(354) Pteruthius erythropteras.
THE RED-WINGED SHRIKE-BABBLER.
Lanius erythropterus Vigors, P. Z. p. 22 (1831) (Himalaya Mt.) (Murree, Punjab). Pteruthius erythropterus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 224.
Vernacular names. Dao-kranji (Cachari).
Description.— Adult male. Forehead to nape, lores, under the eye and ear-coverts black; a broad white supercilium ; upper plumage bluish grey, some of the upper tail-coverts tipped with black ; tail and wing-coverts black; primaries and outer secondaries dark brown, edged with glossy black and tipped with white ; inner secondaries chestnut, lower plumage very pale greyish white, the sides of the throat, centre of the abdomen, vent and under wing- and tail-coverts pure white; lower parts of the flanks pale rusty.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale greenish or greyish white to deep lavender-, green-, or blue-grey of almost every conceivable tint and sometimes (Godwin-Austen) amber; bill pale plumbeous, the base of mandible and most of the culmen black; legs and feet pale fleshy-white to pale fleshy-brown, claws horny-brown and soles more yellowish.
Measurements. Total length about 190 mm.; wing 80 to 85 mm.; tail about 60 to 65 mm.; tarsus about 28 to 29 mm.; culmen about 17 mm.
Female and Young. The upper part of the head bluish grey instead of black and supercilium very indistinct; upper plumage olive-grey; smaller wing-coverts black edged with yellowish; greater coverts black with yellow outer webs; primary-coverts and winglet black; the earlier primaries edged with hoary-grey, the others with yellow; inner secondaries chestnut; the central tail-feathers green, the others black with broad green margins to the outer webs and tipped with yellow; lower plumage entirely pale buff.
Measurements a little smaller than the male; wing 78 to 81 mm.
The young male assumes the adult plumage in the first autumn.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Hazara to E. Assam, Manipur and the Chin Hills.
Nidification. This Shrike-Babbler breeds between 3,500 and 9,000 feet in June. Col. R. H. Rattray describes its nest as one of the most difficult to find, being always built in the smaller twigs very high up in high trees in forest. The nest is a strong, neat cradle of fine roots, built, like an Oriole's, pendent from a small fork. Three eggs taken on the 11th of June were a pale lilac-white with numerous fine specks and spots of deep purple, forming deep rings round the extreme larger end and finely peppered over the rest of the surface. They are broad ovals in shape, of a rather fragile, glossless texture and measure about 21.8 x 16.2 mm. A nest taken by myself on the Khasia Hills in May contained two abnormal, addled eggs. Neither nest nor eggs bear any resemblance to those of the Laniidae or Campephagidae.
Habits. In the Himalayas from West to East this bird seems to be found from 5,000 feet upwards but in the hills South of the Brahmaputra they descend to 3,500 feet and are common, even in summer, at 4,000 feet. They consort either in pairs or in small parties and keep much to the fringe of forests, the sides of roads and streams and open glades, and when perched on the topmost twig of some tall bush they do look extremely Shrike-like but directly they move the resemblance disappears. They are sedate and rather slow in their actions as they hop about or clamber through the bushes and scrub and their flight is jerky, dipping and rather feeble. They are not shy birds and keep up a continuous grating " chirr " when being watched but they also have some loud musical call-notes. They feed both on insects and berries and seeds.