441. Chaetornis striatus, JERDON.
Megalurus, apud JERDON, Suppl. Cat. 88 bis - BLYTH, Cat. 782 - HORSF., Cat. 513 - Dasyornis locustelloides, Blyth - Gentapitta, Tel, i. e., Grass-bird.
Descr. - Above olive or yellowish brown, the feathers all centered with deep brown ; tail brownish, banded with dusky externally, and dusky along the centre of each feather, which is tipped fulvous white, and the outer feathers have further a dark brown sub terminal band ; beneath, the color is white, tinged with earthy- brown on the breast, and with a few dark specks.
Bill dusky-brown above, fleshy-brown beneath; legs brownish fleshy ; hides yellow-brown or dull grey in some. Length of male 8 1/4; inches ; extent 11; wing 3 1/2; tail 3 3/4; bill at front not quite 1/2; tarsus 1 1/10; extent of the foot 1 3/4. The female is 7 inches long and the wing 3.
I first obtained this bird on the Neilgherries in swampy ground, but afterwards found it not rare at Nellore, during the cold season, in long grass and rice fields ; and I again found it in Central India, during the rains, in grass meadows. It is also abundant all over Lower Bengal in high grass, though not frequenting such dense
thickets of reeds as Megalurus, or Chatarrhaea Earlei., It most probably will be found in all suitable localities through the greater part of India.
It has similar habits to Megalurus, soaring into the air like a lark, with a fine clear song. I have not procured the nest, but Mr. Blyth mentions that it nearly accords with that of Malacocircus, and that the eggs are blue. It feeds chiefly, if not entirely, on insects. The great difference of size between the sexes at one time led Mr. Blyth to believe them to be distinct species.
Mr. Frith suggests that the very remarkable outer orbital bristles of this bird are admirably adapted to protect its eyes when it is forcing its way through dense tufts of grass and reeds.
Near these two birds probably should be placed the African genera Sphenaecus and Sphenura; and the Australian Cincloramphus, two of the species of which latter have been considered to belong to Megalurns.
From these Reed and Grass-babblers there is an evident transition to the Reed-warblers, such as Locustella, Acrocephalus, and Arundinax, in all of which, however, the characters of this family are lost, or nearly so. But it will, perhaps, be advisable to class here two small Grass or Reed birds, which, by their strongly compressed bill, apparently belong to this group, leading to the Warblers. They belong to two distinct forms, and both are rare, and but little known. Mr. Blyth also places them in this family, between Chaetornis and Dumetia.