(368) Chloropsis aurifrons aurifrons.
THE GOLD-FRONTED CHLOROPSIS.
Phyllornis aurifrons Temm., Pl. Col., 484 (1829) (Cachar). Chloropsis aurifrons. Blanf, & Oates, i, p. 235.
Vernacular names. Subz-harewa (Nepal); Hurriba (Beng.); Skalem-pho (Lepcha).
Description. Forehead and fore-crown golden-orange; chin, cheeks and extreme upper throat brilliant purplish blue; remainder of throat, ear-coverts, round the eye, lores and a narrow line up to the nostrils black ; an indistinct supercilium and a broad band surrounding the black of chin and throat golden-yellow, a patch on the wings including most of the lesser coverts, bright pale blue; edge of wing rather darker blue; concealed portions of wing-quills dark brown; lower aspect of tail plumbeous; remainder of plumage bright grass-green, lighter below and sometimes inclined to an emerald tint.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light to dark brown ; bill black, gape and base of lower mandible horny; mouth bluish; legs clear pale to dark plumbeous, the younger the bird the brighter and clearer the colour.
Measurements. Total length about 190 mm.; wing 94 to 98 mm.; tail about 70 to 75 mm.; tarsus about 18 mm.; culmen about 17 to 18 mm.
Female has the gold forehead less developed and the crown duller, the gold collar is obsolete ; the blue of the throat is sometimes mixed with black.
Measurements. A smaller bird than the male; wing 90 to 94 mm.
Distribution. The Himalayas from G-arhwal and Simla to Eastern Assam; the hilly country of North and North-East India from Chota Nagpur, Rajmahal, Santal Parganas etc.; the whole of Burma to South Tenasserim where it meets C. a. inornata ; Shan States, North and Central Siam.
Nidification. The nest is a rather shallow cup, made of very fine twigs, moss roots, the tendrils of climbing plants, outwardly bound together and also interwoven with scraps of moss, grass and a tow-like material which seems to be the inner bark of a tree. The lining, if any, is of finest grass stems or moss roots. The nests are generally placed in horizontal forks at the extremity of a small outer branch near the top of a high tree in forest. As the nest is a small one, roughly about 3.7 " (93 mm.) by under 2" (50 mm.) deep, it is very hard to find.
They breed from the middle of May to the end of July or even into August at all heights from 3,000 to 6,000 feet and probably much lower, as a nest of a Chloropsis, probably of this species, was taken by natives in the foot-hills of Cachar at a few hundred feet elevation only and in Margherita, Assam, at about 700 feet this bird was quite common throughout the summer.
The normal clutch of eggs is two, three only rarely and in appearance they are very like long dull-coloured eggs of the Niltavas. The ground is cream or reddish cream and they are covered, usually profusely, with faint pale reddish-brown markings, equally numerous over the whole surface. They are long, often pointed, ovals in shape and the texture is glossless and fairly fine. Ten eggs average 23.5 x 15.5 mm.
Habits. The Golden-fronted Chloropsis is found in small parties, four to a dozen or so, throughout the non-breeding season, frequenting open but well-wooded country, and keeping much to the tops of the highest trees, especially the Cotton-tree (Bombax malabarica) when in flower. At other times it may be found in the lower growths and it roosts for preference in dense secondary scrub or even in long sun- or elephant-grass. It indulges in the quaintest of attitudes when feeding and is a very active and restless bird. At one moment it will hover like a Sun-bird in front of a flower, at another it clambers along the lower surface of a thin branch and sometimes it will swing itself round and round in somersaults, a trick it carries with it into captivity. It is a most charming cage-bird, very easily tamed and a sweet songster. Its note, most often used in the cold weather when feeding in company, is a low " cheep," like that of a chicken calling for its mother, but it has an immense number of notes and is an excellent mimic. It feeds on insects, seeds and fruit and I have seen it feeding on bananas, oranges and peaches which had burst over-ripe on the trees. They are extremely quarrelsome birds and will allow no others to feed near them.