Page:The Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma (Birds Vol 1).djvu/171

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133
SITTA.


Female differs from the male in having no black supercilium and, like the rest of the genus, in being a trifle smaller.

Distribution. Ceylon, the whole of India west of Bombay, Gwalior and Kumaon; Assam, practically the whole of Burma in suitable localities, Siam, Malay Peninsula to Java.

Nidification. This little Nuthatch breeds all over its habitat, chiefly between 1,000 and 4,000 feet elevation. In the southern portions of both Burma and India it lays in February and March, but in the northern districts it does not lay until April, continuing through May and even into June. It selects some natural hollow or one made and deserted by a Barbet or Woodpecker. Though it very seldom uses clay to reduce the size of the entrance, it does, on the other hand, often enlarge crevices sufficiently to allow it to make its nest in some enviable hollow. The nest itself is made of moss, generally green and fresh, worked into a solid pad, and above this may be fur, fur and feathers or, very rarely, feathers alone. This lining or superstructure is always soft and plentiful, almost hiding the eggs which number from three to six. These are typical Nuthatches' eggs, but are rather more densely and uniformly covered with blotches than is usual and they are also longer ovals in shape than are those of most Nuthatches. Fifty eggs average 17.2 x 13.2 mm. and the extremes are: maxima 18.0 X 13.4 and 17.9 x 13.8 mm., minima 16.0 X 12.3 mm.

Habits. The Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is a bird of the plains and lower hills where there are forests and woods, but it is not found in quite open tracts and sparsely wooded areas. It frequents both the higher and smaller trees in flocks of half-a-dozen to a dozen or more, and is the quickest and most active of all the Nuthatches in its ways. Its note is a constant mouse-like cheep.