(294) Rhopocichla atriceps atriceps.
THE BLACK-HEADED BABBLER.
Brachypteryx atriceps Jerdon, Madr. Jour. L. S., x, p. 250 (1839) (Trichoor). Rhopocichla atriceps. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 160.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead, crown, nape, ear-coverts and under the eye black; the whole upper plumage, wings and tail fulvous brown ; lower plumage dull white, changing to olivaceous on the flanks and under tail-coverts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright yellow, pale orange or buff; bill dull black, commissure and lower mandible fleshy-pink; legs and feet pale plumbeous shaded in varying degree with fleshy-pink or dull purple.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 54 to 60 mm.; tail about 50 mm.; tarsus about 23 mm.; culmen about 13 to 14 mm.
Distribution. The Nilgiris and hills of S.W. India, not Travancore.
Nidification. The Black-headed Babbler appears to breed in almost every month of the year from December to August and probably in the other three also. It makes an oval nest of grass lined with softer bits of the same which it places in bamboos, grass and reeds by roadsides through jungle, in reed-beds or scrub-jungle. It is found during the breeding season from the lower hills up to 6,000 feet.
The eggs, two in number, are pure white with numerous small spots and dots of dark purple-red scattered over the whole surface but generally more numerous at the larger end. The texture is hard and glossy. Twenty eggs average about 19.2 x 13.9 mm.
Habits. The birds of this genus are said to have much the same habits as those of Pellorneum, i. e. they are shy, rather skulking birds, shunning observation and haunting thick cover. Jerdon says: " It frequents the thickest underwood in dense and lofty jungles; lives in small flocks of five or six, and is constantly hopping about the thick bushes with an incessant loud, twittering note. It lives on various insects."