(117) Sitta leucopsis leucopsis.
THE WHITE-CHEEKED NUTHATCH.
Sitta leucopsis Gould, P. Z. S., 1840, p. 113 (Himalayas); Blanf, & Oates, i, p. 306.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead, crown, nape and a part of the sides of neck glossy black; upper plumage, closed wings and central tail-feathers slaty-blue; other tail-feathers black, tipped with slaty-blue, the three outer pairs with a subterminal white patch on the inner web and the outermost pair with a white band also on the outer web; sides of the head and lower plumage white, more or less tinged with pale fulvous; flanks and under tail-coverts rich chestnut. Sexes alike.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel-brown to dark brown; bill black, the base of the lower mandible whitish-horny or pale grey-horny; legs yellowish- or greenish-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wing 74 to 79 mm.; tail about 42 mm.; tarsus about 18 mm.; culmen about 15 mm.
Distribution. The whole of the North-West Himalayas from the Baluchistan boundaries where well forested, Afghanistan, N. Kashmir to the hills next the pldns as far as the pines continue and as far east as Garhwal.
Nidification. This Nuthatch breeds freely throughout its range. Rattray took many nests in the Murree Hills in June, and says that a favourite site is high up in a tall fir-tree that has been struck by lightning and cracked down the centre, a convenient place in this crack being selected for the nest. They lay from four to eight eggs, which are just like those of the various forms of Chestnut-bellied Nuthatches and measure on an average for 50 eggs about 18.2 x 13.7 mm. The nest is difficult to find, both from its position and the cautious habits of the birds.
Habits. This is a bird of high elevations, being found principally between 7,000 and 12,000 feet and, according to Rattray and others, seldom below 8,000 feet. Its range, however, seems to be decided by the forest growth and it will not frequently be found outside the regions of firs, pines and other coniferous trees. Stoliczka says that it feeds principally on the seeds of Pinus girardiana and that its voice is a loud, uniform, melancholy call, uttered while it is busily engaged in securing a pine-seed in the bark of a large tree. Whitehead likens its call to the French word "pain," and he and Davidson both say that the monotonous, wailing cry is to be heard in the forests all day long.