165. Alcippe phayrii.
The Burmese Babbler.
Alcippe phayrei, Blyth, J. A. S. B. xiv, p. 601 (1845); id. Cat. p. 148; Hume, S. F. iii, p. 116, v, p. 60; Hume Dav. S. F. vi, p. 260; Anders. Yunnan Exped,., Aves, p. 635, pl. xlviii; Hume, Cat. no. 388 bis ; Oates, B. B. i, p. 69; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. vii, p. 623; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 139; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. i, p. 108. Alcippe magnirostris, Wald. in Blyth, Birds Burm. p. 115 (1875); id. Ibis, 1877, p. 487; Hume, S. F. v, p. 66. Alcippe fusca, Godwin-Austen, J. A. S. B. xlv, pt. ii, p. 197 (1876) ; Hume, S. F. v, p. 54; id. Cat. no. 388 ter.
Coloration. Resembles A. phaeocephala. Differs in having, as a rule, traces of sincipital brown stripes ; in being of a clearer and lighter fulvous below, and in having the cap somewhat better defined from the rest of the upper plumage.
Iris whity brown to greyish blue; eyelids plumbeous; mouth yellow ; legs and claws dusky flesh-colour ; upper mandible dusky brown, the lower one somewhat paler and turning to yellow at the base.
Of the same size as A. phaeocephala, from which the present species cannot be distinguished by measurement.
Were it not that the geographical distribution of A. phaeocephala and A. phayrii differs so greatly, and that typical examples of the latter from Burma show traces of sincipital stripes, whereas the former never do so, I should be inclined to unite these two species under one name. When the sincipital stripes are absent in A. phayrii, as they frequently, or almost invariably, are in specimens from the extreme northern limit of its range, such as Tipperah and Manipur, it is almost impossible to separate such examples from A. phaeocephala. Failing the sincipital stripes there is really nothing to trust to for discriminating the two species except the colour of the lower plumage and the cap, and this is only apparent when series of each are compared. All authors have hitherto been satisfied with comparing A. phayrii with A. nepalensis, two birds which are quite distinct, both in coloration and in size, and which cannot be confounded under any circumstances. Sharpe, with the few specimens he had before him when he wrote his ' Catalogue,' made an endeavour to diagnose A. phayrii and A. phaeocephala, the only attempt that has ever been made, I believe; but unfortunately his character, the colour of the ear-coverts, does not hold good, and no use can be made of it.
Distribution. The Naga hills; Tipperah; Manipur; the neighbourhood of Bhamo; Arrakan; the Pegu hills; Karennee; the whole of Tenasserim.
Habits, &c. This species is found in the better-wooded hilly portions of the country. Its habits do not differ from those of A. nepalensis. It breeds in Tenasserim from February to April. The eggs found by Bingham measured .78 by .58; these dimensions appear small for the size of the bird, being no larger than those of the eggs of A. nepalensis, which is a considerably smaller bird.