(642) Muscicapula hodgsonii (Verreaux).
THE RUSTY-BREASTED BLUE FLYCATCHER.
Cyornis hodgsonii, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 216.
Muscicapula hodgsonii, ibid. vol. viii, p. 628.
This handsome little Flycatcher ranges from Sikkim, through all Assam and all the hill-ranges of Burma, to Muleyit in Tenasserim. North-East it is found as far as Yunnan and Kansu. It is probably a resident breeding bird over the greater part of the area where it is found, merely moving vertically with the seasons. Stevens says that in Sikkim he did not observe it in Summer below 7,000 feet but, in the Assam Hills, it occasionally breeds as low as 4,000 and frequently at 5,000 to 6,000 feet. I have taken several nests personally at these heights in the Khasia Hills, and Tytler took others between 6,000 to 7,000 in the Naga Hills. In the Cachar Hills it was a very rare bird and only casually straggled below 6,000 feet.
The birds select rocky ravines running through deep forest in which to nest. Occasionally these may be running through Pine forest, but this is exceptional, and only when the ravines themselves are densely clothed with Rhododendrons and green under¬growth. The favourite site for the nest is one wedged in between rocks or stones in steep banks which are wet and covered with moss, orchids, ferns and lichen. Here, in some small natural hollow, the nest is placed, always perfectly concealed from view. Now and then a nest may be placed low down in a dead stump, but only if it is covered with moss or other vegetation ; still less often I have seen it built in or under clusters of Hart’s-tongue fern growing a few feet from the ground on the trunks of Rhododendrons.
Nests found by Tytler in the Naga Hills were always placed in hollows in the banks of the ravines and never, I understand, in holes in trees or stumps.
In the Khasia Hills they sometimes bred in the very thick and humid forests of Oak, Rhododendron and Pine growing on steep and rocky hill-sides at an altitude of 5,800 to 6,200 feet. Here the nests were placed between boulders on the steep, often almost precipitous hill-sides.
The nest itself is very like those of the Niltavas and other Fly¬catchers. The body is built entirely of living green moss, while such oddments as dead leaves, scraps of roots, lichen and fibre, which may be found mixed with the moss, are probably only picked up with it. The lining is all of fine roots and, in those seen by me, black fern-roots only.
A curious nest found by Bailey in Southern Tibet is said to have been made “of moss hanging in a lump on dead branch of a tree 4 feet from the ground ; two fully fledged young birds”—Rong Valley, Po Me, 7,500 feet, on the 8th July.
The breeding season lasts from about the middle of April to the end of June.
The full complement of eggs laid is four or, very rarely, five. In colour the eggs range from a pale grey-green to a warm buff, faintly stippled all over with light reddish, the markings so minute that they hardly show up against the ground-colour except as slightly darker caps at the larger end. Occasionally the ground-colour is a pale cream, rather more definitely marked with reddish in zones round the big end. As a series, however, when looked at from a little distance they look like unicoloured eggs, deeper in tint at one end than the other. In shape they are broad, blunt ovals, with fine grain but very dull surface.
Forty eggs average 17.8 x 13.4 mm : maxima 19.2 x 14.0 and 19.0 x 14.1 mm. ; minima 16.2 x 13.0 mm.
The birds are very close sitters and, though they are very shy, retiring little birds, it is very hard to make them desert. Twice I have known two clutches of eggs laid in the same nest and taken, and then yet a third laid and the young hatched and brought up. Unlike the males of most of the more vividly coloured Flycatchers, the male of this species takes at least his share of incubation, and we have caught the male on the nest more often than the female.
642. Muscicapula hodgsonii
(642) Muscicapula hodgsonii (Verreaux).