(563) Kittacincla malabarica indica Stuart Baker.
THE INDIAN SHAMA.
Kittacincla macroura indica, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 118.
Kittacincla malabarica indica, ibid. vol. vii, p. 113.
The Indian Shama is found over the greater part of India and Burma, South to Ceylon and the North of Tenasserim and East to Siam, Yunnan and North Cochin-China. On the West it does not occur in Rajputana, Guzerat or Sind and. roughly, its Western limit may be said to be a line drawn from the North of the Bombay Presidency to the Kuman Terai.
It is a bird of the forest and, though it may prefer that which is rather open, I have also found it in the dense evergreen and ever moist forest of the Assam Hills. It is equally often to be found in bamboo-jungle of all kinds, whether the small single bamboo or the huge giant clump species, and in secondary growth so long as there are old stumps or trees big enough to furnish holes in which to breed. It is found from the plains and foot-hills of the sub¬-Himalayas up to about 3,000 feet, occasionally wandering up and breeding as high as 5,000 feet. Its most common breeding ground, however, is from the foot-hills up to about 2,500 feet.
The normal situation for the nest is a hollow, large or small, in a dead tree, stump, or giant bamboo but, occasionally, the birds choose rather curious positions. In Assam both Coltart and I found several nests built hidden in the mass of rubbish which always accumulates in the lower parts of bamboo-clumps. The birds seem to form a hollow among and under the fallen bamboo-leaves and spathes, whilst the innumerable twigs which adorn the lowest nodes of the bamboos hold up more of these to form a roof. Such a nest is completely screened from view and is impossible to find unless one of the parent birds leave it as one approaches. Another curious site was one found by myself, practically on the ground under a fallen tree. The trunk rested partly on some stones and the birds had built their nests in a niche between one of these stones and the trunk. The nests are difficult to find but the cock bird sings so persistently, mornings and evenings, in the vicinity of the nest that by working all round where he has been heard singing the female can generally be put off her nest. She sits close but, though such a conspicuous little bird, slips so quietly off the nest that a sharp look-out has to be kept as one hunts or she will be missed.
In Kanara Davidson found nests built in cut bamboos which were standing leaning against the clump from which they had been cut, and he remarks that anybody could get any number of the nests and eggs by cutting down suitable bamboos and placing them against the clumps about 300 yards apart. The nests in bamboos he describes as very meagre.
During the day the hen alone carries on incubation but, possibly, the cock sits at night, and he relieves his mate in watching the nest and eggs, for about an hour two or three times a day. Once the young are hatched he devotes less time to music and assists in feeding them.
The nest is much the same as that described for the preceding bird. As a rule it is a slight and untidy pad of roots and leaves, incoherent and of no particular shape, just chucked at the bottom of the hole in which it is placed. If this hollow is a big one, additional material, principally dead leaves, is used, and the hollow is more or less filled in and, when built in hollow bamboos, the material generally fills the bamboo from the node below up to the entrance. Sometimes a fairly compact nest of roots, small elastic twigs and grass-bents is superimposed upon the loose leaves, but the lining seldom consists of more than a few fine roots and odd scraps of grass. When the nest is built in among the rubbish inside bamboo-clumps it is nearly always constructed of the finest aerial roots of the bamboos.
It seems never to be built at any great height from the ground ; between 4 and 6 feet seems to be the favourite height, but I have taken nests up to 8 and 10 feet and one, from a hole in a Rhododendron, about 12 feet from the ground.
The main breeding season is during May and June but I have taken eggs as early as the 13th April and as late as the 14th August. These late nests are probably second attempts to bring up a brood, the first having come to grief in some way, but I do not think they are usually double brooded.
Stewart found them breeding in Travancore during April, whilst Osmaston took their eggs in the United Provinces terai in May.
The eggs number four, occasionally five, and sometimes only three and, in appearance, are like small, dull-coloured eggs of Copsychus. I have seen no eggs of the Shama similar to the blue ground, handsomely blotched eggs of the Dayal and, on the other hand, some are more pearly brown in general tint than any eggs of that bird. The normal colour is a pale dull green-blue ground heavily blotched all over with reddish-brown and with numerous secondary marks of lavender and grey. In shape the eggs are rather short, blunt ovals, varying from this to a moderately long oval, always, however, blunt at the smaller end.
Sixty four eggs average 22.0 to 17.2 mm. : maxima 24.1 x 17.1 and 22.0 x 18.0 mm. ; minima 18.2 x 15.4 mm.
563. Kittacincla malabarica indiea
(563) Kittacincla malabarica indica Stuart Baker.