(749) Pericrocotus erythropygius.
The White-bellied Minivet.
Muscicapa erythropygia Jerdon, Madr. Journ. L. S., xi, p. 17 (1840). Pericrocotus erythropygius. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 488.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description.— Adult male. Whole head, back, scapulars, lesser, median and primary coverts and upper tail-coverts black; inner greater wing-coverts white; quills black, all but the first pair with a patch of white near the base; inner secondaries white on the outer webs and tips of inner webs; tail, four central rectrices black, the lateral feathers white and diagonally black at the base ; rump and breast crimson orange-red divided from the black throat by a white band, extending to the sides of the neck : lower breast, flanks and abdomen white; axillaries and under wing-coverts black and white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel or golden-hazel; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 150 mm.; wing 60 to 71 mm.; tail 66 to 74 mm.; tarsus about 13 to 14 mm.; culmen 9 to 10 mm.
Female. Lores dark brown ; forehead and traces of a supercilium white; rump white and orange; remaining upper plumage brown, rather darker on the head ; tail as in the male ; wing as in the male but dark brown instead of black; lower plumage white, the breast washed with grey-brown.
Colours of soft parts and Measurements as in the male.
Distribution. Central India, practically the whole of the Bombay Presidency, South to Travancore (Stewart), Nilgiri and Palni Hills, North-West to Sind and North-East to Oudh, Behar and Lohardagga.
There seem to be two well-marked forms of this Minivet, one with a crimson breast and one with an orange-red breast. Birds from Sambhur East and North and North-East all have the orange-red breast very well marked whilst birds from the South and South-West all have crimson breasts. On the other hand, a few birds from round about Sambhur, e. Ajmere, Gurgaon etc., have orange-red breasts. It would appear that the two forms meet here but more material is necessary before any safe division can be made.
Nidification. Mr. J. Davidson found this bird breeding in some numbers in Khandesh and Kanara and Mr. Stewart has eggs from Travancore. The nests are little cups made of grass-stems ornamented outside with greyish-white vegetable fibre and not with lichen and bark as are those of most Minivets. Again, instead of being placed high up in trees they are built in thorny scrub, growing in extra thick patches of jungle where there are ample trees to build on if so desired. The eggs are greyish white marked all over with longitudinal streaks of dark brown with a few underlying pale streaks of lavender-grey. Twenty eggs average 17.4 x 13.4 mm.: maxima 19.0 x 13.3 and 18.0 x 14.4 mm.; minima 16.5 x 13.0 mm. They breed during March and April and again in July, August and September, laying two or three eggs only.
Habits. The White-bellied Minivet is a frequenter of forest both thin and dense and is especially fond of rather thick scrubby undergrowth in ravines and broken country. Except that they hunt for their insect prey in among bushes and low trees rather than among the higher trees, their habits are those of the other Minivets.