31. Parus atriceps.
The Indian Grey Tit.
Parus atriceps, Horsf. Trans. Linn. Soc. xiii, p. 160 (1822); Legge, Birds Ceyl. pt ii, p. 557 ; Oates, B. B. i, p. 125 ; id. in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. i, p. 31. Parus cinereus, Vieill. Tabl. Enc. et Method. ii, p. 506 (1823) ; Blyth, Cat. p. 103; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 370; Jerd. B. I. ii, p. 278; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. ii, p. 52; Blanf. J. A. S. B. xxxviii, pt. ii, p. 181; Hume Henders. Lah. to Yark. p. 230; Gadow, Cat. B. M. viii p. 10. Parus nipalensis, Hodgs. Ind. Rev. 1838, p. 31; Anders. Yunnan Exped., Aves, p. 632; Hume, Cat. no. 645; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 73; Barnes, Birds Bum. p. 248; Hume, S. F xi, p. 255. Parus caesius, Tick, fide Jerd. B. I. ii, p. 278; Hume, N. & E. p. 405.
Coloration. Forehead, lores, crown, nape, chin, throat, breast, a band on either side the neck connecting the nape with the breast, and a band down the middle of the abdomen black; cheeks and ear-coverts white; the upper part of the back next the black of the nape white; remainder of back, rump, scapulars, and lesser and median coverts ashy grey ; winglet and greater coverts black, edged with ashy grey, and the latter broadly tipped white; quills dark brown, the earlier primaries and the tertiaries edged white, the other quills with ashy grey; upper tail-coverts deep ashy blue; tail black, the four median pairs of feathers edged with ashy grey on the outer webs and all but the middle two pairs tipped white; fifth pair white, with the shaft black and a band of black on the inner web; outer pair nearly entirely white with a black shaft; sides of the breast and abdomen white tinged with vinaceous; under tail-coverts black in the centre, white at the sides.
Bill black; iris brown ; legs and feet plumbeous.
Length about 5.5; tail 2.6; wing 2.6; tarsus .65; bill from gape .5.
The young have the upper plumage suffused with yellow and the lower with buff, and are not readily separable from the young of P. minor.
Towards the East, in Burma and China, the amount of white on the fifth pair of tail-feathers diminishes, and frequently the outer web is almost entirely black.
The middle pair of rectrices is occasionally blue, with black shafts. I cannot discover that this peculiarity is due to any cause or occurs in any distinct method, but it may indicate a race. The character is neither sexual nor seasonal so far as the materials at my disposal afford evidence.
This and the next species have been generally supposed to interbreed in Southern China, and to have produced an intermediate race, which has been named P. commixtus. I cannot discover any grounds for the supposition that interbreeding of the two species takes place. Every specimen from Southern China that I have been able to examine is referable either to P. minor or to P. atriceps. The former is found as far west as Karennee and the Salween district of Tenasserim in a form almost as typical as Japanese specimens, and the latter in Amoy as typical as Southern-Indian birds or those from Java.
In size both species are exactly similar, and they are only to be separated by the coloration of the back and the tail. In P. minor the back in newly-moulted birds is a clear yellowish green, and the penultimate tail-feather on each side is entirely black with the exception of a white tip; in P. atriceps the back is ashy grey like the rump, and the penultimate tail-feather on each side is white with a black shaft and a band of black on the inner web. Small variations in the colour of the tail occur, but they are never so great as to cause any doubt in the identification of the species, especially when supported by the colour of the back.
The young of both species are very similar, and have a great amount of yellowish green on the upper plumage, and it is not easy to separate them.
Distribution. Throughout the whole of India alike in the hills and plains, but more commonly in the elevated and well-wooded parts. In the Himalayas this Tit is found at all altitudes up to 9000 feet or more, from Hazara and Gilgit to Assam. It extends through the peninsula down to Cape Comorin and into Ceylon, the only portion from which it appears to be absent being Sind and Cutch. From Assam its range extends down to Tenasserim, where, however, it is noted by Davison as being rare. On the eastern borders of Burma the next species is found; but a bird procured near Bhamo by my collector was P. atriceps, and so apparently is a young bird obtained by Anderson near the same locality and now in the British Museum.
Outside of Indian limits proper it occurs on the west in Baluchistan and Afghanistan, and on the north in Turkestan, where it is found as a paler race (P. boccharensis), and it passes up the Sutlej valley into Little Tibet. To the east it extends through Southern China, and to the south down the Malay peninsula to the islands.
Habits, &c. Breeds from March to June, laying five or six eggs on a pad of moss, grass, and hair in a hole of a tree or wall. The eggs are pinkish white, with a ring of red spots and blotches round the larger end and a few small spots elsewhere, and they measure .71 by .54.