(444) Certhia himalayana himalayana.
THE HIMALAYAN TREE-CREEPER.
Certhia himalayana Vigors, P. Z S., 1831, p. 174 (Himalaya); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 329.
Vernacular names. Chua-sorai (Assamese).
Description. Upper plumage and wing-coverts blackish brown, the feathers broadly centred fulvous; lower back, rump, and upper tail-coverts strongly tinged with ferruginous: tail pale reddish brown, regularly barred with black; a well-developed supercilium pale fulvous; ear-coverts black; wings dark brown, all the quills except the first three or four with a broad oblique fulvous band bordered with black; chin and throat pure white; remainder of under plumage pale smoky-brown tinged strongly with fulvous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown ; upper mandible dark homy-brown or blackish, the lower mandible fleshy-horny; legs and feet fleshy, claws a little darker.
Measurements. Length about 140 mm.; wing 65 to 71 mm.; tail 59 to 67 mm.; tarsus about 18 mm.; culmen 15 to 22 mm. The bill varies very greatly, males generally vary between 19 and 21 mm. and females between 17 and 20 mm., but other birds of both sexes, possibly young birds though in adult plumage, have bills of 15 and 16 mm.
The young in this, as in all other Certhias, have the lower plumage mottled and with indications of bars.
Distribution. South Kashmir, most of the North-West Himalayas, Garhwal, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan to W. Assam.
Nidification. The Himalayan Tree-Creeper breeds throughout its range between 5,000" and 9,000 feet or even higher. It is an early breeder. Dodsworth took several nests at Simla in April and few birds breed later than May, during which month Rattray, Buchanan and others found many nests round about the Murree Hills. It builds, like most Tree-Creepers, either in a crevice of a tree or in between a loose bit of bark and the trunk, the latter being the favourite position. The nest is made of a little grass or moss, often with a foundation of dead leaves, chips of wood, etc. and always with a lining of fur, wool or feathers. It may be placed at any height from the ground, from 10 to 50 feet.
The eggs number four to six and have a white ground, generally tinged with pink and are profusely spotted all over with light to dark brownish-red or pinkish-red. A few eggs have the ground pure white and the marks of dark reddish-brown in a ring round the larger end. Fifty eggs average 15.8 x 12.2 mm. The maxima are 17.6 x 12.4 and 16.3 x 12.9 mm. and the minima 14.7 x 11.9 and 14.9x11.8 mm. The shape is a fairly broad oval and the texture is fine but glossless.
Habits. This Creeper may be rarely found as low as 4,000 feet in winter and in summer ascends to some 10,000 feet. It is, of course, only found in heavily-forested areas but it does not keep entirely to the interior of forest, wandering freely into the more open country wherever there are large trees forming suitable hunting-grounds. They are intensely active, restless little birds, never still for a minute, scuttling hither and thither, now racing over the trunk of the tree, now scrambling along the under surface of one of the smaller boughs. They, unlike the Woodpeckers and Barbets, are just as fond of running down as running up the trunks of trees, but their general method is to work a tree upwards before taking flight to the next. Their ordinary note is a very feeble little squeak, which develops into a louder, fuller series of notes in the breeding season. They are entirely insectivorous.