(558) Copsychus saularis saularis.
The Indian Magpie-Robin.
Gracula saularis Linn , Syst Nat., i, p. 165 (1766) (Bengal). Copsychus saularis. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 116.
Vernacular names. Dayar or Dayal (Hind. & Beng.); Whil-Dayal (E. Bengal); Pedda nalanchi, Sarela-gadu (Tel.) ; Zannid-pho (Lepcha) ; Thapate-lway (Burm.); Uchinao (Manipur); Dao-gophu-gaschim (Cachari).
Description.— Adult male. Lesser, median and outer greater wing-coverts and edges to the middle secondaries white; the abdomen and under tail-coverts white; outer four pairs of tail-feathers white, the fourth pair, from outside, sometimes having a certain amount of black edging to the base; rest of plumage glossy blue-black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright hazel to deep brown: bill black; legs and feet dark horn-brown to plumbeous black.
Measurements. Total length about 230 mm.; wing 98 to 106 mm.; tail 80 to 102 mm.; tarsus 29 to 30 mm.; culmen 17 (rarely) to 18 mm.
Female. White parts as in the male ; upper parts ashy-brown, darker on the rump and upper tail-coverts which are almost black; lores and cheeks mottled grey and white; sides of head, neck, chin,, throat and breast grey.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill horny-black; legs and feet horny-plumbeous.
Measurements, only a mere trifle smaller than the male.
Nestling. White as in the adult; upper parts dark brown; below, the throat and breast are fulvous-brown, the feathers edged with blackish and with pale centres.
Distribution. The whole of India except extreme South-West Travancore, Burma to South Tenasserim, Shan States, Yunnan and China.
The Yunnan and Chinese birds, in addition to averaging rather larger, have the females decidedly paler on the upper plumage and breasts and these may have eventually to be separated.
Nidification. The Indian Magpie-Robin breeds from the Plains up to about 6,000 feet through April, May and June, and sometimes in July and August. It prefers the vicinity of human habitations when selecting a site for its nest, often building under the eaves of houses, holes in walls, on the rafters of stables and outhouses, etc. At other times it places its nest in holes in trees and banks, and occasionally builds a nest in bushes or on tree-stumps. I have seen one nest in a Cactus hedge, two or three in the first forks of trees like Mango trees and Banians, and frequently inside clumps of bamboos. The nest itself is made of grass, roots, leaves, dead moss and twigs, lined with grass and roots; outwardly it is shapeless, filling up the hole in which it is placed. It may be bulky or it may be of the flimsiest character, just a mere pad, but it is always very roughly and loosely put together.
The eggs are rather handsome, the ground-colour some shade of blue-green, whilst the markings consist of numerous blotches of different shades of reddish brown with a few underlying of neutral tint. In shape they are broad ovals.
One hundred eggs average 21.9 x 17.1 mm.: maxima 25.0 X 18.5 mm.; minima 18.1 x 15.3 mm.
Habits. The Magpie-Robin is one of the most familiar birds all over India ; every garden, every cluster of village-huts and every patch of cultivation has its pair. Daily it will be seen hunting about for insects undisturbed by the presence of man, now singing its beautiful song perched on the top of a post in a fence, anon flitting from one to another, sitting for a few minutes on each whilst it expands its tail into a fan and jerks it up until it nearly meets its head. Then perhaps it will fly to a branch in a tree, high up, and again burst into song. It is one of our best songsters and sings almost through the entire year and morning, noon or evening are greeted alike.