(1311) Piprisoma squalidum squalidum.
The Thick-billed Flower-pecker.
Pipra squalida Burton, P. Z. S.; 1836, p. 113 (Himalayas). Piprisoma squalidum. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 382.
Vernacular names. Chittu-jitta (Tel.).
Description. Upper plumage ashy olive-brown ; greener on the rump and upper tail-coverts ; tail brown tipped with white, very narrowly on the central feathers, increasingly broadly on the lateral feathers ; wing-feathers brown edged with greenish-brown; a faint moustachial streak brown; lores, cheeks, chin and throat white ; remainder of lower plumage very pale dull ashy yellowish-white, faintly streaked with brownish.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light brick-red ; bill pale plumbeous-horny ; legs dusky-plumbeous.
Measurements. Wing 59 to 62 mm.; tail 29 to 32 mm.; tarsus about 11 to 12 mm.; culmen about 6 to 7 mm.
Distribution. Practically the whole of India from the foot-hills of the Himalayas to Ceylon. East it occurs as far as Calcutta, Dacca and Mymensingh but not in Assam.
Nidification. The Thick-billed Flower-pecker breeds throughout the plains up to about 6,000 feet, rarely up to 7,000 feet, from February to April in the plains and from April to June in the hills. The nest is a very remarkable one which can be mistaken for no other nest of any Indian bird. In shape it is a little bag, nearly as broad at the top as at the bottom, with an entrance close to the top about an inch in diameter. Roughly the nests measure about three inches long by about two broad and do not vary much in size. They are built of the down taken from young shoots and buds of plants such as Butea frondosa, the Indian Loranthi and the stems of bracken and ferns. These scraps of down are mixed with spiders' webs until they are of the consistency of felt so that the whole nest has the appearance of red-brown felt, rather thin near the top and over half an inch thick near the bottom. There is no lining but outside decorations in the shape of wee bits of bark, fibres,, chips of leaves and grass, caterpillar excretse etc. are often added, sometimes only one or two, sometimes a great many. So well is the nest made and so toughly are the materials woven that years after it is made it can be rolled up, stood upon and then, with a puff of breath through the entrance, restored to its original shape and elasticity. Hume says that rarely a different type of nest, more like that of the birds of the genus Dicaeum is built but such a nest must be very rare and I have never seen one. The nests are attached to bushes and trees at any height, between five and twenty-five feet, the site selected being generally in the open, often in gardens and fruit orchards, rarely in forests.
The eggs number two or three,, occasionally four. The groundcolour varies from a pinky white to a deep salmon-colour and the markings consist primarily of bright red-brown small blotches and freckles with secondary marks of lavender and pale purple-brown.. Most eggs have the markings numerous everywhere, but nowhere-thick enough to hide the ground and. nearly always more numerous at the larger end. In a few eggs the spots are sparse except at the larger end, where they form a deep well-defined ring. Seventy eggs average 15.9 x 11.5 mm.: maxima 17.1 X 12.0 and 16.6 x 12.1 mm.; minima 14.8 x 11.0 mm.
The texture of the eggs is soft and fragile with little or no-gloss.
Habits. The Thick-billed Flower-pecker is found all over the plains and up to about 6,000 feet in the hills and is resident wherever found. It frequents cultivated and open country as long as it is well wooded and is often found in gardens. In forest, it is only casual except on the very edges though it is fond of large mango orchards and similar small clumps of trees. In its attitudes, food, flight etc. it differs hut little from the other Flower-peckers, haunting lofty trees and feeding on nectar and seeds, berries and. insects. Its call is said to be like that of Dicaeum m. concolor but louder and shriller.