(1293) Arachnothera magna magna.
The Indian Streaked Spider-Hunter.
Cinnyris magna Hodgs., Ind. Rev., ii, p. 272 (1837) (Nepal). Arachnothera magna. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 369.
Vernacular names. Dom-siriok-pho (Lepch.); Yedong-pichang-(Bhut.).
Description. Whole upper plumage and visible portions of wing-coverts olive-yellow; the crown to nape with black centres and lesser and median coverts the same; back and rump with broad blackish central streaks to each feather; tail olive-yellow with pale yellowish tips and broad blackish subterminal bands; sides of head like the back but paler; whole under plumage pale yellowish with bold black central streaks.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or red-brown; Bill black; legs-dull to clear orange-tan or orange-yellow.
Measurements. Wing So to 96 mm.; tail 46 to 64 mm,; tarsus 19 to 22 mm.; culmen 34 to 41 mm.
Distribution. Himalayas From "the Sutlej Valley (Stoliczhae) to the extreme East and South of Assam ; Manipur, Lushar Hills, Chittagong Hill Tracts; Arakan, Chin Hills, Tenasserim as far South us Tavoy and the Thoungym Valley.
Nidification. The Indian Streaked Spicier-Hunter breeds from the foot-hills of the Himalayas commonly up to some 4,000 feet and less often up to about 5,000 Feet. Most eggs are laid between the 15th April and the end of June but I have taken eggs in the first week of March and again as late as the first week in September and possibly many birds have two bloods. The nests are fastened to the under surface of some large leaf, in rive instances out of ten under plantain leaves; in four out of ten under castor-oil leaves or dock leaves and, occasionally, under leaves of the giant creepers or other plants. Although the nests vary greatly in size they are all of the same description, neat compact nests made almost entirely of skeleton leaves, very strongly bound together with cobwebs, a few fine grasses, plantain and other fibres; the rim of the nest is attached to the under surface of the leaf with numerous fibres, cobwebs and cotton pulled through a hole-made by the bird's beak and twisted into a knot on the upper side. The entrance is a semicircular hole and, as a rule, the rim of the nest on the hole side hangs some half inch away from the leaf. There is no real lining though a few fine grass bents may hold the leaves in their places. The size of the nest may be anything in diameter from 5 to 9 inches and in depth from 3 to 6 inches. In a few nests there are two entrances opposite one another. Both parents incubate and look after the young and both help in nest-building, though one, I think the female, seems to do all the, actual building, her mate bringing the material. The cock-bird displays by hovering in front of his mate, all the plumage puffed out, the tail spread and the wings beating with intense rapidity. This continues for a few seconds and he then dashes vertically into the air, returns by a roundabout way and again hovers. Whilst thus engaged he continuously utters his loud, prolonged trill.
Two or three eggs are laid which vary greatly in colour. The majority have the ground-colour a dark sepia or pale vandyke-brown, but in most of these this colour is obliterated by innumerable specks of chocolate-brown so that the eggs look uniform brown or chocolate-brown. In most of these there are also at the larger end a few black specks, in some numerous enough to form a ring or cap. Other eggs have the ground grey or olive-grey, stippled all over with olive-brown ; others have a pale olive-brown or olive-grey ground with comparatively bold specks or blotches of darker. One clutch I have is pale pink, stippled with pale reddish-brown; yet another deep purplish-pink freckled all over with reddish-brown. One hundred eggs average 22.7 X 15.95 mm.: maxima 24.2x16.2 and 24.0 x 16.4 mm.; minima 20.9 x 16.1 and 22.5 x 15.0 mm.
This bird is often cuckolded by Hierococcyx sparveroides, which deposits an egg extremely like that of the Spider-Hunter.
Habits. This Spider-Hunter is a bird of forests and broken country, seldom being found in the plains far from the foot-hills. It prefers, however, the outskirts of forests, the banks of fairly wide streams or glades where there is ample sunshine and many flowers and it will seldom be found in any place unless there is an ample supply of Plantain trees, the flowers of which form its favourite hunting-ground. It possibly feeds to some extent on nectar but undoubtedly its main diet is insects and spiders, the latter of which it seizes on the wing from their webs. Its night is very strong and well sustained, though it progresses in long undulating dips, invariably uttering its loud musical trill as it flies, a call that can be heard from a great distance even in the forest. When plantains are cultivated round about villages they entice the Spider-Hunters to enter them and occasionally they will even breed within a few yards of one of the small villages of the Hill tribes.