(1051) Haematospiza sipahi.
The Scarlet Finch.
Corythus sipahi Hodgs., As. Res., xix, p. 151 (1836) (Nepal). Haematospiza sipahi. Blanf. & Gates, ii, p. 209.
Vernacular names. Phanying-pho-biu (Lepcha); Labbia-mapho (Bhut.).
Description. - Adult male. Lores, a line line next the bill and feathers round the eye purple-red; wing and tail-feathers dark brown edged with scarlet; thighs dark brown; under tail-coverts dark brown with broad scarlet tips; axillaries and under wing-coverts ashy with tiny scarlet tips ; remainder of plumage brilliant deep scarlet, the bases of the leathers of the head and neck white, elsewhere ashy.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill yellow; legs and feet brown.
Measurements. Total length about 190 mm.; wing 94 to 106 mm.; tail 55 to 70 mm.; tarsus 19 to 20 mm.; culmen 13 to 14 mm. The female seems to have a much shorter tail than the male - 55 to 66 mm. as against 65 to 70 in the latter.
Female. Rump and shorter upper tail-coverts bright yellow; remaining upper plumage, wing-coverts and inner secondaries dark brown with broad edges of olive yellow-green, brightest on the head; wing-quills dark brown with narrow edges of green ; tail brown, the lateral feathers with green edges externally ; sides of the head, chin and throat like the crown but duller and paler ; remaining lower plumage dark brown but this colour almost entirely concealed by the broad ochre-grey margins ; the grey more or less overlaid or smeared with yellow especially on the breast.
The young male is like the female but has the rump orange and the yellow-green replaced by dull orange-red on the upper plumage.
Distribution. Nepal to the extreme East of the Dafla and Miri Hills in North-East Assam, Khasia Hills and Cachar Hills in the South of Assam.
Nidification. Three nests, each with a single egg, were brought to me in Shillong, twice with a parent bird. The nests are bulky cups made outwardly of stiff small twigs and very coarse roots, inwardly of coarse roots and fibrous material and with a lining of fine roots. In one nest there is a little goat's hair, in another a little wool. All three nests were placed well up in pines on the outskirts of Pine-forests. In the Himalayas, North of the Brahmaputra, it probably never breeds as low as 6,000 feet, but in the Khasia Hills a certain number remain and breed at this elevation. The eggs have a pale blue ground-colour and are marked with spots, small blotches and lines of light brown and purplish brown; in one egg these are thinly scattered all over the surface, in a second they form a dense twisted zone at the larger end, and in the third they are paler and scattered fairly numerously everywhere. They measure 22.1 x 17.2, 23.2 x 17.0 and 25.4 x 18.0 mm.
Habits. In Summer this Finch seems to keep to Pine-forests above 6,000 feet, except in the Khasia Hills where it breeds in the pines as low as 5,000 feet; in North Cachar it is only a Winter straggler, not breeding. 'In the Northern Himalayas, on the other hand, Stevens repeatedly obtained specimens in Winter below 2,000 feet, whilst in the mountains South of the Brahma¬putra I have never known it to occur below about 4,200 feet, i. the lower limits of Pine-forests. It is a sociable bird, nearly always being found in small parties of 'five or six to a dozen. Its flight is swift and powerful, though rather dipping, and its notes are melodious and strong, though I have never heard it really utter any song. It is a very favourite cage-bird with the Khasias and thrives well in captivity. It feeds on seeds, pine-cone seeds, berries and a certain number of insects, especially small coleoptera.