(484) Larvivora brunnea.
The Indian Blue Chat.
Larvivora brunnea Hodgs., J. A. S. B., vi, p. 102 (1837) (Sikkim); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 182.
Vernacular names. Manzil-pho (Lepcha).
Description.— Adult male. Forehead, lores, ear-coverts and sides of neck black; a long broad supercilium white ; remainder of upper plumage dark blue ; wing-quills brown edged with blue; point of chin and narrow line under the black cheeks white; under wing-coverts and axillaries blue; throat, breast and lower plumage bright chestnut; centre of abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts white. The amount of white on the abdomen varies considerably individually.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill black in breeding season, horny-brown above, fleshy below in winter ; legs and feet fleshy to dark yellowish fleshy ; "legs and feet blackish-grey" (Forrest).
Measurements. "Wing 70 to 78 mm.; tail 46 to 48 mm.; tarsus 27 mm.; culmen 13 mm.
Adult female. Above similar to the female of L. cyane but the whole breast, flanks, under wing-coverts and axillaries are dark, bright fulvous; in some birds the fulvous is much suffused with brown and in a few practically the whole of the lower parts are fulvous, leaving only the under tail-coverts white.
Colours of soft parts and Measurements as in male.
The young male is like the female but has the whole back darker, much suffused with blue, especially on the lower back to the tail and also on the wing-coverts.
Distribution. Breeding in the Himalayas, Kashmir and Garhwal to Sikkim and Bhutan. In winter throughout India and Ceylon, Assam, N. Burma and Yunnan. Specimens taken in Ceylon and the Nilgiris in April and May have black beaks and may possibly breed locally.
Nidification. The Indian Blue Chat breeds during May, June and early July from Kashmir to Sikkim and is very abundant all round Murree. The nest is almost invariably placed on the ground at the foot of a tree or bush, sometimes without any vegetation to screen it from view, sometimes under a bush or on a bank covered with weeds and moss. It never, however, seems to select very thick cover. The nest itself is a large, loosely put together cup of dead leaves, lined with hair or fine roots and at a short, distance looks like a little pile of rubbish drifted against the trunk of the tree or blown up on the bank. The eggs number three or four and are pale spotless bine, just like dark Hedge-Sparrow's eggs. Twenty-four eggs average 19.4 x 14.5 mm.; maxima 20.4 X 15.0 mm.; minima 18.4: X 14.1 and 18.9 x 14.0 mm.
It has not yet been found to breed in the Nilgiris as was at one time supposed, and in ten years Sir A. J. Cardew, a very close observer, never saw it once during the breeding season.
Habits. The Indian Blue Chat frequents forest, preferably such as is not very dense in undergrowth but at the same time is shady and cool. It keeps much to the ground and never ascends into the trees, though it may feed in the lower growth occasionally. It is an extremely shy bird, resenting observation but during the breeding season in Kashmir when the hens were sitting Davidson found that, the males were very bold, singing their pleasant little song in almost every small patch of thick jungle.
It breeds from about 5,000 feet upwards and Stevens obtained it rather lower down than this in Nepal during the winter months.