(378) Hypocolius ampelinus.
THE GREY HYPOCOLIUS.
Hypocolius ampelinus Bonap., Consp. Av., i, p. 336 (1850) (N.E. Africa); Blanf. & Oates, i, pf 250.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description.— Male. From the lores, through the eye widening to a broad band on the nape black; forehead, crown, chin, cheeks, throat, the middle of the abdomen, vent, thighs and under tail-coverts pinkish cream-colour; remainder of the body plumage, wing-coverts and inner secondaries drab-grey; winglet and primary-coverts blackish, shaded with ashy and partially margined with grey; primaries black, with broad white tips shaded with grey on the first two or three; outer secondaries black, broadly edged and tipped with ashy, the black diminishing in amount on the later quills and occupying only a portion of the inner web-tail drab-grey, broadly tipped black.
Colours of soft parts. Irides brown; bill black in the breeding season; flesh-coloured with a black tip in non-breeding season and in the young; legs, feet and claws flesh-colour.
Measurements. Length about 250 mm.; wing 100 to 110 mm.; tail about 115 mm.; tarsus about 23 mm.; culmen 15 to 16 mm.
Female. The upper plumage and the whole wing greyish isabelline, the quills shaded with brown interiorly and edged and tipped with light grey; the tail is merely brown towards the end and tipped paler; the lower plumage pinkish cream-colour, suffused with drab-grey across the breast; there is no black on head or nape.
Nestling. " A fortnight to three weeks old the first primary is almost entirely sooty, all the others being graded with the same" (Gumming).
Young male like the female but has the white wing-patch from the earliest stages of plumage.
Immature female has the secondaries tipped with white.
Distribution. Persia, working South in March to Bushire and a little later to Fao and other places on the shores of the Persian Gulf. A rare straggler down the Mekran coast and into Sind and Khelat. First recorded from North-East Africa.
Nidification. Breeds at Fao from the last few days of May to the end of July, making a cup-shaped nest of roots, palm fibre and grass, lined with grass, wool or hair. It is placed generally on a leaf of a date-palm at any height from 3 to 10 feet from the ground; it has also been found in cactus-hedges and, very rarely, in thorny bushes. The eggs number either four or five, occasionally only three, and are a dull white with pale grey blotches and spots of grey. The texture is fine and close but almost glossless and, in shape, they are fairly broad ovals with the smaller end distinctly compressed. The eggs measure about 26.2 x 18.7 mm.
According to Cumming " the male assists the female in building the nest and sitting on the eggs.
" The nest is completed in three to four days ; one egg is laid daily till the full number is completed, i. e., four or five and about 14 days are taken in incubating."
Habits. Apparently the Hypocolius is locally migratory, leaving the hilly country during the breeding season and taking to the date-gardens and semi-cultivated country.
" The call of these birds is a very pleasing liquid note, nothing like the harsh cry of the Shrikes. The female has only the one call; the male has a different call, but often imitates the female, especially when alarmed; he has also the habit of erecting the feathers of his head when excited. They are more arboreal, at least in Fao, than the Shrikes. They live chiefly on fruit, but also indulge in a little insect diet, as several stomachs I have examined contained legs and wings of beetles etc,
" They become very tame if reared from the nest" (Cumming.)