(794) Agrobates galactodes familiaris.
The Grey-Backed Warbler.
Sylvia familiaris Menetr., Cat Rais. Canc.,p 32 (1832) (S. Caucasus). Aedon familiaris. Blanf. As Oates, i, p. 331.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Whole upper plumage fulvous-brown, darker on the forehead and sides of the crown, changing to bright rufescent on the rump and upper tail-coverts; centre pair of tail-feathers brown, more or less suffused with rufescent, obsoletely cross-rayed and broadly tipped with dark brown, the next two pairs chestnut with broad subterminal band of black, the extreme edges and tip* being pale rufous sometimes showing a speck of white, outer three pairs the same, but with broad white tips; wing-quills and coverts edged with pale fulvous-white; supercilia white or buffy-white ; lores and a line through the eyes brown ; a line under the anterior ear-coverts brown; ear-coverts and entire lower plumage pale, dull vinaceous-white, a little darker on breast and flanks.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or dark brown: bill brown above, the lower mandible whitish or yellowish white, the mouth yellow ; legs and feet pale brown, fleshy-brown, pale yellowish white or dirty straw-colour.
Measurements. Total length 175 to 185 mm.; wing 85 to 90 mm.; tail 65 to 70 mm.; culmen 18.0 to 19.5 mm.; tarsus about 26 mm.
Typical A. g. galactodes differs from this race in being much more rufous above.
Distribution. From Southern Caucasia to Persia, Mesopotamia, Transcaspia, Turkestan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan and N.W. India, straggling into the plains of the Punjab, N.W. Provinces, Sind and Rajputana. I have killed a specimen in Cachar and have received another from Behar.
Nidification. The Grey-backed Warbler probably breeds practically wherever found, but in Sind and N.W. India Ticehurst says that it is only found as an Autumn migrant on passage. He does not, however, say from where to where and it may well be a resident here as at Multan, where Major Lindsay Smith took many nests. He records that about Multan "the Grey-backed Warbler breeds in the most inhospitable deserts breeding in low stunted bushes that do not average 20 feet high; the nest is usually under 5 feet from the ground, always on thickish branches. 1 strongly suspect that this bird frequently makes use of deserted nests of Argya caudata and Molpastes leucotis, as I have found three types of nest. The one which I ascribe to the bird itself is a large, loosely put together cup of grass-stems, always found in Jal bushes (S. alsoides); the Bulbul type is built in the Jhand (P. spicigera) and the Babbler type in the Karil or Wild Caper (C aphylla). It may be, however, that the Warbler suits its nest to the type of tree selected for a site."
Nests, eggs and birds were sent to me by Major Lindsay Smith. The clutches numbered three to four eggs each and were indistinguishable in anyway from those taken by Tomlinson in Basra or by Currie in Persia. The ground-colour is white, greyish or yellowish white and very rarely pinkish white, the whole surface being profusely marked with small rather longitudinal freckles and blotches of brown or reddish brown, the general aspect of the egg varying from grey to reddish brown. In shape the eggs are rather long, well-pointed ovals, Fifty eggs average 20.9 x 15.4 mm.: the maxima are 23.5 x 16.3 mm. and the minima 19*2 x 15*4 and 20.1 x 14.0 mm.
At Multan the breeding-season is from the end of February to early April, at Kerman and Sheraz Currie found them laying in May, whilst Tomlinson took eggs from the middle of May to the end of June.
Habits. The Grey-backed Warbler is a bird of arid plains covered with scanty scrub and date-gardens etc. in dry situations, though within irrigated areas. It is by no means aquatic in its habits and, though like the Reed-Warblers, it feeds in amongst scrub-jungle and thorny bushes it seems never, like these birds, to frequent reed-beds and marshy swamps. It has a loud and •rather discordant note and is entirely insectivorous in its diet.