(692) Hypothymis azurea sykesi Stuart Baker.
THE MADRAS BLACK-NAPED FLYCATCHER.
Hypothymis azurea sykesi, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 270.
The distribution of this Flycatcher may roughly be said to embrace all India South of a line drawn from latitude 22° in the West to latitude 18° in the East, rising slightly in the centre to include the Central Provinces districts of Bandhara, where birds collected by MacArthur are undoubtedly of the Southern race. Sir Percy Cox also found this form extremely common in Sondagarh in the Central Provinces, and took a very line series of nests and eggs.
The Southern race of the Azure or Black-naped Flycatcher breeds both in forest and in open country but does not, apparently, often nest in gardens and parks. In the South of the Central Provinces MacArthur describes them as breeding very commonly in thin forest, placing their nests in small saplings and high bushes at any height from 5 to 15 feet from the ground, but more often under 10 feet than over. They ascend the Southern hill-ranges to at least 3,000 feet and, possibly, a good deal higher.
No better description of the nest can be given than that of Hume (‘Nests and Eggs,’ vol. ii, p. 28), which I quote in full, as it suffices not only for the Southern race but also for the others :—“The nests are usually placed in slender forks of the exterior branches of trees, at no great height from the ground, or attached to some pendent bamboo-spray. They are deep, compact little cups, more massive than those of Rhipidura (=Leucocirca), though much of the same general type. The diameter of the cavity is from 1.5 to 1.75 inch, the depth from 1 to nearly 1.1/4, and the sides and bottom of the nest may be about 5/8 inch thick. The nest is com¬posed internally of fine grass-stems, well woven together ; externally of rather coarser grass and vegetable fibres ; the whole partially coated with cobwebs, by which numerous small white cocoons and commonly some tiny pieces of dry leaves and lichen are attached to the nest. In nests from the Nilghiris a good deal of green moss is intermingled with the cocoons in the exterior coating. The nests, too, are somewhat larger, I think, than our Northern ones, having internal cavities of full 2 inches in diameter and 1.1/4 inch in depth.” There is no true lining to the nests, but the finest grass-stems are used in neatly finishing off the egg-cavity.
Davison took one nest near Goodalore fastened to a spray of bamboo which overhung the main road.
Davidson found them breeding in forested ravines in the ghats of South-West India ; Williams took many nests in the South of the Central Provinces on small trees in thin forest, generally in upright forks or on a horizontal branch at heights between 5 and 15 feet. Other nests were on similar small trees in open country, and they occasionally breed in large gardens with plenty of cover. Round villages with surroundings of mixed grass, tree and shrub-covered land they may often be found building their nests, and really the Black-naped Flycatcher does not seem to mind much where it places them, provided there is ample cover and not too much disturbance from human beings. Normally they are placed on small trees at and under 20 feet, but they have been recorded as high as 40 feet from the ground in large trees such as Mango, Banyan and Sal. Sir Percy Cox, in Sondagarh, took his nests mostly in thin forest and well-wooded country in small trees, where they were built in vertical branches between 5 and 10 feet from the ground.
The breeding season is from April to August, though most eggs are laid in the latter half of June and in July, while in the Central Provinces many birds lay in August.
Hume says that “five is the maximum number of eggs and four the normal number.” So far as the Southern race is concerned, three is undoubtedly the normal number and even four is most exceptional, while two only are sometimes incubated.
The eggs are perfect miniatures of those of the genus Tchitrea, and go through all the same modifications of ground-colour and markings. On the whole they are rather highly tinted and well marked. Many eggs have a bright salmon-pink ground, well freckled with bright pinkish-red at the larger end, where the spots often form a ring. A few eggs have a white ground and are boldly speckled with deep red-brown, the specks disposed as in the other eggs but contrasting boldly with the ground. Every intermediate stage between these two extremes may be obtained, but those with a warm salmon ground are in the great majority.
In shape they are moderate to broad ovals, sometimes a little pointed at the smaller end. The texture is fine and close, with a moderate gloss when fresh, though this soon fades.
Forty eggs average 17.8 x 13.5 mm. : maxima 18.9 x 13.4 and 18.2 x 14.1 mm. ; minima 16.2 x 13.0 mm.
692. Hypothymis azurea sykesi
(692) Hypothymis azurea sykesi Stuart Baker.