(1081) Carduelis caniceps caniceps.
The Himalayan Goldfinch.
Carduelis caniceps Vigors, V. Z. S., 1831, p. 23 (Himalayas ; Simla-Almora Districts) ; Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 225.
Vernacular names. Shim (Hind.) ; Saira (Kashm).
Description. - Male. Forehead, cheeks and chin crimson; upper plumage pale ashy-brown, becoming still paler on the rump and pure white on the upper tail-coverts; tail black, the two central pairs tipped white, the two outermost pairs largely white on the outer webs from the base ; wing-coverts black, the greater coverts broadly tipped with yellow, quills black, all but the first primary with a broad yellow patch on the base of the outer webs; innermost secondaries with the outer web mostly white; throat ashy-white; sides of the neck and head, breast and flanks ashy-brown, more fulvous on the flanks ; abdomen and under tail-coverts almost white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill fleshy-yellow, the tip dark brown; legs and feet pale brown.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 76 to 81 mm.; tail 48 to 50 mm.; tarsus about 13 mm.; culmen 13 to 15 mm.
Female similar to the male but with less and paler crimson on the face and less yellow on the wings.
Nestling. Above light brown with darker centres to the feathers, below white or fulvous-white, spotted from chin to lower breast and flanks with dark brown; the wing-quills and tail when they first appear are broadly tipped with fulvous; there is no red or black on the head and the yellow patch on the wing is much smaller.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Gilgit and Kashmir to Kuman, Simla States and Garhwal.
Nidification. The Himalayan Goldfinch breeds over practically the whole of Kashmir except in the extreme East and, perhaps, the North-East. South it breeds as far as Kuman, Garhwal and the Simla States. Col. Rattray took its nest at an elevation of only 5,000 feet but more commonly it breeds above 7,000 and up to 14,000 feet. At the lower elevations a few nests may be found in May but most eggs are laid in June onwards, fresh eggs having been taken on to the end of August, possibly a second brood. The nest is just like that of the Common Goldfinch, a neat little cup of fine roots and grass mixed into a mass of moss and lined with seed down. Most nests are built in the outer branches of pines at from 6 to 25 feet from the ground and are often very difficult to see. The eggs number three to five and are a very pale sea-green, occasionally pinkish, sparingly spotted at the larger end with pale dull reddish and lilac. A few eggs are practically unspotted and, more rarely a few are marked with almost black. Sixty eggs average 18.5x 13.2 mm.: maxima 19.4 x 12.8 and 19.0 x 13.9 mm.; minima 16.8 x 13.2 and 17.9 x 12.2 mm.
Habits. A very common bird in Kashmir and, indeed, over its whole range in suitable localities. It is resident everywhere, though it leaves the greater heights in Winter and avoids the lower in Summer. In Winter it assembles in flocks, often of a great size, and is then very conspicuous, feeding in gardens, orchards and open spaces, attracting attention both by its beauty and its restlessness. In Summer, on the other hand, the flocks break up, it retreats to more secluded country and to the pine-woods and those who do not know where to look, or how to look, for it pronounce it absent or very rare. Its food consists mainly of tiny seeds of flowers, weeds, etc., its song is similar to that of the European Goldfinch, though less full and sweet, and its flight is direct and swift.