(493) Saxicola caprata atrata (Kelaart).
THE SOUTHERN INDIAN STONE-CHAT.
Saxicola caprata atrata, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 25.
This large race of Indian Stone-Chat is very common in Ceylon in the Horton Plains, the Nuwara Eliya Plateau, Uda Pussellawa and the Uva Hill basin from 3,500 feet upwards. In Southern India it occurs in Travancore, South Mysore, the Palnis and Nilgiris over 3,000. feet. Birds from the Bombay Presidency from the Kanara District. Northwards are all of the Northern smaller race, bicolor. In India it breeds on the hill-ranges of the South from 3,000 feet to the highest levels, wherever there is open country.
It is a very tame familiar little bird, breeding in gardens where there are suitable banks, on roadsides often and, as Davison remarks, in the banks of the busiest thoroughfares of Ootacamund. Often it will make its nest in a hole in a garden or retaining wall and even sometimes in a hole in a wall of a dwelling house or outhouse or tucked away under the eaves. Occasionally they will make their nests on the ground among the roots of grass, but this seems exceptional. A great many collectors have reported finding these nests in curious situations. H. Wait says he often took these nests from drain-holes in walls, three or four feet from the ground ; Miss Cockburn found a nest in an old basket lying upside down in her vineyard ; J. Darling, jun., found one nest built in a Swallow’snest, while others taken by him were in holes in trees and on the ground “in the same kind of place as a Lark would breed in.”
The nest is an untidy shallow cup made principally of grass and roots, very loosely put together and mixed, more or less, with leaves, all sorts, or any sort, of vegetable fibre and any odd bit of convenient material it may chance on. It has been known to make use of rags, bits of wool, cotton etc. and very rarely of moss, both green and dry. Carter found one nest in the Nilgiris made of “grass, a small bit of coir matting, fern-leaves and down of thistles but no lining.” Generally there is a fairly good lining of hair, fur, wool or some other soft material, often mixed with a few feathers ; sometimes the lining is but a poor one consisting merely of a few scraps of fibre or grass and at other times there is no lining at all. Hume says “in some nests there is a regular egg-cavity some three inches across and nearly an inch in depth, while in others a very slight depression towards the centre of the pad serves to contain the eggs.” He gives the measurements of the nests as roughly four to five inches in diameter by about one to one and a half inches deep, but it must be remembered that the nests are often very shapeless and untidy in their outward appearance.
There is nothing on record about their breeding in Ceylon beyond the fact that Legge found the young “hiding in the grass on the Nuwara Eliya plains.”
Wait says that it breeds in the Nilgiris from February to July, but the great majority breed in March and April and a smaller number in May. They certainly have two broods very often and, it is alleged, occasionally three.
The eggs are said to number three to five, perhaps about four clutches out of five having four eggs. They are similar to those of the preceding race but duller, darker yet not quite so profusely marked.
The ground is either pale sea-blue, never so bright as it is some¬times in the Burmese race, pale creamy or buffy stone or, occasionally, a dull greenish-grey, a colour I have never seen in burmanica. The markings are the same as in that bird’s egg but average a good deal darker and, I think, more constantly form well-marked rings at the larger end. In all races of Saxicola caprata the clutch of eggs frequently contains one quite different to the rest, a characteristic found in many Turdidoe, whatever subfamily they may belong to.
In shape, texture and surface the eggs of all three races of Saxicola caprata are identical.
Fifty eggs average 19.5 x 15.2 mm. : maxima 21.0 x 15.2 and 20.0 x 16.2 mm. ; minima 17.5 x 14.1 and 17.7 x 14.0 mm.
493. Saxicola caprata atrata
(493) Saxicola caprata atrata (Kelaart).