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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

Page 11a

Subfamily TIMELIINAE     (continued...)

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170. Stachyrhis chrysaea, Hodgs. The Golden-headed Babbler

Stachyris chrysaea, (Hodgs.), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 22; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 394.

Mr. Blyth remarks: "The egg, as figured by Mr. Hodgson, is pinkish white, and the nest domed and placed on the summit of a sedge. S. praecognita lays a blue egg." (Ibis, 1866, p. 309.)

There is no figure of either the nest or eggs of the Golden-headed Babbler amongst the drawings of Mr. Hodgson that I possess.

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "I took a nest of this bird out of a large forest, at 5000 feet elevation, on the 15th May. It is of an oval shape, neatly made of small bamboo-leaves only, devoid of lining, and was fixed vertically between a few upright sprays, within two feet of the ground. It measures externally 525 inches in height by 4 in diameter; internally 15 in depth, from lip of egg-cavity, by 175 in diameter. The entrance is also 175 across.

"The eggs were four in number; three of them well set and the fourth quite fresh. The set eggs were altogether pure white, but the fresh egg, unblown, was of a pinky-white colour with a pure white cap; when blown it exactly resembled the others."

The eggs sent as pertaining to this species by Mr. Gammie are very regular ovals, pure white, and somewhat glossy, but they are so small that I can scarcely credit their really belonging to this species. Their cubit contents are not half those of the average eggs of S. nigriceps. They measure 063 by 048.

172. Stachyrhidopsis ruficeps, Bl. The Red-headed Babbler

Stachyris ruficeps, (Bl.,) Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 22; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 393.

The Red-headed Babbler breeds in Nepal, according to Mr. Hodgson, from April to June, building a large massive cup-shaped nest amongst bamboos, as a rule, at heights of from 7 to 10 feet from the ground. The nest is wedged in between half a dozen or more creepers and shoots, and is composed almost exclusively of dry bamboo-leaves neatly, but rather loosely, interwoven, and lined also with these leaves. One which he measured was rather oval in shape, 525 inches in diameter one way, by 4 the other, and 36 in height. The leaves used in the rim of the cup were projected a little inwards, so as to make the mouth of the cavity a little smaller than the diameter of this latter within. The diameter of the mouth was 2 inches, that of the cavity 25, and the latter is about 15 deep. Four eggs are laid, a sort of brownish white, speckled and spotted with brown or reddish brown. The egg figured measures 07 by 052, and is a moderately broad, regular oval.

Dr. Jerdon says: "A nest and eggs, said to be of this species, were brought to me at Darjeeling. The nest was a loose structure of grass and fibres, and contained two eggs of a greenish-white colour with some rusty spots."

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "I took two nests of this Babbler in April; one of them at an elevation of 3500 feet, the other at 5000 feet, but it no doubt breeds also both lower and higher. They are of a neat egg-shape, with entrance at side, and were fixed vertically between a few upright sprays, within three feet of the ground, in open situations near large trees. Mr. Hodgson evidently did not take the one he describes with his own hands, for he places it horizontally, which gives a height of 36 inches only. The external dimensions are about 55 inches in height and 4 in diameter. Internally the diameter is 2 inches, and the depth, from roof, 325. The entrance is 2 across. They are composed of dry bamboo-leaves only, put neatly and firmly together, and are lined with a very few grassy fibres. They each contained four well-set eggs."

Mr. Mandelli, however, took a nest of this species at Lebong on the 23rd June, in the middle of a tea-bush which grew at the side of a small ravine, which was neither hooded nor domed. The nest was about 18 inches from the ground and completely sheltered from above by tea-leaves. It was a deep cup composed externally chiefly of bamboo-leaves, but with a good many dead leaves of trees incorporated in the base, and lined with very fine grass-stems. It contained four fresh eggs. It is quite clear that this species, like S. nigriceps, only domes its nest in certain situations.

The eggs obtained by Mr. Gammie and Mr. Mandelli are very regular, slightly elongated ovals. The shell is very fine and compact, but has only a faint gloss. The ground is white and round the larger end is a zone or imperfect cap of specks and spots of brownish red, generally intermingled with tiny spots, usually very faint, of pale purple. A few specks and spots brown, yellowish, or reddish brown, and sometimes also pale purple, are scattered about the rest of the egg.

In length the eggs vary from 064 to 072, and in breadth from 050 to 053, but the average of eight eggs was 068 by 052 nearly.

174. Stachyrhidopsis pyrrhops, Hodgs. The Red-billed Babbler

Stachyris pyrrhops, (Hodgs.) Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 21; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 392.

Accounts differ somewhat as to the eggs of the Red-billed Babbler.

From Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall writes: "Nest found in low ground, about 100 yards from the River Jheelum, situated in a low bush, externally composed of broad dry reed-leaves, and interiorly of fine grass, cup-shaped. Eggs, four in number, long oval, white, with a few reddish specks at the larger end. Length 7, breadth 5. Lays in the latter end of June, 4000 feet up."

The nest, which he kindly sent me, is a deep cup, coarsely made interiorly of grass-stems, externally of broad blades of grass, in which a few dead leaves are incorporated; there is no lining. Exteriorly the nest is about 35 inches in diameter, and about 3 in depth; the egg-cavity is a little more than 2 inches in diameter, and fully 175 in depth.

Mr. Hodgson "found the nest" of this species in Nepal, "at an elevation of about 6000 feet, in shrubby upland." It was "placed in a small shrub about 2 feet from the ground." It was "a very deep cup, about 4 inches in length, and 25 in diameter externally, placed obliquely endwise upon cross-stems of the shrub, and opening, as it were obliquely, upwards at one end," the cavity being about 15 in diameter. The nest was made of "dry leaves and grass pretty compactly woven." The nest "contained four eggs," which are described as "whitish, with spare and faint fawn-colored spots," and are figured as measuring 065 by 047.

Captain Hutton says: "This is a common species both in the Dhoon and in the hills, and may be found at all seasons, making known its presence among the brushwood by the utterance of a clear and musical note like the ringing of a tiny bell. In the winter time it is often mixed up with flocks composed of Siva strigula and Liothriae luteus, creeping among the bushes like the Pari and Phylloscopi. It constructs its nest at the base of bushes, the eggs being three in number, of a faint greenish grey, thickly irrorated with small reddish-brown specks. The nest is composed of dry grass-blades externally, within which is a layer of fine woody stalks and fibres, and lined with black hair. It is cup-shaped, and placed upon a thick bed of dried leaves, which are most probably accumulated beneath the bush by the wind. One nest was taken at Dehra, in a garden, on the 30th July, and others at Mussoorie about the same time."

But the eggs sent by Captain Hutton clearly do not, I think, pertain to this species. Those taken by Colonel Marshall are certainly genuine, and are considerably larger and very differently colored eggs.

In shape they are moderately broad ovals, some of them slightly compressed towards the small end. The shell is very fine and smooth, but with scarcely any gloss; the ground is pure white, and they are thinly speckled and spotted, the markings being much more numerous about the large end, where they have a tendency to form an ill-defined cap or zone with brownish red or pinky brown.

In length they vary from 062 to 069, and in breadth from 05 to 052.

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