(Photographs taken at Ranikhet, Uttarakhand, India)
Length 5 inches. Male : A broad line over the eye, some markings on the sides of the face, an indistinct collar round the neck, the rump and the whole lower plumage bright yellow; remainder of upper plumage greenish-brown mixed with black and darkest on the head ; wings dark brown, variegated with yellow, black and a little white ; tail dark brown, all but the two central pairs of feathers largely mixed with yellow increasing externally.
The female resembles the male, but is slightly duller with less yellow in the wing-coverts.
Iris brown ; bill fleshy-horn, tipped dusky ; legs brownish-flesh. The beak is conical, sharp and pointed.
Himalayan species ; usually gregarious when breeding and gathering into flocks in winter ; recognisable in the field by the pleasant twittering note, the habit of flying high in the air, and the yellow under parts, eye-streak and wing-markings.
A Himalayan species, found throughout the whole of that range. It breeds commonly but locally at heights from 4000 to 9000 feet, and occasionally higher to 11,ooo feet, and in winter it wanders down into the foot-hills and the plains at their base. On the west it is common in winter in the Peshawar Valley, and even appears in the Afghan Hills down to the Samana. On the east it has been found in Manipur, and is replaced by a darker race in the Shan States and Yunnan.
The well-known Goldfinch, conspicuous with its crimson face and golden wing-bar, is common in the Western Himalayas, Kashmir, and Baluchistan, coming down to the North-west Frontier Province and Northern Punjab in winter. It lacks the black head marking of the English species and belongs to the Asiatic species Carduelis caniceps.
The Himalayan Greenfinch avoids heavy deciduous forest, and while breeding prefers to frequent patches of open deodar forest on hill-sides in the neighbourhood of cultivation. Several pairs breed more or less together in such suitable localities. Out of the breeding season the birds collect into flocks, often of some size, and these flocks wander about the lower hills in a very erratic manner, so that no regular calendar of their movements can be worked out. When in flocks they very definitely prefer open cultivation studded with trees, and their favourite food is the seed of the wild hemp which grows in large patches where buffaloes have been kept. They are easily attracted to gardens by planting sunflowers, as they are very fond of the seeds of that plant.
The ordinary call-note is a cheerful twitter, twit-it-it or teh-teh-tahy rather reminiscent of the call of the English Goldfinch; it has also a very sweet-toned note, twee-ah. The song, on the other hand is more like that of the English Greenfinch, a very amorous sounding screeee or treeee-tertrak The love flight also resembles that of the latter bird. I have seen a bird flying past suddenly descend In a circle to a tree, with the wings spread and extended high above the head and the tail partly open.
The breeding season is late, compared with most Himalayan birds, from July to early October, and this is correlated with curious features in the moults of plumage.
The nest is a neatly-constructed cup of the familiar Linnet type, composed of fine grass roots, with a good deal of hair interwoven in the interior as lining, and the exterior is often blended with moss to assimilate it to its surroundings. It is usually placed in a deodar or Spruce fir at a considerable height from the ground, and may be in a fork or clump of foliage close to the trunk or on the top of a vertical bough near its extremity.
The clutch consists of three or four eggs.
The eggs are regular ovals, slightly pointed towards the smaller end; the texture is fine and delicate without gloss. The groundcolour is a very delicate pale sea-green, and the only markings are a number of fine black spots and specks, usually most numerous towards the broad end.
The eggs measure about 0.70 by 0.52 inches.