(89) Conostoma aemodium.
THE GREAT PARROT-BILE.
Conostoma aemodius Hodgs., J. A. S. B., x, p. 857 (1841) (Nepal). Conostoma aemodium. Blanf, & Oates, i, p. 61.
Vernacular names. The Bed-billed Jay-Thrush (Jerdon); The Bed-billed Crow-Tit (Oates); Lho-rannio-pho (Lepcha). Description. Lores and feathers in front of the eye dark brown; forehead greyish white; upper plumage olive-brown with a rufous tinge; outer edges of primaries ashy ; of the secondaries rufous, their tips and the whole of the innermost secondaries ashy; tail ashy grey, more or less washed with rufous along the middle of the feathers; chin, throat, and sides of the head brown, with a vinous tinge, becoming paler on the rest of the lower plumage.
Colours of soft parts. Bill horny or dull orange; legs pale to plumbeous or slate-grey; iris brown.
Measurements. Length about 300 mm.; wing about 130 to 133 mm.; tail about 140 mm.; tarsus about 37 mm.; culmen about 20 mm. and from gape 25 mm.
Distribution. From Nepal, through Sikkim and the higher ranges of lulls of North Assam into Tibet and W. China.
Nidification. Breeds in Sikkim in May. Hume describes the nests as shallow, almost hemispheral cups very compactly made of grass and lined with the finest grass-stems. A nest sent to me was similar but deeper in shape, measuring about 130 mm. in breadth and about 105mm. in external depth. All the nests were placed in clumps of ringal bamboo at elevations of over 10,000 feet, except one sent me which had been built in high reeds.
The egg is a dull white sparsely spotted, speckled and smudged with yellowish brown and pinky purple. The only two eggs known both measure about 27.8 x 20.4 mm.
Habits. The Great Parrot-Bill is a bird of very high elevations breeding between 10,000 and 12,000 and descending in winter some 4,000 feet lower. It is found in small companies, scrambling and climbing about bamboos, reeds and high grass, hunting for insects, on which it chiefly feeds. Its flight is weak and fluttering and its call is a. loud bleat.