(528) Phaenicurus auroreus.
The DAURIAN Redstart.
Motacilla aurorea Pall.,Beis. Buss. Beichs,iii.p. 695 (1776) (Selenka, Lake Baikal). Ruticilla aurorea. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 93.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. - Male in Summer. Forehead to mantle slaty-grey; sides of head and neck, throat, upper breast and back black; rump, upper tail-coverts and remainder of lower plum age chestnut; central tail-feathers black, chestnut at the base, lateral tail-feathers all chestnut; median and innermost greater wing-coverts white.
In Winter the grey parts are edged with dull rufous : the black parts are fringed with rufous above and rufous-grey below; the wing-feathers edged with pale fulvous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black or, fide Hume, dark brownish yellow or yellowish at gape and sometimes on base of lower mandible; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 150 to 160 mm.; wing 70 to 77 mm.; tail 58 to 60 mm.; tarsus 23 mm.; culmen 10 to 11 mm.
Female. Above olive-brown; lores and a ring of feathers round the eye almost white; rump, tail and wings as in the male but the black replaced by brown; below fulvous-brown, paling to fulvous on the vent and under tail-coverts.
Young male. Like the female but darker and browner above and tinged with chestnut on breast.
Nestling. Above fulvous, each feather boldly edged with dark brown; rump and tail as in the adult; below dull ashy-white, the breast and flank-feathers edged with brown.
Distribution. Hartert accepts three races of this "Redstart, i. e.: - Phaenicurus auroreus auroreus: type-locality, Lake Baikal. ( - Phaenicurus reevesii, 1851: Cantor [Gray's Zool. Misc. 1832, China].) Phaenicurus auroreus filchneri, 1907: Kintschai and Pinling, N.E. China. Phaenicurus auroreus leucopterus, 1843: Malacca.
I cannot separate these races. The breeding-area of the species auroreus, as far as is known at present, extends from Lake Baikal through East Siberia, Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea to Japan and also to extreme North-East China. In "Winter they migrate South to South China, Formosa, some of the Islands of Malaysia and the Indo-Chinese countries as far West as Assam. The winter birds throughout the whole of this area are identical in size and coloration; thus in the huge series in the British Museum Collection we have the following wing-measurements: - Siberia, 70 to 76 mm.; China, 70 to 72 mm.; Japan, 70 to 75 mm.; Corea, 71 to 75 mm.; Assam, 70 to 76 mm.; Sikkim (1), 76 mm.; Yunnan (5), 76 mm. As regards colour there is a small series of five birds in non-breeding plumage which are rather pale but these are matched by individuals from Assam to Chi-hli. Hartert says that there is a dark form found in winter from Malacca to Burma and Assam of which the breeding haunts are not yet known. I can, however, see no difference between specimens from these countries and those from South China which are, presumably, migratory birds from Transbaikalia and Eastern Siberia etc. La Touches breeding birds from North-East Chi-hli are identical with Assam birds taken in March and April, all of which are in full breeding-dress. Under the above circumstances I do not attempt to split P. auroreus into races.
Nidification. La Touche says that this Redstart is common in North-East Chi-hli breeding in the hills during May, June and July. He describes the nests as pads or rough shallow cups made of moss, soft grass-strips and feathers always placed in holes in walls and rocks. The eggs he took were of two different types, one with a white to pink ground-colour, speckled, stippled or blotched with pale burnt sienna and with underlying spots of reddish violet. These markings generally form a ring or cap at the larger end and are sparse elsewhere. The other type has the ground-colour a pale green. Thirty-seven eggs average 19.0 x 14.1 mm.
Habits. There is little on record about the habits of this Redstart but they appear to be quite typical of the genus. It breeds in the Chinese mountains from 5,000 feet upwards and is common in South China, the Indo-Chinese countries and Assam in winter. According to Stevens it is a familiar bird frequenting compounds, gardens and cultivation rather than forest and jungle.