Pyrrhula erythaca, Blyth, Ibis, 1862, p. 389.
Pyrrhula erythaca, Blyth, Journ. A. S. Beng, xxxii. 1863, p. 459.
Pyrrhula erithaca, Blyth, Ibis, 1863, p. 441, pl. x.
Pyrrhula erythaca, Jerdon, Birds of India, ii. p. 389 (1863).
Pyrrhula erythaca, Blyth, Ibis, 1867, p. 43.
Pyrrhula erithacus, Beavan, Ibis, 1868, p. 177.
Pyrrhula erythaca, Gray, Hand-List B. ii. p. 99 (1870).
Pyrrhula erithacus, Tristram, Ibis, 1871, p. 232.
Pyrrhula erythrocephala, Swinh. Proc. Zool. Soc. 1871, p. 387.
Pyrrhula erythaca, David. N. Arch. Mus., Bull. vii. p. 10 (1871).
Pyrrhula erythaca, Hume, Stray-Feathers, 1874, p. 455.
Pyrrhula crythaca, Sharpe and Dresser, Birds Eur.pt. li. Note (1876).
Pyrrhula erithacus, Prjev. Rowley’s Orn. Miscell. ii. p. 297 (1876).
Pyrrhula crythaca, David et Oust. Oiseaux Chine, p. 349 (1877).
Pyrrhula erithacus, Russ, Stubenvogel, p. 503 (1879).
Pyrrhula crythaca, Hume, Stray-Feathers, 1879, p. 108.
Pyrrhula erithacus, Gould, Birds Asia, v. pl. xxxii. (1880).
Pyrrhula erithacus, Sharpe, Cat. Birds in Brit. Mus. xii. p. 455 (1888).
Figures, Blyth, Ibis, 1863, pl. x. Gould, Birds Asia, pl. xxxii.
English. Bed-breasted Bullfinch. Beavan's Bullfinch.
French. Le Bouvreuil de Beavan.
German. Der Rothschwanzige Gimpel.
Habitat. Himalayas, Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Kan-su, N. W. China.
Male. Head, and whole of back, dark slaty-grey ; frontal band, and band across rump black ; lower part of rump white ; wing-coverts dark slaty-grey, basal half of the greater coverts black, like the primaries and outer tail-feathers ; secondaries, upper tail-coverts, and centre tail-feathers glossy purplish black ; the black frontal band encircled with buffish white, which blends into the grey of the head and throat ; breast, belly, and sides orange red ; under wing-coverts, middle of belly, and under tail-coverts white ; flanks, and thighs pale slaty-grey ; axillaries white tinged with orange at the tips ; under sur¬face of wings ashy ; “iris dark brown ; bill black ; feet fleshy-brown ” (Prjevalski) : length 5.9, wing 3.2, tail 2.95, tarsus 0.7, culmen 0.38.
Female. Head and hind neck ashy-grey, blending into the brown of the back ; whole of back and scapulars chocolate-brown ; the narrow white band of the face strongly tinged with yellowish buff on the cheeks and throat ; breast, belly, and sides pale chocolate- brown ; rest of plumage as in the male.
Young Male. Similar ; the buffish-white band encircling the face more extended on the cheeks and throat ; breast bright orange, very slightly tinged with red ; under wing- coverts and axillaries greyish white.
Obser. Mr. R. B. Sharpe remarks (Cat. B. B. Mus. vol. xii. p. 455) that “Mr. Hume’s series consists of seven specimens, all varying but slightly in the extent and depth of the scarlet breast, which in some is tinged with olive-yellow. One specimen has the breast ashy-grey, with only an appearance of scarlet, but is otherwise quite adult. The scarlet breast is therefore evidently gradually acquired.”
