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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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147. Pellorneum fuscicapillum (Bl.). Brown-capped Babbler

Pellorneum fuscocapillum (Blyth), Hume, Cat. no. 399 quint.

Captain Legge writes, in his 'Birds of Ceylon': "The nest of this species is exceedingly difficult to find, and scarcely anything is known of its nidification. Mr. Blyth succeeded in finding it in Haputale at an elevation of 5500 feet. It was placed in a bramble about 3 feet from the ground, and was cup-shaped, loosely constructed of moss and leaves; it contained three young."

149. Drymocataphus nigricapitatus (Eyton). Black-capped Babbler

Drymocataphus nigricapitatus (Eyton), Hume, Cat. no. 396.

Mr. W. Davison writes: "I got one nest of this bird at Klang. I was passing through some very dense jungle, where the ground was very marshy, when one of these birds rose from the ground about a couple of feet in front of me, and alighted on an old stump some few feet away. On examining the place from which the bird rose, I found the nest placed at the base of a small clump of ferns, and concealed by a number of overhanging withered fronds of the fern. The base of the nest, which rested on the ground, was composed of a mass of dried twigs, leaves, etc.; then came the real body of the nest, composed of coarse fern-roots, the egg-cavity being lined with finer roots and a number of hair-like fibres. It looked compactly and strongly put together, but on trying to remove it, it all came to pieces. When the bird saw me examining the nest it fluttered to within a couple of feet of me, twittering in a most vehement manner, feigning a broken wing to try and draw me away. The nest contained only two eggs, which were slightly set."

These eggs are extremely regular ovals, scarcely smaller, if at all, at one end than at the other. The shell is very fine and fragile, but has only a slight gloss. The ground-colour appears to have been creamy white, but the markings are so thickly set that little of this is anywhere visible. First, pale inky-purple spots and clouds are thickly sprinkled over the surface, and over this the whole egg is freckled with a pale purplish brown. They measured 082 in length by 062 and 063 in breadth.

151. Drymocataphus tickelli. Tickell's Babbler

Trichastoma minus, (Hume), Hume, Cat. no. 387 bis.

Major C. T. Bingham found the nest of this bird in the valley of the Meplay river, Tenasserim, and he says: "On the 15th March I found a little domed nest made of dried bamboo-leaves, and lined with fine roots, placed in a cane-bush a foot or so above the ground. It contained three tiny white eggs, with minute pink dottings chiefly at the larger end; one egg, however, is nearly pure white."

One of these eggs taken by Major Bingham on the 15th March is a very regular, somewhat elongated oval. The shell very fine and delicate, and fairly glossy. The ground is china-white, and it is everywhere speckled and spotted, nowhere very thickly, but most so in a zone near one end, with pale ferruginous. It measured 067 by 051.

160. Turdinus abbotti (Bl.). Abbott's Babbler.

Trichastoma abbotti (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 17.

Abbott's Babbler breeds throughout Burma in suitable localities. Writing from Kyeikpadein, in Southern Pegu, Mr. Oates says: "On the 22nd May I found a nest with two eggs nearly hatched, and on 23rd of same month another with two eggs, one of which was fresh and the other incubated. This bird builds in thick undergrowth, and the nest is built at a height of about 2 feet from the ground. I have found very many of their nests, but, with the above exceptions, the young had flown. It is generally attached to a stout weed or two, and consists of two portions. First, a platform of dead leaves about 6 inches in diameter and 1 deep, placed loosely, and on this the nest proper is built. This consists of a small cup, the interior diameter of which is 2 inches, and depth 1. It is formed entirely of fine black fern-roots well woven together. Stout weeds appear favorite sites, but I have found old nests in dwarf palm-trees at the junction of the frond with the trunk, and in one instance I found an old nest on the ground, undoubtedly belonging to this bird. Three eggs measured 84 by 66, 82 by 67, and 87 by 65. They are very glossy and smooth. The ground-colour is a pale pinkish white. At the cap there are a few spots and short lines of inky-purple sunk into the shell, and over the whole egg, very sparingly distributed, there are spots and irregular fine scrawls of reddish brown. A few of the marks are neither spots nor scrawls, but something like knots. The cap is suffused with a darker tinge of pink than are the other parts of the shell.

"A third nest, found on the 10th June, contained three eggs, and differed from those above described in being very massive. It was composed of dead leaves and fern-roots, and measured about 5 inches in exterior diameter, with the egg-cup about 2 inches broad and 2 inches deep. It was placed on some entangled small plants about 2 feet from the ground. Of these eggs I noted that before being blown the shell was of a ruddy salmon colour. The marks are much as in the others described above."

