(684) Niltava sundara sundara Hodgs.
THE NEPAL BEAUTIFUL NILTAVA.
Niltava sundara sundara, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 259.
Hodgson’s, or the Nepal, Beautiful Niltava occurs in the Outer Himalayas from Nepal and Sikkim East to Assam, the Chin, Kachin and Bhamo Hills into Northern Siam. South it is found throughout the higher ranges of Burmese hills into Tenasserim.
In 1926 Ticehurst drew attention to the fact that the North¬-Western bird differs from the typical form and gave it a name, overlooking the fact that Lesson had already named the race from Murree fastuosa.
The Beautiful Niltava breeds in great numbers in the Assam Hills between 3,000 feet and the highest peaks. In Sikkim Jerdon, Gammie, Osmaston and others found it breeding from about 3,500 feet upwards. Hodgson found it breeding commonly in Nepal but does not say at what elevations. Like its larger cousin, it frequents wet humid forests in preference to any other, yet may often be found in Pine forests provided there are rocky ravines with water running through them and plenty of green vegetation on the banks. The sites selected are just the same as those of Niltava grandis, but the present bird more often builds its nest either in a hollow among the roots of a tree or else in a hole in a grass or moss-covered bank. I have also taken more nests from holes in trees, those chosen being nearly always in old stumps, upright or fallen, which are covered with moss and other parasitic growth. Perhaps one nest in three may be built in one of these three situations, the other two being placed in holes, clefts, or crevices in moss- covered rocks beside water. The nests are invariably, so far as my own experience goes, very carefully concealed, and one never finds a nest half buried and half jutting out from the face of a rock, even when the surrounding moss exactly resembles the nest itself.
The nest is very neat, compact and well put together and is an exact replica of that of the Great Niltava, only differing in being a trifle smaller. Hodgson gives the measurement of one nest as being “exteriorly about 5 inches in diameter and 3 in height. The cavity is about 2.5 inches in diameter.” Another nest measured : “external diameter 4.5 inches, height 3 ; internal cavity, diameter and depth 1.5.”
The very many nests I have seen agree well in size with the second of those taken by Hodgson, though some are a good deal smaller, and I have taken nests under 4 inches across by under 2 deep. The measurement of the first nest described by Hodgson is, I think, rather exceptionally large.
The breeding season everywhere is May and June, though Hodgson in Nepal and Masson in Sikkim also took eggs at the end of April. My earliest date is 23rd April and my latest 17th July, both exceptional dates.
They are single brooded, though birds which have been robbed build and lay again within ten days and, if again robbed, will con¬tinue to build yet another nest. I have known a Niltava breeding in a ravine close to my house have three nests robbed, the first after the young had hatched, yet succeeding with its fourth clutch. The culprit in this case was, I think, a snake. The first three nests were all within a few yards of one another in clefts in the same rocky face of the ravine, but the fourth nest was built in a hole in a dead stump.
The full clutch of eggs numbers four, though occasionally three only may be laid. They are just small replicas of the eggs of the Great Niltava and go through the same range of variations. Taken as a series they are decidedly more definitely blotched and freckled than the eggs of the larger bird and, perhaps, a trifle darker and more richly tinted.
One unusual clutch of four eggs has them all coloured like the eggs of the Little Forktail. The ground-colour is a very pale pinky cream, the markings consisting of small, pale red blotches, numerous at the larger end and scanty elsewhere.
In shape and texture they are typical but average longer, and not so broad in comparison.
One hundred eggs average 21.4 x 15.8 mm. : maxima 22.2 x 16.0 and 20.9 x 16.8 mm. ; minima 19.7 x 15.1 and 20.0 x 14.6 mm.
Both birds assist in the construction of the nest but the male bird seems to do very little of the work of incubation, though I have occasionally snared him on the nest. Incubation takes twelve days, perhaps thirteen. Of four eggs laid in a nest close to my garden the last was deposited on the 1st June ; on the 14th all had hatched and looked as if some hours old.
684. Niltava sundara sundara
(684) Niltava sundara sundara Hodgs.