly and they become shy, retiring little birds, and instead of being able to watch them minutes at a time all one sees of them is a small brown object slipping out of sight into cover when disturbed.