(624) Laiscopus himalayanus.
The Altai hedge-sparrow.
Accentor himalayanus Blyth, J. A. S. B , xi, p. 187 (1842) (Himalayas) ; Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 168.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead, crown, nape and hind-neck greyish brown with darker central streaks; back, scapulars and inner secondaries black, broadly margined with rufous and the latter with whitish tips; rump and central tail-coverts pale greyish brown, faintly streaked darker; outer tail-coverts black edged with pale rufous ; tail dark brown edged and tipped pale rufous ; wing-coverts blackish, edged with rufous and tipped white; primaries and outer secondaries brown, narrowly edged with pale rufous ; a narrow pale grey supercilium ; feathers under the eye blackish, speckled with white; ear-coverts rufous, pale-shafted; chin, throat and fore-neck white, the sides banded with black and an indefinite collar next the breast; remainder of lower plumage rufous, the feathers edged with white and a few feathers in the centre of the breast sometimes sub-edged with a narrow black line ; centre of abdomen and vent almost white; under tail-coverts blackish with broad white margins.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brick-red to carmine ; bill black, the gape and base of lower mandible fleshy ; legs and feet fleshy-brown, claws nearly black.
Measurements. Total length about 150 mm.; wing 83 to upper tail-coverts olive-brown; tail brown with pale edges ; lesser and median wing-coverts ashy-brown, tipped white and with dark centres; greater coverts brown, centred dark, edges rufescent and tipped with rufescent white; quills dark brown edged paler and the innermost secondaries broadly edged with rufescent; chin, throat and fore-neck ashy-brown; breast dark ferruginous ; lower breast, abdomen and flanks pale fulvous or almost white, the sides, vent and under tail-coverts streaked with rufous-brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris whitey-brown to clear pale brown; bill black; legs and feet fleshy-brown to horny reddish brown; claws darker.
Measurements. Total length about 165 to 170 mm.; wing 75 to 81 mm.; tail 52 to 59 mm.; tarsus about 21 mm.; culmen about 11 mm.
The Young bird has no red on the breast, these parts being streaked with black on a buffy-brown ground ; the black bases of the feathers of the throat and neck are very obvious, giving a mottled appearance; the feathers of the head are also more streaky in character.
Distribution. Himalayas from the Afghan Frontier to Tibet and the Hills North of the Brahmaputra to Szechuan and Kansu.
Nidification. This is a very common Hedge-Sparrow from Ladak to Eastern Tibet, breeding between 10,000 and 15,000 feet during June and July and sometimes in May. The nest is a typical, untidy Hedge-sparrow nest, placed in the low thorn-bushes which grow over so great an extent of these plateaus. Most often three eggs only are laid, sometimes four, which are quite indistinguishable from other Hedge-sparrows' eggs. Forty eggs average 19.8 x 14.7 mm.: maxima 21.0 x 15.0 and 20.1 x 15.3 mm.; minima 18.6 X 14.2 mm.
Habits. Those of the family. It is said to be a great skulker and its sweet little song is more often heard than the bird itself is seen.