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The Muscicapidæ or Flycatcher Family

As in the Himalayas so on the Nilgiris the family of flycatchers is well represented. In one small Nilgiri wood I have come across no fewer than six species of flycatcher.

The beautiful little black-and-orange flycatcher (Ochromela nigrirufa) is a bird peculiar to the hills of Southern India.

The head and wings of the cock are black, the rest of the body is orange, of deeper hue on the back and breast than on the other parts. The portions of the plumage that are black in the cock are slaty brown in the hen. This flycatcher feeds on insects. But unlike most of its kind, it picks them off the ground more often than it secures them in the air.

It never takes a long flight, and almost invariably perches on a branch not more than two feet above the ground. It emits a low cheeping note--a chur-r-r, which is not unlike the sound made by some insects.

The Nilgiri blue-flycatcher (Stoparola albicaudata) is stoutly-built and a little larger than a sparrow. The male is clothed from head to tail in dark blue; his wife is more dingy, having a plentiful admixture of brownish grey in her plumage. Blue-flycatchers often occur in little flocks. They have the usual habits of their family, except that they seem sometimes to eat fruit.

A pretty little bird, of which the head, back, tail, and wings are deep blue, and the breast is orange fading into pale yellow towards the abdomen, is Tickell's blue-flycatcher (Cyornis tickelli). It has the characteristic habits of its tribe, and continually makes, from a perch, little sallies into the air after flying insects. But, more often than not it starts from one branch, and, having secured its quarry, alights on another. It sings a joyous lay, not unlike that of the fantail-flycatcher, but less sweet and powerful. It nests in a hole in a tree or bank, laying in May two or three eggs very thickly speckled with red spots.

The grey-headed flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis) is a bird of somewhat sombre plumage. Its total length is only five inches, and of this half is composed of tail. The head is ashy grey, the back and wings are greenish; the lower plumage is bright yellow, but this is not conspicuous except when the bird is on the wing. This flycatcher has a loud song, which may be syllabised: Think of me.... Never to be.

The white-browed fantail-flycatcher (Rhipidura albifrontata), which delights the inhabitants of Madras with its cheerful whistle of five or six notes, occurs on the Nilgiris, but is there largely replaced by an allied species--the white-spotted fantail-flycatcher (R. pectoralis). The latter has all the habits of the former. Both make the same melody, and each has the habit of spreading out and erecting the tail whenever it settles on a perch after a flight. The white-spotted is distinguishable from the white-browed species by the white eyebrow being much narrower and less conspicuous. It is a black bird with a white abdomen, some white in the wings and tail, a few white spots on the chin, and the white eyebrow mentioned above.

The most beautiful of all the flycatchers is Terpsiphone paradisi--the paradise-flycatcher, or ribbon-bird, as it is often called. This is fairly abundant on the Nilgiris. The cock in the full glory of his adult plumage is a truly magnificent object. His crested head is metallic blue-black. This stands out in sharp contrast to the remainder of the plumage, which is as white as snow. Two of his tail feathers, being 12 inches longer than the others, hang down like satin streamers. Young cocks are chestnut instead of white. Birds in both phases of plumage breed. The hen has the metallic blue-black crested head, but she lacks the elongated tail feathers. Her plumage is chestnut, like that of the young cock. In both the hen and the young cock the breast is white. As "Eha" remarks, the hen looks very like a bulbul.