(679) Culicicapa ceylonensis ceylonensis Swains.
THE CEYLON GREY-HEADED FLYCATCHER.
Culicicapa ceylonensis ceylonensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii,p. 254.
Owing to Ticehurst having separated the race found in the North-West of India under the name pallidior, the range of the present bird is not quite so extensive as given in the ‘ Fauna.’ It should, therefore, now read :—Ceylon, the whole of India, excluding Sind, the North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir and the North-West Himalayas from the Western frontier to Nepal and Sikkim. It is found from Assam throughout Northern and Central Burma and Northern Siam.
This little Flycatcher breeds almost entirely in forest, and is most partial to ravines in evergreen bush- and tree-jungle at all elevations between 3,000 feet and the highest peaks. Hume says that in the Wynaad it breeds above 3,500 feet and in the Nilgiris above 4,500, but it certainly breeds down to 3,000 feet in both, though, perhaps, not very often.
Although so common, no one has taken the trouble to record more than a few brief notes as to its favourite haunts. In Assam the two things necessary appeared to be deep shade and humidity. As a rule we found it well inside evergreen forest of lofty trees where the sun, if it came through at all, merely showed in tiny patches here and there, never strong enough to dry the reeking moss and fern-growth which covered every tree and outcrop of rock. Here the little birds flitted about, more like members of the Seicercus and Abroscopus genera than the true Flycatchers. Sometimes they would select a perch and hunt from it but, far more often, they would flit from one point to another, fluttering up and down in the air as much like a butterfly as a bird. Here, also, they made their beautiful little homes, fastening them to the sides or faces of rocks or to the trunks of the great forest-trees, covered, as a rule, with the same moss as that from which they fashioned their nests. These were invariably fastened to the rock or tree itself and not merely pendent or attached to the long moss. In shape small half cups or half inverted cones, they were made of moss and long moss-roots wonderfully matted and felted together into a very compact sub¬stance. The egg-cavity seldom measured as much as two inches in diameter by nearly as much in depth but the outer wall of the nest often ran down the side of a tree or rock for some inches, the moss wedged well into the crevices of the bark or rock so that a strong pull was required to detach the nest from its support. I have seen nests outwardly over 6 inches deep, although the diameter may not have been half this. Darling also speaks of nests built against tree-trunks in the Nilgiris measuring as much as 6 inches in depth and projecting 4 inches from their support. The lining is generally of the same material as the walls but Davison says that it is sometimes made of moss-roots. Outwardly lichen, both green and white, is often used for decorative purposes, especially when, as is sometimes the case, the nests are built on trees or rocks covered with lichen instead of moss. Cobwebs, it should be noted, are generally used, both to help in felting the material and in attaching the nest to the bark or rock-face.
The nests are often placed at great heights from the ground, sometimes as much as 30 or 40 feet, but more generally between 5 and 20 feet, while I have one nest taken from as low as 3 feet on a mossy trunk of a Rhododendron-tree.
The breeding season over the greater part of its area is April, May and June, but in Ceylon Phillips took a nest with three eggs on the 28th February.
A normal full clutch of eggs is three or four, the latter being the largest number ever laid in the South, though I have occasionally found five in Assam.
In ground-colour the eggs are of the palest creamy buff or grey, practically white, only very rarely with any one of these tints at all pronounced. The primary markings consist of blotches and specks of grey with secondary blotches of pale yellowish-grey. As a rule the marks are sparse over the whole surface, except in a dense ring round the larger end. In some eggs the zones are not quite so dense and the markings are more scattered. In one clutch of three in my series the blotches are few and very large, inter¬spersed with small specks ; in another set of three the blotches coalesce to form blackish-grey rings with an olive-yellow tint where the secondary markings show at the end of the ring. A third clutch of four has the ground really white and the freckles very faint and sparse.
In shape the eggs are short, broad ovals, the texture fine but very brittle, and the surface dull and glossless.
One hundred eggs average 15.1 x 12.0 mm. : maxima 17.6 x 12.3 and 16.0 x 12.9 mm. ; minima 13.9 x 11.8 and 14.8 x 11.4 mm.
679. Culicicapa ceylonensis ceylonensis
(679) Culicicapa ceylonensis ceylonensis Swains.