Family MUSCICAPIDAE

The intrinsic muscles of the syrinx fixed to the ends of the bronchial semi-rings ; the edges of both mandibles smooth, the upper one simply notched ; hinder aspect of tarsus smooth, composed of two entire longitudinal lamina?; wing with ten primaries ; tongue non-tubular ; nostrils clear of the line of forehead, the lower edge of the nostril nearer to the commissure than the upper edge is to the culmen; plumage of the nestling mottled or squamated; nostrils covered more or less by long curly hairs; rectrices twelve ; tarsi short; an autumn moult only.

The Muscicapidae, or Flycatchers, constitute a large family of birds, which is well represented in India. Some are resident; but the majority are migratory to a greater or less extent.

The Flycatchers may be known by the mottled plumage of the nestling, and by the presence of numerous hairs stretching from the forehead over the nostrils. These hairs lie horizontally, and in all cases reach beyond the nostrils, and not unfrequently nearly to the end of the bill. They are not to be confounded with the rictal bristles, which are stiff and strong and lie laterally, nor are they to be confounded with the lengthened shafts of the frontal feathers, which in some of the Thrushes resemble hairs. These latter, moreover, are never horizontal, nor do they extend over the nostrils except in cases where this is brought about by accident, such as careless preparation of the preserved specimen.

The amount of mottling or squamation in the plumage of the nestling varies considerably, but is present in every species in a more or less marked degree. This character is perhaps least developed in the genus Terpsiphone, the most typical of Ply-catchers so far as structural characters are concerned; but even in this genus the mottled breast is unmistakable.

The Flycatchers may further be recognized by their very feeble tarsi and feet, which quite incapacitate them from walking on the ground; and this character will by itself be sufficient to separate them from the Thrushes, in which the tarsi are long and the feet strong.

Young Flycatchers moult into adult plumage in most cases the first autumn; but Terpsiphone differs in this respect, the males retaining an intermediate plumage for two or more years.

Those Flycatchers which have abandoned their migratory habits and have become resident are well differentiated by generic characters ; but others which are still migratory resemble each other structurally very closely, and generic characters by which to separate them into convenient groups are not easy to be found. In the following key, therefore, I have had recourse to types of colour, which appear to work well and to bring allied birds together into natural groups.

The Flycatchers feed on insects, which they either catch on the wing, starting from, a perch to which they usually return several times, or by running with the aid of their wings along the limbs of trees. They seldom or never descend to the ground. The majority construct their nests in holes of trees or banks, and some of the species build very beautiful cup-shaped nests in the branches of trees. Few of these birds have any song, and on the whole the Flycatchers are remarkably silent. They are found solitary or in pairs, and they are frequently familiar birds.

Key to the Genera.

a. Tail considerably shorter than wing.
a1. Second primary equal to the fifth.
a2. Closed wings not reaching beyond middle of tail………………….MUSCICAPA, p. 4.
b2. Closed wings reaching nearly to tip of tail………………….HEMICHELIDON, p. 5.
b1. Second primary very much shorter than fifth.
c2. Frontal feathers of ordinary structure, not concealing the nostrils.
a3. Rictal bristles short and few in number, generally less than six.
a4. Sexes different.
a5. In both sexes base of tail white, upper tail-coverts black, upper plumage brown or rufescent, never blue nor black………………….SIPHIA, p. 7.
b5. Males with whole upper plu¬mage blue or black; lower plumage never entirely blue or green. Females brown or rufescent above, never com¬bined with black upper tail-coverts and white on tail.
a6. Bill wide at base and strong………………….CYORNIS, p. 11.
b6. Bill narrow throughout, and feeble………………….NITIDULA, p. 27.
c5. Both sexes with the entire plumage suffused with blue or green………………….STOPAROLA, p. 27.
b4. Sexes alike; plumage plain brown or rufous throughout. d5. First primary never less than half second.
c6. Bill laterally compressed; lower mandible pale………………….MUSCITREA, p. 30.
d6. Bill flattened; lower mandible dark ………………….ANTHIPES, p. 31.
e5. First primary much less than half second………………….ALSEONAX, p. 34.
b3. Rictal bristles very long and nume¬rous, about ten on each side.
c4. Tail much rounded; first primary much longer than half second………………….OCHROMELA, p. 37.
d4. Tail quite even; first primary much less than half second………………….CULICICAPA, p. 38.
d2. Frontal feathers lengthened and very dense, concealing the nostrils.
c3. Bill carinated and narrow; both sexes with a brilliant neck-spot………………….NILTAVA, p.39.

d3. Bill broad and flattened; no neck-spot in either sex ………………….PHILENTOMA, p. 42.
b Tail as long as, or longer than, wing.
c. Head crested………………….TERPSIPHONE, p. 44.
d1. Head not crested.
e2. Tail about equal to wing.
e3. Length of culmen about twice the breadth of bill at forehead………………….HYPOTHYMIS, p. 43.
f3. Length of culmen about equal to breadth of bill at forehead………………….CHELIDORHYNX, p. 51.
f2. Tail considerably longer than wing………………….RHIPIDURA, p. 52.

BookTitle: 
The Fauna Of British India including Ceylon and Burma
Reference: 
OATES EW. The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Vol.2 1890.
Title in Book: 
Family MUSCICAPIDAE
Book Author: 
Eugene William Oates, Edited by William Thomas Blanford
Year: 
1890
Page No: 
1
M_ID: 
27561
M_SN: 
Muscicapidae
Volume: 
Vol. 2
Term name: 
id: 
761

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