(535) Rhyacornis fuliginosa fuliginosa.
The Plumbeous Redstart.
Phaenicura fuliginosa Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 35. Rhyacornis fuliginosu8. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 98.
Vernacular names. Saradum parbo-pho (Lepcha); Chubbia nukki (Bhutea).
Description.— Adult male. Whole plumage dull cyaneous the lores almost or quite black and the ear-coverts and sides of the neck often darker than the upper plumage; wings black edged cyaneous and the greater coverts sometimes tipped with white specks: upper and lower tail-coverts, tail and vent bright chestnut.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black; legs and feet dark brown.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 72 to 81 mm.; tail 46 to 52 mm.; tarsus about 24 mm.; culmen about 11 mm.
Adult female. Whole upper plumage bluish ashy-brown; wing-coverts and inner secondaries brown edged with fulvous-rufous and with a white spot at the tip ; greater coverts, primaries and outer secondaries brown with pale edges; upper and lower tail-coverts white; tail dark brown with broad white bases, the white increasing on the outer feathers until it covers all but the tip and edge of the outer web of the outermost; whole lower plumage ashy-blue, each feather with a bold white bar; the chin and throat are generally tinged with rufous, the same colour extending to the cheek and round the eye.
Colours of soft parts as in the male.
Measurements. "Wing about 70 to 73 mm.; tail about 45 to 50 mm.
Nestlings are brown above, each feather with a fulvous central spot; below they are fulvous, the feathers edged with blackish; abdomen and vent whitish ; tail as in the female.
Distribution. Himalayas from Afghanistan and Baluchistan to Eastern Assam and Tibet; Northern Burma and the Burmese Hills to Tenasserim, Northern Siam, Yunnan, Central and South China and Hainan, but not Formosa where it is replaced by Ogilvie-Grant's B. f. affinis.
Nidification. The Plumbeous Redstart breeds from 4,000 to 12,000 feet, and possibly up to 14,000 feet on the Tibetan plateaux, during April, May and the early part of June, sometimes having a second brood in the end of June and in July. Stoliczka found it breeding at 13,000 feet in the Spiti Valley, and Macdonald sent me nests from between 13,000 and 14,000 feet above Rhamtso. The nest is a lovely little cup made principally of living green moss, sometimes mixed with roots, a few leaves and fern-rachides. The lining is normally of fine roots and hair-like fibres, but occasionally hair or wool is employed. It is placed in almost any kind of natural hollow beside a stream ; the site may be a hole amongst the roots or in the trunk of a tree, in amongst boulders and rocks or just in a sloping bank. Wherever placed it is almost always well concealed.
The eggs vary from three to five, generally four. The groundcolour is a pale greenish or yellowish stone, sometimes almost a pure pale sea-green. The markings consist of specks and small blotches of reddish brown, sometimes tiny and sparsely scattered all over the surface, sometimes larger and more numerous and then generally disposed in a ring or cap at the larger end.
One hundred eggs average 18.7 x 14.5 mm.: the maxima are 20.2 x 14.9 and 20.0 x 15.5 mm.; minima 17.2 x 14.1 and 19.0 x 13.5 mm.
Habits. The Plumbeous Redstart is a typical Redstart in all its ways, but keeps practically entirely to the beds of streams and rivers. It is a most active energetic little bird, everlastingly flicking its tail as it perches on some convenient stone in the middle of the stream. From this it makes little sallies after insects, sometimes catching them on the wing like a Flycatcher, sometimes pursuing them with tiny, rapid steps, over stones and shallows. It will enter comparatively deep water after water-insects and occasionally disappears underneath altogether.
It is probable that this little Redstart does not always acquire adult plumage the first spring, for birds in female plumage always number several to every bird in male plumage and, at least twice, I have seen males actually breeding in female plumage.
This little Redstart often sings in winter, and two males will fight if they meet or will dance to one another as in the breeding-season, quivering a few inches over the rushing stream of some mountain torrent, wings and tail wide outspread, for two or three minutes at a time before returning to the stone from which they started. They are very crepuscular in their Habits.