(73) Machlolophus spilonotus spilonotus.
THE NORTHERN BLACK-SPOTTED YELLOW-TIT.
Parus spilonotus Blyth, Cat. B. M. A. S., xvi, p. 445 (1849) (Himalayas, N. Cachar). Machlolophus spilonotus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 54.
Vernacular names. Muchetink-pho (Lepcha).
Description. Forehead, lores, a broad supercilium, a nape-patch, sides of the head and neck bright yellow ; crown, crest, a patch on either side the nape, chin, throat and a broad mesial line down to the vent black; the longer feathers of the crest tipped with yellow; sides of the breast yellow; remainder of the lower plumage olive-yellow, purer next the black band; under tail-coverts mixed grey and white ; under wing-coverts and axillaries yellowish white; back and scapulars yellow, each feather laterally margined with yellow; rump yellowish green ; upper tail-coverts dark bluish grey; tail black, broadly edged with bluish grey and tipped with white, the outer web of the outermost feather entirely white; lesser wing-coverts black, tipped with bluish grey; median and greater coverts and inner secondaries black with broad white tips ; primaries white at base, the outer ones edged with white, the others and the outer secondaries edged with bluish grey and the latter narrowly tipped white.
Colours of soft parts. Irides brown or red-brown ; legs and feet bluish plumbeous or dark blue-slate; bill black.
Measurements. Length about 140 mm.; wing 72 to 78 mm.; tail about 58 mm.; tarsus about 22 mm.; culmen about 10 to 11 mm.
The young have no black margins to the feathers of the back and the throat, breast and ventral band are tinged with green.
Distribution. Nepal to Miri Hills north of the Brahmaputra hills south of Brahmaputra to Looshai and Lakhimpur and ? Chin Hills.
Nidification. Breeds very commonly in the Khasia Hills in April, May and June, a few birds nesting both earlier and later. The eggs are laid in holes of trees, stone walls and, very rarely, banks. The nest is a pad of moss, grass and bits of bracken mixed with fur, wool or hair and with a layer entirely composed of the three latter on the top. The eggs number from four to six and are white boldly spotted, blotched and speckled with light reddish brown with a few underlying of pale neutral tint or grey.
The average of 100 eggs is 17.6 x 14.1 mm. Like most Tits these birds are very close and fearless sitters, often allowing themselves to be caught on the nest rather than leave their eggs or young.
Habits. North of the Brahmaputra this fine Tit is confined to elevations of 5,000 feet upwards but in the Khasia Hills, Manipur, etc., it is common at 4,000 feet and descends in winter even lower. It may be found either in small parties of half-a-dozen or so, or in pairs. It is a bold familiar bird entering compounds freely and with little fear of watchers. Less restless than the Grey-Tits it is still an active, energetic bird and when hunting for insects assumes the same curious attitudes. It is a much stronger flier than the Grey-Tits and keeps more exclusively to the higher trees but I have seen it hunting low down in Mimosa trees when they are in flower.
It is an early riser and its loud " Did-he-do-it Did-he-do-it No, he didn't" may be heard soon after dawn breaks. This call is generally uttered from the top of some tree, especially the first thing in the morning.