(534) Chaimarrhornis leucocephalus (Vigors).
THE WHITE-CAPPED REDSTART.
Chaimarrhornis leucocephala, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 79.
The White-capped Redstart is found from Afghanistan, Gilgit and Baluchistan on the West, throughout the Himalayas through Kashmir to extreme Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra, Tibet, Setchuan to the Yangtse.
This Redstart breeds at all heights from 6,000 to 16,000 feet and, perhaps, higher still, but its general breeding elevation may be con¬sidered as between 8,000 and 14,000 feet.
It is essentially a bird of the rapid running rivers and streams and never breeds away from these, but it is found equally often on those running through virgin forest and on those winding in and out of the grass or bush-covered mountains at the higher elevations. It, however, does not often breed on the very tiny streams and waterways which force their way down ravines in dense tree-forest, with trees meeting overhead. Light and space and air seem to be needed just as much as torrent, rapid and waterfall.
The nest is a bulky cup, measuring as much as 6" in diameter by 2.1/2" to 3.1/2" deep It is built mainly of moss, more or less mixed with roots, leaves and other oddments, lined with wool, hair and roots, sometimes one, sometimes another and sometimes all three mixed.
The favourite site for the nest is in a hole or crevice of a rock overhanging water or among the boulders on the banks. Often it is placed on the bank itself, hidden in a hole or depression in moss, grass or weeds ; at other times it may be built under an overhanging edge of a bank or among the roots of a tree on the waterside. Occasionally it has been taken from holes low down in dead trees, whilst Whymper records haying found two nests of this bird placed in cavities in fallen trees.
June and early July seem to form the chief breeding season, but I have had eggs sent me from Tibet which were taken in May, one as early as the 19th, whilst on the other hand some were taken in the last few days of July. Again, Whymper notes that by the 15th June some young were ready to leave the nests and that others had already left, yet on the 30th July he saw a pair repairing an old nest for another laying. They must often have two broods, more especially in the lower and middle elevations, and Major Magrath gives an interesting account (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xix, p. 149, 1909) of two broods raised near the engine-house of the Murree Waterworks :—“Captain Skinner found the nest, just after the young were hatched, on a bank above the engine-house, While still feeding their brood the parents again started nesting in a weep hole of the revetment wall of the embankment on which the engine- house and tanks stood. This second nest was not more than 15 yards from the engine and within a foot of the top of the embankment, where men were constantly passing to and fro. I learned subse¬quently that this nest was never completed and that a third was built close by in another weep-hole of the same embankment.”
It is interesting to note that Major Magrath speaks of the parents constructing the second nest, so, apparently, although only the female incubates, the male assists in building the nest.
The eggs vary from a type similar to rather boldly speckled bluish-white eggs of some of the Phoenicurus group to a type as heavily marked as many eggs of the Magpie-Robins.
The ground-colour is a pale sea-green, not varying much in depth of tint, but in some brighter, in others duller. Most eggs are rather boldly and profusely marked all over with rather dark reddish- brown, usually more numerous at the larger end, where they occasionally form caps or rings. In addition, there are underlying blotches of lavender and neutral tint, sometimes darkening to inky purple. At the extremes of difference in marking some eggs are quite heavily marked with fair-sized blotches and others only lightly speckled with light reddish-brown. One handsome clutch of three has heavy red-brown blotches, forming caps at the big end, while they are sparse elsewhere. A second, still more handsome clutch has the ground rather extra clear pale sea-green, one egg unmarked and the other three with small caps of very rich chocolate-brown at the extreme larger end.
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. In shape they are generally rather long ovals, well compressed or blunt at the smaller end. The texture is rather coarse for a Redstart’s egg but, in a few eggs, the surface is slightly glossed.
534. Chaimarrhornis leucocephalus
(534) Chaimarrhornis leucocephalus (Vigors).