(1277) Leptocoma lotenia.
Certhia lotenia Linn., Syst. Nat, 12th ed., i, p. 188 (1766; (Ceylon). Arachnechthra lotenia. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 358.
Vernacular names. Than-kudi (Tam.).
Description. - Male. Whole upper plumage, lesser and median wing-coverts metallic green washed with purple-violet, the upper tail-coverts sometimes more blue; tail deep blue narrowly edged with metallic green; greater wing-coverts and quills dark brown ; chin, throat and sides of the breast and neck metallic green changing to metallic purple-violet on the centre of the breast; a band of maroon next the breast; pectoral tufts yellow more or less mixed with scarlet; remainder of lower plumage snuff-brown.
There is, so far, nothing on record as to the non-breeding plumage of this Sunbird, but it will, undoubtedly, eventually be found to have a post-breeding moult into a plumage resembling that of the female.
Colours of soft parts. Iris deep brown or red-brown ; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 55 to 59 mm.; tail 37 to 39 mm.; tarsus 15 to 16 mm.; culmen about 16 to 19 mm.
Female. "Whole upper plumage, wings and sides of the neck brown, rarely washed with greenish in freshly moulted specimens ; tail dark brown, lateral feathers narrowly tipped with white; lower plumage pale dull yellow, brightest on the abdomen.
Measurements. Wing about 5 mm., shorter on an average than in the male.
Young birds are dull brown with pale margins to the feathers above ; below dull oily yellow-grey.
Distribution. Ceylon and South India as Far North as Ratna-giri on the West; the Deccan (Sykes), and Madras on the East. It is possible, however, that it also extends a good deal farther North than Madras, though the fact has not yet been recorded.
Nidification. In Travancore and the greater part of Southern India Loten's Sunbird breeds from January to the end of April, but in Karwar Davidson took its eggs as late as August. In Ceylon the principal breeding months are February to May The nest is a pendent structure, pear-shaped and made of lichen, grass, leaves, moss and wool all much intermixed and matted together with cobwebs and then decorated externally with chips of wood, bark, caterpillar excretae and a variety of other scraps,, loosely attached to the nest and often hanging in a long tail below it. The lining is of down or wool, generally the former, well matted and also mixed into the other materials. A few nests are more round without any neck or tail but all seem to have a compact porch screening the entrance. They may be placed in any low bush or attached to trellis-work of verandahs and ornamental arches and are sometimes well concealed and sometimes very conspicuous. In Ceylon Wait says that in the majority of cases the nests are simply hollows made in the masses of flocculent spiders' webs so common in that island. He writes: " In the interior of the mess the birds press out a more or less globular chamber, lining the walls with vegetable down and generally providing a little eave of cobweb over the entrance."
The eggs generally number two only, occasionally three. The ground-colour is greyish-white, sometimes slightly greenish and, very rarely, reddish or buff. The markings consist of specks and freckles of grey or brownish-grey profusely scattered all over the egg, generally rather longitudinal in character and often coalescing to form a ring or cap at the larger end. Fifty eggs average 17.0 x 12.0 mm.: maxima 18.1 x 12.0 and 17.1 x 12.4: mm.; minima 15.9 X 11.6 and 16.3 x 11.2 mm.
Habits. Loten's Sunbird is found throughout the plains and ascends the hills up to 5,000 feet in Southern India and up to 3,000 feet in Ceylon. It is found alike in thin forest, cultivated country and constantly in gardens, the flowers of the Hibiscus forming a special attraction. It feeds both on the nectar of the flowers and also on small insects, for the most part perching and thrusting its long beak well into the blooms but, also, sometimes hovering before them like a humming-bird. The voice is a pleasant loud trill, much the same as that of Leptocoma asiatica.