CHELIDON NIPALENSIS (Moore).
Delichon nipalensis, Hodgs. Icon. ined. Brit. Mus., App. pl. xiv. (no. 963) ; Moore, P. Z. S. 1854 p. 104 pl. lxiii. ; Horsf. & Moore, Cat. B. E. I. Co. Mus. i. p. 381 (1851) ; Swinh. Ibis, 1863, p. 90 ; Gould, B. Asia, i. pl. 31 (1868) ; Hume, Str. F. 1879, p. 84 1888, p. 29.
Chelidon nipalensis, Jerd. B. Ind. i. p. 168 (1862) ; Gray, Hand-l. B. i. p. 74 no 885 (1869) ; Blanf. J. A. S. Beng. xli. p. 156 (1872) ; Dresser, B. Eur. iii. p. 499 (1875) ; Godwin-Austen, J. A. S. B. xlv. pt. 2, pp. 68, 193 (1876) ; Sharpe, Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. x. p. 95 (1885).
Hirundo nipalensis, Seebohm, Hist. Brit. B. iii. p. 179 (1883).
C. cauda quadrata : subcaudalibus nigris.
Hab. in subregione Himalayensi usque ad provinciam Manipurensem.
Adult male. General colour above glossy blue-black, with a slight mottling on the hind neck and mantle, produced by the white bases to the feathers showing through ; wing-coverts glossy blue-black like the baek, the primary-coverts and quills black, washed with glossy blue-black on the edges ; rump white, the lower feathers barred with black tips ; upper tail-coverts glossy blue-black, the basal ones white, tipped broadly with blue-black ; tail-feathers black glossed with steel-blue ; lores, feathers round the eye, and chin velvety black ; checks, ear-coverts, and throat glossy blue-black; remainder of under surface from lower throat downwards white, the feathers on the former part slightly mottled with blackish bases ; flanks slightly washed with smoky brown; sides of upper breast blue-black; thigh s and tarsal plumes white; under tail-coverts glossy blue-black ; under wing-coverts and axillaries blackish, glossed with blue-black ; quills dusky below, paler along edge of inner web. Total length 4.2 inches, culmen 0.25, wing 3.6, tail 1.4, tarsus 0.45.
Adult female. Similar in colour to the male. Total length 4 inches, culmen 0.3, wing 3.45, tail 1.35, tarsus 0.45.
The series of specimens in the Hume collection in the British Museum exhibits considerable difference as regards the colour of the throat and the amount of barring on the rump. Some birds have a black throat, and some have the throat white, and we have not been able to satisfy ourselves that these differences in the colour of the throat depend on the season of the year; for the British Museum possesses specimens procured in January, April, July, and from August to December, in none of which can we discover any sign of variation between specimens killed in winter and summer. The nesting-season improbably the same as that of the more northern Martins, and the moulting-time (as shown by the Hume specimens) is in August and September ; but we are yet uncertain as to the plumage of the young. Those which seem to us to be immature are much duller in colour than the adults, have scarcely any bars on the rump, and have whiter throats. The blacker throats are probably signs of the older birds ; but the changes of plumage in the species are at present not at all understood, and there are apparently no marked signs of young plumage, as in the other Martins, where the white-edged secondaries proclaim the imma¬turity of the specimen at a glance. Some specimens of C. nipalensis have a brownish shade on the sides of the body, but we have not been able to decide that this is a sign of immaturity.
Hab. The Himalayas from Naini Tal to Sikhim, and thence to the Naga and Dafla hills, and the hills of Manipur.
In describing the present species Mr. Moore proposed the generic name of Delichon, an anagrammatic rendering of Chelidon, for its reception. As Dacelo is an accepted genus of Kingfishers, although formed from the component letters of Alcedo, there is no reason why Delichon, which has a fine classical Grecian aspect, should not be employed, as it is of course open to any one, hard up for a new generic name, to throw the letters of Alcedo or Chelidon into the air, and then walk round them till a presentable combination becomes visible. We do not of course suggest that an excellent ornithologist like Mr. Moore adopted this plan ; but we have been credibly informed that it was in this way that the name Dacelo was called into existence. Our reasons for not adopting Delichon are simply that the genus would rest on a square form of the tail for its separation from Chelidon ; and as the shape of this tail varies in each species of Martin, we do not feel it possible to separate the Nipalese species. When the nesting-habits of C. nipalensis are brought to light there may be found some reasons for modifying our opinion ; but from the facts known at present, we do not see any necessity for separating the Hima¬layan Martin from the other members of the genus Chelidon.
The species was discovered by Mr. Hodgson in Nepal during the later years of his residence in that country, and it does not figure in his earlier lists. No notes on its capture are preserved in the MSS. which he presented to the Zoological Society, and his first specimens were given to the India Museum in 1854. Dr. Scully does not seem to have met with it in Nepal.
The most westerly locality whence we have seen specimens has been Naini Tal, from which place there are three good skins in the British Museum : the collector is unknown, but the specimens have evidently been procured by a painstaking naturalist, as they have the sexes very carefully marked. They are labelled “ Naini Tal, 8000 feet, April and July ; common. Large flights beating along the hill-sides.”
The series of specimens in the Hume collection from Native Sikhim and Sikhim were all obtained by the late Mr. Mandelli, in August and September, and from Novem¬ber to January. Mr. H. J. Elwes procured a specimen in Sikhim in October, so that it must be resident in that part of the Himalayas from August to January. Jerdon found it at Darjiling at about 4500 feet of elevation, in the valley of Rungnoo, near the mineral springs. It was flying over the jungles in large flocks, towards the close of the rains and during the cold weather. Mr. Wyatt visited the Runjeet valley in the Hima¬layas about the middle of March, but did not see anything of this species. Major Bingham informs him that it was too early in the season. Mr. W. T. Blanford found this Martin tolerably common in the Tista valley, between Chungtan and Tamlung, often hunting in company with Collocalia nidifica. None were seen above about 5000 feet elevation.
Mr. Hume has given the following account of the species in Manipur, and he has also summarized the records of Colonel Godwin-Austen. Unfortunately the Manipur specimen procured by Mr. Hume was no longer in his collection when transferred to England, having been eaten by a rat.
“I only once procured or saw this in Manipur, and that was near Tankul-Hoon-doong in the eastern hills, where, on a peak about 6000 feet high, a small flock suddenly appeared about us, hawking at a tremendous pace, and equally suddenly disappeared, giving me only time to drop a single bird, a male, which measured :—Length 4.4 ; expanse 10.2 ; tail 1.8 ; wing 3.65 ; tarsus 0.45 ; bill from gape 0.4 : weight 0.45 oz. Bill brown, paler at gape ; irides (shot out) ? brown ; tarsi and toes fully feathered ; soles fleshy ; claws whity-brown.
“According to the Tankuls who were with me, small flights of the species are occasionally seen in this locality, but are more common in the hills further north. At the same time I am very doubtful whether they really distinguish between this species and Cotyle riparia and C. sinensis ; flights of the former of which at any rate do. at times, as already recorded, appear high up on the eastern hills.
“I have never received this from any other part of Assam myself, but Godwin-Austen records it in his fifth list from Koonchungbhum, in his Dafla hill list from above Doripu, and again from the Eastern Naga Hills. So far as we know, it docs not extend to Burmah, and Tankul-Hoondoong is the most southern locality at which it has been obtained.”
The descriptions have been taken from the specimens in the British Museum. The Plate represents the Runjeet valley and the snows of Sikhim. The highest mountain is ‘Kanchinjinga.’
CHELIDON NIPALENSIS (Moore).