(758) Graucalus macei macei.
The Large Indian Cuckoo-Shrike.
Graucalus macei Less., Traite, p. 349 (1831) (Bengal); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 496.
Vernacular names. Kasya (Hind.); Kabasi (Beng.); Pedda akurai (Tel.).
Description.— Adult male. Lores, ear-coverts and cheeks black or dark blackish grey ; whole upper plumage grey, the rump and upper tail-coverts paler as a rule; wing-coverts like the back; primary-coverts black very narrowly edged with grey; quills black, the primaries narrowly, the secondaries broadly edged with grey; middle tail-feathers ashy-brown tipped paler, lateral tail-feathers black, tipped brownish white, the breadth increasing in extent outwardly and also edging the outer webs of the outermost feather; chin and throat like the back, paling gradually until the abdomen is very pale grey and the under tail-coverts pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown to blood-red or crimson in old males; eyelids plumbeous; bill black, the inside of the mouth flesh-colour; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 280 mm.; wing 151 to 173 mm., average 157 mm.; tail 92 to 128 mm.; tarsus about 25 mm.; culmen about 30 mm.
Female. Similar to the male, but with the eye-streak not so black a grey; the whole lower surface from the throat to the vent is narrowly barred grey and white and the upper tail-coverts are fringed with white, with very faint subterminal dark bars.
Measurements. Wing 149 to 166 mm.
Colours of soft parts. Iris always brown; otherwise as in the male.
Young. Like the female but barred from chin to vent with black and white; the marks on the upper tail-coverts and rump are more pronounced.
Nestling like the young, hut with the upper surface and wings tipped and margined with pale ferruginous.
Distribution. The whole of Continental India South of the Himalayas from Garhwal to West Assam, excluding the country at their bases. In the North-West this race wanders into the Himalayas to some height, possibly 4,000 feet or more. The Eastern Bengal bird is very large and must be included in the next race, as must those from Northern Behar. It extends South to Travancore.
Nidification. The Large Cuckoo-Shrike builds a nest very like that of the genus Lalage though larger but it is nearly always placed in an outermost branch of a lofty tree—often it is quite conspicuous and even more inaccessible. The eggs, which number two or three, have almost invariably to be taken out with a small butterfly-net or some similar contrivance. When fresh the eggs are green in ground-colour, varying from very pale to rather deep olive-green or grey-green but they speedily lose their green tint unless kept very carefully from the light and then, become buff or yellow-tan, the colour of some eggs even when fresh. The markings consist of bold but rather scanty blotches of dark brown with more numerous secondary markings of pale inky-purple. In some eggs the markings are smaller, more numerous and paler. Twenty-two eggs average 31.0 x 22.4 mm.: maxima 33.2 X 23.2 mm.; minima 28.8 X 22.5 and 30.2 x 21.3 mm.
Habits. This Shrike is found in flocks of four or five in the Winter, sometimes two families joining forces. They are noisy birds and, as they fly one after another from tree to tree, utter constantly a very harsh grating dissyllabic call. They are not active birds either when feeding or when on the wing, though they will sometimes go through contortions when flying rather similar to those indulged in by the Rollers. They hunt almost entirely on the higher trees and feed principally on insects but also partly on seeds and fruit, whilst birds in captivity will greedily eat plantains.