(34) Dendrocitta frontalis.
THE BLACK-BROWED TREE-PIE.
Dendrocitta frontalis McClell., P. Z. S., 1839, p. 163 (Assam) ; Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 38.
Vernacular names. Hamshi-bon (Lepcha); Kolio-Ko (Bhutea); Dao-ka-link gaschim (Cachari).
Description. Forehead, the greater part of the crown, sides of the head, chin, throat, fore neck, tail, wing-quills and the primary-coverts black; the remainder of the wing ash-grey ; nape, hind neck, upper back, sides of the neck, breast and upper abdomen pale grey; lower back, scapulars, rump, upper tail-coverts, lower abdomen, thighs and under tail-coverts chestuut, the thighs tinged with brown.
Colours of soft parts. Bill and legs black; irides red-brown, often very bright.
Measurements. Total length about 370 to 380 mm.; tail 245 to 255 mm.; wing 120 to 126 mm.; tarsus about 30 mm.; culmen about 25 mm.
Distribution. Himalayas from Eastern .Nepal to the extreme east and south of Assam into the higher hills of Manipur, but apparently not into Lushai or Chin Hills.
Nidification. This bird breeds freely in the N. Cachar, Khasia and Naga Hills east as far as Lakhimpur but it seems to be much rarer north of the Brahmaputra. I have not personally found it breeding much below 4,000 feet but the Nagas brought in nests and eggs to Dr. Coltart from much lower elevations in Lakhimpur. The nest is a small, neat replica of that of the Himalayan Tree-pie but is much more compact and well put together. They are often built quite low down in scrub-jungle, undergrowth and even in high weeds and small bushes. The breeding season lasts from the end of April into July.
The eggs also are similar to those of the last bird but are more handsome and nearly always much more profusely marked. They measure about 27.0 x 19.9 mm.
Habits. The Black-browed Tree-pie is essentially a bird of heavy evergreen forest, though it affects the more open glades on the outskirts of these. It goes about in small parties of half-a-dozen or so, and has a very musical note rather like, yet easily distinguishable from, the call of its plains' cousins. Like these birds also it has many discordant notes, though it is not nearly as noisy a bird. It does not appear to be a regular egg and young-bird thief, but doubtless despises neither if fate throws them in its way. It eats fruits, seeds and insects but chiefly the last. It is common between 4,000 and 7,000 feet and descends in the winter still lower, coming into the plains themselves in Eastern Assam but not elsewhere.