(1044) Pyrrhula erythrocephala..
The Red-headed Bullfinch.
Pyrrhula erythrocephala Vigors, P.Z. S., 1831, p. 174 (Himalayas - Simla-Almora District,) ; Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 205.
Vernacular names. Kobyn (Lepcha).
Description. - Adult male. A broad ring of black round the base of the bill and a narrow ring round the eye; next this a narrow pale grey ring shading into deep orange or rufous vermilion on the head and neck; back, scapulars, lesser, median and terminal half of greater coverts grey; base of greater coverts and rest of wing, upper tail-coverts and tail glossy black ; on the chin the pale ring shades into paler, duller red on the sides of the head and neck, throat, breast and flanks ; this shades again into ashy-white on the lower abdomen; under wing-coverts, axillaries and under tail-coverts white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown or hazel; bill black; legs and feet pale flesh-colour or fleshy-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 76 to 79 mm.; tail 60 to 64 mm.; tarsus 18 to 19 mm.; culmen 9 to 10 mm.
Female. Crown and neck yellowish green; under tail-coverts white, remainder of lower plumage drab or greyish brown, generally albescent on the centre of the abdomen and vent; wings, rump, tail and face black as in the male.
Young males are like the female but are suffused with yellow below, this yellow gradually deepening with age until the adult red breast is attained together with the deep rufous-vermilion head.
Distribution. Himalayas from Chamba and Southern Kashmir 1o Bhutan and the hills North of the Brahmaputra. Birds from Nepal eastwards appear to average darker than those from the Western Himalayas; the red of the head and breast is richer and deeper, whilst in the females the lower parts are browner and the green crown deeper and brighter. There is, however, so much individual variation and so much overlapping that I refrain from giving the Eastern form a name.
Nidification. Whymper found this Bullfinch breeding in some numbers in Kuman between 9,000 and 12,000 feet. The, nests are made externally of fine twigs, inside which is a thick layer of white beard-moss and then the true lining of coarse roots. The eggs number three or four and are a very pale blue, marked with blotches and specks of reddish-brown or purple-brown and with secondary marks of lavender-pink and pale grey. In a few eggs these are sparsely scattered everywhere but in most form a ring round about the larger end and are scarce elsewhere. They average about 20.8 x 14.7 mm.: maxima 22.4 x 15.0 and 21.2 x 15.2 mm.; minima 19.7 x 14.1 mm.
They are late breeders, all Whymper's eggs having been taken after the middle of August.
Habits. In Summer this Bullfinch frequents the higher ranges from 8,000 to 12,000 feet or higher, but in Winter it comes much lower. Whistler obtained it as low down as 5,000 feet at Dharmsala, whilst Stevens says it occurs as low as 3,600 feet (Dikchu-Singhik) in the interior valleys of Sikkim and down to 5,500 to 6.000 feet in the outer valleys. It associates in flocks of some size, feeding on berries and seeds and it appears to be especially fond of the seeds of the nettle. Like all our Indian Bullfinches it frequently descends to the ground to search for its food. They are tame, confiding birds and have very pleasant notes becoming a sweet song in the breeding-season. During the Summer they keep almost entirely to deep forest, preferably Pine, Cedar and Deodar.