(439) Microtarsus melanocephalus melanocephalus.
The Black-headed Bulubul.
Lanius melanocephalus Gmel., S. N., i, p. 309 (17S8) (Sandwich in mares australis). Micropus melanocephalus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 294.
Vernacular names. Dao-bulip-garasha (Cachari).
Description. Whole head, throat and upper breast black, glossed with blue and purple; remainder of upper plumage olive-yellow, brighter on the rump and yellow on the upper tail-coverts; breast and flanks the same, shading into bright yellow on the abdomen and under tail-coverts; tail olive-yellow for half its length, then black and tipped with yellow, narrowly on the centre feathers and increasingly broadly on the others; primary-coverts dull black, narrowly edged with olive-yellow, other coverts wholly of this colour on the outer webs; primaries and outer secondaries black, the first obsoletely, the latter broadly, edged with olive-yellow; the visible inner secondaries all olive-yellow; the feathers of the rump and upper tail-coverts are very dark grey at the base and then black, the tips alone being broadly yellow so that the rump nearly always appears barred with black, though in a perfect specimen the rump looks almost immaculate yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Irides various shades of pale blue; bill very dark plumbeous, nearly black ; mouth and gape bluish, some¬times tinged fleshy; legs dark plumbeous, claws black.
Measurements. Length about 175 mm,; wing 80 to 86 mm.; tail about 84 mm.; tarsus about 13 mm.; culmen about 13 to 14 mm.
Distribution. Assam, South of the Brahmaputra and Eastern Bengal hill-tracts, Arrakan, Chin Hills, practically the whole of Burma, Shan States, Siam and the whole Malay Peninsula to Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Philippines.
Nidification. This Bulbul breeds round Amherst from February to April and in North Cachar in May, making a very strongly-built cup-shaped nest, which it places in low bushes in evergreen, humid forests from the level of the plains up to 2,000 or 3,000 feet. The materials of the nests I have personally seen have consisted principally of the tough but fine stems of a wild bean. With these are twigs, dead leaves and grass blades and the whole is securely wound round the supporting twigs. The lining is of skeleton leaves and grass stems. The eggs number two or three and, like all those of this genus, are easily distinguished from other Bulbuls' eggs. The ground-colour is a pale fleshy-pink to a lilac-pink and the primary markings consist of freckles, specks and small blotches of pale reddish, whilst the secondary, or underlying, markings are of pale grey or pale lilac neutral tint. The latter markings are generally more numerous than the former and give the dominant tint to the egg. Some eggs have the marks so fine and so numerous that they look unicoloured but most eggs have them more numerous at the big end than elsewhere, forming a pronounced ring or cap. The average of seven of my own eggs and six of Mr. J. M. D. Mackenzie's is 20-5 x 15.5 mm. and the extremes are 23.0x16.6, 19.0x15.5, and 20.5 x 15.0 mm. The surface is fine and glossy and the shell fragile. In shape they vary as much as the eggs of Otocompsa and Molpastes.
Habits. This is a purely forest Bulbul, though in the cold weather it may be found in small or big flocks feeding on trees well away from forest, especially when these are in flower and attracting many insects. It prefers scattered forest or light jungle and was most common in the ravines running from the foot-hills into the plains of Cachar and Sylhet. These ravines were heavily forested, running between grass-covered hills and light forest where the birds came out to feed in the mornings and evenings. It keeps almost entirely to the tops of high trees in the cold weather but in the breeding season descends to the smaller trees and undergrowth. Their ordinary note is a musical chirp but they also have a very mournful double whistle like the rainy-weather call of the Iora, but deeper and softer. They feed principally on berries and fruit but also eat small insects and I have shot specimens feeding on the cotton-trees over-full of such obtained from their great red flowers.
In most flocks of this birds one or more specimens will be found of the Grey-bellied Bulbul.