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The Sylviidæ or Warbler Family

Of the warblers it may be said "their name is legion." So many species exist, and the various species are so difficult to differentiate, that the family drives most field ornithologists to the verge of despair. Many of the Indian warblers are only winter visitors to India. Eliminating these, only two warblers are entitled to a place among the common birds of the Nilgiris. These are the tailor-bird and the ashy wren-warbler.

At Coonoor the tailor-bird (Orthotomus sartorius) is nearly as abundant as it is in the plains. Oates, be it noted, states that this species does not ascend the hills higher than 4000 feet. As a matter of fact, the tailor-bird does not venture quite up to the plateau, but it is perfectly at home at all elevations below 6000 feet. This species may be likened to a wren that has grown a respectable tail. The forehead is ruddy brown, the back of the head is grey, the back is brown tinged with green. The lower plumage is a pale cream colour. There is a black patch or bar on each side of the neck, visible only when the bird stretches its neck to utter its loud to-wee, to-wee, to-wee. In the breeding season the shafts of the middle pair of tail feathers of the cock grow out beyond the rest. These projecting, bristle-like feathers render the cock easy of identification.

The ashy wren-warbler (Prinia socialis) is another "tiny brownie bird." The wings and tail are brown, the remainder of the upper plumage is the colour of ashes, the under parts are cream coloured. This warbler is a slight, loosely-built bird, and is easily distinguished from others of its kind by the curious snapping noise it makes as it flits from bush to bush. It occurs in pairs or singly. Davison remarks that it is "very fond of working its way up to some conspicuous post--to the top of one of the long flower-stalks of Lobelia excelsa, for instance--where it will halt for a minute or two, and then, after making a feeble attempt at a song, will dive suddenly in the brushwood and disappear."