(1042) Mycerobas melanoxanthus.
The Spotted-winged Grosbeak.
Coccothraustes melanoxanthus Hodgs., As. Res., xix, p. 150 (1836) (Nepal). Mycerobas melanoxanthus. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 201.
Vernacular names. Maltam-pho (Lepcha).
Description. - Adult male. Whole upper plumage, chin, throat and tail dark blackish brown, each feather obsoletely margined with ashy; wings almost black, the inner greater coverts and inner secondaries with a large yellowish-white oval spot on the outer webs; the fourth to eighth primary with a white spot at the base and a narrow white edge near the tips; axillaries deep brown edged and tipped with yellow; lower plumage deep yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill slaty-plumbeous or bluish-plumbeous ; legs and feet leaden-grey.
Measurements. Total length about 220 mm.; wing 126 to 135 mm.; tail 74 to 79 mm.; tarsus 23 to 24 mm.: culmen 23 to 25 mm.
Female. Upper plumage blackish brown, the feathers edged with bright yellow tinged with green ; the feathers of the back with yelIow bases; the forehead and a long supercilium to the nape more yellow than black; lores and a broad line from behind the eye down the neck black; a broad moustachial streak blackish ; intermediate parts yellow and black, the first predominating ; wings like those of the male; chin and throat yellow; sides of chin, throat, neck, the flanks and whole breast bright yellow boldly streaked with black; centre of abdomen,, vent and under tail-coverts unstreaked yellow.
Nestling similar to the female : the yellow above is replaced with dingy yellowish white and the feathers are conspicuously edged with grey; below the plumage is almost white, rufescent buff on the chin, throat and breast and more yellow on the under tail-coverts : the streaks are distributed as in the female.
Young males retain a certain amount of black streaking on the lower plumage after their second moult.
Normally adult males have the bases of the feathers on the back dark grey so that the back appears all black ; some, however,, have these bases yellow showing up distinctly, possibly a sign of youthfulness.
Birds from Manipur eastwards appear to be very black above and, when more material is available, may have to be separated.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Afghanistan and Hazara to Eastern Assam, Cachar, Manipur, Northern Burma, Shan States and Western China in Szechuan.
Nidification. In 1903 a nest and two eggs of this Finch were obtained by Nagas for Dr. Coltart from Pine forests above Margherita, probably about 9,000 feet elevation. The eggs are pale blue, almost unmarked, and are undoubtedly abnormal.. A nest obtained by Capt. R. B. Skinner in the Murree Hills was like this one, a cup of moss on a basis of fine twigs, lined with maiden-hair fern stems and fine roots. It was built about 18 feet up in a yew-tree on a steep hill-side. The eggs are described as like those of P. i. icterioides.
Habits appear to be much the same as those of the other Grosbeaks. Stevens found it as low down as 4,400 feet in Winter but believes it to breed at very high elevations and refers to the bird obtained by Elwes at Yeomatung, 11,000 feet. Capt. Skinner,, however, took its nest much lower down than this near Murree, whilst the nest taken in Assam was at a place almost certainly under 9,000 feet. It probably breeds over a considerable range of elevation.