(485) Larvivora wickhami Stuart Baker.
THE CHIN HILLS BLUE CHAT.
Larvivora wickhami, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 15.
The only country in which this bird has so far been found breeding is in the Chin Hills, where it seems to be extremely common between 4,500 and 7,000 feet.
The first note on this bird’s nidification is that of Wickham, who discovered the bird in the Chin Hills (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxv, p. 750, 1919) “This bird was obtained by me on the first of May on the march from Fort White, Chin Hills, to the plains ; the nest was situated on the cleared space above the actual side-cutting of the hill-side mule-track ; at this place the cutting was about 4 feet high. The nest was placed under a dried bracken leaf, bent down, made of leaves and moss and lined with hair. The parent bird fluttered off as I came near, into the jungle below the path but, waiting for it, I secured it on its return, which was very soon. The white legs dropping as it flew away off the nest were most conspicuous.”
The bird, which was sent to me for identification, was a male, forming an interesting instance of a bright-coloured male assisting in incubation, though this must be very exceptional even with this species, as Livesey never saw a male on the nest. After this, K. C. Macdonald obtained some nests which he gave away to Harington and Mackenzie, but the only data are that they were taken between 11th and 15th May and that the nests were lined with feathers.
T. R. Livesey saw many nests of this bird in the Chin Hills and obtained several clutches of eggs. A most interesting letter from him contains the following information:—“I caught two of these hen birds ; one, myself, on her nest and one was brought to me by a boy with her nest and eggs. They were both the same and there was no doubt about them, for I had a pair nesting within twenty-five yards of the front of my window at Haka. I watched the males fighting and the nest being built etc. The little cock used to sing when seated on the posts of my garden fence and also in a Pine-tree six feet from the nest. His bright blue back and shining supercilium were most conspicuous. It is now the end of the Rains and these Blue Chats have disappeared and I no longer hear their song, which in April, May and June was to bo heard in every little patch of jungle. It is a sweet little short song-note, ‘Zee-ee-ee-ee-ee-whi-hoo,’ a long plaintive ‘zee’ ending up with a quick 'whi-hoo.’
“These Blue Chats are common at Haka and at least four pairs nested within a hundred yards of my bungalow, but each pair of birds had an area to themselves. In April and May the cock birds do a lot of fighting and drive each other about and then sit and sing on the tops of bushes and even as high up as forty feet or so on trees, whilst I have also seen a cock singing when seated on a tele¬graph wire. One sees very little of the hen birds beyond a chance glimpse as they fly from one patch of cover to another with a direct swift flight a few feet above the ground.
“The nests of the Blue Chats are small and well concealed and very like those of the Dark-grey Bush-Chats, whilst it is placed in similar places. Two built near my house could not be seen until the grass was parted by hand. They were lined pretty thickly with black hair which showed up the blue eggs admirably, whilst the body of the nest was made of fine roots and grasses.
“They breed in fairly open spaces. I took one nest with fresh eggs about 25 yards from my house, just outside my fence, which was in a more or less open field, tucked away in the grass among some rose-bushes under a pine-tree. Another one was in a bush like a gorse-bush, built just at the foot of it and about three yards from thick cover. It seems to use much the same sort of position for its nest as the Dark-grey Chat likes but I have not found any nests on steep bare banks by roadsides such as is often used by that bird, though I found one nest in a small tank, covered by grass a foot to 18" high, by a small disused path.
“The cock bird is never seen on the nest though he never seems to stray far from it, and is very fierce and bold in protecting his territory.”
They lay four eggs of a beautiful Hedge-Sparrow blue, much brighter and bluer than the eggs of the Burmese Dark-grey Bush Chat, the only bird’s with which it would be possible to confuse them breeding in Burma in similar situations. They could not, of course, be distinguished from those of L. brunnea but are, perhaps, a trifle paler. The only eight eggs I have seen average 18.4 x 14.15 mm. : maxima 19.0 x 14.6 mm. ; minima 17.9 x 14.0 and 18.1 x 13.9 mm.
They apparently breed in April and May only.
485. Larvivora wICkhami
(485) Larvivora wickhami Stuart Baker.