(823) Cisticola exilis tytleri.
The Yellow-headed Fantail-Warbler.
Cisticola tytleri Jerdon, B. of I., ii, p. 176 (1873) (Dacca); Blanf. & Oates, 17 p. 372.
Vernacular names. Titi-daotisha (Cachari); Lal sir-phatki(H).
Description. Differs from C c. erythrocephala in Summer in having the crown a much paler yellow and at all seasons in having the nuchal rufous collar much more pronounced and the upper parts darker, the black centres being broader and bolder and the rufous edges less wide.
Colours of soft parts as in the last bird.
Measurements. Wing 44 to 47 mill.; tail 25 to 26 mm. in Summer, 46 to 48 mm. in Winter; tarsus 18 mm.; culmen about 10 mm.
Distribution. Bhutan Dooars to E. Assam, Bengal, Manipur, Lushai, Chin and Kachin Hills, Yunnan.
Nidification. The Yellow-headed Fantail - Warbler breeds throughout the Assam Hills wherever there are suitable grass-covered hills between 2,000 and 3,500 feet, rarely in the Khasia Hills a little higher than this. The nests are of two sorts : one a little egg-shaped nest of fine grasses very lightly and casually interwoven but otherwise just like the usual nest of the Common Fantail-Warbler. The other kind, which numbers at least four out of five, is about the most fragile nest made; a mere flimsy little half-cup of fine grasses and cotton-down sewn against the face of a leaf of some weed or lowly plant standing in grassland. It is never sewn inside the leaf like that of Orthotomus and Franklinia, but the threads are passed through the unfolded leaf and knotted at the back, retaining the nest in its place against the leaf. The breeding-months are April and May when the male birds have bright golden heads but many eggs are laid again in June to August when the bleached heads of the males look as ii they belonged to a different species. The eggs number four or five, very rarely six and are very beautiful. The ground-colour is a bright pale blue and the markings consist of reddish-brown, black or purple blotches and spots with a few similarly shaped secondary marks of grey. A few eggs are very pale blue and closely resemble boldly marked eggs of Cisticola c. cursitans. One hundred eggs average 14.8 x 11.4 mm.: maxima 16.0 x 12.0 mm.; minima 13.1 x 11.0 and 15.5 x 10.9 mm.
Habits. This Warbler is found wherever there are suitable plateaus of grass-land from the foot-hills of a thousand feet or so up to at least 5,000 feet, but it is most common between 2,000 and 3,500 feet. It seems to collect in colonies both in the breeding and non-breeding seasons, although it is never found in flocks. Ten or twenty pairs may occupy a hillside not more than half a mile square and then one may wander miles over what appears to be exactly similar country before one meets another colony. When disturbed the bird jerks itself straight into the air and then flies strong and well for fifty to a hundred yards before hurling itself headlong into the grass again. It has a call-note sounding like chir-r-r-r-r, and then, after a distinct interval, a beautiful bell-like tinkle which seems to come from quite a different direction. Its food consists entirely of ants and minute insects which it hunts for in among the grass-stems.
In Winter it is found in the plains of Assam and in Bengal and may possibly breed in these places.