(948) Leptopaecile sophiae obscura.
The Tibetan Tit-Warbler
Leptopaecile obscura Przew., Zap. Im. A. N. & St. P., lv. p. 80 (1887) (N.E. Tibet).
Vernacular names. Chiu-thep-to (Tibetan, Gyantse).
Description.— The male and female are sex for sex similar to the same sexes in the preceding race but much darker. The male has practically the whole lower surface deep purple-lilac, the centre of the belly patched with dark fulvous and rufous; the supercilium is generally broader and whiter, whilst the crown and nape are rich rufous without any lilac or blue reflections.
Colours of soft parts. Iris reddish brown to bright red ; bill dark horny or blackish brown, often almost black ; legs horny-brown.
Measurements. About the same as those of L. s. sophiae; wing 50 to 51 mm.; tail 49 to 52 mm.; tarsus 21 to 23 mm.; culmen about 9 mm.
The young are like the adult female but have no lilac at all either on rump, upper tail-coverts or flanks.
Distribution. South Tibet and East to the Yangtse-kiang, The type-locality is N.E. Tibet, but in the extreme N.E. sophiae is undoubtedly the subspecies found; it also possibly straggles into Gilgit, where it again meets that form. It is common in the extreme North of Sikkim in the Chambi Valley.
Nidification. The Tibetan Tit-Warbler breeds from the middle of April to the end of May, second broods being often reared in June and even early July, It is extremely common in the Gyantse plateau, where many have found its nests and eggs. The nest is invariably placed very low down, often only a few inches from the ground, in the small dense clumps of a thorn-bush which grows everywhere on this plateau and, as it is always built well inside, it is frequently very difficult to get at even when its situa¬tion has been spotted. In shape the nest may be a ball, an oval or a long domed affair of no particular shape, wedged into a mass of thorns and stout twigs. The ball-shaped nests measure between 5 and 6 inches either way, whilst the shapeless ones may measure up to 9 or even 10 inches with a chamber of about 3 inches densely lined with feathers both soft and hard. The outside seems to be always ornamented with spiders' egg-bags and small scraps of lichen, etc., whilst the main portion of the nest is composed of moss, lichen, grass and feathers all mixed up and matted together.
The eggs number four to six and are tiny fragile ovals with glossless white shells speckled with dark blackish brown, occasionally with paler and redder specks and tiny blotches. Fifty eggs average 15.1 x 11.6 mm.: the maxima are 16.0x l2.1 mm. and 15.5 x 12.2 mm.; the minima 14.3 X 11.0 and 14.8 x 10.9 mm.
Habits. The habits of this little bird seem to be a cross between those of the Titmouses and Warblers. It is extraordinarily restless and "equally energetic it scuttles along branches and twigs, now running along their upper surface, now proceeding head downwards along their lower. Then, when one has decided that its actions are purely Tit-like, it commences to make little sallies into the air, little flutters before leaves and flowers or otherwise to behave in the way so many Warblers do. It flies direct and fairly quickly, much as does Regulus and, like that species, keeps, when feeding, principally to the higher branches of trees.
It is essentially a bird of high levels, breeding between 10,000 and 15,000 feet and, even in winter, being seldom found under 9,000 feet, though it may descend on rare occasions as low as 5,000 feet. It is entirely insectivorous in its diet.