(495) Saxicola torquata indica.
The Indian Bush-Chat.
Pratincola indica Blyth, J. A. S. B., xvi, p. 129 (1847) (India, Calcutta). Pratincola maura. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 61.
Vernacular names. Adavi-campa-nalanchi, Adavi-campa-jitta (Tel.).
Description.— Male. After the autumn moult the forehead, crown, nape, hind neck, back, scapulars and upper rump are black, with broad fulvous or rufous margins to the feathers ; the innermost wing-coverts pure white ; the remaining upper wing-coverts black, edged with rufous; primary-coverts and winglet black edged with whitish; quills dark brown, the primaries narrowly, the secondaries broadly edged with rufous on the outer webs and tips; lower rump and upper tail-coverts white, frequently suffused with orange-rufous ; tail black, narrowly edged with pale rufous ; the extreme bases generally white; lores, sides of head, chin and throat black, most of the feathers edged with fulvous ; a patch of white on each side of the neck; breast orange-rufous, remainder of the lower plumage paler rufous; under wing-coverts and axillaries black with narrow white tips.
In summer plumage the fringes on the black plumage wear off and these parts become deep black; the rufous on the upper tail-coverts disappears and these become pure white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill, legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 130 mm.; wing 67 to 71 mm.; tail about 50 mm.; tarsus 21 to 22 mm.; culmen 11 to 12 mm.
Female. Upper plumage and ear-coverts brown, the feathers broadly tinged with fulvous; more rufescent on lower back; upper tail-coverts pale rufous; lores, a ring round the eye and ear-coverts dusky fulvous; forehead, supercilium and chin pale fulvous, remainder of lower plumage still paler fulvous, the bases of the feathers showing through more rufescent, especially on the breast.
Nestling. Head black, with broad fulvous central lines ; mantle brown with golden-fulvous centres and fringes; rump and upper tail-coverts bright ferruginous; lower parts dull fulvous; the breast freely streaked with dark brown; the wing-feathers are brown, broadly edged with ferruginous buff.
The white wing-patch is very early developed in the male.
The Indian Bush-Chat is very closely allied to the European Stone-Chat (S. t. rubicola), from which it differs in having no streaks on the upper tail-coverts and in having the black axillaries. and under wing-coverts tipped with white.
Distribution. Breeds from extreme East to extreme "West of Himalayas and thence North to Western Siberia, Transcaspia, Turkestan and Persia. In winter throughout Northern India to the hills in the North of Mysore and Travancore, Andamans and, rarely, in North-West Burma.
Nidification. The Indian Bush-Chat breeds during late May, June and early July in the hills and about a month earlier in the lower ranges and plains. Marshall has recorded it as breeding at Saharanpur but this must have been quite an abnormal occurrence,, for the district has had many good ornithologists working it since that date without any repetition of its nesting having been recorded. It may have been a mistake. It does, however, breed occasionally at the foot of the Himalayas in the plains of North-West India, but typically it is a hill-breeder between elevations of 2,000 and 8,000 feet. It breeds in great numbers in Kashmir, the Simla and Garhwal Hills between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, in Sikkim certainly up to 9,000 feet, whilst in the Khagan and Kurram Valleys Whitehead and Harington found it breeding at even higher elevations. The nest is a cup of grass, leaves and roots, sometimes mixed with other materials and generally lined with hair or fur. It is placed in holes in walls, under rocks and boulders, occasionally in banks and still less often under bushes and tufts of grass but nearly always well concealed. The eggs number four to six and have the ground-colour a pale, rather dull blue with freckles of light reddish brown sometimes fairly numerous over the larger halt of the egg, sometimes coalescing in a well-defined ring or cap and sometimes almost absent. Fifty eggs average 16.9 x 13.5 mm.: maxima 18.5 x 14.0 and 16.2 x 14.5 mm.; minima 15.4x 13.0 and 15.8 x 12.6.
Habits. The Indian Bush-Chat differs little from its English cousin in its Habits. Usually it is seen perched up on some rock or high stone, flicking and spreading its tail about and every now and then launching forth after some insect on the ground below it and then returning to its seat to devour it. Its flight is strong and fairly direct but it is not good on its feet and seldom runs on the ground. It keeps entirely to open country and is most common on bare, rocky hillsides in summer and about villages and cultivation in winter, especially when they are interspersed with stony, bare wastes.