(46) Nucifraga caryocatactes hemispila.
THE HIMALAYAN NUTCRACKER.
Nucifraga hemispila Vigors, P.Z. S., 1830, p. 8 (Himalayas); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 41.
Vernacular names. Lho-kariyo-pho (Lepcha).
Description. Narial bristles black and white; forehead, crown, nape, hind neck and upper tail-coverts chocolate-brown; with these exceptions the whole of the plumage is umber-brown, the sides of the head and neck streaked with white; chin and throat with a few small white shaft-streaks ; the back, breast and upper abdomen with oval white drops ; under tail-coverts pure white; wings glossy black, the lesser and median coverts with triangular white tips; a few of the inner primaries with a large oval white mark on the inner webs, probably disappearing with age, as it is absent in some birds ; central tail-feathers black, the others broadly tipped white the amount of white increasing outwardly.
Some birds have the breast-spots pale rufescent instead of white, a feature which seems to have nothing to do with age.
Colours of soft parts. Legs and feet black; iris reddish brown to hazel or deep brown ; bill brown with paler tips.
Measurements. Total length about 370 mm.; tail about 150 to 160 mm.; wing 205 to 225 mm., averaging about 210 or rather more; bill 40 to 45 mm-; tarsus about 40 mm.
The young are pale brown, with rufescent drops everywhere instead of white. These, however, turn white at the first moult, when the head also acquires the white colour.
This bird is merely a local race of the European Nutcracker, from which it differs in having a far darker head, the centre of the throat and neck unspotted with white and the outer tail-feathers almost entirely white instead of merely tipped with white.
Distribution. The Himalayas from the extreme N.W., Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan into Tibet. Its distribution still requires a considerable amount of consideration as it seems to overlap in many places with the next.
Nidification. Hume took its nest with young in May near Simla, 6,500 feet, and Mr. A. E. Jones found a nest with young and one addled egg in April in the same district, whilst Whymper took nest and eggs in Garhwal 16.5.06 at 10,500 feet. The nests are described as being like neat Crows' nests but with a thick lining of fir-needles and grass. Two clutches of eggs were obtained for me in Tibet on 30.4.20, both of which were second layings after the first had been destroyed. The two clutches con¬tained three and four eggs, but all were unfortunately broken except one. This, and the eggs taken by Messrs. Jones and Whymper are similar in character to those of the European bird, except that they are duller pale sea-green in colour and have much larger blotches of olive-sienna and neutral tint.
My egg measures 35.0 x 26.0 mm.
Habits. This bird keeps much to forests of pine, cedar and fir between 3,000 and 12,000 feet, and subsists largely on the seeds of these trees ; but they also eat other seeds and fruits as well as insects. Though not regularly gregarious, they are said sometimes to collect in small parties. Their notes are harsh and loud.