(108) Sitta himalayensis.
THE WHITE-TAILED NUTHATCH.
Sitta himalayensis Jard. & Selby, III. Ind. Orn., iii, pi. 144 (1835); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 300.
Vernacular names. Siddyi-phip (Lepcha).
Description.— Adult male. The forehead, lores, a streak behind the eye, produced down the side of the neck to the shoulders, black; an indistinct eyebrow fulvous white; upper plumage, wing-coverts and inner secondaries dark slaty-blue, somewhat paler on the ends; primaries and outer secondaries dark brown edged with-slaty-blue ; middle pair of tail-feathers slaty-blue, the basal half of the inner web and a band next the shaft on the outer web white ; the next two pairs wholly black; the next pair black with an ashy tip ; the next black with an oblique white band and an ashy tip, the outermost the same but with more white; sides of the face and chin pale fulvous ; lower plumage chestnut, richer and deeper on the flanks and under tail-coverts; under wing-coverts black, a white patch on the base of the primaries showing from below only.
Adult female. Resembles the male, but is rather duller and paler.
Colours of soft parts. Iris pale brown; bill black, the gape and base of lower mandible bluish white to pale slaty; legs and feet yellowish or olive-brown.
Measurements. Length about 120 mm.; wing 71 to 76 mm.; tail about 37 to 41 mm.; tarsus about 17 to 18 mm.; culmen about 14 to 15 mm.
Distribution. The Himalayas from Kangra to Assam North of the Brahmaputra River, but in over twenty years" collecting we never found it South of the river, and there may be some mistake in God win-Austen's record from Aimul in Manipur.
Nidification. The White-tailed Nuthatch breeds in the Himalayas from 5,000 feet to at least 11,000, at which height Blanford procured it in Sikkim. It is a very early breeder, commencing to lay in the first few days of April or even in the end of March. The eggs are laid in some natural hollow in a tree or stump, the entrance being filled in neatly with mud so as to leave only a small, quite circular entrance, little over an inch in diameter. The nest is a pad of moss, or moss and moss-roots with a depression in the centre for the eggs. These number from four to six and are white with numerous specks and spots of reddish, sometimes more sparse and confined to the larger end. They measure about 18.3 x 14.0 mm.
Both parents, according to Hodgson, assist in incubation and in looking after the young.
Habits. The habits of most Nuthatches are very similar. In the non-breeding season they are to be found in family parties, sometimes in greater numbers, hunting all over the trunks and branches of trees for insects; scuttling about upwards and downwards, now under, now over, peering into every cranny and every broken bit of bark as they restlessly work their way from the trunk of the tree to the highest branches, whence they take flight to the nearest tree likely to prove a profitable hunting-ground. They also feed on nuts, including the hardest, boring holes into them and extracting their contents, and they sometimes eat seeds and fruits. Their note when feeding is singularly like the cheep of a mouse and is frequently uttered. The flight is fairly strong and direct.