476. Lanius erythronotus.
The Rufous-backed Shrike.
Collurio erythronotus, Vigors, P. Z. S. 1831, p. 42; Gould, Cent. pi. 12, fig. 2; Hume, A. & E. p. 167. Lanius caniceps, Blyth, J. A. 8. B. xv, p. 302 (1846); id. Cat. p. 151; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 164; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 374; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 383; Hume, Cat. no. 257 bis; Davison, S. F. x, p. 364; Gadow, Cat. B. M. viii, p. 265. Collyrio caniceps (Blyth), Hume, N. & E. p. 169. Lanius erythronotus (Vigors), Blyth, Cat. p. 151; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 164; Jerd. B. I. i, p. 402; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. ii, p. 268; Hume & Henders. Lah. to Yark. pp. 166, 182; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 209 ; Hume, Cat. no. 257 ; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 51; Scully, Ibis, 1881, p. 433; Gadow, Cat. B. M. viii, p. 263; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 143; Oates in Hume's N, & E. 2nd ed. i, p. 318. Lanius affinis, Leyye, S. F. iv, p. 243 (1876).
Mattiya latora, Kajala latora, Hind.; Yerra belinchi, Tel.
Coloration. Forehead and a broad band through the eye to the ear-coverts deep black ; crown, nape, sides of neck, hind neck, and upper back clear pale grey; scapulars, lower back, rump, and upper tail-coverts ferruginous; wing-coverts black, the larger series tipped with pale rufous; quills blackish, the primaries narrowly, the others broadly, edged with pale rufous; the middle three pairs of tail-feathers black with rufous tips; the others brown with broader tips; chin, throat, and upper breast white ; remainder of lower plumage rufous, more or less albescent on the middle of the abdomen. Iris dark brown; bill black; legs and feet brownish black (Butler).
Length about 10; tail 4.7; wing 3.6; tarsus 14 ; bill from gape .9.
The amount of rufous on the back and scapulars varies very much in this species, but not according to locality. Some Himalayan birds have the entire back and scapulars rufous. The majority of the birds from Southern India have the upper back grey and the scapulars merely tinged with rufous. Between these two extremes there is a connected series of specimens, and some birds from Sind and Oudh are absolutely identical with others from Ceylon. I am quite unable therefore to recognize two species based on the colour of the back and scapulars, and I can discover no other character by which the southern race L. caniceps may be separated from L. erythronotus.
L. schach from China resembles L. erythronotus, but is much larger, the black of the forehead extends back to the eyes and is sharply denned from the grey.
L. bentet from Sumatra, Java, &c, is also an allied species in which the black of the forehead is produced far back over the crown and blends with the grey of the nape.
L. fuscatus from Southern China has the greater part of the head, wings, and tail black and the remainder of the plumage dark brown.
Distribution. The whole of India proper from Kashmir to Cape Comorin and from Sind to Bengal; also Ceylon. The furthest point east to which this species extends appears to be Mymensing, where Godwin-Austen met with it.
This Shrike is apparently a permanent resident in most parts of the plains and the lower ranges of the Himalayas, but in summer it visits Gilgit and the higher ranges up to 6000 or 7000 feet. It extends to Baluchistan, Afghanistan, and Turkistan, probably as a summer visitor only to the latter country.
Habits, &c. Breeds throughout India from March to September. The nest and eggs are similar to those of the preceding species and the latter measure about .92 by .71.