(840) Hippolais rama.
Sylvia rama Sykes, P. Z. S., 1832, p. 89 (Deccan, India). Hypolais rama. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 891.
Vernacular names. Koktalgu (Turki).
Description. Whole upper plumage pale fulvous-brown, darker as the pale edges to the feathers become abraded ; outermost tail-feathers edged paler; a line above the lores to the eye pale buff lores dusky; cheeks and ear-coverts pale buff; lower plumage very pale sandy-buff, the flanks darker and the centre of the abdomen almost white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel or hazel-brown; bill horny-brown above, pale fleshy-horny below; legs and feet yellowish grey.
Measurements. Total length about 132 to 137 mm.; wing 59 to 64 mm.; tail 47 to 52 mm.; tarsus about 20 to 21 mm.; culmen 10 to 11 mm.
Young are rather darker and richer brown above, brighter buff or yellowish buff below.
Distribution. Breeding in South Mongolia, Turkestan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Persia to Transcaspia. Doig also found it breeding in the Eastern Narra, Sind; General Betham in Quetta and, on one occasion only, in Ferozepore; Major Lindsay Smith also obtained its nest in Multan. In Winter it is found throughout India as far South as the Palni Hills and as far East as Western Bengal.
Nidification. Sykes's Tree-Warbler breeds in Sind in late April and early May in the Tamarisk-jungles North of Hyderabad aud Sukkur; in Quetta it breeds during May and June, and in Persia during April, May, June and July, generally having two broods. Except in Sind they nearly always select a rose-bush in which to build their nests, often breeding in colonies, almost every rose-bush within a very small area having at least one nest in it. The nests are deep cups composed of grass, roots and fibre, often mixed with pieces of string, cotton, etc. The lining is of wool,, vegetable-down, hair, fur or feathers, or two or more of these mixed together. They are all well hidden and are generally placed low down between two feet and four feet from the ground, though Mr. T. R. Bell found it placed as high as seven feet up in Tamarisk-trees. The eggs number from three to five and are quite different from those of the other species of the genus. The ground varies from pure white to pale buff, cream or greenish white, whilst the most common form of markings consists of tiny twisted lines and streaks of reddish brown or black, often most numerous and running into one another in a ring at the larger end and sparse everywhere else. These eggs are just like tiny Buntings' eggs. Other eggs have few or no lines and merely scanty specks and spots of black. Both forms have secondary markings of lavender or neutral tint. Two hundred eggs average 15.8 x 12.3 mm.: maxima 18.0 X 13.2 and 15.6 x 13.3 mm.; minima 14.4 x 12.1 and 15.0 x 12.0 mm.
Habits. Sykes's "Warbler appears to be a resident in many places, but in Persia it is a Summer visitor, immense numbers appearing in that season when every rose-bush in every garden holds its pair. In India it is resident in a few arid places in Northern India, but its numbers are enormously increased even there by Winter migrants, whilst over the rest of India it is a Winter visitor only. In Quetta, as probably m Sind, many birds come to breed which migrate farther South in Winter. According to General Betham it is a lively cheerful little bird, everlastingly on the move, creeping in and out of the dense tangles of briars, flitting here and there after passing insects, constantly uttering its little song and, though keeping much out of sight, quite tolerant of close observation and showing little signs of fear of man.