(888) Seicercus affinis (Hodgs.).
THE ALLIED FLYCATCHER-WARBLER.
Seicercus affinis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 486.
This little Warbler extends from Sikkim in the Himalayas to Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra, Chin, Kachin and Bhamo Hills, to Siam and Annam.
It is a bird of evergreen, wet and humid forests, from 4,000 feet certainly up to 7,000, and probably up to 8,000 feet, preferring such as have ample undergrowth of bush and brambles besides lofty trees.
* If Seicercus ocularis of Robinson and Kloss (Ibis., 1919, p. 448) be con¬sidered separable, then our bird would be S. affinis affinis.
I found this bird breeding in the Khasia Hills from 4,000 feet upwards. As a rule the birds preferred the moist evergreen forests at 4,000 feet and the mixed Rhododendron, Oak and other forest, still more damp, though not so hot, at 5,000 to 6,200 feet. Sometimes, however, we did find them breeding in the Pine-woods, but never in the dry areas, where the Pines stood dark and solemn, with prac¬tically no undergrowth. The Khasia Hills is a great district for streams and waterfalls, often running along the deep gorges and ravines which intersect the Pine forests. The banks of these are clothed with all sorts of vegetation, bushes, brambles, ferns etc., some of which are always green and fresh, while wet green moss covers all the boulders and most of the trunks of the trees near the water. Here this Warbler loves, above all, to breed. Cover there is in plenty, suitable breeding holes everywhere, building material on all sides without searching and, finally, air and light and an abundance of insect food. In these ravines and gorges the nest is generally placed about half-way up the sides, tucked away in the dense moss on the steep bank or inside a hole from which a stone has fallen. Occasionally it is placed in holes among roots or stones and, still more rarely, in natural hollows in dead trees, standing or fallen. In the last-mentioned position the hole chosen is nearly always covered with orchids, ferns and mosses, which effectively conceal the nest.
When built in evergreen forest the nest is more often placed in thick moss on sloping banks.
Wherever it may be the nest is always the same, a very beautiful and extraordinarily well-made globe of green moss. Few birds can take more trouble over their nests than do some birds of the present genus.
This Warbler makes the outside of fine scraps of green moss, generally selecting pieces rather dark green in shade. These it not only wedges together, as so many other builders do, but it interlaces the little bits and, with the moss, incorporates a few leaves and a good many roots. Inside this outer framework it puts in a solid lining of roots over bottom, sides and top, and then again over this more thin moss, so interwoven and compacted that it looks almost like green felt. After all this comes the true hning, of the whitest of vegetable down or cotton-silk. When the eggs are first laid they are quite lost and hidden in this thick soft mass but, as incubation advances, the lining becomes matted down.
The breeding-season is April and May but quite a number of birds breed on to the end of June.
The eggs number four or five, very rarely three only being in¬cubated. They are typical white Seicercus eggs. That is to say, there is no tint of any kind in the ground, nor is their any marking of any sort whatsoever. The texture is fine, close and hard, with a high gloss on the surface, and the shells are stout for the size of the eggs. Typically they are short, broad ovals, sometimes almost elliptical in form.
Thirty eggs average 15.4 x 12.4 mm. : maxima 16.3 x 12.7 and 15.3 x 13.1 mm. ; minima 14.1 x 12.1 mm.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in the making of the nest.
The cocks of this genus and of Abroscopus have a very pretty nuptial display. The cock bird descends to the branch on which the female is sitting and, sidling along it until she is a few inches apart, he spreads his tail and wings, with a quick, quivering motion, fluffs out all his feathers, and then cowers down close to her for a few seconds, after which he suddenly stands erect and bursts into song, sings hard for a minute or two, and then again displays until he thinks he has really touched his lady’s heart.
It is a bold little bird and pays little attention to onlookers, though it is cautious in approaching its nest.
888. Seicercus affinis
(888) Seicercus affinis (Hodgs.).