(613) Myiophoneus horsfieldis
The Malabar "Whistling-Thrush.
Myiophoneus Horsfieldii Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 35 (Malabar); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 180.
Vernacular names. Gunta-ukkee (Canarese); Singala Karewe (Tel.).
Description. Lores and forehead deep velvety black; anterior crown bright cobalt-blue ; whole head, neck and mantle black, shading into deep blue on upper back, tail-coverts and tail; lesser wing-coverts bright cobalt-blue; wing-feathers black edged with blue except on the terminal halves of the outer primaries; chin, throat, fore-neck and breast black; lower breast, flanks and abdomen black with deep glistening blue; under tail-coverts blue-black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 300 mm.; wing 146 to 160 mm.; tail 112 to 114 mm.; tarsus 41 to 43 mm.; culmen 30 to 31 mm.
Young birds are like the adult but much duller.
Nestling has not yet been described.
Distribution. South-West India, North to Bombay, Mount Abu. Sirguja and Sambalpur, but not anywhere on the Eastern coasts. Some birds "brought up by a Nilgiri planter and released in the Jetinga Valley, Cachar, lived and bred for many years but eventually died out or lost their distinguishing features in pairing with M. t. temminckii.
Nidification. The Malabar Whistling Thrush breeds during February and March in South Travancore, in May and June further North in the Nilgiris and adjoining hills and as late as August in the North of its range. Normally it places its nest in among boulders beside a stream but not infrequently m buildings old or new, and in Khandala General Betham found a nest, or rather a series built one on the top of another, placed on the inside ledge of a window of the church. The nest is made principally of living moss mixed with roots and, rarely, a little grass or a few leaves. The lining, which is thick and compact, is of black roots, very tightly wound round. The eggs usually number three, occasionally either two or four. They are typical Thrushes' eggs and rather like those of Oreicola dauma but much longer in shape. The ground-colour is a pale clay, cream, greyish stone or greenish and the markings consist of dull indefinite freckles and blotches of pale reddish brown with secondary markings of pale neutral tint and lavender. Some eggs look almost unicoloured and very few are at all well or boldly blotched. Forty eggs average 33.1 x 23.9 mm.: maxima 36.2 x 24.1 and 33.2 x 25.3 mm.; minima 30.2 X 23.4 and 34.0 x 23.2 mm.
Habits. The Whistling School-boy, as this fine Thrush is called on the Nilgiris, is a familiar object on every stream, small or large, whether running through forest, through grass-land or just outside a village or town. Its fine whistle, very full and sweet and distinctly Blackbird-like in tone, is uttered often throughout the day, though perhaps more frequently in the mornings and evenings. It feeds entirely on the ground or in the shallow water at the edges of streams and will devour almost any living thing small enough to swallow. It is a bold bird, in no way shunning observation, and often enters gardens and compounds.