(183) Turdoides terricolor terricolor.
THE BENGAL JUNGLE-BABBLER.
Pastor terricolor Hodgs., J. A. S. B., v, p. 771 (1836) (Nepal). Crateropus canorus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 110.
Vernacular names. Chatarhia (Beng.); Pengya-maina (Hind.in the U.P.) ; Sat Bhai, Jangli-khyr, Ghonghai (Hind.); Pedda-Sida (Tel.) ; Kutch-batchia (Behar).
Description. Upper plumage, coverts and inner secondaries pale brown, cinereous on the head and rump, slightly fulvous on the upper tail-coverts, the back with dark brown streaks and whitish shaft-stripes; tail brown, paler towards the base and darker towards the end, which is tipped with white and cross-rayed; wings dark brown, edged with ashy on the outer webs; lores whitish with a narrow black line above them; sides of the head like the crown; chin and throat cinereous, faintly cross-barred darker; breast fulvous ashy with whitish shafts; abdomen, vent and under tail-coverts fulvous; the sides tinged with brown and with faint white shafts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris white, yellowish white or creamy white; orbital skin pale yellow ; legs and claws yellow, chrome-yellow, fleshy-yellow or yellowish white; bill chrome-yellow, yellowish white, dirty whitish or, rarely, pale horny-yellow.
Measurements. Length 250 to 260 mm.; wing 103 to 110 mm.; tail 108 to 115 mm.; tarsus about 32 to 34 mm.; culmen about 25 to 26 mm.
Distribution. Northern India from the U.P., Eastern Rajputana to Bengal, south to Orissa, across to about the latitude of Bombay.
Nidification. The Jungle-Babbler breeds principally in June and July after the break of the monsoon, but odd nests with eggs may be found any time from March to September. They are built of grass, leaves, roots, etc., carelessly bound together with weeds, twigs and tendrils, and lined with grass or roots, and they may be placed in any kind of bush or tree at heights of a few inches only to 30 feet from the ground. The usual number of eggs is four, but Inglis has taken seven from the same nest, all apparently Turdoides eggs, and not those of the Common Hawk-Cuckoo or Pied Cuckoo, both of which victimize this Babbler very freely. It is sometimes difficult to tell the Cuckoos' eggs from those of their fosterers, but as a rule they are much less glossy, a softer, more satiny texture and more elliptical in shape. The Babblers' eggs are typically a deep Hedge-sparrow blue, intensely glossy, and 100 eggs average about 25.2 x 19.6 mm.
Habits. The " Seven Sisters " have obtained this name from the fact that they go about in flocks of six to a dozen, but very frequently numbering exactly seven, and their sisterhood or brotherhood they show by the manner in which each individual resents any interference from outside to any of the party yet retains full liberty to argue, disagree and fight with any one or all of the other six. They are noisy, hysterical and active birds so long as they are not forced to fly, and anything out of the common at once attracts their attention and calls forth a babel of comment and assertion which rises crescendo until something else diverts them. Their excitement seems to be equally intense and voluble whether caused by some mere insect or by the murder of one of their party by a Hawk. They may be scattered at the moment, but within a second or two all have taken a few pro¬digious hops and have collected together either to discuss the object of interest or to defend the member in danger. They are very brave birds, and when attacked throw themselves on their back and fight with bill and claws, whilst their comrades throw themselves with fury on the assailant, whether cat, hawk or some smaller vermin. They seem to prefer the vicinity of humanity to the wilds, but are found over their whole range where the country is sufficiently, yet not too, densely wooded.