(551) Ianthia indica indica (Vieill.).
THE INDIAN WHITE-BROWED BUSH-ROBIN.
Ianthia indica indica, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 102.
This Bush-Robin is found from Western Nepal, throughout the Outer Himalayas, to Eastern Assam, the Shan States and Yunnan. Osmaston has also found it breeding in the Garhwal Hills. It breeds at lower levels than the preceding bird and, in the Khasia Hills, I obtained it in the breeding season at and above 5,000 feet, taking nests on the ridge above Shillong on, but below, the crest at about 5,600. It was, however, rare except from November to March and most birds undoubtedly left for the higher ranges before starting nesting. In Garhwal Osmaston took its nest at about 11,000 feet. In the Khasia Hills the bird was confined to open Pine forest or to the grass-slopes bordering them. The nests I personally found were all built in very open ravines running through rather thin Pine forests. In the ravines themselves only a few scattered pines were to be found but a number of small Oaks, Rhododendron-trees, Daphne-bushes and Raspberry-brambles grew in some profusion ; the banks were well covered with moss and ferns and concealment of the nest was easy. Two of the nests taken by myself were built in hollows under stones and two in holes among the roots of trees, all four being within three or four feet of the tops of the ravine banks, which were, for the greater part, masses of rocks and boulders, with vegetation growing rankly between them, while their faces were covered with luxuriant moss, orchids and small ferns. The nests were made almost entirely of a very soft, rather crinkly grass mixed with a little dried moss and lined with very fine maidenhair-fern roots. One pair of birds, of which I took two nests, always made, or found ready made for them, a pad of leaves on which the nest was built. They are rather untidy structures, loosely put together, though they stand a good deal of handling, as the grass is thoroughly intertwined. They measure internally about 2.1/2 x 1.1/2 inches, whilst outwardly they conform to the shape of the hole if a small one, or measure up to 6 inches across if placed in larger hollows, but they do not necessarily fill up the whole space.
One of my collectors took nests for me from the same ravine, some years after I had left India, which were identical both in structure and position and, possibly, made by the same two pairs of birds.
They breed early and my first nests were taken in the middle and end of April and the second in early June ; if their second nests were taken the birds bred again at once and were then left in peace. They were extraordinarily tame and the parents kept close about the nest as we stood quietly by and watched them. Every now and then the male would display to the female ; perching on the top of a rock or small bush, he would drop his quivering wings to his feet ; then, after a quick bow, the wings would be slightly raised and quivered faster than before, whilst his tail was expanded and jerked several times up and down. Sometimes the plumage display would be accompanied by a few dancing steps and then, after a few minutes, feeding would be resumed or an advance made to the female, who treated the whole show with quiet con¬tempt. So tame were the birds that those caught on the nests and released after examination—very quickly—were within a few minutes hopping about the bushes as if nothing had happened. Curiously enough, it was the male we always caught on the nest, and in each case he was in only semi-adult plumage, though I saw others in Winter in fully adult dress.
The eggs number three or four and are quite indistinguishable from those of the preceding species.
The average of seventeen eggs, all, I believe, that have ever been taken, is 17.7 x 13.6 mm. : maxima 18.4 x 14.0 and 18.0 x 14.2 mm. ; minima 17.0 x 12.4 and 17.3 x 12.3 mm.
551. Lanthia indica indica
(551) Ianthia indica indica (Vieill.).