(525) Microcichla scouleri scouleri.
The Little Forktail.
Enicurus scouleri Vigors, P. Z S , 1831, p. 174 (Himalayas, Simla). Microcichla scouleri. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 88.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead white, rump white with a broad band of black across it; upper tail-coverts white ; wings black with a broad white baud formed by the tips of the greater coverts and the bases of the secondaries; oases of primaries and edges of outer webs of secondaries white ; below from lower breast to under tail-coverts white, marked on the flanks and breast with blackish ; central tail-feathers black with white bases, lateral pairs more and more white until the outermost pair has only a small patch of dark brown or black at the tip; remainder of plumage black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or black ; bill black; legs and feet white or fleshy-white.
Measurements. Total length about 125 mm.; wing 73 to 79 mm.; tail 41 to 49 mm.; tarsus about 24 to 26 mm.; culmen 12 mm.
Young birds have the black replaced by dark brown; there is no white forehead and the underparts are white, the feathers of the breast and flanks fringed with brown.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Chitral and Gilgit to Eastern Assam, Hills of Northern Burma and Shan States.
Nidification. Breeds throughout its range between 3,500 ft. (Rattray) and 8,000 ft. (Dodsworth). The nest is made of moss lined with skeleton leaves but varies a good deal. Rattray describes it as loosely made and falling to pieces when handled, whilst Osmaston calls it a compact and massive little cup. The only nest I have seen was very well put together. This pretty little Forktail seems nearly always to place its nest actually under a waterfall, the one taken by myself being so close to the water that it was constantly wet from the mist of the spray. Three seems to be the full clutch. In appearance they are not unlike the spotted type of egg of Enicurus schistaceus but are nothing like the normal eggs of E. maculatus. Mr. P. Dodsworth took a pure white clutch but normally they are white sparingly speckled and spotted at the larger end with pale reddish or brown.
Fifteen eggs average 20.4 x 14.6 mm.: maxima 21.3 X15.1 and 20.3 x 15.3 mm.; minima 19.4 x 14..4 mm.
Habits. This little bird, in spite of its short tail, is a typical Forktail in every way, except that, perhaps, it moves vertically with the seasons more than do the species of the genus Enicurus. Stevens and Coltart both obtained it in Winter in the foot-hills of Assam whilst in Summer it is found up to 12,000 feet in Tibet and possibly breeds at this elevation.
It haunts the fastest and most turbulent of small hill-streams and the cessation of rapids and falls when the streams reach the plains also marks the limits of its excursions to the Plains. It is an active little bird both on land and in the water and spends more time actually under water than any of the other Forktails.