(1012) Ploceus benghalensis.
The Black-throated Weaver-Bird,
Loxia benghalensis Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed. i, p. 175 (1758) (Bengal) Ploceus bengalensis. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 177.
Vernacular names. Sarbo Baya (Hind.); Shor Baya, Kanta-wala Baya (Beng.).
Description. - Adult male in Summer. Forehead and crown glistening golden-yellow, surrounded by a black line from the eye round the nape; back and scapulars dark brown, obsoletely edged paler; rump and upper tail-coverts paler brown; tail brown; wing-feathers dark brown, edged with fulvous; sides of head and lores brown; chin and throat whitish; in a few specimens, perhaps very old, the sides of the head and throat become practically pure white. Breast black, remainder of lower plumage dull pale fulvous, darker and streaked with brown on the flanks and next the breast.
Colours of soft parts. Iris light brown to bright hazel; bill pearly white or pale bluish plumbeous; legs and feet pale flesh-colour or yellowish fleshy.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 67 to 75 mm.; tail 42 to 47 mm.; tarsus 19 to 20 mm.; bill 14 to 16 mm.
Male in Winter. Crown and forehead dark brown, obscurely margined paler; a narrow supercilium from the forehead to ear-coverts golden yellow; upper parts and wings dark brown, boldly edged with fulvous-rufous; a moustachial streak dark brown; above this a yellow patch, a second paler patch above the eye and a third bright patch on the sides of the neck; chin and throat pale yellow; breast dark fulvous, the black bases showing through more or less ; the fulvous fringes to these feathers soon wear away leaving the breast almost black by January or [February.
Female. Similar to the male in Winter but with the yellow parts less vivid and the breast never so black.
Young birds are more distinctly streaked below and have no yellow on the head.
Distribution. Northern India from Sind to Eastern Assam, Cachar, Sylhet and Manipur. General Betham found it breeding in Baroda. It is common in Bengal and Bihar ; very common in Eastern Bengal to Sylhet but less so in Cachar; Inglis obtained it breeding in Bihar. It is not found in Burma.
Nidification. The Black-throated Weaver-Bird breeds wherever found, except, perhaps, in the driest areas. A. M. Primrose records it as breeding in some numbers in the Longview Tea Estate, near Kurseong, about 4,000 feet elevation but it is essentially a bird of the plains and lower hills. It breeds in small, scattered colonies; often there are a very large number of birds in one plain of elephant grass, thatching grass or ekra, but each colony seldom numbers as many as twenty pairs and usually only four or five to about a dozen. The nest is like that of Ploceus philippinus without the long neck and often with only a very short entrance tube, though I have seen some nearly three feet long. They prefer to build in grass or reeds of some kind, weaving the blades well into the top and sides of the nest but they occasionally build in bushes when some approach to a neck may be made. The eggs number three or four, rarely five and are not distinguishable from the eggs of other Indian Weaver-Birds. One hundred eggs average 20.3 x 15.0 mm.: maxima 22.4 X 14.6 and 21.8 x 15.3 mm.: minima 18.1 x 13.5 mm.
They breed from May to September, the time varying according to the commencement of the rains.
Habits. Those of the other Weaver-Birds. This species, however, keeps much to the vast seas of grass found over Northern India which are more or less swamps throughout the rains. It is not found in very dry areas, as a rule, and does not haunt trees or even well-wooded country.