(970) Saroglossa spiloptera spiloptera.
The Spotted-winged Stare,
Lamprotornis spilopterus Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 35 (Himalayas, Simla-Almora). Psaraglossa spiloptera. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 249.
Vernacular names. Puli (at Mussoorie).
Description. - Adult male. Forehead, crown, nape and upper back grey, each feather edged with black; mantle grey, the feathers edged brown; rump brown ; upper tail-coverts rufous-brown ; tail brown tinged with rufous at the base; wing-coverts dark brown edged with grey ; primary-coverts, primaries and outer secondaries black edged with glossy greenish blue; inner secondaries brown; lores, cheeks and ear-coverts black; a white patch at the base of the primaries ; chin and throat deep chestnut-rufous; whole lower plumage pale rufous, deepest on lower breast and flanks, palest generally on breast and almost white on the abdomen.
Colours of soft parts. Iris white: bill black, horny-red at the base, edges of both mandibles yellowish next the mouth; legs, feet and claws black.
Measurements. Total length about 240 mm.; wing 101 to 110 mm.; tail 53 to 59 mm.; tarsus 21 to 22 mm.; culmen 17 to 18 mm.
Female. Whole upper plumage brown, the feathers with pale centres, conspicuous on the crown, less so on the scapulars and back and obsolete elsewhere; lesser and median wing-coverts brown edged with grey; quills dark brown with a white patch as in the male; sides of the head brown; lower plumage grey-brown, the feathers edged with white, especially on the chin and throat; abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts greyish white, unmarked.
Young like the adult female but with the markings bolder and giving a more streaky appearance.
Distribution. Himalayas from Dharmsala to Grarhwal and, possibly, Western Nepal; in Winter to the Plains of N.W. India as far as Fatehgarh.
Nidification. This Stare breeds freely in the lower, outer Himalayan ranges between 3,000 and 5,500 feet and is common below Naini Tal and Mussoorie at this elevation. The eggs are laid during the end of April, May and the first few days of June in holes in trees. There is no real nest hut a few leaves, scraps of straw, grass, etc. form a bed for the eggs. According to Whymper this Stare has a curious habit of carrying small green leaves into the nest-hole after the eggs have been laid and under which they are often completely concealed. The eggs number three or four and are pale blue spotted and blotched with reddish and purplish brown. Twenty-five eggs average 25.4 X 18.0 mm.: maxima 28.5 x 19.0 mm.; minima 24.0 x 18.7 and 24.3 x 17.0 mm.
Habits. The habits of this bird are exactly like those of Sturnia, a genus which Saroglossa very closely resembles also in shape and action. It collects in flocks of half-a-dozen to forty or more and haunts the tops of tall trees, especially such as the Bombax when it is in flower, and feeds both on berries, small fruit and insects. It is often found in company with Eulabes, Sturnia and other birds keeping up a constant chattering twitter all the time, a soft musical whistle being uttered from time to time, possibly a call-note from one bird to another. They are extremely restless and keep ever on the move, occasionally flying off: in a flock all together, sailing round a few times and then, finally, returning to the same tree and continuing their hunt for food.