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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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191. Larvivora brunnea, Hodgs. The Indian Blue Chat

Larvivora cyana, (Gould). Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 145; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 507.

I have never obtained the nest of the Indian Blue Chat. Mr. Davison found it on the Nilghiris. He says: "I really quite forget the details of that one egg which I brought you along with the skin of the parent, but it was taken in May on the Nilghiris. I remember very well another nest of this species, which I took in the latter end of March or the beginning of April in a shola or detached piece of jungle about 9 miles from Ootacamund.

"The nest was in a hole in the trunk of a small tree, about 5 feet from the ground, and was composed chiefly of moss, but mixed with dry leaves and twigs. It contained three young birds, apparently about four or five days old."

The late Mr. Mandelli sent me a nest of this species which was found at Lebong (elevation 5500 feet) on the 16th May. It contained three eggs, and was placed on the ground amongst grass on a bank made by the cutting of a hill-road. It is a broad shallow nest, composed exteriorly of vegetable fibre, scraps of dead leaves and tiny pieces of moss matted closely together, and is rather thickly lined with black and red hairs, amongst which one or two soft downy feathers are incorporated. The external diameter of the nest is about 4 inches, the height about 15, the cavity is about 275 inches in diameter, and rather less than 1 in depth.

Two eggs taken by Mr. Darling* are very elongated, somewhat cylindrical ovals, very obtuse at both ends. In both, the shell is fine, and has an appreciable though not brilliant gloss. In one, the ground is a pale delicate clay-brown, and the markings consist only of a zone about 02 wide round the large end of densely set dull brownish-red specks, and a few similar specks inside the zone only. In the other, the ground has a light greenish tinge, the zone is less marked and merges in a dull brownish-red mottled cap, and a faint marbling, of a paler shade of the cap, is scattered here and there over the whole surface of the egg. They measure 1 by 065 and 098 by 065.

[Footnote: I cannot find any account of the finding of the nest of this bird by Mr. Darling amongst Mr. Hume's notes.--Ed.]

The egg taken by Mr. Davison is an elongated, slightly pyriform oval. The shell is moderately fine, but with only a very slight gloss. The ground-colour is a pale slightly greyish green, and the whole egg is thickly (most thickly so about the large end, where the markings are almost perfectly confluent) mottled and streaked with pale brownish red. It measures 098 by 067.

193. Brachypteryx albiventris (Fairbank). The White-bellied Short-wing

Callene albiventris, (Fairbank), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 339 bis.

The Rev. S. B. Fairbank, to whom I have, owed much useful information and many valuable specimens, kindly sent me the subjoined account of the nidification of the White-bellied Short-wing in the Pulney Hills at an elevation of about 6500 feet: "In April, I found a nest in a hole in the side of the trunk of a large tree some 2 feet from the ground. The hole was just large enough for the nest, and was lined with fine roots. I surprised the bird on her nest several times. There were two eggs in the nest when I first found it that were 'hard-set'. A month afterwards she laid two more in the same place, and I took them in good condition. One egg measures 09 by 068 inch, and another 094 by 068 inch. The ground-colour is grey, with a tinge of green, and it is thickly covered with small spots of bistre."

Mr. Blanford, who saw the eggs, which I never did, describes them (and by analogy, I should infer more correctly) as "of an olive-brown colour, darker at the larger end, measuring 093 by 063 inch."

An egg of this species sent me by Dr. Fairbank, measuring 093 by 066, is a somewhat elongated oval, slightly pointed towards the small end. The shell is fine and fairly glossy; the ground-colour, so far as this is discernible, is greyish green, but it is so thickly clouded and mottled all over with a warm, brown, that but little of the ground-colour is any where traceable, and the general result when the egg is looked at from a short distance is that of a nearly uniform olive-brown.

