(240) Pellorneum ruficeps ruficeps.
THE SPOTTED BABBLER.
Pellorneum ruficeps Swains., F. Bor.-Am., Birds, p. 487 (1831) (Nilgiris); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 141.
Vernacular names. Adavi-lika-jittu, (Tel.).
Description. Forehead, crown and nape dull rufous; whole upper plumage and exposed parts of wings, sides of neck and tail olive-brown, the latter tipped with white; lores and an indistinct supercilium creamy-white; sides of the head rufous, paler than the crown and mottled with black round the eye, and the ear-coverts streaked with brown ; chin, throat and cheeks white; lower plumage white or pale fulvous white boldly streaked with black on the breast and flanks and suffused with olivaceous on the latter and thighs; under tail-coverts olive-brown edged with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red to crimson-lake, but cinnamon-brown in the young; upper mandible dark brown, lower white to fleshy-white; legs, feet and claws fleshy-white.
Measurements. Length about 160 to 170 mm.; wing 72 to 76 mm.; tail 64 to 67 mm.; tarsus about 26 mm.; culmen about 17 to 18 mm.
Distribution. The Indian Peninsula south of Khandesh and the hills of Chota Nagpur. Cachar birds formerly identified for me as ruficeps are nearer minus, but the normal birds of this part of Assam are mandellii Birds of S.W. India from Coorg, Wynaad, S.W. Mysore and Travancore belong to the race called granti.
Nidification. This bird breeds in March, April and May, making a very rough globe-shaped nest of leaves and grass, very flimsy and fragile and, according to Miss Cockburn, often a mere canopy for the eggs, which rest on fallen leaves and rubbish. It is invariably placed on the ground and generally under shelter of a stone or bush. The eggs are either two or three in number and in shape broad, regular ovds. The general colour is a very pale greenish or yellowish white, profusely speckled and freckled all over with reddish brown and underlying spots of pale grey and neutral tint. They average about 21.1 x 16.3 mm.
Habits. The Spotted Babbler is found from about 2,000 feet up to some 6,000 feet or higher, descending lower in the winter but not apparently breeding. According to Miss Cockburn and Jerdon it, goes about in small flocks when not nesting, but other observers record it as being found in pairs or singly. It haunts scrub-jungle and secondary growth and also undergrowth in tree-forest, not ascending into trees but, on the other hand, often hopping about on the ground in search of its insect food. It keeps up a constant chatter and has a wide variety of notes, occasionally loud and discordant but for the most part soft and often sweet and pleasing. It is a shy bird and shuns observation.