(677) Alseonax muttui muttui Layard.
THE INDIAN RUDDY-BROWN FLYCATCHER.
Alseonax muttui, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 251.
Alseonax muttui muttui, ibid. vol. viii, p. 632.
This Flycatcher occurs during the Summer from Sikkim to the extreme East and South of Assam. In Sikkim it must be a rare bird. Mandelli procured three specimens but Stevens never saw one. In Assam it is a common bird, but so quiet and secretive for a Fly¬catcher that it never attracts one’s attention.
I was fortunate enough to find a few nests of this species in North Cachar, where it bred on the highest ranges, at 5,000 feet upwards, in evergreen forest, sometimes haunting little open glades and breaks made by streams but, at other times, breeding in the densest portions. I found two nests near Hungrum in the mixed Oak and evergreen forest, where there is always damp green verdure all through the year and, though the trees themselves are rather stunted and not very close together, bracken, Raspberry, Jasmine etc., always grow in profusion. Of these two nests one was placed quite close to the ground in a fork of a semi-pendent Raspberry- vine standing in a tangled mass of grass and weeds ; the second was placed in a mass of creepers and moss against a small but old and gnarled Oak-tree. Both nests were very well hidden but were given away by the hen bird darting off the nest as I passed.
Other nests were very similar and were all placed in tangles of vegetable growth of some kind, and in no instance were they built in holes in trees or banks, though the Nagas assured me that such was sometimes the case.
In the Khasia Hills an odd nest or two was found in the dense Oak and Rhododendron forests at about 6,000 feet and once I took a nest at Cherrapoongi as low down as 4,000 feet. This was in a wild Jasmine which, though not very dense itself, was choked with other weeds and brambles.
The few nests I have seen, not more than a dozen all told, have been very neat compact little cups made entirely of green moss and lined with fine moss-roots. In no nest have I seen any other material, though occasionally a small leaf, pieces of leaves , or grass may be. incorporated in the moss, accidentally in all probabihty. They measure about 3.1/2 inches outwardly in diameter by about 1.1/2 to 2 in depth, the very neat little egg-cavity being about 2 x 1 inch.
The breeding season is early, my North Cachar eggs being taken from the 1st May onwards, whilst one taken in the Khasia Hills contained four slightly incubated eggs on the 27th April. My latest eggs were taken on the 24th May, but I have others collected in early June.
The birds lay from three to five eggs, the first being probably an incomplete clutch. Typically they are of the same character as those of the Brown Flycatcher. Some eggs look as if they were uniform pinky brown, others as if uniform grey-blue or reddish-grey. In one clutch the stipplings show fairly clearly and in this there are very faint indications of a ring round the larger end. In my small series are two clutches which are sure to prove abnormal when we have larger series to judge by. The first contains three eggs which appear to be unicoloured rather rich red-brown eggs ; the second contains four eggs, which are pale creamy stone, faintly stippled with yellowish-red. In both cases the birds were captured on the nest, in one case a male, in the other the female.
Twenty-eight eggs, all I have been able to measure, average 16.9 x 13.8 mm. : maxima 18.4 x 14.1 and 18.2 x 14.3 mm. ; minima 16.0 x 13.0 mm.
As already noted, both sexes have been trapped on the nest, so evidently both take a share in incubation, but I have no knowledge as to which bird constructs the nest.
677. Alseonax muttui muttui
(677) Alseonax muttui muttui Layard.