(356) Pteruthius melanotis melanotis.
THE CHESTNUT-THROATED SHRIKE-BABBLER.
Pteruthius melanotis Hodgs., J. A. S. B., xxiv, p. 267 (1855) (Terai, E. Himalayas); Blanf. & Oates,i,p. 226.
Vernacular names. Ku-er-pho (Lepcha).
Description.— Male. Upper plumage greenish yellow; tail, central tail-feathers green, tipped black, next four pairs black tipped white, these white tips increasing in size outwardly until the outermost are wholly white; a white ring round the eye; ear-coverts yellow; a black spot behind the ear-coverts; a broad supercilium bluish white ; nape bluish-ashy; lores and lines above and below the eye meeting behind it black; chin, throat and upper breast deep chestnut; remaining lower plumage bright yellow. Wings brown, the feathers edged with bluish grey and the inner secondaries wholly of this colour and all the quills but a few of the first primaries tipped with white; lesser wing-coverts black edged with grey; greater coverts black, broadly tipped with white; primary-coverts and winglet black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel or light brown; bill plumbeous; legs and feet fleshy-white.
Measurements. Length about 120 mm.; wing 60 to 63 mm.; tail about 45 to 46 mm.; tarsus about 20 mm.; culmen about 7 to 8 mm.
Female. Differs from the male in having salmon-pink tips to the wing instead of white, the chestnut of the throat not reaching the breast, and in having the lores and lines through the eyes brown and not black.
The young are like the female but the upper plumage is olive-brown and the lower plumage is yellowish white; the nape is con-colorous with the back and there are no black lines through the eyes.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Nepal to E. Assam both North and South of the Brahmaputra; Manipur.
Nidification. This beautiful little Babbler breeds from 4,000 feet upwards in the hills of S. Assam and according to Hodgson at 6,000 or 7,000 feet in Nepal. It makes a lovely little cradle-like nest of fine roots, a little moss and lichen, occasionally an odd twig or leaf or two, scantily lined with rhizomorph from a fungus or very fine moss .roots. It may be placed either in a horizontal fork or pendent between two or more small twigs and at any height from the ground from 5 to 15 feet, in bush or small sapling. They breed from the middle of April to the middle of June, laying four or five, or even six eggs. These are of two types—a delicate pinky-lilac with fine specks and tiny blotches of dark purple, mostly confined to the larger end, or a pale pink with similar marks of pale reddish brown with others underlying of pale lilac and neutral tint. The shape is a regular or rather broad oval and the texture soft and fine, glossless and rather fragile. Thirty-four eggs average 17.9 x 13.5 mm. and the extremes are 19.1 x 14.4 mm. and 16.8 x 13.0 mm. and 17.4 x 12.6 mm.
Habits. This little bird seems to be invariably found in pairs only, frequenting both lofty trees and the higher bushes and brushwood. It is essentially a forest bird but at the same time keeps to the more open parts and to the vicinity of jungle-tracks, streams and natural glades. It has the Tit-like habits of many of the smaller Babblers but is very deliberate in its movements both on wing or on foot. Its call is a pleasant double note—" too-weet, too-weet, not often uttered unless the birds are separated.