(1317) Pitta nepalensis.
The Blue-Naped Pitta.
Paludicola nepalensis Hodgs., J. A. S. B., vi, p. 103 (1837) (Nepal). Pitta nepalensis. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 389.
Vernacular names. Dao-bui yegashi (Cachari).
Description. - Male. Pore-bend, anterior crown, supercilium and feathers round the eye fulvous : posterior crown, nape and hind-neck bright blue shading into olive-brown, washed with grass-green, on the back, scapulars, rump and tail; wing-coverts like the back but less green and margined with fulvous ; quills brown edged with fulvous, innermost secondaries all fulvous with a faint green sheen; sides of the head, chin and throat rufous-fulvous, often whitish on the centre of the chin and throat; a concealed patch of black on each side of the neck; the remaining plumage rufous-fulvous, the feathers' of the fore-neck with black bases which sometimes show through.
The depth of colour of the lower plumage varies considerably and a few individuals have a beautiful fulvous-pink flush on the throat and foreneck".
Marly Assam and Manipur birds have black centres to the scapulars, feathers of the back, rump and the upper tail-coverts. On the other hand many are quite indistinguishable from birds of Nepal and Sikkim.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light to dark brown ; edges of eyelids dull flesh-colour; bill horny, gape purple, mouth dull flesh-colour legs fleshy-pink to dull reddish-slate; soles paler fleshy-pink, claws almost white. ,
Measurements. Wing 116 to 129 mm.; tail 61 to 68 mm. -r tarsus 51 to 59 mm.; culmen 22 to 26 mm.
Female. Similar to the male but green on the hind-neck instead of blue and the crown all rufous-fulvous ; below like the male, the colour of the throat varies individually rather than sexually.
The Nestling is dark brown above, each feather with a large-central patch of pale fulvous and blackish edges; below the whole plumage is very pale fulvous-pink, the feathers of the chin, throat, and fore-neck with obsolete dark edges and the remainder of the feathers with black bases and narrow black borders, the former showing everywhere but most boldly on the breast and flanks.
Distribution. The lower Himalayas from East Nepal to the extreme East and South of Assam; Manipur, Hill Tippera and Chittagong Hill Tracts in Eastern Bengal; Lushai and Chin Hills to North Arakan.
Nidification. The Blue-naped Pitta breeds from the foot-hills,, seldom under 1,500 feet, up to some 6,000 all along the outer Himalayas but it is most common between 2,000 and 3,500 feet.. The majority of eggs are laid in May and June but at the lower levels many nests are built in early April and I have taken fresh eggs up to the end of August, these probably being second broods. The nest is of two types. Ordinarily it is built on the ground in bamboo, scrub or thin secondary growth, more rarely in forest. In these cases the nest is composed almost entirely of bamboo-leaves, mixed with grass and a few roots and lined with the latter; in shape it is like a large Rugby football, the entrance close to the ground at one end and, often, it is more or less buried in fallen leaves and other debris. At other times it is placed in a clump of bamboos, a small sapling or on a platform of branches and rubbish on bushes. When thus placed it is built of a greater-variety of material, and twigs, roots and fern-fronds etc are all used to strengthen and keep together the bamboo-leaves and grass, though, wherever it may be, it is always so loosely put together that it falls to pieces when handled. The eggs number-three to seven, generally four or five. The ground is a hard glossy china-white and in most eggs the marks consist of sparse-spots and specks of deep purple-black with still fewer secondary marks of pale lavender. Some eggs have a few hair-lines and straggling blotches of the same colour, whilst a few have more numerous pale reddish blotches all over the surface. One hundred eggs average 29.5 x 23.4 mm.: maxima 32.6 x 24.4 and 31.2 x 25.6 mm.; minima 26.1 x 23.3 and 28.0 x 21.8 mm. As will be seen from the measurements the eggs are very broad ovals and the smaller ends hardly differ from the larger.
Habits. This handsome Pitta is resident throughout its range and may be found in almost any kind of forest or jungle but undoubtedly prefers either bamboo-jungle with little or no undergrowth or mixed bamboo- and scrub-jungle. It is especially fond of the dense secondary growth mixed with bamboos which at once springs up in hill-cultivation when deserted. Here it may "be heard quietly scratching about among the dry leaves, turning them over and over as it hunts for ants, small coleoptera and insects of all kinds. In addition to these it will eat almost any small moving object, worms, lizards and even young field-mice. It flies quite well and at some speed, but never for any distance, preferring progression on its feet by immense bounds, several feet long, repeated with extraordinary speed. When thus moving it looks like a mammal and many writers have likened it to a rat. The only note I have heard is a magnificent double whistle, uttered both on the ground and when on a tree and most often to be heard ringing out in the early mornings and late evenings. "When feeding in pairs, as they generally do, a very soft chuckle is made from time to time by either sex.