(2169) Capella solitaria.
THE EASTERN SOLITARY SNIPE.
Gallinago solitaria Hodgs., Gleanings in Science,' iii, No. 32,, p. 238 (1831) (Nepal) ; Blanf. & Gates, iv, p. 290.
Vernacular names. Bon Chaha (Hind.) ; Bharka (Nepal); Simpoo (Khasia) ; Daodidap gophu (Cachari) ; Boner kocha (Assamese).
Description. Crown black, spotted with rufous and with a narrow white median band, often much broken up with brown ; a broken supercilium narrowing behind the eye white, more or less mixed with brown ; loreal streak dark brown, more or less mixed with rufous; chin, sides of head and throat white, speckled with dark brown and rufous, the centre of the throat almost pure white; neck all round rufous-brown, much mixed with white below,, darker and less mixed with white above, but having also dark brown or black bars; back and scapulars black with numerous broken bars and spots of rufous, the scapulars with broad white outer edges, in some cases tinged with rufous; lower back deep brown with whitish tips and bars, rump with rufous spots; shorter tail-coverts dark brown with rufous bars and longer coverts almost uniform olive-brown, rayed darker and with white bars at the tips ; wing-coverts brown, speckled with rufous next the scapulars and elsewhere barred with rufous and black and tipped with white; the edge of the shoulder is also barred with white ; primaries dark brown, edged and tipped with white, the edges broadest on the outermost quill and almost disappearing on the innermost; secondaries dark brown, tipped white, with frecklings of rufous and black, which in the inner secondaries become regular bars throughout the whole length of the feathers ; median tail-feathers black, tipped whitish and with a narrow black and a broad subterminal band of rufous; outer tail-feathers irregularly barred black and white; breast brown, more or less speckled and spotted with white, which forms into broad bars where the breast and abdomen meet; abdomen white, faintly barred at the sides ; flanks, axillaries and under wing-coverts barred brown and white, the latter predominating; under tail-coverts white, sometimes practically unmarked, sometimes faintly barred with dusky brown and often with a faint rufous tinge.
Colours of soft parts. Irides dark brown ; bill greenish-plumbeous, darkest at the tip, where it is almost black, and yellowish at the base of the lower mandible; feet and legs pale yellowish-plumbeous, the soles yellow-ochre and claws horny-brown.
Measurements. Wing 153 to 169 mm.; tail 55 to 63 mm.; tarsus about 28 to 38 mm.; culmen 66.5 to 76.7 mm.; depth of bill at base 8 to 9 mm. " Weight 5 to 8 oz." (Hume).
Distribution. Prom the Altai Mountains East to Manchuria and Japan, South to the Himalayas and Chin Hills. In Winter it straggles South to Cachar, Sylhet, the districts East of the Bay of Bengal and along the foot-hills of the Himalayas ; one specimen was obtained near Benares (Guthrie) and a second near Devala in the Wynaad (Fletcher Hamilton). In Burma it is not very uncommon either in the Chin Hills or in the Bhamo District.
Nidification. Very little known although it breeds over so great an area. Mandelli obtained its eggs from Singalila Ridge above Darjiling at an altitude of about 9,000 feet. These eggs are of a very pink tinge unlike any other Snipes' eggs. The ground-colour is a pinky-buff with bold blotches of rich maroon, blackish-maroon and brown mixed with others of grey. All these have a rather spiral appearance, looking as if laid on as the eggs revolved. Eggs in my own collection taken in Turkestan and Krasnoyarsk have no pink tinge and are like ordinary Snipes' eggs except in being much larger but two clutches taken from the same ridge as those brought to Mandelli have the pink tinge strong. The largest and the smallest of the few eggs I have been able to measure are respectively 45.0 X 30.2 and 40.2 x 28.3 mm.: the average of ten is 43.4 x 29,9 mm.
Habits. These Snipes are far more like the Common Fantail Snipe in flight etc. than the Wood-Snipe. They keep much to open patches in thin reeds and jungle or to patches of wet grass on the borders of swamps, though they are also sometimes shot out of ravines and water-courses in forest. They rise, like the true Snipe, with a similar, but louder and harsher " pencil," get away with a twist, fly fast and far before dropping but are less wild and will often lie until almost trodden on. They feed on all kinds of insects, small freshwater mollusca and land-snails, coleoptera and caterpillars. For the table they are excellent and much like the Common Snipe in taste. In the breeding-season they drum and bleat over their breeding-haunts like the Fantail, being found at this season between 9,000 and 15,000 feet.