The eggs are moderately broad ovals, somewhat pointed at times towards the small end, and occasionally slightly pyriform. The shell is fine and glossy; the ground-colour is pinky white, with a redder shade about the large end. A few streaks, spots, and hieroglyphics of a deep brownish red, each more or less surrounded by a reddish nimbus, are scattered very thinly about the surface of the egg, while, besides these, a few small greyish-purple subsurface-looking spots may be observed about the larger end. The average size of the seven eggs I possess is 082 by 064.

163. Alcippe nepalensis (Hodgs.). Nepal Babbler

Alcippe nipalensis (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 18; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 388.

The Nepal Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, breeds from March to May, building a deep, massive, cup-shaped nest, firmly fastened between two or three upright shoots, and laying three or four eggs, which are figured as measuring 07 by 055. He has the following note:

"Valley, April 1st. - A pair and nest. Nest is round, 4 inches deep on the outside and 2 inches within, and the same wide, being of the usual soup-basin shape and open at the top, made of dry leaves bound together with hair-like grass-fibres and moss-roots, which also form the lining, further compacted by spiders' webs, which, being also twisted round three adjacent twigs, form the suspenders of the nest, the bottom of which does not rest upon anything; attached to a low bush 1 foot from the ground. The nest contained three eggs of a pinkish-white ground thickly spotted with chestnut, the spots being almost entirely confluent at the large end."

Dr. Jerdon says: "I had the nest and eggs brought me by the Lepchas. The nest was loosely made with grass and bamboo-leaves, and the eggs were white with a few reddish-brown spots."

A nest of this species was found near Darjeeling in July, at an elevation of between 3000 and 4000 feet. It was situated in a small bush, in low brushwood, and placed only about 2 feet from the ground. The nest is a compactly made and moderately deep cup. The exterior portion of the nest is composed of bamboo-leaves, more or less held in their places by fine horsehair-like black roots, with which also the cavity is very thickly and neatly lined. Exteriorly the nest is about 375 inches in diameter, and nearly 3 in height. The cavity is 225 in diameter and 16 in depth.

The nest contained three nearly fresh eggs. The eggs are moderately elongated ovals, very regular and slightly pointed towards the small end. The shell is fine and exhibits a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white or pinkish white, and they are very minutely speckled all over with purplish red. The specklings exhibit a decided tendency to form a more or less perfect, and more or less confluent, cap or zone at the large end.

Two of the eggs measure 072 and 071 in length, and 054 and 052 in breadth.

From Sikkim, Mr. Gammie writes: "I have only found this Babbler breeding in May at elevations about 5000 feet, but it doubtless breeds also at much lower elevations, probably down to 2000 feet. The nests are placed within 2 or 3 feet of the ground, between several slender upright shoots, to which they are firmly attached. They are exceedingly neat and compact-built cups, measuring externally about 4 inches across by 275 deep, internally 215 wide by 16 deep. They are composed of dry bamboo-leaves held together by a little grass and very fine, hair-like fern-roots. The egg-cavity is lined with fern-roots.

"The eggs are three or four in number."

Numerous nests of this species kindly sent me by Messrs. Gammie, Mandelli, and others, taken during the months of May and June in British and Native Sikkim, at elevations of from 3000 to 5500 feet, were all of the same type and placed in the same situations, namely amongst low scrub and brushwood, at heights of from 18 inches to 3 feet from the ground. The interior and, in fact, the main body of the nests appear to be in all cases chiefly composed of fine black hair-like roots, with which, in some cases, especially about the upper margin, a little fine grass is intermingled. The cavities are generally much about the same size, say ~2 inches in diameter by 125 in depth: but the size of the nests as a whole varies very much. The nest is always coated exteriorly with dry leaves of trees and ferns, broad blades of grass, and the like, fixed together sometimes by mere pressure, but generally here and there held together by fine fibrous roots, and this coating varies so much that one nest before me measures 55 in external diameter, and another barely 4, the external covering of fern-leaves, flags, and dry and dead leaves being very abundant in the former, while in the other the covering consists entirely of broad dry blades of grass very neatly laid together. Two, three, and four fresh eggs were found in these several nests, but in no case were more than four eggs found.

Two nests taken by Mr. Gammie contained three and two fresh eggs respectively. The eggs had a delicate pink ground, and were richly blotched, in one egg exclusively, in the others chiefly about the larger end, with chestnut, or almost maroon-red, here and there almost deepening in spots to black, and elsewhere paling off into a rufous haze. The markings are confluent about the large end, and there in places intermingled with a purplish tinge. The other eggs had a china-white ground, with more gloss than the specimens previously described, with numerous small, blackish brownish-red spots and specks, almost exclusively confined to the large end, where they are more or less enveloped in a pinky-red nimbus.

These eggs varied from 075 to 079 in length, and from 056 to 06 in breadth.

Other eggs, again, with the same pinky-white ground are thickly but minutely freckled and speckled with rather pale brownish red, most thickly towards and about the large end, where they become confluent in patches, and where tiny purple clouds and spots are dimly traceable.

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