(66) Lophophanes rufonuchalis rufonuchalis Blyth.
THE SIMLA BLACK-TIT.
Lophophanes rufonuchalis rufonuchalis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 85.
The Simla Black-Tit is found from Turkestan and Afghanistan to the Simla States and Garhwal. Scully got it at Gilgit, where he says it breeds, and Ward describes it as widely distributed throughout Kashmir.
Very little is recorded about its breeding. Wardlaw Ramsay says that it was breeding in Afghanistan in May (Ibis, 1880. p. 45) and Brooks found a nest containing young at Derali in the middle of May. This nest was “under a stone in the middle of a footpath, up and down which people and cattle were constantly passing.” It was not, however, until 1910 that its eggs were taken, the fortunate finder being Mr. S. L. Whymper. He writes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xx, p. 1157, 1911) as follows :—
“These birds I found very common from 8,000 up to 11,000 feet ; they appear to build invariably in a hole on the ground, usually under a stone or root and, except when building, it is practically impossible to find the nests, as they are usually in most unlikely looking holes. It is also not easy to hit off the right time to get a full clutch of fresh eggs, as they have an exasperating habit of carrying in wool long after the eggs have been laid, and I have lost two clutches by their being hard set when dug out ; however, five nests with fresh eggs were secured and many were seen with young in May. The nest is a mere pad of wool with a little moss and is placed sometimes two feet from the entrance ; the eggs seem much less spotted than most Tits and four seems the full clutch, at least I never saw more either of eggs or young.”
The only other nest taken was one by Col. A. E. Ward which has since passed into my collection. This was taken in the Liddar Valley, the nest of fur and moss being placed in a rat’s hole in a bank and contained six eggs. The bird was shot off the nest and is now in Col. Ward’s collection. The eggs seem, however, small for those of this bird. They only measure about 14.5 x 12.0 mm., whereas Whymper’s 11 eggs average 17.6 x 12.9 mm. : maxima 18.2 x 13.1 mm. : excluding Ward’s eggs the minima are 17.1 x 12.1 mm.
In appearance they are typical Tit’s eggs and could not, I think, be distinguished from rather feebly marked, longish eggs of the Grey-Tits.