(398) Molpastes haemorrhous haemorrhous.
THE CEYLON RED-VENTED BULBUL.
Muscicapa haemorrhous Gmel., S. N., i, p. 941 (1789) (Ceylon). Molpastes haemorrhous. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 268.
Vernacular names. Bulbul or Bulbuli (Hind.) ; Pigli-pitta (Tel.) ; Konda-lati (Tarn.).
Description. The whole head, chin and throat deep black, sharply defined at the back of the head; neck, back, wing-coverts, scapulars and breast brown, each feather narrowly margined with whitish ; rump plain brown; upper tail-coverts white; tail brown at base, darkening and becoming black towards the end, tipped white ; wing-quills brown, very narrowly margined with whitish ; sides of body and flanks brown fading to almost white on abdomen; under tail-coverts crimson; shafts of tail-feathers whitish beneath.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel to dark brown; bill black; legs and feet dark brown to black.
Measurements. Total length about 200 mm. ; wing 85 to 95 mm.; tarsus about 21 mm.: culmen about 15 mm.
Distribution. Ceylon and South India, Travancore and Mysore. North about up to 18° on the East and to about 20° on the West.
Nidification. This Bulbul breeds over the whole of its area in the plains and the foot-hills of the various ranges up to about 2,000 feet, ascending much higher than this in any hills where big towns, cultivation and big open plains have usurped the place of jungles and forests. In Ceylon they are commonly found up to 3,000 feet and on the Nilgiri Hills up to about 8,000 feet above Ootacamuud. They breed in Ceylon principally in March and April but eggs may be taken in almost any month; in India May and June are, perhaps, the favourite months but there also the breeding season is very extended, many second broods are hatched and there is practically no season in which an odd nest or two may not be seen. The nest is a cup made of dead leaves, grass, twigs, creeper stems and odd scraps of dried moss, lichen etc., fairly compactly put together but rather untidy. The lining is of fine roots and green stems. No nests are ever taken in forest or really heavy jungle and no nest is built very high up in big trees or, on the other hand, placed quite on the ground. Within these limits, however, they may be built in almost any situation. A shrub or small tree within a few feet of a frequented path, a trellis over a verandah, a bush in scrub surrounding a village, a thick patch of high grass in an orchard—all in turn may serve the pur¬pose aud, failing these, any other kind of bush, tree or stump will suffice. The number of eggs laid is two or three but in the north a clutch of four may occasionally be seen. In ground-colour the eggs vary from pure white to a pale or deep salmon-pink, a few having rather a lilac tint. Normally the markings consist of numerous small blotches, spots and freckles of various shades of red, reddish brown or pinkish brown with others, less numerous, under¬lying them of pale neutral tint and grey. In a few eggs the marks may be mere freckles or stipplings, in others again somewhat bolder and more blotchy but the range of variation does not seem as great as it is in M. h. bengalensis and M. h. burmanicus. In texture the eggs are smooth but not very fine grained, there is little or no gloss and they are rather fragile for their size. 100 eggs average 21.1 x 15.5 mm. and vary in length between 24.3 x 16.5 and 19.0 x 15.1 mm. and in breadth between 20.2 x 16.9 and 21.4 x 15 mm.
Habits. The various races of Red-vented Bulbuls are amongst the most common birds of India, sharing with the Myna, the Crow and the Kite an attachment to the vicinity of civilization and the haunts of man. They are not gregarious in the true sense of the word but they are so plentiful that in any spot which offers any inducements in the way of food large numbers may be seen feeding together. They feed on almost any kind of fruit, seed or insect and are often most destructive, picking off oranges when about the size of a pill, destroying peas in the hill gardens and also pulling to pieces young shoots and buds. They are rather quarrelsome and extremely plucky and the natives in many parts of India keep them for fighting purposes and the males will sometimes fight to the death unless parted. Their voice cannot be called beautiful but many of the notes are pleasant and they are extremely cheerful birds, always in an optimistic frame of mind and any garden is the richer for their lively, restless presence and constant gay notes. Their flight is quick and strong.