(813) Orthotomus sutorius sutorius.
The Indian Tailor-Bird.
Motacilla sutoria Forst., Ind. Zool., i, p. 7 (1769) (Ceylon). Orthotomus sutorius. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 366.
Vernacular names. Likka-jitta (Tel.); Tavik (Cing.).
Description. Lores and a faint supercilium white; forehead and' crown rufous changing to ashy on the nape; ear-coverts very pale rufescent-white; back, scapulars, rump, upper tail-coverts and central tail-feathers yellowish green ; lateral tail-feathers greenish brown, tipped whitish and sub-tipped darker brown, sometimes a second darker bar also shoving, though more faintly; wings light brown, the feathers edged with greenish; cheeks and lower plumage almost white, tinged with fulvous-yellow; under wing-coverts and axillaries pale fulvous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris tan, yellowish red or buff; eyelids-reddish grey; upper mandible dark horny, the tip quite dark, lower mandible pale fleshy; legs and feet straw-colour to pale fleshy-red.
Measurements. Wing 48 to 54 mm.: tail 28 to 112 mm. (Summer) ; tardus 21 to 22 mm.; culmen 13 to 15 mm.
Distribution. Ceylon, South, Central and N.-West India. To the East it extends as far as Behar and Chota Nagpore, but the birds of Alluvial Bengal belong to the next race.
In my ' Catalogue of the Birds of the Indian Empire,' I unfortunately gave the type-locality of sutorius as Calcutta. As nearly all Forster's birds were named from Ceylon, Calcutta cannot be allowed to stand and Ceylon must be substituted therefore.
Nidification. This Tailor-Bird breeds throughout the plains and hills of India up to at least 5,000 feet everywhere and, occasionally, considerably higher than this in the North-West Himalayas. The breeding-months are principally May, June and July but in many parts they breed both earlier and later. The nest is sewn into one or more leaves of a weed, bush or tree. If in one leaf the outer edges are drawn together with vegetable-down or grass seed-down and inside the cavity so formed the true little cup-nest is made; first of strong grass-stems or fibre which is stiff enough to retain its shape and then a lining of softer material. The nest may be placed within a few inches of the ground or as much as 30 or even 40 feet above it but, most often, it is within four or five feet. It builds in gardens and verandahs of houses and in the vicinity of villages and towns and also in cultivated open country but never, I believe, in forest. The eggs number three to five, very rarely six, and vary very greatly in colour. The ground may be white, pale pink, a fairly warm cream, skim-milk blue or pale blue or blue-green; the markings vary to the same extent and may consist of blotches, spots, specks or freckles of red, reddish brown, brown, black or purplish black. In most cases they are sparse everywhere, but have a tendency to be more numerous at the larger end where they may form an ill-defined cap or zone. They are never as freckly or as numerous as they are in the eggs of the genus Franklinia. One hundred eggs average 16.4 x 11.6 mm.: maxima 17.6 X 12.0 and 16.1 x 12.2 mm.; minima 15.1 x 10.7 and 15.2 x 10.6 mm.
Habits. Few birds are so well known as the confiding little Tailor-Bird, whose shrill cry is to be heard in every garden. His active little figure is constantly on view as he creeps, climbs or flits from one branch to another in his never-ending search for insects, in pursuit of which he will, without hesitation, enter rooms and verandahs where people are sitting and talking. His flight alone is enough to attract attention, for, when he really launches out for a flight of more than a few feet, he flicks his long tail so energetically and so far over his back that he always looks as if he would knock his own brains out and hurl himself to the ground. The male bird when sitting is a comical sight, for his beak and his tail almost meet together over his back; in spite, however, of his physical disabilities he is a good husband and takes his fair share of the duties of incubation.