(1296) Arachnothera longirostra longirostra.
The Little Spider-Hunter.
Certhia longirostra Lath., Ind. Orn., i, p. 299 (1790) (Bengal, Sylhet). Arachnothera longirostris. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 371.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Upper plumage and lesser wing-coverts olive-green, the feathers of the forehead and crown centred with black; lores and a line over the eye greyish-white ; a line from the gape blackish; sides of the head ashy-green; chin and throat greyish-white gradually changing to bright yellow on the lower breast and remainder of lower plumage; wing-feathers brown edged with olive-green; axillaries and under wing-coverts silky yellowish-white ; pectoral tufts mixed chrome and orange-yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill, upper mandible dark brown to almost black, lower mandible slaty-grey, palest next the gape; legs dark plumbeous.
Measurements. Male, wing 60 to 67 mm.; tail 39 to 44 mm. tarsus 17 to 18 mm.; culmen 35 to 41 mm. Female, wing 58 to 60 mm. ; culmen 28 to 31 mm.
Distribution. Western coast of India from the Palni and Nilgiri Hills to Belgaum ; East and South Assam, Eastern Bengal in Tippera, Chittagong and the Hill Tracts from Manipur to the Chin Hills; Burma South to the whole of the Malay Peninsula; Siam, Annam, Cochin China and Shan States.
Throughout the whole of this vast area I can find no character by which this species can be divided into geographical races.
Nidification. The Little Spider-Hunter breeds in Southern India principally in March and April between the level of the plains and, it is said, up to 5,500 feet. In Assam and Burma the principal breeding months are May and June, but the season is very extended and I have taken eggs in every month of the year from March to September and many birds have two broods. In Assam it very seldom breeds above 2,500 feet and its favourite haunts are the dense, humid evergreen-forests in the foot-hills and up to about 2,000 feet. The nest is exactly like that of the Indian Streaked Spider-Hunter, made entirely of skeleton leaves and attached to the underside of a leaf of a plantain, castor-oil tree, dock, kydia or almost any other large-leaved plant, whilst in Travancore Stewart found the nests built under the leaves of the elephant-grass. In Siam Herbert says that it breeds in the Winter months, building similar nests in similar positions.
The eggs are utterly unlike any other known eggs of the Spider-Hunters. The ground varies from white with the faintest tinge of pink to a warm salmon-pink, whilst the markings consist of specks of bright reddish-brown, sparse everywhere except in a dense, well-defined zone round the larger end. The only variation from these I have seen is a pair taken by Herbert which are pure white except for a zone of tiny purple-black specks. There is no gloss and the shell is very fragile. One hundred eggs average 18.5 x 13.1 mm.; maxima 19.1 x 13.1 and 18.1 x 13.9 mm.; minima 17.0 x 13.3 and 18.8 x 12.5 mm.
Habits. Although in Darjeeling it is said to be found up to 6,000 feet or even higher, the Small Spider-Hunter is ordinarily a bird of lower levels than the Indian Streaked Spider-Hunter. The latter is most common between 2,500 and 4,000 feet, the former between the plains and 2,000 feet. It also keeps more to evergreen-forests and, though it prefers the edges and more open places in these, I have seen it well inside them, both in the breeding and non-breeding season. It is a much more silent bird than the larger forms, though its notes are soft replicas of theirs and is uttered both on the wins; and when at rest. Its flight is more direct and less dipping than that of most Spider-Hunter's, but its display is similar to theirs. When " whirring " in front of the female the axillaries are displayed very prominently and are much more noticeable than at other times.