(494) Saxicola caprata bicolor.
The Northern Indian Stone-Chat.
Saxicola bicolor Sykes, P. Z. S., 1832, p. 92 (Deccan). Pratincola caprata (part.). Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 59.
Vernacular names. Pidha, Kala Pidha (Hind.); Kumpa nalanchi (Tel.).
Description. Similar to S. c. burmanica but intermediate in size between that bird and S. c. atrata and with the white of the under tail-coverts extending well on to the abdomen and posterior flanks, often quite up to the breast. Colours of soft parts as in the other races.
Measurements. Wing 67 to 77 mm.; tail 44 to 48 mm.; tarsus 22 to 24 mm.; culmen 11 to 12 mm., the latter measurement obtaining only in a few specimens in the extreme South of its range, adjoining the larger-billed S. c. atrata.
The females and young are only distinguishable from atrata by their smaller bills and rather smaller size.
I cannot separate Hartert's rossorum from bicolor in so far as our Indian birds are concerned. There are very big series of both of these supposed races in the British Museum and the limits of measurement are the same in each for wing, tail, tarsus and bill, whilst the extent of white on the belly varies to exactly the same degree. Persian and Afghan birds do, however, differ somewhat and are separable.
Distribution. North of the area occupied by the Southern form,, to every portion of India, North-East to Bengal and Assam North of the Brahmaputra, North to the Himalayas from Assam to- the extreme North-West, Oudh, Sind.
Nidification. The Northern Indian Stone-Chat breeds throughout its area both in the plains and in the hills up to 8,000 feet. The principal months of the breeding-season are April and May in the plains and May and June in the hills, but in Sind it appears to breed in March and April and again in August, in which month Barnes took its eggs. The nest is a pad, shallow saucer or fairly deep cup of grass and roots lined with any soft material, such as hair, fur or wool, but feathers are not often used. It may be placed in a hole in practically any position and it has been taken from wells, houses, retaining walls, road-side banks and railway cuttings, old dead or fallen trees, or even from a hollow on the ground under a bush, tuft of grass or other shelter. Although the bird is so common the nests are not always easy to find as the parent birds are said to be very cautious in visiting them, whilst the hen slips away unnoticed or sits tight until danger has passed. The eggs number three to five, generally four. The normal ground-colour is a pale bluish white or less often a pale stone or pinkish white, whilst in a few eggs it may be a darker tint of blue. The markings consist of freckles, specks and small blotches of light reddish brown, generally rather indistinct and numerous everywhere, occasionally bolder and well denned. They are nearly always more numerous at the larger end where they often form a ring or cap. In shape they are short, broad ovals with a fine, smooth texture only slightly glossy. One hundred eggs average 17.6 x 13.9 mm.: maxima 19.2 x 14.5 and 18.2 x 15.0 mm.; minima 16.2 X13.4 and 17.0 x 12.9 mm.
Habits. The Northern Indian Stone-Chat is a resident almost throughout its habitat but it seems to leave its highest ranges in winter and in some parts moves locally from the plains to the adjacent hills for breeding-purposes. It is not found in heavily-forested country but is common in grass-lands, thin scrub and mixed cultivation, and appears to prefer the vicinity of villages and gardens. It takes nearly all its food off the ground by little flights from some prominent stone, stump, fence or other place with a clear view all round. Less often it will make little sorties into the air and capture an insect on the wing, not, however, with the invariable success which follows its attempts on the ground. It is fond of spreading and jerking its tail about like all Chats, and during the breeding-season it also drops and quivers its wings, raising its scapulars to show the broad white patch on the coverts. At the same time it puffs out the feathers of the rump. Its notes are in distinguish able from those of the English Stone-Chat.
Muscicapa torquata Linn., S. N., i, p. 328, 1766.
Type-locality: West South Africa.
Key to Subspecies*
A. White on base of tail straight across all feathers.
a. Wing nearly always under 71 mm.; culmen about 12 mm.
a1. Paler; underparts pale rufous on flanks
and abdomen S. t. indica, p. 28.
b1. Darker; the orange-rufous of breast ex¬tending to lower breast and flanks .... S..t. stejnegeri, p. 30.
b. Wing nearly always over 71 mm.; culmen
about 15 mm S. t. przewalskii, p. 30.
B. White on tail most on inner web of second pair of tail-feathers, decreasing in extent
outwardly S.t. leucura, p. 31.
The races are not easy to define by a key, though on actual comparison the differences are at once appreciable. The big bill of 8. t. przewalskii will, however, nearly always suffice to distinguish that race, whilst S. t stejnegeri will not be found over the greater part of the winter area of S. t, indica.