(534) Chaimarrhornis leucocephala.
The White-capped Redstart.
Phaenicura leucocephala Vigors, P. Z. S., 1830, p; 35 (Himalayas). Chimarrhornis leucocephalus. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 89.
Vernacular names. Gir-chaondia (Hind.); Kali-pholia (Mohun Ghat); Mati-tap-pho (Lepcha); Ghidia-mati (Bhut.).
Description. Crown and nape white; rest of head, back and wings glossy blue-black; rump, upper tail-coverts and lower parts from breast rich chestnut; tail, basal two-thirds chestnut, rest black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris deep brown or hazel; bill black, gape fleshy ; legs and feet dark brown, claws black.
Measurements. Total length about 190 mm.; wing 85 to 102 mm.; tail 68 to 77 mm.; tarsus 29 to 31 mm.; culmen 13.5 to 14.5 mm.
Chinese birds seem rather large, wing 93 to 102 mm. as against extremes of 85 to 99 mm. in N.W. Indian birds.
Young. Have the feathers of the crown edged with blackish brown ; the black parts oil the adult more brownish, especially below ; the feathers of the upper parts are spotted with fulvous-brown and below are fringed with rufous; the brown of the breast extends on to the abdomen, where it is much suffused with rufous, which blends into the chestnut of the under tail-coverts. Tail as in the adult.
As the rufous margins wear off the plumage becomes much blacker, but does not seem to acquire the blue-black of the adult until after the first spring moult.
Distribution. From Afghanistan and Baluchistan, Gilgit and Cashmere to extreme Eastern Assam, North and South of the Brahmaputra, Tibet, Setchuan to the Yangtse. The Northern Burmese Hills, North Siam, Shan States and Yunnan.
Nidification. The White-capped Redstart breeds from Afghanistan to Western China at all heights between 6,000 and 16,000 feet, but generally between 8,000 and 14,000 feet. It makes a deep and rather massive cup-shaped nest, which it generally places in a crevice, or on a ledge, of rock on the banks of a river or hill-stream. At other times it may be placed under a stone or the roots of a tree on a bank and occasionally in a hole in a bank or even in tree-trunks. Most nests are placed beside or near water, but it may also be built at a considerable distance from it. It is made of moss, leaves, roots and grass lined with fur, wool or hair, or any one or more of these mixed with grass.
The eggs number three or four, very rarely five. The groundcolour is a pale blue or blue-green, rarely with a pinkish tinge and the marks consist of specks and spots of reddish brown with others underlying them of grey and neutral tint. In the majority of eggs the markings are fairly numerous over the whole surface, in others they are very small and sparse and in a very few bold and large, forming caps.
Fifty eggs average 24.6 x 16.8 mm.: maxima 25.2 x 16.7 and 23.8 x 17.3 mm.; minima 22.2 X 17.0 and 22.3 x 15.9 mm.
The breeding-season is May and June, but nests have been taken in August, and many birds probably have a second brood.
Habits. This Redstart is essentially a bird of rivers and streams, seldom being found away from them. They feed principally on insects which they catch on the shingle on river-banks or on islands in the river, and they are much more active on their legs than most Redstarts and not so prone to haunting one particular starting- or observation-point. They extend down to the foothills and plains adjacent to them in winter and in summer wander up to nearly 18,000 feet.