(710) Lanius vittatus.
The Bay-backed Shrike.
Lanius vittatus Valenc, Diet. Sci. Nat., xi, p. 227 (1826) (Pondicherry); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 462.
Vernacular names. Pachanak (Hind.); Choto kilatora (Beng.) ; Chenna bilinki, Venne-dega (Tel.) ; Kichang-kuravi (Tam.).
Description. Lores, forehead, anterior crown and a broad band including and behind the ear-coverts black; posterior crown white or pale grey shading into grey on the nape and hind neck; back and scapulars deep chestnut to maroon ; rump white fading into grey on the upper tail-coverts; central tail-feathers all black, the next pair with white bases and tips, the white increasing in extent on each succeeding pair until the outermost is nearly all white; wings black, the coverts narrowly edged with maroon, the primaries with a broad patch of white at the base and the secondaries narrowly edged with whitish; chin, throat and centre of the abdomen white ; breast and upper abdomen fulvous; flanks ferruginous; under wing-coverts and axillaries white. The colour of the plumage of this little Shrike varies very greatly individually, but without any relation to habitat. Some birds have the crown practically pure white, others show no white at all; some specimens have the chestnut of the back very dull, with the grey of the nape running into it. Probably the oldest birds have the maroon "back deepest in colour and the posterior crown the purest white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black in adults, dark horny-brown in the young; legs and feet dusky slate to black.
Measurements. Total length about 180 mm.; wing 81 to 88 mm.; tail 80 to 94 mm.; tarsus 23 to 24 mm.; culmen about 14 mm.
Nestling- Upper parts grey tinged with rufous and barred with brown; wing-coverts grey, greyish brown or light dull chestnut edged with dark brown; quills dark brown edged with white or pale chestnut; below white with faint narrow bars on breast and flanks.
The young appear to go through a transition-stage between this and the adult plumage; the upper parts become grey with a more or less pronounced chestnut back; a line through the eye and ear-coverts brownish black; breast and underparts white suffused with buff and retaining faint brown bars on the upper breast.
Distribution. The whole of India, South to Mysore, Nilgiris, Palni Hills and North Travancore ; North to the Himalayas up to 6,000 ft.; East to Behar and the drier districts of Western Bengal, Chota Nagpore, etc.
Nidification. The Bay-backed Shrike breeds throughout the Plains of India and in the Himalayas up to at least 6,000 feet, at which elevation Dodsworth took its nest in the Simla States. The nest is a small replica of that of Lanius e. lahtora, a deep cup made of grass mixed with almost any kind of soft material, but with the inner part of grass alone. Usually it has more cobweb used in its construction than is used by the Grey Shrike. It builds its nest in trees or high bushes in gardens, by road-sides, in thin scrub or deciduous jungle but never in heavy forest. The eggs are like those of Lanius e. lahtora and go through the same variations, the pink type being equally or even more rare. One hundred eggs average 20.8 x 15.7 mm.: maxima 23.1 x 16.2 and 22.1 x 17.1 mm.; minima 19.7 x 15.1 and 20.3 x 14.1 mm. The breeding-season lasts from early April to the end of July, and they lay four or five eggs, often only three, sometimes, fide Hume, as many as six.
Habits. This little Shrike is a bird of the open drier country frequenting gardens, cultivated and barren tracts but not entering into the more heavily forested areas. It is very tame and confiding in its ways, has a sweet song of its own and is an admirable mimic of other birds.