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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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Page 13

Subfamily SIBIINAE

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203. Sibia picaoides, Hodgs. The Long-tailed Sibia

Sibia picaoides, (Hodgs.) Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 55; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 430.

Mr. Gammie obtained a nest of the Long-tailed Sibia from the top of a tall tree, situated at an elevation of about 4000 feet, in the neighborhood of Rungbee, near Darjeeling. This was on the 17th June, and the nest contained five fresh eggs. The nest is as perplexing as are the eggs; for the nest is that of a Bulbul, the eggs those of a Shrike or Minivet. The nest is a deep compact cup, about 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches in depth. The egg-cavity is 3 inches across and fully 1 inch in depth. Interiorly the nest is composed of excessively fine grass-stems very firmly interwoven; externally of the stems of some herbaceous plant, a Chenopod, to which the dry blossoms are still attached, intermingled with coarse grass, a single dead leaf, and one or two broad grass-blades more or less broken up into fibres.

The eggs, for the authenticity of which Mr. Gammie positively vouches, are very unlike what might have been expected. They are absolutely Shrike's eggs--broad ovals, pointed towards one end, with a slight gloss, the ground a slightly greyish white, with a good many small spots and specks of pale yellowish brown and dingy purple, chiefly confined to a large irregular zone towards the larger end. They vary in length from 086 to 093, and in breadth from 07 to 073.

204. Lioptila capistrata (Vigors). The Black-headed Sibia

Sibia capistrata (Vigors), Jerdon. B. Ind. ii, p. 54; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 429.

The Black-headed Sibia lays throughout the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Bhutan, at elevations of from 5000 to 7000 feet. It lays during May and June, and perhaps part of July, for I find that on the 11th of July I found a nest of this species a little below the lake at Nainital, on the Jewli Road, containing two young chicks apparently not a day old.

They build on the outskirts of forests, constructing their nests towards the ends of branches, at heights of from 10 to 50 feet from the ground. The nest is a neat cup, some 4 or 5 inches in diameter and perhaps 3 inches in height, composed chiefly of moss and lined with black moss-roots and fibres. In some of the nests that I have preserved a good deal of grass-leaves and scraps of lichen are incorporated in the moss. The cavity is deep, from 2 to 3 inches in diameter and not much less than 2 inches in depth.

They lay two or three eggs; not more, so far as I yet know.

From Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall tells us that "the egg of this bird was, we believe, previously unknown, and it was a mere chance that we found the whereabouts of their nests, as they breed high up in the spruce firs at the outer end of a bough. The nest is neatly made of moss, lined with stalks of the maiden-hair fern. The eggs are pale blue, spotted and blotched with pale and reddish brown. They are 95 in length and 7 in breadth. This species breeds in June, about 7000 feet up."

Nearly twenty years prior to this, however, Captain Hutton had remarked: "At Mussoorie this bird remains at an elevation of 7000 feet throughout the year, but I never saw it under 6500 feet. Its loud ringing note of titteree-titteree tweyo, quickly repeated, may constantly be heard on wooded banks during summer. It breeds in May, making a neat nest of coarse dry grasses as a foundation, covered laterally with green moss and wool and lined with fine roots. The number of eggs I did not ascertain, as the nest was destroyed when only one egg had been deposited, but the colour is pale bluish white, freckled with rufous. The nest was placed on a branch of a plum-tree in the Botanical Garden, Mussoorie."

Captain Cock says that he "found this species breeding at Murree, at 6000 feet elevation.

"I took my first nest on the 5th June. "It builds near the tops of the highest pines, and unless seen building its nest with the glasses, it is impossible to find the nest with the unaided eye.

"The nest is placed on the outer extremity of an upper bough in a pine-tree; is constructed of moss lined with stalks of the maiden-hair fern. Three eggs is the largest number I ever found. The eggs are light greenish white, with rusty spots and blotches principally at the larger end."

