(286) Alcippe nepalensis nepalensis.
THE NEPAL BABBLER.
Siva nepalensis Hodgs., Ind. Rev., 1838, p. 89 (Nepal). Alcippe nepalensis. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 157.
Vernacular names. Dao-pere-kashiba (Cachari).
Description. A conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eye; head, neck and upper back ashy-brown with a vinaceous tinge; a dark sooty-brown stripe on either side of the crown ex tending down the neck to the back; ear-coverts grey; back olive-brown ; exposed portions of the wings and tail yellowish brown ; chin whitish ; under parts pale fulvous, washed with olivaceous on the flanks and thighs.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light to deep hazel-brown; bill plumbeous or livid brown, black on the culmen and base of the upper mandible, lower paler; legs and feet pale fleshy or liv id white.
Measurements. Total length about 125 mm.; wing 56 to 60 mm ; tail about 60 mm.; tarsus about 20 mm.; culmen 10-5 to 11'5 mm.
Distribution. The lower hills of Nepal, Sikkim, Assam both North and South of the Brahmaputra, Manipur, hills of Eastern Bengal, Chin Hills and Arrakan.
Nidification. This little bird breeds principally between 1,500 and 3,000 feet, making a small cup-shaped nest of grass and bamboo leaves lined with finer grasses. In some cases a little other material may be mixed with the rest, such as dead leaves, a little dry moss, or chips of bracken frond. It is placed either in a bush some 12 inches to 4 feet from the ground or in a bamboo clump. The eggs number two to four and vary in the most extraordinary manner. The following are common types:—(1) Pure white with sparse but bold dots and specks of deep purple; (2) white with innumerable specks of lilac-red; (3) white to pale pink with blotches and small spots of light red; (4) pale to salmon-pink with clouds and smears all over of reddish ; (5) pure white with a ring or cap of deep purple lines and hieroglyphics. The first three are the most common. Two hundred eggs average 18.4 x 14.0 mm.
The breeding season lasts from April to July, May being the month when most birds lay.
Habits. The Nepal Babbler may be found at all heights from a few hundred feet up to 4,000 feet but its favourite elevations are about half-way between the two. It gathers into small flocks in the winter, sometimes however keeping in pairs, and it hunts all kinds of cover, thick and thin, forest or bamboo, keeping to the bushes and lower trees and showing a most restless energetic disposition. At one moment it may be seen twisting backwards and forwards, over and under the branches, in its search for insects, at another fluttering into the air in pursuit of a gnat or fly, whilst, yet again, it may be seen racing along some bough after a quickly travelling beetle or other prey. It is by no means shy and keeps uttering continually a little chattering call of several notes, which would soon betray its whereabouts if its actions had not previously done so.