(848) Sylvia althaea.
Hume's Lesser White-throat.
Sylvia althaea Hume, Str Feath., vii, pp. 60, 62 (1878) (Kashmir); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 397.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Upper plumage greyish brown, purer and darker grey on the crown; tail brown, the central feathers tipped and narrowly edged white; the white on the others increasing in extent until the outermost are almost wholly white; wing dark brown, the feathers edged paler and the innermost secondaries like the back; lores, round the eye and ear-coverts a darker brown than the head ; the whole lower plumage pale buffy-grey, almost white on chin, throat and abdomen, darker and ashy on flanks.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown ; bill black, paler on. the base of the lower mandible; legs and feet dark plumbeous to almost black.
Measurements. Total length about 140 mm.; wings 64 to 71 mm.; tail 52 to 56 mm.; tarsus 20 to 21 mm.; culmen about 10 mm.
Distribution. Transcaspia, East Persia, Turkestan, Kashmir, and, according to Ticehurst, Baluchistan. In Winter it straggles into India, wandering through N.W. Provinces, the Punjab, and Central Provinces as far South as the Carnatic and Ceylon; possibly some of these supposed records refer to Sylvia curruca affinis, a much more common bird. There are, however, several specimens in the Colombo Museum, which Mere obtained in Ceylon.
Nidification. Breeds during May and June, making a frail cup-shaped nest of dried grass, foots and perhaps a few leaves, placed in a low bush or clump of weeds and briars. Apparently it breeds between 6,000 and 9,000 feet and is said to breed in Kashmir at the latter height. The eggs number four or five and are like those of the White-throat. The ground-colour is a very pale greyish white or cream, with rather bold blotches of some shade of brown or almost black with secondary markings of pale neutral tint. Occasionally there is a faint greyish tinge to the markings.
The few eggs I have seen measure from 16.0 x 12.9 to 18.2 x 13.9 mm.
Habits. Practically nothing oh record. It is a bird of mountains and rugged country with scrub or scanty grass and scattered bushes, and has been found breeding up to 9,000 feet.