(657) Muscicapula rubeculoides rubeculoides * (Vigors).
THE INDIAN BLUE-THROATED FLYCATCHER.
Cyornis rubeculoides rebuculoides, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 231.
Muscicapula rubeculoides rubeculoides, ibid. vol. viii, p. 628.
The typical form of Blue-throated Flycatcher is found throughout the Lower Himalayas from Kashmir, Kuman, Garhwal and the Simla States to Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra, to the Chin Hills, Northern Chindwin and Yunnan.
The Flycatchers of this genus are nearly all frequenters of ever¬green forest, and the present bird keeps entirely to such forests between 2,500 and 6,000 feet, occasionally wandering as high as 8,000 feet. In Assam I only found it breeding in one valley as low as 2,500 feet. This particular valley was densely wooded with enormous trees and ample undergrowth, while down the centre there ran a beautiful little stream, sometimes racing head¬long over rocks and boulders and at others placidly meandering in deep pools over which the tropical vegetation hung in deep shade.
* With some hesitation I am following the lines I adopted in vol. viii of the ‘Fauna' in accepting Robinson’s and Kinnear’s views as regards the subspecific dividing of this group of Flycatchers. This means we have within Indian Empire limits :—
M. r. rubeculoides—Himalayas to Manipur, Chin Hills and Upper Chindwin.
M. r. rogersi—Arrakan Yomas and Lower Chindwin.
M, r, dialilcema—South Shan States to Thayetmyo.
M. r. glaucicomans—South Tenasserim and thence East to Hupeh.
In the latter reaches two or three pairs of these birds bred annually, making their nests in the mossy banks, or in between boulders where the sides were steep and rocky. Nowhere else in Assam have I known them breed under 3,000 feet, above which they may always be found in country similar to that described. Hopwood observed them breeding in the Chin Hills and in the Upper Chind¬win at 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Osmaston took a nest near Dehra Dun at about 3,000 feet or a little over, while Whymper found it to be a common breeding bird round Naini Tal at about 5,000 feet. Hutton records nests taken at the same height near Mussoorie and, finally, Cock took nests in Kashmir, where it is not a common bird, but does not record the elevation. The greatest height from which I have received nests and eggs was from Kohima, where Field took a nest with four eggs at “over 7,000 feet.”
The site of the nest varies considerably. The favourite position is undoubtedly a hollow in a mossy bank, or a hole in a rock on the banks of a stream or in a ravine in dense forest, while I have taken them from holes in dead stumps, crevices and holes in living trees and, once or twice, from among thick clumps of ferns and orchids growing on the trunks of moss-covered trees. One I found in a crevice in a Cachari temple completely screened by the creepers growing over it. I had been sitting up in the temple all night over the body of a man, killed by a tiger, and when daylight came I stepped down the side of the great rock, from which the temple had been carved, nearly putting my foot into the nest, from which the frightened little birds wildly dashed, just in time to escape destruction. Hopwood took two nests built in clefts in epiphytic Figs.
The nest never seems to vary at all. The outer materials are always green moss, with a few additions, not always present, of roots, small dead leaves, or a little lichen. The lining is nearly always of very fine moss- or fern-roots, the rhizomorph of lichen, or the finest of grass-roots. Very rarely hair is used, as in a nest found by Osmaston, but in some hundreds of nests I do not think I have seen three such linings.
In shape the nest generally conforms to that of the hollow in which it is built. The outer wall, which is usually flush with the opening and very seldom far in, is always well rounded off and finished, and in the few nests I have seen built in situations allowing of it, the whole nest has been neatly rounded and finished off in hemispherical cup-shape. The egg-cavity is generally about 2 inches in diameter by 1 inch or more in depth.
Hume describes the nests as being sometimes merely a small pad of roots placed in a hole in a tree, while one built in a hollow bamboo was a shallow saucer about 4 inches in diameter, composed of the fine stems of some pennated leaf, carefully curbed round, and one or two dead leaves.
They are early breeders but many birds have two broods, laying twice in the same nest or less often, making a new nest not far from the old one for the second family. This I know to be the case, though Hodgson says they are single brooded. Twice I have had pairs of these Flycatchers rear two broods in ravines not 200 yards from my bungalow garden. I have taken eggs from the 3rd April to the 4th August, but Mackenzie obtained three fresh eggs from a nest on the 27th March in the Chin Hills, where he and Hopwood found most birds breeding in April and early May. About Naini Tal Whymper found them to lay in May, June and July, while in Nepal Hodgson says that they lay in April, the young being ready to fly in June and July.
The normal full clutch is four, rarely five, and occasionally three only ; I have also one of six.
In colour, if looked at superficially, as a series, they appear to be unicoloured pale olive-brown eggs, some darker, some paler and some more strongly tinged with olive than others. If looked into carefully it is seen that the ground-colour in most is a pale olive or yellowish-stone, stippled over very closely with olive-brown or reddish olive-brown. In the minority of eggs the ground-colour is more in evidence and the spots and freckles less numerous except at the larger end, where they may coalesce to form ill-defined caps or rings. A few clutches have the eggs very pale yellow-stone colour, with freckles and tiny blotches of light reddish-brown, nearly always more numerous at the larger end than elsewhere. These eggs approach those of the genera Niltava and Eumyias.
Sixty eggs average 18.7 x 14.3 mm. : maxima 20.3 x 14.0 and 18.2 x 15.5 mm. ; minima 17.2 x 14.1 and 18.4 x 13.6 mm. Apigmy egg in the six-clutch referred to above measures only 13.8 x 11.4 mm.
Although this is a genus in which the male greatly Outshines the female in conspicuous beauty, the former takes a great share in the incubation and I have repeatedly caught him on the nest. Hodgson also says that both sexes hatch and rear the young. Perhaps the perfection with which the nest is always hidden permits of his sitting in safety. The eggs take eleven or twelve days to hatch, but I cannot be quite certain which.
657. Muscicapula rubeculoides rubeculoides
(657) Muscicapula rubeculoides rubeculoides * (Vigors).