(20) Urocissa melanocephala occipitalis.
THE RED-BILLED BLUB MAGPIE.
Psilorhinus occipitalis Blyth, J.A.S.B., xv, p. 27 (1846) (N.W. Himalayas). Urocissa occipitalis. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 26.
Vernacular names. Nilkhant (at Mussoorie); Bigg-Dai (Simla).
Description. Similar to U. m. melanocephala, but can be distinguished at a glance by its white nape-patch. The back is more purple, with a blue sheen rather than lavender-brown.
Colours of soft parts and Measurements much the same as in the preceding bird.
Distribution. N.W. Himalayas through Nepal and Sikkim to Tibet.
Nidification. This bird breeds commonly over a great portion of the Himalayas in the north-west at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. The nest is a roughly made cup of twigs and coarse roots lined with finer roots and fern rachides, and generally placed some 10 to 20 feet from the ground in a small tree in evergreen forest. The eggs, which number three to six, vary very much in colour. The ground ranges from a very pale yellowish stone-colour to a darkish, rather reddish stone-colour; rarely there is a faint green tinge but this is quite exceptional. The markings consist of small specks and blotches, or all small irregular blotches, of various shades of brown, sienna or reddish brown, with a few underlying ones of pale sienna and purple. As a rule they are richly marked handsome eggs but are not, as they have often been described, like those of Magpies except in general character. They measure about 33.9 x 23.9 mm.
Habits. This Blue Magpie is found in small parties, probably consisting of the parent birds and their last brood. They keep much to evergreen forest at elevations between 5,000 and 12,000 feet, descending lower in the winter but never to the plains as does the next bird. Their flight is slow and undulating and they are rather noisy birds, especially during the breeding season. According to Col. Rattray, they are much given to feeding on the ground. Like all Magpies they are said to be addicted to stealing eggs and young of other birds.
* Corvus erythrorhynchus Gmel., Syst. Nat., i, p. 372 (1788) is preoccupied by Boddaert, Tabl. PI. Enlum., p. 38,1783.