(456) Salpornis spilonotus.
THE SPOTTED-GREY CREEPER.
Certhia spilonota Frank!, P. 2. S., 1831, p. 121 (Ganges between Calcutta and Benares). Salpornis spilonota. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 333.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Whole upper plumage, wings and tail black, spotted and barred with white; forehead and crown brownish; a broad white supercilium; lores and a line through the eye unspotted black; chin and throat white, the sides of the latter sometimes speckled with black; lower plumage pale cinnamon-fulvous barred with black and with white tips to some of the feathers.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill above dark blackish horny, below pale horny; legs and feet dark plumbeous.
Measurements Length about 150 mm.; wing 84 to 91 mm.; tail 45 to 52 mm.; tarsus about 17 mm.; culmen 21 to 24 mm.
Distribution. Nothing has been added to our knowledge of this bird's distribution since 1889. Throughout a considerable portion of the plains of India, from the foot of the Himalayas South to the Kistna River. On the West the limits of this species appear to be Gurgaon, Sambhar, Ajmer and Abu. Further South it has been met with at Dhulia in Khandesh and Blanford records it from Chanda, Sirancha and the Godavari Valley. Ball obtained it at Sambulpar and at various localities in Chutia Nagpore and I have seen a specimen collected somewhere in Behar.
Nidification. The nest of this bird was first taken by Cleveland at Gurgaon on the 16th of April and subsequently Mr. T. R. Bell took a good many nests during March ana April at Khandesh. The nests are extraordinary and bear no resemblance to those of Tree-Creepers of the genus Certhia. They are shallow cup-shaped affairs made of a matted mass of scraps of leaf-stalks and leaves, bits of bark and lichen bound together with spiders' webs and decorated externally with lichen, spiders' egg-bags, and caterpillar excreta. The position selected is the horizontal branch of a tree, generally at some point where a vertical twig or shoot can be used as a support to one of the sides. The nests are always placed in leafless trees on the bare branches and are practically invisible from below, so that the birds must be watched on to the nests before they can be found. Sometimes, however, the sitting hen gives away her position by answering her mate as he sits singing in the vicinity of the nest. The number of eggs seem to be nearly always two and very rarely three and these, too, are quite unlike what we should have expected. The ground-colour is a grey, or greenish-white according to Cleveland, and the markings consist of very dark brown tiny spots and specks sparsely scattered over the greater part of the egg but sometimes more numerous in an ill-defined cap or ring at the larger end. Cleveland's egg measured 17.3 x 13.4 mm. and those given me by Mr. Bell average about 16.9 x 13.0 mm. The surface is smooth and fine but dull and not very hard.
Habits. This Creeper is a bird of the plains, being found in small flocks in winter and in pairs as soon as the breeding season commences. Davidson found it not uncommon in Khandesh, common in the northern end of the Western Ghats along the Tapti River. The country here is hot and low-lying, mostly flat but containing small wooded hills. They haunt the larger trees for preference, but are also sometimes found on smaller ones and they frequent both forest and more open well-wooded country. Their actions on a tree are much the same as those of birds of the genus Certhia and they are equally active and quick in their movements. Blanford records their flight as rather swift and their call as a whistling note.