(63) Lophophanes melanolophus.
THE CRESTED BLACK-TIT,
Parus melanolophus Vigors, P. Z. S., i, p. 23 (1831) (Himalayas). Lophophanes melanolophus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 57.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead, crown, crest, hind neck, lores, chin, throat and crest deep black; a large patch on the nape white; the ear-coverts extending down the sides of the neck, the cheeks and under the eye white; upper plumage iron-grey, the exposed parts of the wing and tail paler; the middle and lower series of the wing-coverts, the inner and some of the outer secondaries tipped with white, the tips of the coverts more or less tinged with rufous; lower plumage from the breast downwards iron-grey; the under wing-coverts, axillaries and a portion of the flanks chestnut; under tail-coverts nearly all chestnut.
Colours of soft parts. Bill black; legs, feet and claws dark bluish grey ; iris brown (Davison).
Measurements, Length about 110 mm.; wing 60 to 63 mm.; tail about 37 to 38 mm.; tarsus about 16 mm.; culmen about 6 mm.
The young have the head brown; the upper plumage greyish-brown ; the wing spots very rufous; the chin, throat, and crest brown ; the remainder of the lower plumage fulvous-brown with the axillaries pale chestnut.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Afghanistan to Garhwal, between 6,000 and 12,000 feet.
Nidification. Breeds at all heights from the end of March to the middle of June, most eggs being laid in May. The nest may be placed in any convenient hole, in tree, wall, bank or rock. It has generally a substantial basis of moss, sometimes several inches thick, over which is placed a mass of fur, hair or wool. The eggs number from four to ten and are white with spots of bright brownish red. Typically they are longer ovals than are the eggs of the genus Parus and one hundred eggs average 15.7 x 11.7 mm. They are said to generally rear two broods.
Habits. This little Tit is extremely common over the Western Himalayas, being found up to 12,000 feet in summer and clown to 2,000 feet in winter, perhaps even lower. It goes about in flocks of some dozen or more birds and is very partial to oak forest when not too thick. It is said by Adams often to associate with Cephalopyrus flammiceps.