(516) Cercomela fusca.
The Brown Rock-Chat.
Saxicola fusca Blyth, J. A. S. B., xx, p. 523 (1851) (Muttra). Cercomela fusca. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 80.
Vernacular names. Shama (Cen. Prov.).
Description. Upper plumage brown, fringed with rufous after the autumn moult; upper tail-coverts darker and tail very dark brown ; wings dark brown, each feather edged with rufous in fresh plumage; sides of head and neck and lower plumage dull rufous.
There is considerable individual variation in the colour of this Chat due to abrasion and bleaching; in some the rufous tinge is quite absent and in a few birds the upper plumage is quite a dark brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 165 to 170 mm.; wing 84 to 93 mm.; tail 64 to 69 mm. tarsus about 20 mm.; culmen 13 to 15 mm.
Distribution. Resident in Central India. It is found practically throughout the United Provinces, the South of the Punjab, the extreme North-East of the Central Provinces, Rajputana East to Cutch. "Whistler found it to be fairly common in the small hills round about Takuwala in the Jhang district of the Punjab.
Nidification. The Brown Rock-Chat breeds wherever found within the limits given above. The nest is a roughly made shallow cup, often little more than a pad, of grass, roots, wool, hair, etc., much mixed together but, generally, with the latter materials as a lining. It may be placed in a hole in almost any position: a bank, cliff, stone wall, well or empty building and very often in houses which are occupied. In these they not only place their nests in holes but under the eaves, on the rafters or on any other con¬venient ledge. The eggs generally number three only, sometimes four and very rarely five. They are typical Wheatears' in colour, shape and markings. The ground is a pale blue or bluish green, sometimes almost or quite spotless but in nine eggs out of ten with a fairly well-marked ring of reddish specks and small blotches at the larger end. In shape they are usually a broad obtuse oval, less often a longer oval with the small end well pointed.
Fifty eggs average 20.5 x 15.5 mm.: maxima 22.3 X 16.5 mm.; minima 19.0 X 14.7 mm.
The breeding-season lasts from April to July or even later; two broods are nearly always reared in the year, sometimes three, the birds using the same nest for both or all three broods.
Habits. In its ways, flight, food and voice this bird is a quite typical Wheatear but, unlike practically all species of AEnanthe, the Brown Rock-Chat is one of the tamest, boldest and most confiding of birds. When breeding it seems to lose all fear of man and will build in rooms and offices which are continually in use, passing in and out of them quite regardless of the numerous human beings within. It is found both round about and in villages and towns and also in arid stony wastes, rocky hills and cultivation.