(668) Eumyias albicaudata (Jerdon).
THE NILGIRI VERDITER FLYCATCHER.
Stoparola albicaudata, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 242.
Eumyias albicaudata, ibid. vol. viii, p. 630.
The Nilgiri Verditer Flycatcher breeds in all the hill-ranges of South-Western India from the Nilgiris to South Travancore, and I have records of its occurrence and breeding in the Palni Hills, the Wynaad, Palghat and Southern Malabar.
They breed from 3,000 feet to almost the tops of the hills but, most often, between 4,000 and 6,000 feet.
They are the most familiar of all the Verditer Flycatchers in their habits, and frequent gardens, parks and the surroundings of villages, as well as breeding in the well-wooded bottoms of valleys, called sholas, in the Nilgiris.
The most charming account of this bird’s nesting may be found in Bates’s book ‘Bird-Life in India,’ p. 68, but it is, unfortunately, too long to quote. Bates describes instances of the extraordinary tameness of the female on her nest when being photographed in a very dark shola.
Normally they breed in holes in banks or in dead trees, either by roadsides or in the sholas, but they are said also often to nest in buildings. Miss Cockburn records that in Ooty she “had the pleasure of finding three of the Blue Flycatchers’ nests. The first one was built in a bower (not far from our house), the walls of which, being of stone, and having many little holes, a pair of these birds had chosen a snug one to hatch their young in. The other two nests were in holes in the banks of roads.”
Davison says that, though generally they breed in holes in banks, he has found nests placed under the eaves of houses, while Dar¬ling, jun., refers to even more curious nesting-sites. He writes that they nest “in banks, trees and rocks at any convenient height from the ground, sometimes as high as 30 feet. I have found two neats in bridges between the planking and beams and two under the eaves of houses.” Williams, again, obtained a nest at Wellington, where the bird is extremely common, “placed on an iron strut of a bridge, over a hill-stream in the angle formed by the strut and buttress.”
The nest seems to be made invariably with green moss, while the lining is generally of fine roots or hair-like fibres. Both Carter and Williams mention feathers as being sometimes used and, in Wellington, Williams took several nests in which quite a number of feathers had been incorporated in the lining. Most nests are neat soft pads of moss, with quite a small egg-cavity, about 2 inches across and 1 inch deep, placed well back in the hollow. Sometimes, however, when the hole is a large one, the birds collect a great mass of moss, perhaps with a few leaves, roots and twigs added, with which they fill it up. One nest, taken by Williams from a hole in an overhanging bank, had a moss-pad measuring a foot across by several inches in depth. Concealment seems to vary according to taste ; some birds hide their nests in holes in trees and banks, well overgrown with moss, ferns or other vegetation, while others, again, build them in holes, the mouths of which are visible to every passer by.
In the Nilgiris they lay from March to May and in the Palnis as late as the first half of June. In Wellington, however, few birds breed after April.
The normal clutch of eggs is two or three, perhaps more often the latter, and no one, except Miss Cockburn, ever found four. This lady, on the other hand, says “they always lay four eggs.”
Individual eggs could not possibly be distinguished from the eggs of the Northern Indian Verditer Flycatcher but, taken as a series, they average a rather deeper, warmer salmon-pink. I have one pair of pure white eggs, taken by H. R. Baker in the Nilgiris, and a very handsome single egg, obtained by Howard Campbell, which has a pinkish-white ground with a dense ring of deep reddish- brown, or blood-red, blotches at the larger end.
Sixty eggs average 19.9 x 14.8 mm. : maxima 22.0 x 15.5 and 20.5 x 16.0 mm. ; minima 18.4 x 15.0 and 18.8 x 14.0 mm.
This is one of the very common birds, very easy to watch and observe, of which we want to know much more. I can find no observations as to which sex incubates the eggs, feeds the young or constructs the nest, nor do we yet know what is the period of incubation.
668. Eumyias albicaudata
(668) Eumyias albicaudata (Jerdon).