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The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds - A. O. Hume

The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds  (Volume 1) Second Edition 1889  -  by  Allan O. Hume

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140. Pyctorhis nasalis, Legge. Ceylon Yellow-eyed Babbler

Pyctorhis nasalis, (Legge), Hume, Cat. no. 385 bis.

Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon': "In the Western Province this Babbler commences to breed in February; but in May I found several nests in the Uva district near Fort Macdonald; and that month would thus seem to be the nesting-season in the Central Province. The nest is placed in the fork of a shrub, or in a huge tuft of maana-grass, without any attempt at concealment, about 3 or 4 feet from the ground. It is a neatly-made compact cup, well finished off about the top and exterior, and constructed of dry grass, adorned with cobwebs or lichens, and lined with fine grass or roots. The exterior is about 2 inches in diameter by about 2 in depth. The eggs are usually three in number, fleshy white, boldly spotted, chiefly about the larger end, with brownish sienna; in some these markings are inclined to become confluent, and are at times overlaid with dark spots oil brick-red. They are rather broad ovals, measuring, on the average, from 076 to 079 inch in length, by 056 to 059 in breadth."

142. Pellorneum mandellii, Blanf. Mandelli's Spotted Babbler

Pellorneum nipalensis (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 399 bis.

This species, originally described by Hodgson as Hemipteron nipalensis, was confounded by Gray and others with P. ruficeps, Swainson, and subsequently rediscriminated and described by Blanford as P. mandellii.

Mandelli's Spotted Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, begins to lay in April, the young being ready to fly in July. They build a large, more or less oval, globular nest, laid lengthwise on the ground in some bush or clump of rush or reed, composed of moss, dry leaves, and vegetable fibres, and lined with moss-roots. The entrance, which is circular, is at one end. A nest measured by Mr. Hodgson was 675 inches in length and 5 in height. The aperture, at one end of the egg-shaped nest, was about 2 inches in diameter, and the cavity was about 25 in diameter and nearly 4 inches deep. The eggs are three or four in number, and are figured as broad ovals pointed towards the small end, measuring about 086 by 065, and having a greyish-white ground, thickly speckled and spotted with more or less bright red or brownish red, and most thickly so at the large end, where the markings are nearly confluent.

A nest said to belong to this species, and found near Darjeeling in July, at an elevation of about 4000 feet, was placed on the ground on the side of a bank - a very dirty untidy nest, more or less cylindrical in shape, composed of dead leaves, including a good many of those of the bamboo, dead twigs, and old roots, and very sparsely lined with black moss-roots. The nest is about 4 inches in diameter externally, and the cavity about 2-5 in diameter.

It contained three fresh eggs, very regular, moderately broad, ovals; the shell fine and compact, with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white, and the egg everywhere very finely speckled with chocolate- or purplish brown, the markings being by far most dense at the large end, where they form a more or less irregular, and more or less conspicuous, speckly cap.

Two eggs measure 086 and 09 in length, and 065 and 066 in breadth.

Another nest, found on the 5th June in Native Sikkim, contained four fresh eggs. It was placed on the ground, and precisely resembled that obtained near Darjeeling in July.

In some eggs the markings are rather bolder and coarser, and in these there are generally some few pale lilac or inky-purple spots intermingled where the markings are densest. Closely looked into, many of the spots in some eggs are rather a pale yellowish brown. The eggs are clearly all of the same type, and vary very little.

Four eggs varied from 084 to 09 in length, and from 065 to 068 in breadth.

144. Pellorneum ruficeps, Swains., Spotted Babbler

Pellorneum ruficeps, (Swains.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 27; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 399.

Writing from Kotagherry Miss Cockburn says: "Spotted Babblers are exceedingly shy. They associate in small flocks except during the breeding-season, when they go about in pairs. I have only known them to frequent small woods and brushwood, a little higher than the elevation of the coffee-plantations.

