(729) Tephrodornis pondiceriana pondiceriana.
The Indian Common Wood-Shrike.
Muscicapa pondiceriana Gmel., S. N., i, p 939 (1789) (Pondicherry, Coromandel Coast) Tephrodornis pondicerianus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 475 (part.).
Vernacular names. Tarti tuya (U.P.); Chu-dukka (Beng.).
Description.— Adult male. A supercilium from the front of the eye, very broad posteriorly, white; lores, cheeks and ear-coverts blackish brown ; upper plumage and visible portions of wings ashy-brown ; a white band across the rump formed by the tips of the feathers of this part; upper tail-coverts black; tail dark brown, the two outermost pairs of feathers white except for a patch of brown at the extreme base and a similar small one near the tip, the remaining lateral feathers edged with white ; lower plumage ashy-grey, almost white on the chin, throat, abdomen and vent and quite so on the lower tail-coverts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellowish brown, dull olive-green or light greenish brown; eyelids plumbeous; bill horny-brown to dark horny-brown, mouth and corner of commissure fleshy-yellow ; legs and feet dark plumbeous-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 160 to 170. mm.; wing 83 to 91 mm.; tail 61 to 67 mm.; tarsus about 20 mm.; culmen about 17 mm.
Female similar to the male but with the eye-streak paler.
Nestling brown, spotted above with fulvous-white, with edges faintly darker than the surrounding brown; wing-coverts boldly tipped with white, the greater coverts and innermost secondaries with longitudinal black submargins and streaks; below fulvous-white with brown spots, most numerous on the breast.
Distribution. All India, except the parts inhabited by the next two races; Burma, South to Tenasserim, where it is rare, Siam Annam.
Nidification. The Common "Wood-Shrike breeds on the West Coast of India from March to June and in the North-Bast portion of its habitat from May to July but in those parts of the country where it is very common, as in Poona, nests may be found in almost any month from February to September. It makes a small very compact cup-shaped nest, sometimes rather flat and shallow, of line stems of weeds, grasses and roots, well bound together with cobwebs and placed in a fork of a tree in open country, hedges, gardens and orchards but never, apparently, in heavy forest. The eggs number three or four and in groundcolour vary from white to very pale buff or pale green; the markings in the paler eggs consist of specks and spots of almost black and in the darker eggs of blotches and smudges of various shades of brown ; in both types there are secondary or underlying blotches of pale neutral tint. Fifty eggs average 19.3 X 15.3 mm.: maxima 21.0 x 13.8 and 19.3 x 16.2 mm.; minima 17.7 X 15.3 and 21.0 x 13.8 mm.
Habits. The Common Wood-Shrike is a bird of open country, thin scrub, bamboo-jungles or deciduous forest and is seldom, if ever, found in dense, humid, evergreen forest. It is found in small family-parties of four to half a dozen. In Behar it haunts quite open fields and plains but on the "West Coast seems to keep to better-wooded tracts. It does not descend to the ground, nor does it ever catch insects on the wing as the birds of the genus Hemipus do but hunts the leaves and branches of bushes and trees for its insect-prey. It has a pretty, but not powerful, little song, which it sings in the breeding-season perched on some branch high up in a tree.