(416) Spizixus canifrons canifrons.
THE FINCH-BILLED BULBUL.
Spizixos canifrons Blyth, J. A. S. B., xiv, p. 571 (1845) (Khasia Hills); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 280.
Vernacular names. Kator-sit (Kachin); Daobulip-buku(Cachari).
Description. Forehead running up in a point into the crown, grey; lores, chin and cheeks mixed grey and black ; crown and round the eye black ; ear-coverts grey, tinged with hair-brown on the upper parts; nape and sides of neck grey; chin dark brownish grey : whole upper plumage bright green tinged with olive, lightest on the rump and upper tail-coverts, darkest on the scapulars and upper back; wing-coverts the same, tinged with brown on the inner webs of the greater coverts ; primaries and outer secondaries brown on the inner webs green on the outer, the inner secondaries green on both webs but more or less tinged with brown on the inner ; tail yellowish green, with an inch-wide band of dark brown near the tips ; lower plumage dull greenish yellow, brightening to yellow on the belly and under tail-coverts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red-brown to pure vandyke-brown ; bill very pale straw-white or ivory-white; legs and feet dull deep flesh-colour to grey-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 210 mm.; wing 79 to 89 mm.; tail about 90 mm.; tarsus about 18 to 19 mm.; culmen about 13 mm.
Distribution. Hills South of the Brahmaputra, Arrakan, Chin and Kachin Hills to Tunnan.
Rothschild (Nov. Zool., xxvii, p. 50, 1921) points out quite correctly that Bangs and Phillips's S, c. ingrami is merely the immature S. c. canifrons which has the throat grey instead of brown and the under parts rather dull olive-green instead of greenish yellow.
Nidification. The Finch-billed Bulbul breeds from the end of April to the end of July from about 3,500 feet up to the highest peaks in the North Cachar, Khasia and Naga Hills and up to 6,000 or even 7,000 feet in the Kachin and Tunnan Hills. The nest can be told at a glance from any other Bulbul's nest, for it is made entirely of tendrils, some stout, some fine and rarely they may be mixed with a few tiny twigs or scraps of bracken, but these are so scanty that they are not noticeable. The lining, as a rule, consists merely of tendrils finer than the rest but I have seen scraps of dried bracken also used for this purpose. The internal shallow cup measures something under 3 inches (75 mm.) in diameter by under 1 inch (25 mm.) deep but the outer measurements are difficult to ascertain as the ends of the tendrils stick out in all directions. The nests are extremely well put together and stand very rough handling. The site selected is usually in a tall, scraggy bush or a small sapling, some 5 to 10 feet from the ground, standing in dense evergreen forests or in thick scrub-jungle.
The eggs number two or three only, four being quite exceptional, and are like very large examples of those of Xanthixus flavescens. The ground-colour is anything from the palest pink to a rather deep brick-red pink but they are so completely covered with innumerable freckles and tiny blotches of light red, deep red or dark brownish red, that little of the ground-colour is visible. Many eggs, indeed, look almost unicoloured at a short distance. In shape they are long, blunt ovals and the texture is fine, practically glossless and very fragile. 100 eggs average 25.7 X 17.6 mm.; the greatest length and breadth 28.l X 18.0 and 26.0 x 19.3 mm. and the least each way 24-0 x 16-1 mm.
Habits. The Finch-billed Bulbul is a bird of fairly high altitudes and is not found below 3,000 feet even in the cold season, whilst in the breeding season it keeps to heights between 4,000 and 7,000 feet. They collect in flocks of a dozen or more individuals in winter, feeding both on the higher trees and in the bushes and undergrowth. Their food consists of insects of all kinds, but largely small beetles, seeds and some soft fruits such as the various Fici. In the stomachs of some specimens killed in N. Cachar were numerous tiny fragments of quartz. In the breeding season they seem to desert the higher trees and to keep to the lower jungle. Their notes are those of the family but full, soft and sweet and easily distinguishable from those of their nearest relations. They fly well but are not very active or quick on their feet.