(556) Saxicoloides fulicata fulicata.
The Black-backed Indian Robin.
Motacilla fulicata Linn., Syst. Nat. i, p. 336 (1766) (Philippines in errore. Ceylon). Thamnobia fulicata. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 115.
Vernacular names. Kalchuri (Hind.); Nalanchi (Tel.); Wannati-huravi (Tam.).
Description.— Adult male in Winter. Lesser wing-coverts white ; centre of abdomen and under tail-coverts deep chestnut; wing-quills brownish; remainder of plumage glossy black with a blue sheen.
After the moult the glossy edges to the feathers become abraded and the feathers themselves bleached so that by spring, or even earlier, the upper parts become a chocolate-brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown to blackish brown; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 160 mm.; wing 70 to 80 mm.; tail 63 to 67 mm.; tarsus about 28 mm culmen 12 to 14 mm.
Female. Lores, forehead, chin and ear-coverts rufous-ashy; the latter with paler shafts ; above dark brown, very slightly rufescent, the tail almost black ; lower plumage ashy brown; the centre of the abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts deep chestnut.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel to dark brown ; bill dark horny-brown ; legs tan-brown to blackish brown.
Measurements. Wing 68 to 72 mm.
Nestling like the female but with the upper parts obsoletely barred with darker and the lower surface paler, more fulvous and less ashy, and with each feather edged with dark brown.
Distribution. Ceylon. South India to Ahmadnagar on the West and the Godaveri on the East, and grading into the next at these points.
Nidification. This little Robin breeds in Ceylon practically through out the year, probably often having two broods. In Southern India it breeds principally in April, May and June but very often both earlier and later and General Betham took its eggs at Poona as early as March the 7th and as late as July the 21st. The nest may be placed in practically any kind of hole provided it is not too high from the ground. In the open and more barren country a hole under a stone on the ground will suffice, or the bird will use a hole in a bank, railway-cutting or tree. More often, however, this Robin breeds round towns and villages and then finds sites to its liking in mud and stone walls, the eaves of low houses and similar places. It has little or no tear of man during the breeding-season, often building its nest in walls or roofs of inhabited houses but it is said to shun actual observation whilst entering it and to desert it at once if it is handled. The nest is cup-shaped internally but externally generally fills the hollow in which it is built. The eggs number two or three only. In ground-colour they are white or are just tinged with yellow, cream or pink, less rarely with green. Over the whole surface there are spots, specks and small blotches of reddish brown and yellowish brown, sometimes more numerous at the larger end where they occasionally form a rough ring or cup. In shape they are round ovals and sixty eggs average 20.7 x 14.8 mm. The extremes are: maxima 23.0 x l5.2 and 21.3 x 15.9 mm.; minima 18.5 x 14.5 and 20.6 x 14.0 mm.
Habits. This little Robin is one of the most familiar of birds in Ceylon and Southern India, much as is the Robin in England. It is found more in the drier areas than those where there is heavy wet forest, but wherever there are villages and towns and some open country it puts in an appearance. It ascends the hills to 6,000 feet at least, possibly a good deal higher in the Nilgiris and some of the adjoining hills and it is equally common in all suitable localities in the plains. It feeds much on the ground, hunting the grass or freshly turned soil for insects just like the Robin does but it also searches the leaves and branches of bushes and lower trees as well. It has a few cheerful little notes in the breeding-season which it fully believes to be a song and which it utters from the top of a bush, wall or stump.