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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 13d

Subfamily SIBIINAE

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229. Zosterops ceylonensis, Holdsworth. The Ceylon White-eye

Zosterops ceylonensis, (Holdsworth), Hume, cat. no. 631 bis.

Colonel Legge, referring to the nidification of the Ceylon White-eye, says: "This species breeds from March until May, judging from the young birds which are seen abroad about the latter month. Mr. Bligh found the nest in March on Catton Estate. It was built in a coffee-bush a few feet from the ground, and was a rather frail structure, suspended from the arms of a small fork formed by one bare twig crossing another. In shape it was a shallow cup, well made of small roots and bents, lined with hair-like tendrils of moss, and was adorned about the exterior with a few cobwebs and a little moss. The eggs were three in number, pointed ovals, and of a pale bluish-green ground-colour. They measured, on the average, 64 by 45 inch."

231. Ixulus occipitalis (Bl.) The Chestnut-headed Ixulus

Ixulus occipitalis (Bl.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 250; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 624.

A nest of this species, taken by Mr. Gammie out of a small tree below Rungbee, at an elevation of about 3000 feet, was a small, somewhat shallow cup, composed almost entirely of very fine moss-roots, but with a little moss incorporated in the outer surface. Externally the nest was about 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches in height. The egg-cavity was about 2 inches by barely 1 inch. This nest was found on the 17th June and contained three hard-set eggs, which were thrown away!

232. Ixulus flavicollis (Hodgs.). The Yellow-naped Ixulus

Ixulus flavicollis (Hodgs.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii. p. 259; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 623.

I have never taken a nest of the Yellow-naped Ixulus.

Mr. Gammie says: "I have only as yet found a single nest of this species, and this was one of the most artfully concealed that I have ever seen. I found it in forest in the Chinchona reserves, at an elevation of about 5000 feet, on the 14th May. It was a rather deep cup, composed of moss and fine root-fibres and thickly lined with the latter, and was suspended at a height of about six feet amongst the natural moss, hanging from a horizontal branch of a small tree, in which it was entirely enveloped. A more beautiful or more completely invisible nest it is impossible to conceive. It contained three fresh eggs. The cup itself was exteriorly 37 inches in diameter and 19 in depth, while the cavity was 25 in diameter and 15 in depth."

The Yellow-naped Ixulus breeds, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, in the central region of Nepal and the neighborhood of Darjeeling, laying during the months of May and June. It builds on the ground in tufts of grass, constructing its nest of moss and moss-roots, sometimes open and cup-like and sometimes globular, and lining it with sheep's wool. Mr. Hodgson figures one nest suspended from a branch, and although neither the English nor the vernacular notes confirm this, it is supported to a certain extent by Mr. Gammie's experience. At the same time, though the situation and surroundings of both seem to have been similar, Mr. Hodgson figures his nest, not cup-shaped, but egg-shaped, and with the longer diameter horizontal. Seven nests are recorded as having been taken, and all on the ground. One, cup-shaped, taken on the 7th June, 1846, which is also figured, in amongst grass and leaves on the ground, measured externally 35 inches in diameter, 25 in height, and internally 2 inches both in diameter and depth.

The full complement of eggs is said to be four. Two types of eggs are figured, both rather broad ovals, measuring about 075 by 06. The one has a buffy-white ground and is thinly speckled and streaked, except quite at the broad end, where the markings are nearly confluent, with pale dingy yellowish brown; the other has a pale earthy-brown ground, and is spotted similarly to the one just described, but with red and purple. This latter egg appears on the same plate with the suspended nest, and is, I think, doubtful.

Several nests of this species, which I owe to Captain Masson of Darjeeling, are very beautiful structures, moderately shallow and rather massive cups, externally composed of moss, and lined thickly with fine black moss-roots. The cavity of the nests may have been about 1 inch in diameter by less than 1 inch in depth, but the sides of the nests are from one inch to 2 inches in thickness, constructed of firmly compacted moss.

Other nests of this species that have since been sent me show that the bird very commonly suspends its nest to one or two twigs, not unfrequently making it a complete cylinder or egg in shape, with the entrance at one side, but always using moss, in some cases fine, in some coarse, according to the nature of the moss growing where the nest is placed, as the sole material, and lining the cavity thickly with fine black moss and fern-roots.

Dr. Jerdon tells us that at Darjeeling he has repeatedly had the nest brought to him. "It is large, made of leaves of bamboos carelessly and loosely put together, and generally placed in a clump of bamboos. The eggs are three to five in number, of a somewhat fleshy-white, with a few rusty spots."

I cannot but think that in this case wrong nests had been brought to Dr. Jerdon. The eggs that I possess are all of one type - rather elongated ovals with scarcely any gloss, and strongly recalling in shape, size, and appearance densely marked varieties of the eggs of Hirundo rustica, but with the markings rather browner and slightly more smudgy.

The eggs are typically rather elongated ovals, often slightly compressed towards the small end, sometimes rather broader and slightly pyriform. The shell is extremely fine and compact, but has scarcely any gloss; the ground-colour is sometimes pure white, sometimes has a faint brownish-reddish or creamy tinge. The markings are invariably most dense about the large end, where they form a zone or cap, regular, well defined and confluent in some specimens, irregular, ill-defined and blotchy in others. As a rule these markings, which consist of specks, spots, and tiny blotches, are comparatively thinly scattered over the rest of the egg, but occasionally they are pretty thickly scattered everywhere, though nowhere anything like so densely as at the large end. The colour of the markings is rather variable. It is a brown of varying shades, varying not only in different eggs, but there being often two shades on the same egg. Normally it is I think an umber-brown, yellower in some spots, but varying slightly in tinge, leaning to burnt umber, sienna, and raw sienna.

Other eggs subsequently obtained by Mr. Gammie are of much the same character as those already described, but one is a good deal shorter and broader, and the markings are more decided red than are some of the yellowish-brown spots observable in the eggs first obtained.

In length the eggs seem to vary from 076 to 08, and in breadth from 054 to 058.

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