(232) Gampsorhynchus rufulus rufulus.
THE WHITE-HEADED SHRIKE-BABBLER.
Gampsorhynchus rufulus Blyth, J. A. S. B., xiii, p. 371 (1844) (Darjiling); Blanf. & Oates, £ p. 135.
Vernacular names. Chongto-phep-pho (Lepcha); Daophantutiba (Cachari).
Description. The whole head, neck and breast white; rictal bristles black and white in front, pure white behind; upper plumage, tail and wings golden brown; lower and median coverts and edge of wing white; quills dark brown; tail edged interiorly and tipped with yellowish buff; lower plumage pale fulvous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale lemon-white to deep golden yellow; bill pale fleshy-horny, darker at base and on culmen; legs reddish brown.
Measurements. Total length about 250 to 260 mm.; wing 90 to 100.mm.; tail 110 to 120 mm.; tarsus about 26 to 28 mm.; culmen about 20 to 21 mm.
The young bird has the white of the head and breast replaced with light chestnut, the fulvous of the abdomen extending on to the lower breast; there is no white on the wing and the upper parts are more rufous.
The adult plumage probably takes two years for completion, as the male has been found breeding in semi-mature dress.
Distribution. The lower hills of Sikkim and Bhutan, Assam North and South of the Brahmaputra, Chin Hills and Arrakan.
Nidification. Breeds in forest, making a shallow cup-shaped nest of dead leaves, a scrap or two of moss, one or two tiny twigs, all carelessly and untidily bound together with cobwebs and lined with fine roots and tendrils. The whole structure reminds one more of a Cuckoo-Shrike's nest rather than that of a Babbler. One found by myself was built in a small fork of a straggly bush, quite unconcealed and easily reached by hand. It contained four eggs with a pale yellowish ground-colour well covered with freckles, specks and blotches of reddish brown, numerous everywhere but more so at the larger end. They were much like large, dully coloured and brown eggs of Copsychus. They measured 23.1 X 17.1 mm., and were taken, very hard-set, on the 9th August.
Habits. This curious Babbler is found during the cold weather principally between 1,000 and 2,500 feet, frequenting bamboo-, bush- and grass-jungle and, less often, secondary growth. In the breeding season it is found nearly up to 4,000 feet, and then deserts the lighter form of cover for the densest and dampest forests. It is like the birds of the genera Garrulax and Trochalopterum in being very gregarious and very noisy, but, unlike them, keeps entirely to trees and bamboos and never works on the ground for its food. They are intensely curious and by no means shy, and will allow close observation without resentment. They fly fairly well and are much more active on the wing than most of the Timaliidae.