OUR first knowledge of the existence of this beautiful Bullfinch is con¬tained in a letter from Mr. Edward Blyth (late curator of the Calcutta Museum), which was published in the 'Ibis’ for 1862, wherein the writer says : “Lieut. Beavan has just returned here from Darjeeling, where (though chiefly on Tonglo mountain, 10,000 feet, on the Nepal frontier of Sikkim, and some thirty miles from Darjeeling) he has collected many good things in a very short time. Of novelties, a fine new true Bullfinch (Pyrrhula erythaca), being the fourth which the Himalaya has yielded.”
This is only a single instance of the many valuable acquisitions to our scientific knowledge of the Avifauna of the vast mountainous regions of the Himalayas visited by Lieut. Beavan, who says : “I came across a flock of this new species on my way up Mount Tonglo in April 1862. There were two males and several females picking about the bushes near the path. The females all escaped ; but I secured both the males, though one was too much damaged to preserve ; the other I sent to Mr. E. Blyth, who described it in the ‘Ibis’ for 1862 (p. 389), and in the following year furnished its portrait ('Ibis,’ 1863, pl. x.). This was the only occasion on which I observed the species. The elevation was about 9,000 feet.”
The following note is appended to Pyrrhula major by Mr. H. E. Dresser in his ‘ Birds of Europe’ :—“Pyrrhula erythaca (Blyth) is perhaps the rarest of the known species of Bullfinch ; and I am fortunate in being able to examine a specimen belonging to Captain Elwes, a male obtained in Sikkim in April 1864. It inhabits Sikkim, at great altitudes.”
In 'Stray Feathers’ for 1874 we have the following additional notes on this bird from the pen of the great collector Mr. Allan Hume, who writes :—“A specimen of that rare Bullfinch Pyrrhula crythaca has recently been obtained for me by Mr. Gammie (to whom I have repeatedly owed rare birds and eggs) at Jor Bungala, close to Darjeeling, at an elevation of between five and six thousand feet. As far as I know, this is the first specimen obtained since the late Lieutenant Beavan shot the type on Mount Tonglo. Perhaps others have been met with ; and, if so, I should be glad to learn the localities and dates on which they were procured.
“Since this was in type Mr. Mandelli has also kindly sent me a speci¬men of Beavan’s Bullfinch, procured in April, also at Sikkim. It would appear that it is only an occasional migrant to Sikkim (just as Syrrhaptes paradoxus in England) ; for we have for years maintained the keenest watch for this species, and heretofore without success. Where can the home of this species be ? Swinhoe has not met with it in China, nor any of the Russians in Siberia, nor our people in Yarkand. However, there is a vast country outside all these explorations, to which P. erythaca must belong.”
Colonel N. M. Prjevalski in his remarks on the 'Birds of Mongolia,’ published in the second volume of Rowley’s ‘Ornithological Miscellany,’ 1876, has given all I can gather respecting the exact country in which this bird is supposed to breed. He observes : “We met with it only in Kan-su, where it principally inhabits woods of the lower and middle mountain-ranges, and only seldom visits the alpine regions. It is most abundant in the thickets on the sides of mountain-brooks.
“The voice of the male, either when on the wing or sitting, resembles that of our common Bullfinch, but is somewhat weaker. In spring the males sing very prettily.
“The present species is a quick and lively bird, which very seldom sits quietly, but usually flies from one branch to another. About the middle of May the small flocks had not yet paired.
“The Kan-su mountains form the northern boundary of distribution for the present species.”
The nest and eggs have not yet been discovered.
The details of the male, female, and young male, are taken from examples procured by Colonel Prjevalski, at Kan-su in N. W. China, and are now in the collection of Mr. H. Seebohm, who courteously sent these beautiful skins to me for examination.
No. Sex. Mus. Locality. Length. Wing. Tail. Tars. Culm.
a Male H. Seebohm. Kan-su, N. W. China (Prjevalski). 5.9 3.2 2.95 0.7 0.38
b Male H. Seebohm. Kan-su, N. W. China (Prjevalski). 5.65 3.2 2.75 0.65 0.4
c Female H. Seebohm. Kan-su, N. W. China (Prjevalski). 5.75 3.2 2.95 0.65 0.35
The figures (Plate II.) are taken from a and c.