(600) Oreocincla mollissima whitehead
Oreocincla whiteheadi Stuart Baker, Bull. B. O. C, xxxi, p. 79 (1913) (Khagan Valley).
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Differs from the preceding bird in having the whole upper plumage olive-grey instead of rich olive rufescent brown; the underparts have no bright rufous tint, though one specimen has traces of ochre on the breast; the feathers of the crown also have well-marked pale shaft-stripes.
Colours of soft parts as in O. m. molissima.
Measurements. Wing 142.5 to 150 mm.; tail 95.4 to 98 mm.; culmen 21.6 mm.; tarsus 30.4 mm.
Young birds show the same comparative differences as do the adults, that is to say they are less rufous both above and below ; they are also more strongly striated and have the dark margins to the feathers of the upper parts more conspicuous.
Distribution. At present only known from the extreme North -East of India on the Afghan Frontier at very high levels.
Nidification. Captain Whitehead found this bird breeding on cliffs above the forest level. They must be very early breeders, as young were flying in June. An addled egg, presumably of this species, taken from a nest with young in the first week of May, measures 32.4 x 21.5 mm. It is pale yellow-cream in groundcolour and is rather richly spotted and speckled with bright reddish brown. It will probably prove to be an abnormally coloured egg.
The nest was like that of a Blackbird but was placed on a ledge of rock on a cliff.
Habits. Whitehead writes that this Thrush " differs entirely in its habits from 0. mollissima, which bird is an inhabitant of dense forests growing at a much lower elevation. This bird, on the contrary, frequents bare precipitous slopes above the limits of tree-growth at an elevation of 12,500 to 14,500 feet, where it nests in clefts in the rocks on cliffs. The notes I heard it utter were similar to the rattling alarm-notes (like a policeman's rattle) made by Merula maxima, which occurs on the same ground; also the single call-note, but I was too late in the season to hear its song. It was quite common in this one valley (Khagan), but very wild and difficult to approach once the young ones could shift for themselves. As far as I could judge by observing (through glasses), the male and female differed in no way from one another. In life the white bar bordered with black under the wing seemed to me very conspicuous."