(663) Muscicapula magnirostris (Blyth).
THE LARGE-BILLED BLUE FLYCATCHER.
Cyornis magnirostris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 236.
Muscicapula magnirostris, ibid. vol. viii, p. 628.
The Large-billed Blue Flycatcher is found from Nepal to the hills of East and South Assam but seems to be everywhere a rare bird. It was least uncommon in the Khasia and Cachar Hills, where I found it breeding between 2,500 and 6,000 feet, generally above 4,000 feet. In Margherita, in Eastern Assam, it straggled down as low as 1,000 feet in Summer and all over the adjacent plains in Winter, though even there it was a rare bird.
Apparently the nests have only been taken by myself, except for one taken by Dr. H. N. Coltart, when out with me in Margherita.
There is not much I can add to my remarks made in ‘The Ibis’ for July 1896 ; there I say :—“The nidification of this bird very closely resembles that of C. rubeculoides and C. tickelli, differing only in a few minor respects, among which those most easily dis¬cerned are the following :—C. magnirostris makes a rather larger and deeper nest than does either of the Flycatchers above-mentioned and, again, it is less tidy ; secondly, the large-billed Flycatcher almost, if not quite, invariably places its nest actually on the ground, whereas the other two species build their nests, more often than not, in hollows in old stumps or in the tangles of creepers and plants which cover them.
“C. magnirostris is not common in North Cachar, but in late April or early May a few nests may generally be found in the lofty valleys to the East of the district. Here the bird generally selects some dark ravine, where it makes its nest of moss and moss-roots, lining it with the same, and placing it in some natural hollow among the plants upon a bank, or between the roots of a tree or, more rarely still, at the foot of some shrub. In whatever place it may be built, it is nearly always well hidden, and it would not be an easy nest to find were it not for the male bird’s habit of perching close to the nest and singing its cheerful little song with great persistence and energy. Once only have I taken the nest- from a hollow in a tree, and this one was found in a stump covered with a plant which looked like a Virginia Creeper, as well as with moss and lichen. This nest was not so bulky as most, measuring only about 5" across and about 2.5" in depth. The average nest would measure about 6" in diameter outwardly, but, of course, exact measurements can seldom be taken, the nest more or less conforming in shape to the hollow in which it is placed and, when such hollow is rather large, it is often a very massive structure. In these instances many leaves and other scraps of rubbish are used to fill in the sides, in addition to the moss of which the true nest is made. The egg- cavity is generally considerably over 2" across the top and the depth is often as much, seldom under 1.1/2".
“They breed principally in the end of April and early May, a few late pairs not having their eggs laid until the end of that month. They affect shady ravines and cool evergreen forests for breeding purposes. Like all the Blue Flycatchers, this bird is a very close sitter, but it is also a shy bird, and a nest once handled is sure to be deserted.”
In the Khasia Hills we found a few nests in June and one on the 2nd July but, I think, these were probably second broods when the first had come to grief. This late nest was also built in a rather unusual site, a hole in an old Rhododendron-stump about 2 feet from the ground.
The number of eggs laid is four or five, occasionally only three. They are quite typical of the genus, but unicoloured eggs are the exception, and the majority are quite obviously blotched eggs. The variation in colour is also greater, although I have not seen very many clutches. I have one clutch pale sea-green, or grey green, with small blotches of pale brown, more numerous at the larger end, where they form caps ; another set has a buff-stone ground richly marked with small chocolate-brown blotches, numerous everywhere and forming broad zones at the larger extremity ; a third clutch has two eggs normal pale olive-green with light reddish freckles, while a third egg is pale, with a big smudge of red at the larger end, and the fourth is pure white, except for a similar red smudge.
Forty eggs average 19.1 x14.6 mm : maxima 20.4 x 14.6 and 20.1 x 15.2 mm. ; minima 17.1 x 14.1 and 18.0 x 13.5 mm.
663. Muscicapula magnirostris
(663) Muscicapula magnirostris (Blyth).