(1297) Dicaeum cruentatum cruentatum.
The Indian Scarlet-backed Flower-pecker.
Certhia cruentata Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed. i, p. 119 (1768) (Bengal, Calcutta). Dicaeum cruentatum. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 376 (part).
Vernacular names. Daomoji gajao (Cachari).
Description. - Male. Forehead, crown, back, rump and upper tail-coverts crimson-scarlet; tail black, with a blue sheen on the exposed parts; scapulars, lesser and median wing-coverts, edges of greater coverts and quills metallic blue-green; remaining parts of wing-feathers black; lores, supercilium, sides of head, neck and breast black ; flanks ashy ; chin, throat, breast, abdomen and under tail-coverts pale buff, varying a good deal in depth of colour; axillaries and under wing-coverts white. Occasionally a speck of red is visible on the throat.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; eyelids plumbeous;, bill, legs and feet black; the mouth in the female is flesh-coloured.
Measurements. Wing 46 to 51 mm.; tail 25 to 28 mm.: tarsus about 13 mm.; culmen 8 to 9 mm.
Female. Whole upper plumage dull fulvous olive-brown; in some specimens, probably very old birds, with a rufous wash;, rump and upper tail-coverts scarlet-crimson ; tail black, with a bluish tinge; wings dark brown, all the feathers edged fulvous-brown; lower plumage buff, washed with ashy-brown on the flanks and sides of the neck and breast; axillaries and under wing-coverts white.
Distribution. East Nepal to Eastern and Southern Assam ; East Bengal to Dacca, Chittagong and Tippera; Manipur, Lushai and Northern Chin Hills. How far East and South this form is found is uncertain.
Nidification. This little Flower-pecker breeds from early April to the middle of August-, but, though the season is so extended,. I do not think they have two broods. It breeds in the plains and up to about 4.000 or, perhaps, 4,500 feet, frequenting both the edges of evergreen-forest, open glades and cultivated lands and is especially partial to fruit orchards. The nest is a tiny egg-shaped affair of snow-white down, generally taken from the cotton-tree. ' This material is held together with cobwebs and is strengthened where attached to the supporting twig by fine strips of grass, thread-like roots and a reddish fibre. In the same way the rim of the entrance is wound about with the same materials, as otherwise it would be too delicate to stand the constant ingress and egress of the birds. The nest may be anything between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 inches high by 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches wide and may be fixed to any kind of branch between 5 and 50 feet from the ground, bur it is always attached to the end or close to it. The eggs number two or three and once Coltart found four. They are white and quite spotless but, when first laid, have a grey "tinge which at once separates them from Munia's eggs, for which, otherwise, they, might easily be mistaken. This grey tint fades in a few years and they then become a dead-white. Forty eggs average 14.0 x 10.3 mm.: maxima 15.3 x 11.1 mm.; minima 13.1 X 10.2 and 13.3 x 10.0 mm.
Habits. The Flower-peckers of this genus are all more or less arboreal in their habits, generally frequenting very high trees and keeping much to the tops even of these. They do, however, often come down to scrub- and low bush-jungle when food is plentiful in such places and I have even seen them in tall grass. Favourite hunting-grounds are the masses of parasitic plants, looking like bunches of mistletoe, high up in the branches of tall trees. Here they hunt about for the small insects which form their main food-supply, varied with small berries and seeds, especially those of the latter which are enclosed in jelly-like substances. They are not gregarious, though sometimes a couple of pairs may be seen together and, when first hatched, the young keep with the parents for some weeks. They utter a constant twittering when feeding and also have a shrill chirp, employed when the birds get separated. Their flight is extremely swift and powerful for so tiny a bird but I have never seen them hover before flowers when feeding.