(247) Pellorneum ignotum ignotum.
THE ASSAMESE BABBLER.
Pellorneum ignotum Hume, S. F., v, p, 339 (1877) (Sadiya, Assam); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 144.
Vernacular names. Dao-chiki (Cachari).
Description. Whole upper plumage, tail and exposed parts of the wing rufescent olive-brown; wings and tail rather more rufescent than the back; lores and over the eyes greyish brown ; ear-coverts brown with paler shafts ; sides of neck like the back ; chin, throat, centre of breast and abdomen dull white, very slightly mottled with rufescent brown; remainder of lower plumage rusty-brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill pale bluish-horny, paler still on lower mandible; legs and feet light sienna-grey to fleshy.
Measurements. Length about 150 mm.; wing 56 to 59 mm.; tail 51 to 55 mm.; tarsus about 23 mm.; culmen about 12 to 13 mm.
Distribution. Assam south of the Brahmaputra and in the extreme north-east, where it has been observed in Sadiya. Stevens also obtained it in N. Lakhimpur, west of the Subansiri, so it may extend a good deal further west than hitherto recorded.
Nidification. The Assamese Babbler breeds from 3,000 feet up to at least 5,500, and possibly much higher, the breeding season commencing in May and lasting until the end of July. The nest is made of grasses and bamboo leaves, lined with the former. It is smaller, better and more compactly made than most nests of this genus and very often is a deep cup in shape, rather than domed. It also differs from the nest of other species of Pellorneum in being placed well above the ground, in bamboo clumps, tangles of vines or in bushes, and never on the ground. The eggs number three or four, sometimes two only, and are pale pink in groundcolour, with freckles of rather dark brownish red profusely scattered over the whole surface, but sometimes even more numerous at the larger end, where they may form a cap or ill-defined zone. In shape they are regular ovals and the texture is fairly close and smooth, there is but little gloss and the shell is rather fragile in comparison with the size. Two hundred eggs average 2O.0x 15.1 mm.; maxima 22.8 X l5.5 and 21.1x15.9 mm.; minima 18.2 x 14.1 mm.
Habits. This is a shy, quiet little bird, found either in small flocks or in pairs. Its notes are low and soft, and its alarm and call-note is a low, rippling whistle. It is most common between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, but wanders much higher in summer and descends practically to the plains in winter. In this latter season it shows a marked fondness for bamboo-jungle, especially such as has a little undergrowth, but in summer it keeps more to thin scrub and brushwood and even to thicker forest. It is an extraordinarily close sitter and will remain blinking at one from its nest until almost touched.