(645) Muscicapula tricolor tricolor (Hodgs.).
THE WESTERN SLATY-BLUE FLYCATCHER.
Cyornis tricolor tricolor, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 219.
Muscicapula tricolor tricolor, ibid. vol. viii, p. 628.
The Western form of Slaty-blue Flycatcher is found from the Afghan Frontier, throughout Kashmir and the Outer Himalayas, to the extreme East of Assam, North of the Brahmapootra River. Birds in the Khasia Hills are rather intermediate, and in the ‘Fauna’ I referred them to this race but, after further examination, I consider it advisable to retain these birds with the Eastern form. Many species of birds in the Khasia Hills show a much greater affinity to birds North of the Brahmapootra than do those in the adjoining hills, an interesting fact accounted for by geologists, who show that this great river, which so often forms the dividing line between subspecies, at one time ran South and East of these hills, linking them with the Northern and separating them from the Southern races which inhabit the other ranges. Apparently the Khasia Hills birds have been long enough in the South to become very much darker than those in the North, yet not quite long enough to bring them to quite the same pitch of rich coloration as attained by most Southern birds.
This is one of the common birds of Kashmir and everyone who has worked that State has found many of its nests, It breeds from 4,000 to 10,000 feet but, generally, between 6,000 and 9,000 feet. In Garhwal Whymper found it breeding at 9,000 feet and Whitehead obtained it at Torhana, in the Khagan Valley, at 9,500 feet. In the Simla States it breeds at lower elevation, Dodsworth and Jones getting nests between 6,000 and 7,500 feet. The highest elevation of which I have any record is 10,000 feet in the Chambi Valley.
This is a forest Flycatcher, breeding in almost any kind of forest which is fairly dense. Osmaston says that “it is a very common bird in the silver fir forests of Kashmir, breeding from about 8,000 to 10,000 ft. in June and July,” and it seems to prefer coniferous woods to others.
MUSCICAPULA TRICOLOR TRICOLOR. The Western Slaty-blue Flycatcher.
(Pahlgam, Kashmir, 7,400 ft., 1.6.32.)
Both Brooks and Cock took many nests in Kashmir which they sent to Hume, who thus describes them (‘Nests and Eggs,’ 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 3)—"The nests are massive little cups, with an external diameter of from 3.1/2 inches to nearly 4 inches and from 1.3/4 to 2.1/4 inches in height. The egg-cavity is comparatively small, not exceeding 2 inches in diameter and 1.1/4 inch in depth. The principal material of the nest is fine moss, but with this is inter¬mingled a quantity of fine wool and fur, a few cobwebs and, especially towards the base of the nest, tiny dry leaves, lichen, and fir-needles. There is no separate lining, but the interior of the egg-cavity has the moss and wool very compactly and smoothly woven together, so as to form a beautifully soft and even bed for the eggs to lie on. The nest is a neat little cup placed in a hollow in the side of a tree-trunk.”
There is little one can add to this beyond the fact that the nest is sometimes definitely lined with fur, wool and a few feathers.
The site chosen for the nest is, in five instances out of six, a natural hollow or crevice in the bark of a tree-trunk. Davidson says :— “The position of the nests varied ; most were in crevices in trees, but not so deeply in as in the case of Siphia, and we could generally get the eggs out without requiring an axe. The nest consisted of moss and hair and a few feathers ; they were generally low down, in only one case exceeding 10 feet, and that was only 18¬In two instances, however, we found nests of this bird placed against the trunks of trees.” Nests as high as 18 feet must be exceptional, for Ward says they usually build quite low down and Osmaston says “the nest is placed generally well within reach of the hand.”
Occasionally a nest may be found built on a horizontal branch, generally close to the trunk, and in such positions they only differ from the other nests in being well-finished cups all round instead of being more or less shapeless where they fit into the back of the hollow.
The breeding season is a short one, extending over May and June, and few complete nests will be found before the 10th May or after the 25th June. The birds are undoubtedly single brooded, though stolen or destroyed nests and eggs are often replaced by others.
The eggs in a full clutch number three or four, more often the latter, but I have never seen or heard of a clutch of five. The ground-colour varies from a pink so pale that it appears almost white to a rather warm creamy pink. Most eggs are minutely speckled with pinkish-red, so finely distributed that many eggs seem to be a uniform pale pink ; others have the marks denser at the larger end, where they form well-defined rings or caps. I have one set only in which the markings form definite blotches and these are practically all at the larger end, where they show up well against the almost white ground.
The texture is very fine and many of the eggs, especially those most unicoloured, have a strong gloss.
One hundred eggs average 15.8 x 12.1 mm. : maxima 17.1 x 12.0 and 15.1 x 12.9 mm. ; minima 14.9 x 12.0 and 15.3 x 11.8 mm.
Many males breed in juvenile or semi-mature dress, a character remarked on by Brooks, Davidson and others.
645. Muscicapula tricolor tricolor
(645) Muscicapula tricolor tricolor (Hodgs.).