"Three nests of these birds were found in the months of March and April 1871. The first was placed on the ground, close against a bush. The nest, consisting of dry leaves and grass, appeared to be merely a canopy for the eggs, which, were almost on the bare ground, having only a very few pieces of straw under them. The eggs were three in number, and covered profusely with innumerable small dark spots, making it difficult to say what the ground-colour really was. The nest was not easily found. The bird left it so quietly as not to be heard, and dropped down the hill like a ball. When the eggs were discovered the bird did not return to them for fully three hours, after which she came very cautiously, but only to meet her doom, poor thing, as she was then shot. The second nest was built in the same way under a bush, and contained three eggs, which were put into my egg-box lined with cotton, but were hatched on the way home. The third nest was constructed under a large stone and with the same materials, and contained two young ones."

An egg of this species, received from Miss Cockburn, is a moderately broad and very regular oval. The ground-colour is a slightly greenish white, and the whole surface of the egg is excessively finely freckled and speckled with lilac or pale purplish grey and a more or less rufous brown. The egg has a slight gloss.

It measures 088 by 065.

145. Pellorneum subochraceum, Swinh. Burmese Spotted Babbler

Pellorneum subochraceum, (Swinh.), Hume, Cat. no. 399.

The Burmese Spotted Babbler breeds pretty well over the whole of Pegu and Tenasserim. Mr. Oates writes: "On the 3rd May I found a nest on the ground near Pegu. A good many bamboo-leaves had fallen and the nest was imbedded in these. It was formed entirely of these leaves loosely put together, the interior only being sparingly lined with fine grass. The structure in situ was tolerably firm, but it would not stand removal. In height it was about 7 inches, and in breadth about 5, the longer axis being vertical. Shape cylindrical with rounded top. Entrance 2 inches by 1, placed about the centre. The interior of the nest was a rough sphere of 4 inches diameter.

"There were three eggs, slightly incubated. The ground-colour is pure white, and the whole surface is minutely and thickly speckled with reddish-brown and greyish-purple spots, more closely placed at the thick end, where they coalesce in places and form bold patches.

"On the 29th June, I found another nest of similar construction, placed on the ground in thick forest, at the root of a shrub."

Mr. W. Davison in 1875 gave me the following note: "On the morning of the 25th March I took at Bankasoon a nest of this species in thick forest; it was placed on the ground and was composed externally of dead leaves, with a scanty lining of fine roots and fibres. It measured externally about 5 inches high by about 4 wide. The egg-cavity was hardly 3 inches in diameter. The nest was only partially domed, and was very loosely and carelessly put together.

"The nest contained three eggs, but these were so far incubated that it was impossible to blow two of them."

The single egg of this species obtained by Mr. Davison is in shape a moderately broad oval, a little pointed towards the small end; the shell is fine, but has little gloss. The ground-colour, so far as this is visible through the thickly-set markings, is white, and it is very finely but densely stippled and freckled (most densely at the large end, where the markings are not unfrequently confluent or nearly so) with dull to bright reddish brown; here and there, especially about the large end, more or less faint grey or red specks, spots, or tiny clouds may be traced underlying as it were the brown or purplish markings.

The egg sent me from Pegu by Mr. Oates is of precisely the same size and type, but the markings are much less dense and are brighter colored. The ground-colour is white, and the egg is pretty thickly speckled with a reddish-chocolate brown. Here and there a moderately large irregularly-shaped spot is intermingled with the finer specklings. The markings are rather most dense at the large end, where there is a tendency to form a zone, and here a number of pale purplish-grey streaks and specks are also intermingled.

Major C. T. Bingham says: "Early on the morning of the 7th April, moving camp from the sources of the Thoungyeen, on the side of a hill at the foot of a bamboo-bush not two feet from the road, I flushed and shot a female of the above species off her nest; a little loosely-put-together round ball of dry bamboo-leaves, unlined, though domed over, with the entrance at the side, and containing two fresh eggs, white, thickly speckled with brick-red and obscure purple. On the 12th of the same month, I found a second nest behind the zayat or rest-house at Meeawuddy. This was similar to the nest above described, and contained three similar eggs."

The eggs measure from 78 to 88 in length, and from 58 to 65 in breadth; but the average of twelve eggs is 82 by 62.

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