311. Leioptila capistrata capistrata

(311) Leioptila capistrata capistrata (Vigors).
Leioptila capistrata capistrata, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 296.
Hartert designated Darjiling as the type-locality of this race, and, accepting this, the race ranges from Naini Tal all along the Outer Himalayas to the Dafla Hills, breeding at elevations between 5,000 and 9,000 feet, generally under 7,000 feet.
This is a bird of high tree-forest, both coniferous and otherwise, apparently preferring broken ground and ravines in high evergreen forest, with bush undergrowth, for it builds its nest both on high and small trees and on high bushes.
Marshall took its nest at Naini Tal on Agar Pata, at an elevation of about 7,000 feet. This nest was “a very compact and thick cup-shaped structure of moss, grass, and roots, lined with grass, and placed amongst the outer twigs of a blackberry bush over¬hanging a cliff. It was ready for the eggs on the 23rd May.”
From 1901 onwards Whymper took a series of nests and eggs ; the former he describes as deep, massive cups, of moss, grass and roots, sometimes built in a high bush, some 8 feet from the ground, and at other times placed in small trees about 20 feet up.
In Sikkim Gammie took two nests in the Chinchona reserves, at about 5,000 feet elevation, one in a branch of a tree about
15 feet above the ground and the other in a branch about 40 feet up. Both nests were “cup-shaped and very neatly made of moss, leaves and. fibres, and lined with black fibres. One measured externally 4.6 in diameter by 2.75 in height, and internally 2.4 in diameter and 1.7 in depth. The nests were in forest by the side of a stream.”
A nest, with eggs, sent me by Masson was quite similar in shape but had some tiny twigs mixed with the moss in the outer walls. Masson found this nest on a tree in very thick evergreen forest on a small oak at about 9,000 feet elevation, but Stevens took a nest at under 5,000 feet in the Rangbong Valley in Sikkim ; this latter was also in dense forest, in a tree about 30 feet up.
* I use this name provisionally for the Eastern race, but in 1839 (J. A. S. B. vol. viii) Hodgson describes the Nepal bird as Sibia nigriceps, which was relegated by later writers as a synonym of S. capistrata. Then Gray resus¬citated the name and, by inference, applied capistrata to the Western form. If nigriceps of Hodgson holds good, then pallida of Hartert would become a synonym of that name.
It breeds during April, May, June and July, laying two eggs or, less often, three.
The eggs are very striking and very distinctive. The ground¬colour is a pale bluish-grey and the surface is clouded, spotted and lined with various shades of brown. Hume describes these markings well. He says :—“ First there are usually a few large, irregular, moderately dark reddish-brown spots and splashes ; then there are a very few, very dark, reddish-brown hair-lines ; then there is a good deal of clouding and smudging here and there of pale dingy purplish or brownish red, and then, besides these, are a few pale purple specks and spots.” The spots and clouds are more numerous as a rule at the larger end but not in all eggs. As with so many of the Sibias, this bird also sometimes lays an erythristic type of egg ; in this the ground is a rather light creamy white and the markings are much redder.
Eggs intermediate between the normal blue-grey and the ery¬thristic eggs occur, but are certainly rare, most clutches belonging quite definitely to one or the other.
There is also an abnormal type, of which I have one pair, taken by Whymper at Naini Tal, which is exactly like the normal eggs of the Grey Sibia, having the ground pale blue-grey freckled all over with reddish.
In shape the eggs vary between broad very obtuse ovals and rather long fairly pointed ovals. The texture is smooth but there is no gloss.
Twenty-four eggs average 24.4 x 18.3 mm. : maxima 26.0 x 19.4 mm. ; minima 23.2 x 17.9 and 25.0 x 17.7 mm.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
311. Leioptila capistrata capistrata
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Black Headed Sibia
Heterophasia capistrata capistrata
Vol. 1

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