(676) Alseonax rufieaudus (Swinhoe).
THE RUFOUS-TAILED FLYCATCHER.
Alseonax rufieaudus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 250.
The Rufous-tailed Flycatcher breeds over practically the whole of the North-Western Himalayas from Afghanistan and Baluchistan through Gilgit, Kashmir and Kuman to the Simla States and Garhwal. It breeds at all elevations from 7,000 feet upwards, Whymper having taken its nest at a height of 11,000 feet at Dunajiri, in Kuman.
This Flycatcher frequents forests of Spruce and Deodar, the outskirts, and sometimes the interior, of evergreen forest, or, occasionally, banks in more or less open country.
Davidson (Ibis, 1898, p. 22) thus records his experience of its nidification in Kashmir :—“This was much the commonest of the Robin-Flycatchers about Gund ; higher up, about Sonamurg, we found it rare, only seeing one pair, the nest of which we took on the 12th June, with four eggs, at the junction of the lowest branch of a spruce-fir with the trunk, some ten feet from the ground. At Gund we found many nests ; they were large solid cups, generally built within reach or, at the most, fifteen feet or so from the ground on the stumps of pollarded trees, the branches of which had sprouted and were covered with leaves. In two cases we found nests placed against the trunks of large fir-trees. They were composed of moss and lined with hair and feathers, and bound round the outside with spiders’ webs. The number of eggs was either three or four. The birds, though very common, were shy when breeding, and deserted several of the nests we found ; they also took so long a time to build that on the 31st May we to leave nests that had been in process of building a fortnight before, either unfinished or without a full complement of eggs.”
Bates gives an interesting note on a nest (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxx, p. 102, 1924) which he took on his way to the Lolab Pass. His road “skirted a wood consisting of small trees resembling Hazels. It was within the edge of this wood that I made the acquaintance of the Rufous-tailed Flycatcher. The result of our meeting was one of the prettiest photographs I possess. The sunlight was struggling through the leafy pall above, dappling the nest and its surrounding with little golden patches. The nest itself was a beautiful piece of workmanship, snuggling in a fork ten feet or so from the ground, and fabricated from soft mosses and lichens, lined with hairs, many of them white. It was as neat as and, in fact, very like that of a Chaffinch. It contained four pure white eggs.”
Sometimes the nest is placed in holes in banks. Whymper, both in Kashmir and in Kuman, found nests in banks close by foot-hills in forest or close by. He also took one nest in a “great fracture in a Deodar” and another built 30 feet from the ground in a fir-tree.
Rattray also found nests on banks in forests of Fir, though most were taken from the trees themselves at heights of 5 to 15 feet.
The body of the nest seems to be always of moss and lichen, but the lining varies. Feathers always form a part but sometimes it is mostly of hair, such as that of Musk-deer, Serow, Barking-deer or other coarse harsh kind. Occasionally it is said to be of roots or grass-stems but never of soft fur.
The breeding season is principally from the middle or latter half of May to the end of June but I have eggs taken as early as the 12th May (Whymper (Garhwal, 9,500 feet)) and as late as the 10th July (Rattray (Murree Hills, 7,500 feet)).
The full complement of eggs is three or four, perhaps more often the latter. They are very like those of the preceding bird but much paler and more olive-blue, less brown. Very rarely the blotches or freckles are quite distinct and show definitely on the ground-colour. Some eggs look almost blue, with just a faint reddish cap at the larger end, and I have one clutch which is a very pale grey-blue, the larger end showing the faintest sign of a cap of reddish stippling. Bates, as recorded above, once found a clutch of four pure white eggs.
In shape the eggs are broad, blunt ovals, the texture very fine and close but soft and glossless.
Fifty eggs average 17.3 x 13.2 mm. : maxima 19.1 x 13.5 and 18.0 x 13.6 mm. ; minima 15.6 x 12.9 and 15.7 x 12.1 mm.
676. Alseonax ruficaudus
(676) Alseonax rufieaudus (Swinhoe).