(521) Enicurus leschenaulti indicus Hart.
THE INDIAN BLACK-BREASTED FORKTAIL.
Enicurus leschenaulti leschenaulti, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 62.
This fine Forktail occurs in the Himalayan foot-hills from Sikkim to Eastern Assam and practically throughout all Burma as far South as Tenasserim and as far East as the Kachin and Bhamo Hills. It is a bird of the plains and foot-hills so far as the streams are clear and swiftly running, with rapids, falls and shingly bottoms. Its highest elevations for breeding purposes cannot be much over 1,000 feet and it is almost confined to the dense humid forests between this elevation and the rough country at their feet. In Winter we found it on quite big streams in the plains but I know of no instance of it breeding on these.
In the breeding season it is more exclusively a bird of the dense forest than any of the other Forktails and builds its nest less often on the banks of the bigger forest-streams. Coltart took most of his nests from ravines running through dense tropical forest, always soaking wet and covered with rank, coarse vegetation, especially ferns and palm-ferns. Here the nests were placed On high steep banks, sometimes rocky, sometimes not, among the roots of palm-ferns or other trees. Holes in trees and in rocks, or snug retreats between boulders were not nearly so consistently chosen as with other Forktails, although, of course, these were selected occasionally. My own experience of the bird was the same in North Cachar and the other hill-ranges in the Surrma Valley, though it was not nearly so common a breeding bird there as in Lakhimpur.
The breeding season is from early April to the end of May, a few birds breeding in June.
The nest is the usual typical Forktail’s nest, made almost entirely of green moss and lined with skeleton leaves. It is a larger, more bulky nest than that of any other species and differs also in being mixed to some extent with dead leaves, roots and fibre, more especially in the base and lower portions of the walls. In a few nests the base is composed chiefly of dead leaves and rests on these without any intervening moss. Sometimes, also, the lining is of roots and other fibrous materials without the superimposed lining of skeleton leaves. One found by Cook near Thandoung “was built into a mossy bank, and the exterior of the nest being composed of moss, it was difficult to distinguish from its surroundings. It was lined with fine grass and fern-stems.” Owing to the wet positions in which it is generally built, the nests are soaked through except for the skeleton-leaf lining, which keeps out the damp in an extra¬ordinary manner ; some of these wet nests will weight nearly two pounds though, when dried, they do not weigh more than three or four ounces. Two nests taken by Dr. Coltart and myself in the Margherita forests each weighed almost exactly two pounds, the walls and base being so wet that the water could have been squeezed out of them. They were built between boulders over which water trickled all through the rains and, although projections prevented the water falling into the nest, each little splash sent drops against the walls.
The outer measurements of the top of the nest are, roughly, about 4.1/2 inches but the base may be two or three inches more than this, according to the position in which it happens to be placed. The moss, as well as the other materials, when used, are well compacted together and the fine inner lining of roots, rachides etc. is closely and thoroughly interwoven so that the skeleton leaves lie flat and very neatly. The inner cup is generally rather less than three inches across, varying in depth from one to three inches, but in most nests it is over two.
The full clutch of eggs is four, or sometimes three, in Assam, though in Burma the few nests taken have only had two or three eggs or young birds.
The typical eggs of this species are much deeper in colour than those of any other species of Enicurus. The ground-colour varies from a pale cream to a deep rich buff and the markings consist of specks and freckles of brick-red or brownish-red scattered thickly over the whole surface, with numerous secondary specks of lavender In some eggs the specks become small blotches and in these they are generally less numerous and show more of the ground-colour. Occasionally the marks are more faint and cloudy, making the eggs look an almost uniform buffy brick-red. From this type, which includes about three clutches out of four, they grade into others similar to the normal type of egg of the Spotted Forktail group.
In shape the eggs are long and, often, pointed ovals, and the texture seems rather harder and closer than in any of the eggs of the other Forktails, whilst often there is a faint but distinct gloss noticeable in the buff eggs, though none in those of the E. maculatus type.
Forty eggs average 24.6 x 17.7 mm. : maxima 26.1 x 17.4 and 25.7 x 18.9 mm. ; minima 23.6 x 17.5 and 24.7 x 17.0 mm.
521. Enicurus leschenaulti indicus
(521) Enicurus leschenaulti indicus Hart.