(518) Enicurus maculatus guttatus Gould.
THE EASTERN SPOTTED FORKTAIL.
Enicurus maculatus guttatus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 58.
The range of the Eastern form of Spotted Forktail extends from Sikkim, through Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra River, to the Shan States, Yunnan and Northern Siam. It is also the form found in Eastern Nepal, the two races probably meeting and merging into one another in the centre of that still little-known country.
In Sikkim Stevens gives the breeding limits as between 4,000 and 7,200 feet but it will probably be found breeding at much lower elevations than this and also somewhat higher. Gammie took many nests below Darjiling as low down as 2,000 feet, whilst another was taken at 5,000. In Assam it nests regularly down to 3,000 feet and casually as low as 2,000, whilst it is also a common breeder at 8,000 feet in the Naga Hills where there are suitable streams. In Cachar I found it frequently on the highest ridges of the Barail Range up to 6,000 feet.
It is essentially a forest bird, haunting the streams where they run through this but leaving them severely alone when they debouch into open grass-lands or cultivation. In such situations they will seldom be seen except when flitting up or down the streams as they pass from one forest to another.
Always they haunt either rivers and streams or the moist forest- paths, big-game tracks and similar open spaces. Their favourite nesting-sites are along these also. When on the streams the nests may be placed in between moss-covered boulders and rocks, in a hole or cleft of a rock just above the rushing water or ten or more feet above it. Less often it may be tucked away among the roots of a tree growing on the bank and, rarely, it may be placed in a convenient hollow under some steep or overhanging bank. When placed away from the stream itself it may be among the roots of a tree, or between boulders on a forest bank or beside some tiny spring which filters through the moss and rank vegetation of a ravine. Wet, however, the surroundings of the nest must always be, and rheumatism seems to have no terrors for this little bird. I have seen the nest built actually under a waterfall through which the parent birds had to dive to their home, and I have seen it placed under boulders and rocks over which ever ran a thin sheet of water, the drippings from which splashed the outside of the nest itself and sometimes even the quite unconcerned inhabitants.
A not very unusual site is upon some fallen tree lying more or less in the stream itself. Here it may be hidden in a crack or hole in the trunk or in among the debris caught between the boughs or among the smaller branches.
The nest itself is very beautiful and varies but little in size, shape or materials. In the very great majority of cases it is made of moss alone and lined with skeleton leaves. The moss chosen is always vividly green and fresh, keeping so long after it has been used and abandoned by the birds, yet never conspicuous, simply because it is made of the same moss as that growing in luxuriant patches all around it. I think the only nest I have ever seen which caught the eye at once was one built in a hole in a perfectly flat black rock-face and, even in this case, the non-expert bird-lover would probably have passed it by as a queer little tuft of moss. As a rule nothing is mixed with the nest moss except the roots of the same and the mud which clings to these, making the nest very heavy and solid. Occasionally the moss-roots seem to be made use of as an inner lining under the skeleton leaves but this is not frequent, and is much more characteristic of the Western form. Still more rarely the nest is made of moss-roots rather than moss and I have seen one nest made practically entirely of this material, including the lining. A few dead leaves may also sometimes be found in the base of the nest but, probably, these are usually leaves which have already been in the hollow before the nest was built.
The inner cup is almost hemispherical, measuring roughly about 3 x 1.1/2 inches or rather less, whilst the outer measurements are about an inch greater either way or conform to the shape of the hollow or crevice in which the nest is placed.
Gammie found nests that had, apparently, been occupied for two years, “for their walls were living masses of roots of neighbouring plants and green moss of one or more years’ growth.” I have never found nests occupied for more than one year, though I have frequently found old nests looking as green and fresh as when first built. The lining of these, however, was generally battered and disordered.
The birds breed from the middle of April to the end of June but I have had fresh eggs taken up to the last week in August, almost certainly a second brood.
Both birds take part in incubation and both assist in the con¬struction of the nest.
The eggs are three or four in number, generally the latter, and are just the same as those of the Western Spotted Forktail. It is noticeable, however, that the rich, buff type with dark red-brick spots and specks is more often met with in the eggs of the Eastern, than in those of the Western form.
Of exceptional varieties in my collection the following are worth notice. A clutch in which three eggs out of four appear to be a very pale olive-stone, immaculate unless very closely examined, whilst the fourth has a few dingy brown blotches and a faint lilac mottling. Another clutch has a pale green-grey ground, one egg having a few largish blotches of sienna brown, coalescing to form a small deep brown cap at the larger end ; another egg has the normal pale brown freckles, while the other two form links between the two extremes.
One hundred eggs average 24.9 x 17.3 mm. : maxima 26.3 x 18.1 and 25.9 x 18.2 mm. ; minima 23.5 x 16.5 and 25.8 x 16.0 mm.
The above figures show that the eggs of this bird are rather narrower ovals than those of the preceding bird.
518. EniCurus maeulatus guttatus
(518) Enicurus maculatus guttatus Gould.