(464) Spelaeornis longicaudatus longicaudatus.
THE ASSAM LONG-TAILED WREN.
Pnoepyga longicaudata, Moore, P. Z. S,, 1854, p. 7 (N. India, Khasia Hills). Urocichla longicaudata. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 840.
Vernacular names. Tin-lin-rui (Kacha Naga).
Description. Forehead to hind neck olive-brown, each feather with a narrow dark brown or blackish margin; rump, upper tail-coverts and tail olive-brown with a rufous tinge; coverts and wing brown, with the greater part of the outer webs of the feathers chestnut-brown; lores, cheeks and ear-coverts deep ashy; the whole lower plumage ferruginous, the feathers of the throat and breast with numerous small brown specks, most conspicuous in newly moulted birds; middle of the abdomen white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red in adults, brown in the young ; bill dark horny-brown to blackish; legs and feet light brown.
Measurements. Length about 115 mm.; wing 49 to 60 mm.; tail 45 to 48 mm.; tarsus about 19 to 20 mm.; culmen about 12 mm.
Distribution. Hills South of the Brahmaputra, apparently not Manipur and not the extreme Eastern Naga Hills.
Nidification. This curious little Wren breeds in considerable numbers in the JKhasia Hills but is much more rare in the adjoining Cachar and Naga Hills. It commences breeding in early April and eggs may be found to the end of June. The nests of this Wren and all others of the genus are sui generis and cannot be confounded with those of any other bird. The outer part consists of dead leaves, withered grass, a few roots and sometimes a few bamboo spathes, but all the materials are of a very damp and rotten description, falling to pieces directly the nest is moved from its original position. The lining, however, is quite waterproof and consists of a material exactly resembling papier mache, apparently made of skeleton leaves and some soft fibrous stuff worked into a pulp and then spread over the whole interior of the nest in a very neat cup. The, Best itself is a long oval, generally completely domed, sometimes only partially so, and m placed on the ground on some sloping bank among weeds or scrub in damp, evergreen forest. The eggs number two to four and are pure, but dull white, sparsely speckled, chiefly at the larger end, with reddish-brown. The texture is fine and close and the shell fairly stout. In shape they are broad, obtuse ovals.
Fifty eggs average 18.4 x 14.9 mm. and the extremes of length and breadth are 19.9 X 15.0; 18.6 x 15.9; 18.0 x 15.0 and 18.4 x 19.5 mm.
Habits. The Long-tailed Wren is found between about 3,500 and 6,500 feet, resident and breeding wherever found. It haunts principally dense, evergreen forest with lots of weed and fern undergrowth and especially those places where the ground is rough and broken with big boulders. Among these it creeps and climbs just as the Common Wren does, but it is even less inclined to fly than that bird and seeks safety by dodging into crevices and holes between the boulders. Even when disturbed from the nest, which it will not leave until the hand almost touches it, it merely flies a foot or two and then drops into the undergrowth and scurries away on foot. It is a very silent bird but I have heard it give a loud, clear whistle much like the call of Pnoepyga and after being disturbed it will continue to utter its soft chirring note for some minutes. It is entirely insectivorous.