(198) Acanthoptila nipalensis.
THE SPINY BABBLER.
Timalia nipalensis Hodgs., As. Res., xix, p. 182 (1836) (Nepal). Acanthoptila nipalensis. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 386.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. The whole upper plumage, tail and visible portions of the wings rich olive-brown, the feathers of the head and back with stiff, black shafts; tail cross-rayed darker; lores and the feathers behind and below the eyes whitish; ear-coverts brown, mixed with white ; lower plumage rufescent, each feather with a dark brown shaft-stripe, these increasing in size on breast and abdomen; under tail-coverts and flanks plain rufescent brown.
Some birds, including specimens killed in summer, have the lower part of head, chin and throat white with glistening shafts, and the lower plumage is paler. According to Gates this is the summer plumage, but there is too little evidence at present either to confirm or refute this suggestion.
Colours of soft parts. Bill dusky brown; legs dull fleshy-brown ; iris smoky-brown (Hodgson, MS.).
Measurements. Length about 250 to 260 mm.; tail about 125 to 130 mm ; wing 85 to 90 mm.; tarsus about 30 mm.; culmen about 18 to 19 mm.
Distribution. Nepal and Sikkim and ? N. W. Himalayas.
Nidification. According to Hodgson this Babbler makes a loose, shallow grass nest, about 5" in diameter by about 2" deep, which it places in a fork of a tree. The eggs are said to be verditer-blue and to measure about 28 x 16.5 mm. Eggs in my own collection reputed to be of this bird are quite different and in type more like those of Megalurus. The ground is white and they are pro¬fusely speckled and spotted with brown and underlying spots of pale neutral tint on purplish lavender. They measure about 22 x 17 mm. Their identification is not satisfactory and more information is very badly required about the bird and its life-history.
Habits. Hodgson says that this bird is solitary, tenants low bushes, flies very badly and unwillingly, and that it feeds entirely on the ground. He also says that it is found by bushy rills and is a shy, skulking bird. On the label of a Pinwill specimen is a remark that this bird is a fine songster.