(376) Mesia argentauris argentauris.
THE SILVER-EARED MESIA.
Mesia argentauris Hodgs., Ind. Rev., 1838, p. 88 (Nepal); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 244.
Vernacular names. Chi-ro-chi-rit (Kachin); Dang-rap-chil-pho (Lepcha).
Description.— Male. Forehead golden-yellow ; crown, nape, lores, cheeks black, produced as a stripe under the ear-coverts; ear-coverts silvery-white; upper back and sides of neck fulvous yellow; lower back, scapulars, inner secondaries and wing-coverts slaty, some of the outermost of the latter edged with green; ramp slaty-green ; upper tail-coverts crimson: tail blackish brown, the three outer pairs of feathers edged with yellowish; wings brown, the first three primaries edged with yellow, the other quills with crimson near their bases and yellow elsewhere ; chin and throat deep orange-yellow; lower plumage olive-yellow, brighter on the breast and abdomen, the former of which is obsoletely streaked darker; under tail-coverts crimson.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red-brown to brown; bill yellow-ochre, tinged with greenish or brown at the base; legs and feet fleshy-yellow.
Measurements. Length about 180 mm.; wing 74 to 78 mm.; tail about 45 mm.; tarsus about 25 mm.; culmen 12 to 13 mm.
The female and young have the upper and lower tail-coverts orange-buff and the latter also has the crown yellowish.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Garhwal to East Assam North and South of the Brahmaputra, Manipur, Lushai, Chin, Kachin Hills, mountains of Central and S. Burma, Shan States, Siam. East of this it is replaced by a nearly allied race, M. a. cunhacei (Kloss).
Nidification. Every word written on the nidification of Liothrix lutea, would do equally well for this bird also and it is quite impossible to tell nests and eggs of the one from the other. This bird, however, breeds a little lower down than does the Liothrix. Whilst the latter breeds principally between 4,500 and 7,000 feet this bird breeds for the most part between 3,000 and 5,000 feet and whereas the former prefers pine-forests, the present one likes low scrub and evergreen forest. Two hundred eggs average 20.9 x 16.1 mm. and the extremes are 23.4 x l6.0; 22.8 x 17.0 and 19.4 x16.0; 21.0 x 15.0 mm.
Habits. The Mesias gather together in the cold weather in flocks of considerable size, sometimes as many as twenty, or even thirty, forming a flock. They are not shy birds and will allow very close observation, flitting about the bushes and lower trees within a few yards of the watcher, constantly uttering a chirruping cry with occasional clear, loud, whistling notes every now and then. They are restless, active little birds and form a wonderful spectacle of bright colour in front of heavy green bushes and undergrowth.