(682) Niltava grandis grandis.
The Large Niltava.
Chaitaris grandis Blyth, J. A. S. B., xi, p. 189 (1842) (Darjiling). Niltava grandis. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 40.
Vernacular names. Margong (Lepcha).
Description.— Adult male. Grown; rump, upper tail-coverts, lesser and median wing-coverts and a patch on either side of the neck brilliant cobalt-blue; back and scapulars dark purplish blue ; tail black, the central feathers and edges of the lateral feathers purple-blue, brighter than the back; greater coverts and wing-quills black, edged with the same blue as the back; lores, forehead and sides of the head, chin, throat and upper breast black changing to blue-black on lower breast and flanks and to bluish-ashy on the abdomen and lower tail-coverts, the latter edged with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel to deep brown; bill black; legs and feet deep homy-brown to black.
Measurements. Total length about 205 to 215 mm.; wing 99 to 106 mm.; tail 65 to 70 mm.; tarsus about 23 to 24 mm.; culmen about 15 mm.
Young male moults from the nestling-plumage into that of the adult but is at first duller and less blue.
Female. Lores, forehead and round the eye, ear-coverts and cheeks fulvous with pale shafts; on the crown this grades into olive-brown and on the posterior crown and nape into bluish ashy-brown ; back, rump and upper tail-coverts fulvous-brown; tail and wing-quills brown, the central tail-feathers and edges of lateral ones and of the wing-quills deep rufous; a patch of bright blue on either side of the neck ; middle of chin, throat and upper breast clear pale buff; remainder of lower plumage rich olive-brown, the sides of the chin mottled with darker and pale-shafted; axillaries and under wing-coverts buff.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill dark horny-brown; legs and feet fleshy-pink to light brown.
Measurements. Wing 97 to 106 mm.
Nestling. Above dark brown with fulvous spots, becoming almost chestnut on the back, and with black edges to the feathers ; below chestnut-brown, richest on the breast and squamated with black.
Distribution. Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam, Manipur, Chin Hills.
Nidification. The Large Niltava breeds daring the last week in April, in May, June and early July between 3,000 and 7,000 feet, making a cup-shaped nest of moss lined with very fine roots. Inwardly the cup measures about 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter by about half that in depth, outwardly it generally fits the hollow in which it is placed, often being very bulky. It may be placed in almost any kind of hollow in bank, rock or old tree. The eggs are in ground-colour a cream or yellow clay, but they are so densely covered with fine freckles of pinkish brown that they look unicoloured buffy or pinky brown; more obviously spotted eggs are not, however, rare and some eggs are very pale. Four are nearly always laid. One hundred eggs average 24.3 x 17.3 mm., and the extremes are : maxima 26.1 x 18.0 and 23.0 x 19.0 mm.; minima 20.4 x 17.0 and 21.0 x 16.0 mm.
Habits. This beautiful Flycatcher is very common between 3,000 and 5,000 feet in the hills of South Assam, less so in the Northern Himalayas. It is resident wherever found but wanders into the foot-hills in Winter. It is not shy but keeps much to undergrowth and the lower trees in thick forest and feeds quite a lot on the ground. It is said to eat berries as well as insects but the numbers I have examined had fed entirely on insects, except for some tiny berries evidently eaten with the insects infesting them.