(944) Regulus regulus himalayensis.
The Himalayan Goldcrest.
Regulus himalayensis Jerdon, B. of I., ii, p. 206 (1863) (N.W. Himalayas) (restricted to Srinagar). Regulus cristatus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 344.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description.— Adult male. Centre of crown flame-colour edged with bright lemon-yellow; sides of crown black ; upper parts dull olive-green, greyish on the upper back and becoming almost olive-yellow on the rump and upper tail-coverts: tail-feathers brown edged with olive-yellow; wing-coverts dark brown edged with yellowish white forming two broad bars ; quills brown edged with yellowish white and with a black patch on the base of the inner primaries; lores and round the eye greyish white; below fulvous-white, tinged with olive on the flanks and sides of breast.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black; legs and claws dark greenish brown, soles of feet paler and more yellowish.
Measurements. Length about 100 mm.; wing 53 to 58 mm.; tail about 36 mm.; tarsus about 17 mm.; culmen 9 to 10 mm. Hartert gives the wing as 55 to 58.5 mm. but there are several smaller than this in the British Museum.
Adult female. Similar to the male but with the centre of the crown yellow. The sexes are about the same in size.
The young^ are like the female but brighter and paler, though with no gold crest.
The Himalayan Goldcrest has generally been separated from the European on account of its larger size and more brilliant flame-coloured crown. Neither of these alleged differences hold good. The large series in the British Museum show the same extremes of measurement in both forms and the degree of variation in the colour of the crown is also the same. On the other hand, Regulus r. regulus is a much more yellow bird above than is our Himalayan form and this quite suffices for its identification.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Afghanistan, through, Kashmir, the Simla and Garhwal Hills, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan to the Dafla and Abor Hills. It is not found South of the Brahmaputra but some form of Regulus is sure to be found in the higher Chin and Kachin Hills. It is also found in Western China but it is difficult to say where this form meets the dark Yunnan bird.
Nidification. There is very little on record about the nidification of this bird. Buchanan took its eggs in the Liddar Valley in May, and Ward also obtained them in June and July in Kashmir. Whitehead found them common in the Safed Koh in Summer and took one nest with young and an addled egg on the 7th July at Batta Kandi, 10,000 ft., on a Pallida tree, 40 feet from the ground. The nest is like that of the English Goldcrest, a beautifully made hanging bag of moss, lichen, spiders' bags, etc., attached to the end of a branch of a Pine, Deodar or some other tree.
The eggs seem to be of two types. The first and most common are just like those of our English bird, i. e., they vary from pale buffy-white to pale buff or pinky-buff indistinctly freckled in a ring at the larger end with a darker shade of the same. The second type, which includes Major Whitehead's and also some taken by Mr. S. L. Whymper, has a pure white ground-colour and is boldly speckled with reddish brown—in fact, just like the egg of Phylloscopus trochiloides. Had not several collectors obtained these eggs with the birds on the nest one would have feared some mistake. The earliest eggs recorded are those taken by Buchanan in May, though few birds seem to lay until well on into June and most lay in July. The first nest ever taken however, that by Sir E. E. Buck at Royee, contained seven young on the 8th June.
The eggs average about 14.3 x 10.7 mm.
Habits: A restless energetic little bird keeping much to the higher branches of conifers, where it hunts for its insect-food in much the same manner as the Phylloscopi. Except when with its last brood of young it is not found in flocks but where one is the pair to it is always near by. Its flight is quick, strong and direct tor so small a bird and it constantly utters its Shrew-like squeak both on the wing and when feeding. It is found at all heights in Summer up to 12,000 feet and in Winter descends to 5,000 feet or lower in Kashmir and the Western Himalayas and to 3,000 feet on the Afghanistan and Baluchistan Fronter.