(330) Staphidia castaneiceps.
THE CHESTNUT-HEADED STAPHIDIA.
Ixulus castaneiceps Moore, P. Z. S., 1854, p. 141 (Afghanistan in wore) (Cachar). Staphidia casta?ieiceps. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 205.
Vernacular names. Dao-tisha-magini (Cachari).
Description. Forehead chestnut-brown, the feathers margined with grey ; crown anil crest chestnut; upper plumage and visible portions of wings and tail greenish brown, the back and scapulars with white shafts; middle tail-feathers and concealed webs blackish brown, outer feathers broadly tipped white, the tips decreasing in extent until they disappear in the central ones ; lores grey; a short supercilium from above the eye white; ear-coverts chestnut with whitish shalts; lower plumage and under wing-coverts pale fulvous white; under tail-coverts brown tipped with white.
Colours of soft parts. Irides pale hazel; bill rather light reddish-horny, gape and base of both mandibles purplish ; legs dull reddish or flesh-colour, claws dusky flesh-colour.
Measurements. Length about 135 mm.; wing 66 to 70 mm.; tail about 58 mm.; tarsus about 14 mm.; culmen about 7.5 to 8 mm.
Distribution. Assam Hills South of the Brahmaputra as far East as the Naga Hills and South to Lushai. According to Godwin-Austen this bird has also been found in the Dafla Hills.
Nidification. This pretty little Babbler breeds all over its range between 2,000 and 5,000 feet, principally about 3,000 feet. The breeding season begins in the middle of April and ends in the middle of July and the nest is nearly always placed in holes in small perpendicular banks, those beside paths cut through the jungle being a very favourite site. They are placed only just inside the hole, often very indifferently concealed, and are made of some very soft fibrous material like tow, the surrounding portion of the nest being of weed stems, moss and leaves, more or less mixed with shreds of grass. The eggs number three or four and are broad, obtuse ovals, pure glossy white with fairly numerous specks and spots of van dyke-brown or reddish-brown, sometimes scattered over the whole surface, sometimes confined for the most part to the larger end, where they may form a rough ring or cap. 150 eggs average 16.6 x 13.5 mm., the extremes being 18.0x14.0; 16.2x14.2 mm.; 15.0 x l3.0 and 15.2 x 12.3 mm.
Habits. It is found during the non-breeding season in small flocks, the individuals keeping very near to one another. They keep closely to the tops of the higher bushes and smaller saplings, neither ascending to any height in the bigger trees nor frequenting the lower shrubs unless frightened, when they dive into the undergrowth and escape by clambering and flitting from one perch to another until they are out of sight. It is not a shy bird and may be watched at leisure from a few paces, scrambling about in very Tit-like postures and constantly uttering a low "chir-chit,chir-chit." It is a very poor flyer and seldom uses its wings for more than a few yards. Those birds examined had fed on aphidae, locust larvae and other insects and also on small hard seeds like mustard seed.