(386) Microscelis psaroides psaroides.
THE HIMALAYAN BLACK BULBUL.
Hypsipetes psaroides Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 43 (Himalayas, Simla) ; Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 260.
Vernacular names. Bon Bakra (at Mussoorie); phaki-pho (Lepcha); Durkal (Chamba).
Description. Crown from forehead to nape, lores, a spot at the base of the lower mandible, another at the angle of the chin and a broad stripe round the ear-coverts black; a spot above the lores grey; upper plumage and wing-coverts dark grey; remainder of wings and tail black; ear-coverts, chin, throat, breast and flanks grey ; abdomen and vent paler, the feathers being grey with white edges ; under tail-coverts grey with broad white margins.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark or hazel-brown; bill and legs bright coral-red, the claws horny-brown.
Measurements. Length about 250 mm.; wing 120 to 130 mm.; the females, as usual, being decidedly the smaller; tail about 112 to 120 mm.; tarsus about 18.5 to 19.5 mm.; culmen about 21 mm.
Distribution. Western Himalayas to Bhutan. How far this bird extends East in Assam is not yet known. A specimen obtained by Dr. Falkiner in the Abor Hills is nearer the next form; one of the big tributaries of the Brahmaputra such as the Subansiri or the Dihang will probably be the dividing line between the two.
Nidification. The Himalayan Black Bulbul breeds in considerable numbers at all heights between 2,000 and 7,000 feet, occasionally even higher than this. The principal breeding months are May and June but eggs are laid both earlier and later by at lea3t a month. The nest is generally a rather shallow cup, made of almost any vegetable material but for the main part of fine elastic twigs, lichen, roots and a few leaves well plastered with cobwebs where it is attached to the horizontal fork in which it is cradled. Often it is placed at very great heights from the ground, 50 or 60 feet up on the outer branches of some great forest tree; at other times it is placed in a small sapling and yet again, though but very rarely, in a tall bush. It is usually a very difficult nest to find and an even harder one to obtain when found. The site selected is most often in thin forest on the outskirts of heavier forest bub it does now and then build well inside the interior of very dense forest.
The eggs number two or three or, according to Hodgson, four and are very like the eggs of the common forms of Molpastes though so much bigger. The ground varies from pure white to pale pink or even a fairly warm salmon-pink and are covered, generally densely, sometimes only sparingly, with specks, spots and small blotches of various shades of red, reddish brown or umber-brown with others underlying these of neutral tint and grey. The texture is neither very fine nor very close; the gloss is but slight or even altogether absent and the normal shape is a rather long, well-pointed oval. Fifty eggs average 26-2 x 19-1 mm. and the extremes are 28.2 x 20.0, 23.8 x 18.7 and 25.2 x 18.3 mm. The longest egg is also the broadest.
Habits. The Himalayan Black Bulbul is the exact opposite of the "White-throated Bulbul in most of its ways. It is equally noisy and equally discordant in its notes but it is essentially a bird of high tree-tops, a percher and not a climber, a free and fairly easy flyer and largely vegetarian in its diet. The nectar of flowers, which Oates says it takes, is probably swallowed together with the numerous small insects which frequent these same flowers and upon which the Bulbuls feed. It goes about regularly in flocks all through the winter, sometimes two flocks combining where food is plentiful, and they have a curious follow-my-leader style when flying from one tree to another. It is a very bold bird and has no objection to being watched but it is naturally restless and unless on some tree, such as a Bombax in flower, which offers particularly fascinating food, soon flits away out of sight.
It is never found except in really well-forested hills and mountains which it ascends to about 9,000 feet elevation.