(243) Pellorneum ruficeps mandellii.
MANDELLI'S SPOTTED BABBLER.
Pellorneum mandellii Blanf., J. A. S. B, xli, p. 165 (1844) (Sikkim); Blanf. Sc Oates, i, p. 140.
Vernacular names. Dao-priti-pit (Cachari).
Description. Differs from all preceding forms in having the feathers of the hind neck and sides of the neck blackish on the outer web, creamy-buff on the inner, forming broad streaks on the sides of the mantle. . The lower plumage is more fulvous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel to deep crimson, dull pale brown in the young; upper mandible dark horny-brown, lower pale yellowish or horny-white ; legs and feet pale fleshy or fleshy-white.
Measurements. Length about 165 to 175 mm.; wing 66 to 73 mm., average 70 mm.; tail about 66 to 68 mm.; tarsus about 25 to 26 mm.; culmen about 16 to 17 mm.
Distribution. From Nepal eastwards through the Himalayas, North and South of the Brahmaputra in Assam, Manipur, extreme North of Chin and Kachin Hills, and Bhamo.
Nidification. Mandelli's Babbler breeds from March to May, a second brood being very often found from May to July or even August. Their favourite elevation is between 2,000 and 3,000 feet and their favourite country bamboo-jungle, the lightest of grass or scrub undergrowth, or poor secondary growth in deserted cultivation ; more rarely their nests may be found in undergrowth of forests. Wherever found the nests are always on the ground unless in bamboo clumps a few inches to 2 or 3 feet above it. They are made of grass and bamboo leaves, or of the latter alone merely lined with grass and in shape are large oval balls. Sometimes, when the fallen leaves lie so thick as to completely hide the nest, this is merely a deep cup or semi-domed affair and I have seen such buried deep in piles of bamboo leaves and dead grass. They are very fond of placing their nests at the edge of elephant or gaur tracks, where it seems a wonder they can escape being trampled on. The eggs, three or four in number, are like those of P. r. ruficeps, but are perhaps rather more richly marked on the whole. 200 eggs average 22.4 x 16.3 mm.; maxima 24.19 x 17.1 and 21.7 x 18.8 mm.; minima 20.5 x 16.1 and 20.6 x 15.3 mm.
Habits. During the winter this little Babbler goes about either in pairs or family parties of five or six, frequenting the kind of cover described above. They are very restless, energetic birds, constantly on the move and keeping up a never-ending chatter amongst themselves. They feed both on the ground and on bushes and grass, and from their partiality to thin cover are easy to watch as long as one keeps perfectly still, but a movement of hand or foot sends them scuttling off into denser cover, whence they loudly expostulate against the disturber. They have many sweet notes as well as harsh ones, but their prevailing note is that of the genus, a constantly repeated " pretty-dear, pretty-dear."