(1183) Dendronanthus indicus.
The Forest Wagtail.
Motacilla indica Gmel., Syst. Nat., i, p. 962 (1789) (India). Limonidromus indicus. Blanf. & Gates, ii, p. 300.
Vernacular names. Uz~halla-jitta (Tel.); Gomarita (Cing.).
Description. Upper plumage, lesser wing-coverts and central tail-feathers olive-brown ; the longer tail-coverts darker blackish-brown ; the three pairs of tail-feathers next the centre blackish-brown, the next pair brown with a broad wedge-shaped white tip, outermost pair white except at the base of the inner web ; median and greater wing-coverts black with broad yellowish-white tips; quills dark brown, with a patch of yellowish-white on the centre of the outer webs and the second to the seventh with a second similar broad patch of yellowish-white at the base ; innermost secondaries olive on the outer webs, dark brown on the inner ; a narrow supercilium from the eye to the nape yellowish-white to pure white; lores, ear-coverts and sides of neck olive; a line down either side of the throat and fore-neck brown, meeting a bold black crescentic band across the breast; a second much broken band, sometimes represented by a few black spots only, on the lower breast; remainder of lower plumage white, more or less suffused with yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris black-brown ; bill horny-brown or dusky-brown above, fleshy-white below; legs and feet purplish-white to purplish-brown.
Measurements. Wing 77 to 81 mm.: tail 65 to 68 mm.; tarsus about 23 to 24 mm.; culmen about 13 to 14 mm.
Young birds appear to be more yellow below than adults, which in some cases are quite pure white.
Distribution. Breeding in Eastern Siberia, the hills of Northern China, Burma and Assam. In Winter South to India, West of a line drawn from the Sutlej Valley to the Gulf of Cam bay, Ceylon, the Indo-Chinese countries and Burma to Singapore, Java,, Sumatra and Borneo and South China.
Nidification. The only nests known of this Wagtail were taken in N. Cachar in May and in North-East Chihli in July. In all four instances they were made of grass, leaves, moss, roots and a few soft fine twigs, all bound and felted together with cobwebs and with the edges neatly finished off with the same material. The lining was hair over fine roots, in N. Cachar the hair being that of the Serow and Gayal, in China that of horse and cattle. All four nests were built on horizontal branches, the two found by myself being on branches of small trees growing in among the boulders on banks of streams in dense evergreen forests. Like the nests the eggs bear no resemblance to those of Wagtails but might easily be mistaken for those of Chaffinches. The groundcolour is blue-grey to almost pale slaty-grey and the marks consist of bold spots and small blotches of black or dark red with the edges, looking as if they had run, of paler red. The markings, with a few underlying ones of grey, are dotted irregularly over the whole surface. Maxima 20.9 x 15.1 and 20.3 x 15.3 mm.; minima 19.0 X14.7 mm.
Habits. This is almost entirely a forest bird, being found only in evergreen forest, where it haunts open glades, forest paths and riversides. Occasionally it occurs on the banks of rivers running through open but well-wooded country and Jerdon records having seen it in his own garden at Nellore. The birds are generally to be met with in pairs and when disturbed in forest roads they fly along in front of one, alighting every hundred yards or so and making little runs just like a Wagtail until, finally f i hey dive into the forest and return again to the open path behind the intruder. They are not shy birds and will allow a close approach, whether running about in stream or on path or perching, as they often do, on some low branch or high boulder. Their food consists of small slugs, snails, tiny worms and all kinds of insects and they pursue these latter into the air as well as snatching them off the blades of grass. Their movements are very quick and they keep up a constant wagging of their tails, hut the movement is lateral, not vertical as in the true Wagtails. Their flight is fairly swift and dipping, consisting of alternate rapid beating of the wings and sailing with them semi-closed. The note is a loud chirrup, frequently repeated when flying, running or perching.