(179) Stactocichla merulina merulina.
THE SPOTTED-BREASTED LAUGHING-THRUSH.
Garrulax merulinus Blyth, J. A. S. B., xx, p. 521 (1851) (Manipur). Stactocichla merulina. Blanford & Oates, i, p. 104.
Vernacular names. Moh mepeh (Angami Naga).
Description. A narrow white streak above the ear-coverts ; forehead mottled with grey; remainder of upper plumage, exposed parts of wings and tail rufescent olive-brown ; chin, throat and breast yellowish buff, broadly streaked with oval black stripes ; centre of abdomen the same colour unstriped; flanks rufescent olive-brown ; under tail-coverts bright ochraceous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale yellowish or pinkish, brown in young birds ; legs and feet pale to dark brown, the soles paler and claws darker; bill dark horny-brown, black at tip and on culmen, greyish on lower mandible.
Measurements. Length about 260 to 270 mm.; wing 93 to 99 mm.; tail about 96 mm.; tarsus about 40 mm.; culmen about 24 mm.
Distribution. Hills South of the Brahmaputra South to Manipur and Lushai, East to Lakhimpur.
Nidification. Breeds above 3,500 feet from April to July, but. principally in the end of June, both in bamboo-jungle and in forest. In the former the nest is made almost entirely of bamboo leaves, mixed with grass, moss, roots, etc., and lined with roots ; when placed in forest the major part of the materials is moss mixed with dead leaves, roots, tendrils, etc., and lined with moss and fern roots. In shape a hemispherical cup, it is generally placed close to the ground either in a bamboo clump or a dense bush, more seldom in a high bush or small sapling.
The eggs, two or three in number, are large replicas of those of Trochalopterum virgatum, a shade darker, perhaps, but of the same shape and texture. 50 eggs average 28.7 x 21.7 mm.
Habits. Although so aberrant in appearance, this is a true Laughing-Thrush in its habits; very gregarious, it is found in flocks of ten to twenty individuals; very noisy, it possesses a wide range of very beautiful notes as well as many others less pleasing ; a terrible skulker, it is one of the hardest birds to watch or procure.
In Manipur Hume found them frequenting secondary growth in deserted clearings, but in N. Cachar they preferred deep, wet forest with an undergrowth of bracken, caladiums, jasmine and raspberries, which grew in dense matted profusion everywhere. In bamboo-jungle they were easier to watch, and 1 often saw them hopping about feeding among the fallen leaves, but any movement drove them off at once and they took to wing and flew better than most of their nearest relations.