(606) Monticola cinclorhyncha (Vigors).
THE BLUE-HEADED ROCK-THRUSH.
Monticola cinclorhyncha, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 171.
The Blue-headed Rock-Thrush breeds throughout the whole length of the Himalayas from Afghanistan and Baluchistan to the Chin and Kachin Hills between 4,000 and 9,000 feet, whilst Davidson obtained it at 10,000 feet at Gund and Sonamurg, where it was breeding in some numbers. Whitehead says that “a few nest in the Safed Koh,” but does not give the elevation. In Assam, South of the Brahmapootra, it is very common in the Khasia Hills between 4,000 and 6,000 feet, a very rare breeder only in the Cachar Hills at 6,000 feet, and commoner again in the Naga ranges up to 9,000 feet. The breeding habits of this Thrush are very similar to those of its larger cousin, the preceding bird, although, as it is a much more common bird, they are far better known. The princi¬pal difference between the two is that, while the Chestnut-bellied Thrush prefers cliff-faces to banks in forest for nesting-sites, the Blue-headed Thrush decidedly prefers banks.
Marshall (C. H. T.) and Rattray in and around Murree found all their nests hidden in banks, tucked away in natural hollows, among the roots of trees, or just concealed by overhanging grass and weeds. At Naini Tal it also breeds in similar places but Whymper, who took several nests round about that town, found most of his on ledges of rock in forest. Thompson, writing also of Naini Tal, says that he found most of his nests between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, but all Whymper’s were taken between 6,000 and 7,000 feet.
At Almorah Brooks found a nest built in a hole in an old retaining wall, overgrown with grass, while my collectors have twice taken eggs from nests built in similar positions in Shillong.
I took many nests in the Khasia Hills' and, of these, about one in every four was built in cliff-faces, in a hole or fissure in a rock, or in among the roots of a tree clinging to the cliff-side.
The nests only differ from those of the preceding bird in being, smaller and neater. In diameter they vary between four and five inches and in depth between two and three.
All the nests I have seen have been lined with fine roots, sometimes mixed with grass-stems, but both Hume and Thompson speak of hair also being used for the purpose (Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs,’ 2nd ed. vol. ii, pp. 103-4). Hume also notes that they sometimes incorporate pine-needles in their nests but, though all my nests have been taken in Pine-wood country, I have seen no pine-needles used, nor have I ever seen the birds breeding inside these woods, although they may be all round them.
The breeding season lasts from April to June and some birds undoubtedly have two broods. In Kashmir Ward has taken eggs as early as the 13th April and as late as the 5th August, and in Naini Tal Whymper took them from the 20th April to the 26th June. In the Khasia Hills I have seen young birds commonly in early May which had left their nests and, on the other hand, fresh eggs as late as the end of July.
The eggs are small replicas of those of the Chestnut-bellied Thrush but, as a whole, are more distinctly freckled, whilst in shape they are more consistently a short, broad oval. Unusually coloured eggs are very rare but I have one beautiful clutch which has an almost pure white ground freckled with reddish at the larger end, forming a cap in three eggs and a broad zone in the fourth. The freckles are sparse elsewhere and completely absent on the smaller half.
The clutches are smaller than those of the preceding bird, numbering three to five eggs, the latter exceptional, the former not rare.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in the building of the nest and looking after the young when hatched.
Personally I have always found both male and female shy during the breeding season, very loth to visit the nest when watched, and leaving it before an intruder approaches the nest very close. This, however, does not seem to be always the case, for Marshall (G. F. L.) records : “The male was sitting as if allowing itself to be watched on the nest” ; while Cock goes still further, and says : “Parent bird fearless, sometimes choosing a much-frequented Toad. The parent bird may be caught by hand when on the eggs.”
606. Monticola einclorhyncha
(606) Monticola cinclorhyncha (Vigors).