Captain Horace Terry also found the nest of this bird on the Pulney Hills. He says: "I met with it a few times in the big shola at Kodikanal, and got two nests, each with two fresh eggs; the first on the 7th June in a hole in a tree between 4 and 5 feet from the ground, a deep cup of green moss; the other, in a hole in the bank of a path running through the shola was of green moss and a few fine fern-roots. Inside 175 inch deep and 25 inches across; outside a shapeless mass of moss filling up the hole it was built in. The nest was very conspicuous to any one passing by."

194. Brachypteryx rufiventris (Blyth). The Rufous-bellied Short-wing

Callene rufiventris, (Blyth). Jerdon. B. Ind. i, p. 496: Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 339.

I have been favored with nests of the Rufous-bellied Short-wing by Mr. Carter, who took them from holes or depressions of banks in the Nilghiris in April and May. They closely resemble nests of Niltava macrigoriae from Darjeeling. They are soft masses of green moss, some 4 or 5 inches in diameter externally, with more or less of a depression towards one side, lined with very fine dark moss-roots. This depression may average about 2 inches across and inch in depth; but they vary a good deal. Mr. Carter says: "I have found the nests of this species about Conoor in May, in holes of banks, on roads running through thick sholas (i.e. jungles not amounting to forests). The nests are of moss, shallow, lined with fine root-fibres, the cavity about 3-5 inches in diameter. They lay two eggs, pale olive, shading into a decided brownish red at the larger end. The old birds are very shy in returning to the nest when watched; indeed, they are always shy, hiding in the brushwood of jungles or amongst fallen timber, along which they almost creep."

Mr. Davison informs me that "this species breeds on the Nilghiris from about 5500 feet to about 7000 during April and May, building in holes of trees, crevices of rocks, etc., seldom at any great elevation above the ground. The nest is composed of moss, lined with moss and fern-roots. Two or three eggs are laid."

The few eggs I possess, which I owe to Messrs. Carter and Davison, and which were taken by them in the Nilghiris, have a pale olive-brown ground with, at the large end, an ill-defined mottled reddish-brown cap. In some specimens the mottling extends more or less over the whole egg, though always most dense about the larger end. Though much larger and of a more elongated shape, they not a little resemble some specimens of the eggs of Pratincola indica that I possess. In shape they are long ovals, recalling in that respect those of Myiophoneus temmincki; they have less gloss than the eggs of most of the Thrushes.

In length they vary from 097 to 102 inch, and in breadth from 065 to 069 inch.

197. Drymochares cruralis (Blyth). The White-browed Short-wing

Brachypteryx cruralis (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 495; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 338.

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes and drawings, the White-browed Short-wing breeds in April and May. It constructs its nest a foot or so above the ground amongst grass and creeping-plants at the base of trunks of trees; it is composed of moss and moss-roots, is somewhat globular in shape, and is firmly attached to the creepers; dried bamboo-leaves and pieces of fern are here and there fixed to the exterior, and the nest is lined with hair-like fibres; the entrance is at one side and circular. One nest measured 7 inches in height, 55 in width, and 338 from front to back. The aperture was 2 inches in diameter. The eggs (four in number, or at times three) are pure white, broad ovals, pointed at one end, measuring 09 by 065 inch. This species breeds in the central regions of Nepal and in the neighborhood of Darjeeling.

Three nests of this species found early in June in Sikkim and Nepal, at elevations of 5000 to 8000 feet, contained respectively 2, 3, and 4 fresh eggs. They were all placed in brushwood at 2 to 3 feet above the ground, and they are all precisely similar, being rather massive shallow cups, composed of very fine black roots firmly felted together, and with a few dead leaves or scraps of moss in most of them incorporated in one portion or other of the outer surface. The nests are about 4 inches in diameter and 2 in height; the cavity is about 2 inches in diameter and 1 in depth; but, owing to the positions in which they are placed, they are often more or less irregularly shaped.

Mr. Mandelli obtained three eggs which he considers to belong to this species, on the 3rd June, near Darjeeling. I rather question the authenticity of these eggs. They are pure white and devoid of gloss, moderately elongated ovals, only slightly compressed towards the smaller end. They vary from 083 to 091 in length and from 061 to 064 in breadth.

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