(111) Sitta castaneiventris cinnamoventris.
THE CINNAMON-BELLIED NUTHATCH.
Sitta cinnamoventris Blyth J.A. S. B., xi, p. 439 (1S42) (Darjeeling;. Sitta cinnamomeoventris. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 301.
Vernacular names. Siri (Hind.); Sidhyi-phip (Lepcha); Daomojo-gajao (Cachari).
Description.— Adult male. Like the last but the white parts of the face are delicately barred with brown ; the upper plumage is more an ashy-blue, the under parts are a deep cinnamon-chestnut and the under tail-coverts are white with ashy bases and narrow chestnut tips.
Female. Diners from the male in being a pale dull chestnut below.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red-brown to lake ; bill slaty-blue, black at the tip and paler on base and lower mandible; legs and feet dull blue-grey or bluish plumbeous.
Measurements. Total length about 150 mm.; wing 78 to 81 mm.; tail about 45 mm.; tarsus about 18 mm.; culmen about 20 mm.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Murree to Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmaputra, Manipur, Lushai and Chittagong hill-tracts, but not further East. Oates's specimens from Bhamo are much nearer neglecta and should be assigned to that bird.
Nidification. Gammie obtained the nest in Sikkim at 2,000 feet in a decayed bamboo, and I found many nests in the Khasia Hills in April and May at elevations between 4,500 and 6,u00 feet. In these hills, although a nest might now and then be found in some old stump, the great majority are built in the retaining walls of roads or in walls of fields and compounds. These walls are built of mud and stones and form favourite breeding places for Tits, Nuthatches, Flycatchers and many other birds. The Nuthatches select some hollow, generally only a few inches from the ground, and then fill the whole entrance in with mud, leaving only a circular hole about 40 mm. across. The hollow inside, however big it may be, is filled to a depth of some inches with scraps of dead wood, bark and odds and ends of vegetable matter, over which is placed a bed of moss and then a fine thick layer of fur, or fur and wool. They are very persistent little birds, and will often repair and again lay in a nest which has been pillaged. In North Cachar I found them breeding in trees, and in these the nests were often very flimsy and scanty, consisting of leaves and rubbish and perhaps a little moss and a few feathers or scraps of fur. They lay in April and May, but an occasional nest may be seen as early as March or as late as June. The normal full complement of eggs is six, but sometimes only four or five are laid and sometimes as many as eight. They are of the usual white ground with red specks, but are more strongly and numerously marked than those of the last bird and in shape are much longer, narrower ovals. Sixty eggs average 19.8 x 14.1 mm. The maxima are 21.0 x 14.4 and 20.6 x 15 mm., and the minima are 17.3 x 13.6 and 18.8 x 13.2 mm.
Habits. This Nuthatch is most common between 4,000 and 7,000 feet and is not often found below 3,000 feet. It has much the same habits as the rest of the genus, but I have often noticed it on the ground feeding on ants and termites, and it seems very partial to hunting walls, cliffs and banks as the Rock-Nuthatches do. Its note is a continual cheep, very much like the squeak of a mouse. It is a very sociable bird, and I have seen flocks of this bird and Sitta frontalis hunting together in perfect amity.