(1175) Motacilla flava beema.
The Indian Blue-headed Wagtail.
Motacilla beema Sykes, P. Z. S., 1832, p. 90 (Deccan): Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 296. Motacilla flam. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 295.
Vernacular names. Pilkya (Hind.).
Description. - Adult male, Summer. A broad supercilium to the nape white : forehead, crown and nape light bluish-grey back, scapulars, lesser wing-coverts, rump and upper tail-coverts bright olive-green, the longer coverts with black centres; tail black with narrow yellowish edges, the two outer pairs white with brown edges to the inner webs; lores dark grey; upper cheeks, ear-coverts and sides of neck blue-grey ; lower cheeks and ear-coverts, chin and throat white; remainder of lower plumage bright yellow with black bases, which show through here and there as the plumage gets abraded ; median wing-coverts brown with broad pale yellow tips and margins; greater coverts dark brown with pale yellow edges and darker yellow tips; primaries and outer secondaries brown with very narrow yellow edges to the outer webs; inner secondaries with broad pale yellow edges to both webs; axillaries and under wing-coverts yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill almost black, the base of the lower mandible yellowish; legs and feet dark brown or dark horny.
Measurements. "Wing 77 to 83 mm.; tad 67 to 73 mm.; tardus 23 to 24 mm.; culmen about 11 to 12 mm.
In Winter the grey of the head is obscured by greenish margins to the feathers ; the lower parts are much duller and the margins to the wing-feathers are pale fulvous, not yellow; the breast is often mottled with dull black; the supercilium is less distinct.
Female in Summer like the male but duller; the head is more greenish and the lower surface much less bright.
Female in Winter resembles the male but is duller.
Young birds are brown above tinged with olive on the rump and upper tail-coverts ; below from chin to vent they are white, often tinged with bright yellow here and there and much mottled with blackish-brown on the fore-neck and upper breast; vent and under tail-coverts pale yellow ; axillaries and under wing-coverts white; the breast in some specimens is strongly suffused with buff, probably in the youngest specimens only.
Nestling. Buff when in down.
Distribution. Breeding in West Siberia to the Yenesei and (fide Sushkin) in extreme South-East Russia and in Ladakh, Kashmir and Tibet. In Winter it extends as far South as Travancore and Mysore and it ranges from Sind on the West to Eastern Bengal and also West Assam, where I obtained specimens, and to East Assam, where Stevens and Coltart obtained it. There are also several specimens from this Province in the British Museum collection.
Nidification. Ward obtained nests and eggs of this Wagtail in Ladakh in June and records it as also occasionally breeding in Kashmir. It is common in Tibet, though very local and, apparently, irregular in its visits. It breeds in Tibet in June and July, making a very compact little nest of grass and roots, often mixed with fur, wool, hair or feathers and always beautifully lined with a mat of these materials. It is generally built in marshy grassland, placed well down among the roots of the grass and carefully concealed. The eggs number four or five and are like those of the last bird rather than those of the White and Pied Wagtails. Thirty eggs average 19.5 x 14.8 mm.: maxima 20.7 x 15.0 and 20.6 x 15.6 mm.; minima 18.2 x 15.0 and 19.1 x 14.1 mm.
Habits. This is an extremely common bird in Northern India in Winter, a few birds arriving in August but the majority in September. They leave again in April and early May, scattering in the meantime over the greater part of the Empire. When migrating they often collect in very large numbers but break up into pairs or fly singly immediately after arrival. Their habits and night, diet, voice etc. call for no remark.