(756) Lalage sykesii.
The Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike,
Lalage sykesii Strickl, A. M. N. H., (1) xiii, p. 36 (1844) (Calcutta)-. Campophaga sykesi. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 493
Vernacular names. Jangli Kasya (Hind.); Chinna ahurayi (Tel.).
Description.— Adult male. "Whole head, neck, upper breast and upper back black; back, scapulars, lesser wing-coverts, rump and upper tail-coverts grey, the last paler; median and greater wing-coverts black broadly edged and tipped with grey; primary-coverts very narrowly edged with grey; quill-feathers black, the primaries narrowly, the secondaries broadly tipped and edged with greyish white ; a large patch of white on the bases of all but the first primary and on most of the secondaries; this vanes very greatly in extent and in some specimens is small and appears on the secondaries as a mottling only; central tail-feathers grey, outer feathers black with a white tip, increasing in width to the outermost; lower breast and flanks grey, paling to white on the abdomen, vent, under tail-coverts, wing-coverts and axillaries.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown to crimson; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 190 mm.; wing 98 to 110 mm. (Ceylon birds 92 to 101 mm. only) ; tail 62 to 70 mm.; tarsus about 21 mm.; culmen about 14 to 15 mm.
Female. Above grey, paler on the rump and upper tail-coverts which are faintly barred with black and fringed with very pale grey; wings and tail as in the male but dark brown instead of black and the former more marked with grey ; below from chin to vent often tinted with fulvous, barred throughout with black; centre of abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts white.
Young. Feathers of the upper plumage tipped pale and barred with black; below like the female but more closely barred and generally much more fulvous.
Distribution. Ceylon and the whole of India as far North as. Bengal on the East and Bombay on the West, a diagonal line from Bombay to Chota Nagpore representing its limits fairly correctly. It has been recorded from Assam, but in 30 years residence in that Province I never heard of its occurrence North of the Brahmaputra, though I obtained it thrice in 15 years in the Cachar District on the South.
Nidification. The Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike breeds in Ceylon during March and April and in South India and the Deccan from June to August. The nests are small replicas of those of L. m. melaschista measuring under 3 inches in diameter by 1 inch or less in depth. They are made of fine roots and slender twigs fastened together with cobwebs and placed in a fork of a tree some five to fifteen feet from the ground. In Ceylon the eggs seem to always number two but in India three is the normal clutch. They only differ from those of L. m. melaschista in size, thirty eggs averaging 22.2 x 16.1 mm. The extremes are 23.8 x 16.8, 22.8x 17.0 and 19.9x 15.1 mm.
Habits. This little Cuckoo-Shrike is far more a frequenter of open but well-wooded country than are any of the preceding birds of this genus. It is found round about villages and in cultivated tracts and, according to Davidson, is also common during the breeding-season in scrub-jungle and Anjan forest in the South of the Bombay Presidency. It is a silent bird but Blewitt says that in the breeding-season it constantly utters an attempt at a song, a mere repetition of one plaintive note. It seeks its insect-prey high up in tall trees, often descending to the smaller trees and bush-jungle, but never actually to the ground itself.