(665) Stoparola melanops melanops.
The Verditer Flycatcher.
Muscicapa melanops Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 171 (Himalayas, now restricted to Sikkim). Stoparola melanops. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 28.
Vernacular names. Nil-kat-katia (Beng.); Sibyell-pho (Lepcha); Dao-tisha lili gadeba (Cachari).
Description.— Adult male. Lores to base of bill black, produced back under the eye; whole plumage verditer-blue, palest and brightest on forehead, sides of head, chin, throat, breast and upper tail-coverts ; concealed portions of wing-feathers and edge
of lateral tail-feathers brown, visible portions bright green-blue, still brighter and more blue on the outer edges; under tail-coverts edged with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel-brown; bill black, the corner of gape and mouth flesh-colour; legs, feet and claws black.
Measurements. Total length about 150 mm.; wing 79 to 89 mm.; tail 60 to 74 mm.; tarsus about 18 mm.; culmen about 11 mm.
Female. Generally similar to the male but much duller and greyer in tint; lores dull brown; chin and sides of throat mottled with brown and white.
Young birds are a grey-brown, more or less tinged with green; spotted above with small and below with large fulvous spots, the edges of the feathers being darker; on the head and nape the spots are often almost white.
Distribution. The whole Empire North of the Nilgiris and Travancore except Sind, the Andamans and Nicobars. In Burma it extends as far South as Tenasserim where it in replaced by the next race, birds from the extreme South of Burma being intermediate in size and in the extent of black on the forehead, lores and chin.
Nidification. The Verditer Flycatcher breeds throughout the Himalayas above 4,000 feet, Assam, the Burmese Hills, Yunnan, Shan States, Siam, Annam and Western China. It may also sometimes breed in the Hills of Southern India as Mr. Kinlock reports it as being extremely common in the Neliampathy Hills until March at comparatively low heights. It nests in April, May and early June, often having second broods in June and early July. The nest is cup-shaped, made principally of living green moss but sometimes mixed with tiny roots, scraps of bracken or grass, lichen, etc., the lining being always of the finest moss and fern-roots. It is most often placed among boulders on a mossy bank, in a crevice or niche in or between the stones or rocks, but it may also be built in holes in trees, walls or banks. The eggs number four almost invariably, very seldom three or five. In ground-colour they vary from almost pure white to a pale pink, generally profusely but minutely freckled or stippled with a darker shade of the same, a more pronounced ring circling the larger end. Two hundred eggs average 19.3 x 14.6 mm. and the extremes are : maxima 22.0 x 15.2 and 20.3 x 16.0 mm.; minima 17.0 x 14.0 and 19.0 x 13.8 mm.
Habits. In Summer this Flycatcher is found between 4,000 and 8,000 feet wandering up to 9,000 feet in the Himalayas and higher still in the Burmese and Chinese Hills. In winter it descends to the plains and spreads all over North and Central India, though it keeps more to the hilly and broken portions. It is very sociable and in the Khasia Hills I have often seen several pairs hunting quite amicably together for insects on some flowering shrub in my garden. It searches the leaves and twigs for insects in a very Tit-like manner in addition to the usual Ely-catcher sallies after those on the wing. It has a very sweet song uttered in the mornings and evenings and, as it is very confiding and tame, will often sing within a few feet of the watcher. It keeps much to cultivated country, thin forests and pine-woods and is seldom found far inside dense evergreen forest.