(191) Argya earlii.
THE STRIATED BABBLER.
Malacocercus earlii Blyth, J. A. S. B., xvii, p. 369 (1844) (Calcutta). Argya earlii Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 105.
Vernacular names. Barra-phenga (Hindi). Description. Upper plumage brown tinged with rufous, the feathers of the crown largely centred with very dark brown, those of the back with very dark shaft-stripes; upper tail-coverts obsoletely dark-shafted; tail brown, the shafts darker and the feathers cross-rayed; wings brown, the lesser coverts dark-centred; lores grey; cheeks and ear-coverts plain rufescent; chin, throat and breast the same, the dark stripes increasing in size downwards; remainder of lower plumage pale buffy-brown, albescent in the middle of the abdomen.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright yellow; eyelid plumbeous; bill fleshy-yellow, the culmen, nostril and tip darker horn-colour; mouth yellow; legs plumbeous or fleshy-plumbeous, claws pinkish.
Measurements. Length about 140 mm.; wing 85 to 93 mm.; tail about 120 to 130 mm.; culmen about 20 mm.; tarsus about 32 mm.
Distribution. From Sind to the Run of Cutch, along the base of the Himalayas to Behar, all over Behar and Bengal, East through Assam, North and South of the Brahmaputra, through Chittagong, Chin Hills and Arrakan to Pegu.
Nidification. Breeds principally during the rains but at different places at different times and in some, as in Assam and Bengal, at almost any time of the year. It prefers marshy land, where it makes its nest in the reeds, like that of a large Reed-Warbler, or it makes a larger, more untidy nest of grasses and reed-blades in a low bush or thicket of grass. The eggs are either three or four in number, of the usual bright, rather deep blue-green typical of the genus, in shape a rather broad oval with fine texture and considerable gloss. Sixty eggs average 22.8 x 17.6 mm.
Habits. This Babbler is a bird of wide grass-plains, marshy tracts and sub-montane grass-covered hills; wherever conditions are suitable it is sure to be abundant. It is very gregarious, according to Marshall, being found in flocks even in the breeding season. They are very noisy birds and have the same follow-my-leader style of clambering through grass and bushes and fluttering from one patch of cover to another as have the better-known species. On the other hand, probably on account of their semi-aquatic habits, they do not descend as much to the ground as do the other birds. They are chiefly insect feeders.