(753) Lalage melaschista melaschista.
The Dark Grey Cuckoo-Shrike.
Volvocivora melaschistos Hodgs., Ind. Rev., i, p. 328 (1837) (Nepal). Campophaga melanoschista. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 491.
Vernacular names. Kabasi (Beng.).
Description.— Adult male. Lores and feathers round the eye black; wings black ; tail black, the central tail-feathers immaculate or narrowly tipped with white and the lateral feathers with broader white tips. The remainder of the plumage dark bluish grey.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel to dark brown ; bill black; legs and feet dark slaty to almost black.
Measurements. Total length about 220 to 230 mm.; wing 114 to 123 ram.; tail 98 to 118 mm.; tarsus about 19 to 20 mm,; culmen about 17 mm.
Female similar in all respects to the male but rather paler. Many females retain traces of the juvenile barring on the underparts.
Young'. Paler grey below, barred from chin to under tail-coverts with dusky brown and each feather with a whitish fringe; tail-feathers cross-rayed with blackish and with the broad white tips more or less barred with brown ; the wing-coverts and quills are narrowly edged with white. In. a still younger stage the upper parts are faintly barred with darker and the ear-coverts are streaked with white; the inner webs of the primaries and outer secondaries are marked with white and the under wing-coverts barred black and white.
Nestling like the young, but the whole of the upper surface barred with black and white, or fulvous, and with the wing-coverts very broadly edged with buff or whitish.
Distribution. Himalayas, Muree to Eastern Assam both North and South of the Brahmaputra, Manipur, Lushai Hills, Tippera, Chittagong, the plains of India from latitude 16° northwards.
Nidification. The Dark Grey Cuckoo-Shrike breeds from May to July at all elevations up to about 7,500 feet and down to the foot-hills. The nest is a shallow frail-looking saucer of fine twigs, roots, etc., very compactly interlaced and strongly bound together with cobwebs. Sometimes there is no lining and sometimes a slight lining of grass-stems; outside there are always a few decorative scraps of lichen, moss or bark, and occasionally the whole nest is covered with these. It is generally placed in a horizontal fork or on the upper surface of a bough high up in a forest-tree. The eggs number two or three, and are pale green to pale grey-green in colour profusely marked with longitudinal blotches of brown with a few others underlying of neutral tint. Thirty eggs average 24.5 x 17.5 mm.: maxima 26.5 X 18*0 and 26-2 x 18 8 mm.; minima 225 x 17-0 and 23-0 x 163 mm.
Habits. This Cuckoo-Shrike is a Summer visitor to the hills, being found in Winter in the plains and in the foot-hills at about 2,000 feet, a few birds remaining as high as 4,000 feet. They are found both singly and in pairs and sometimes in small flocks during the Winter, frequenting well-wooded country, light forest and orchards, though in the breeding-season they keep entirely to forest. They are quiet birds and I have heard no song, but they call to one another with a single plaintive note and have also a few low and rather harsh conversational notes. Their food is entirely insectivorous and consists chiefly of soft food, such as caterpillars and soft-winged insects, which they hunt for in among the branches of low and moderate-sized trees. They never descend to the ground.