From Nainital Colonel G. F. L. Marshall writes: "This species builds in trees and bushes. The only nest I examined personally was a very compact and thick cup-shaped structure of moss, grass, and roots, lined with grass, and placed amongst the outer twigs of a blackberry bush overhanging a cliff. It was ready for the eggs on the 23rd May. It was found at Nainital on Agar Pata, about 7000 feet above the sea."

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "I have only myself taken two nests of this common species. I found both of them the same day (the 21st May), in the Chinchona reserves, at an elevation of about 5000 feet. Both nests were in the forest, built on the outer branches of trees, at heights the one of 15, the other of 40 feet from the ground. The nests were cup-shaped, and very neatly made of moss, leaves and fibres, and lined with black fibres. One measured externally 46 in diameter by 275 in height, and internally 24 in diameter and 17 in depth. One nest contained two fresh, the other two hard-set eggs; so perhaps two is the normal number, though the natives say that they lay three. As might be expected from the bird's habit of feeding on the insects on moss-covered trees in moist forests, the nests were in forest by the sides of streams."

The eggs are rather broad, slightly pyriform ovals, often a good deal pulled out as it were at the small end. The shell is fine, but almost entirely devoid of gloss. The ground-colour is a pale greenish white or very pale bluish green. The markings are various and complicated: first there are usually a few large, irregular, moderately dark brownish-red spots and splashes; then there are a very few, very dark, reddish-brown hair-lines, such as one finds on Buntings' eggs; then there is a good deal of clouding and smudging here and there of pale, dingy purplish or brownish red (all these markings are most numerous towards the large end); and then besides these, and almost entirely confined to the large end, are a few pale purple specks and spots. Sometimes the markings are almost wholly confined to the thicker end of the egg. Of course the eggs vary somewhat, and in some specimens the characteristic Bunting-like hair-lines are almost wholly wanting. The eggs vary in length from 095 to 10, and in breadth from 066 to 072.

205. Lioptila gracilis (McClell.). The Grey Sibia

Malacias gracilis (McClell.), Hume, cat. no. 429 bis.

Colonel Godwin-Austen is, I believe, the only ornithologist who has as yet secured the nest and eggs of the Grey Sibia. He says: "In the pine forest that covers the slopes of the hills descending into the Umian valley in Assam, one of my men marked a nest on June 25th; I proceeded to the spot soon after I had heard of it, and on coming up to the tree, a pine, saw the female fly off out of the head of it. But the nest was so well hidden by the boughs of the fir, that it was quite invisible from below. The bird after a short time came back, and then I saw it was Sibia gracilis; but it was very shy and seeing us went off again, and hung about the trees at a distance of some 50 yards; while thus waiting, some four or five others were also seen. The female, however, would not venture back, and I sent one of my Goorkhas up, to cut off the head of the fir, nest and all, first taking out the eggs. It contained three, of a pale sea-green, with ash-brown streakings and blotchings all over.

"The nest was constructed of dry grass, moss, and rootlets, and the green spinules of the fir were worked into it, fixing it most firmly in its place in the crown of the pine where it was much forked."

206. Lioptila melanoleuca (Blyth). Tickell's Sibia

Malacias melanoleucus (Blyth), Hume, cat. no. 429 quart.

Mr. W. Davison was fortunate enough to secure a nest of this Sibia on Muleyit mountain in Tenasserim. He says: "I secured a nest of this species on the 21st of February, containing two spotless pale blue eggs slightly incubated. The nest, a deep compactly woven cup, was placed about 40 feet from the ground, in the fork of one of the smaller branches of a high tree growing on the edge of a deep ravine.

"The egg-cavity of the nest is lined with fern-roots, fibres and fine grass-stems; outside this is a thick coating of dried bamboo-leaves and coarse grass, and outside this again is a thick irregular coating of green moss, dried leaves, and coarse fibres and fern-roots. Externally the nest measures about 5 inches in height, and nearly the same in external diameter at the top. The egg-cavity measures 17 deep by 27 across.

"The eggs, a pale spotless blue, measure 095 and 098 in length by 066 and 068 in breadth."

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