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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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235. Liothrix lutea (Scop.). The Red-billed Liothrix

Leiothrix luteus (Scop.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 250.
Leiothrix callipyga (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 614.

The Red-billed Liothrix breeds from April to August; at elevations of from 3000 to 6000 feet, throughout the Himalayas south, as a rule, of the first snowy range and eastward of the Sutluj; west of the Sutluj I
have not heard of its occurrence. It also doubtless breeds throughout the hill-ranges running down from Assam to Burma.

Mostly the birds lay in May, affecting well-watered and jungle-clad valleys and ravines. They place their nests in thick bushes, at heights of from 2 to 8 feet from the ground, and either wedge them into some fork, tack them into three or four upright shoots between which they hang, or else suspend them like an Oriole's or White-eye's nest.

The nest varies from a rather shallow to a very deep cup, and is composed of dry leaves, moss, and lichen in varying proportions, bamboo-leaves being great favorites, bound together with slender creepers, grass-roots, fibres, &c., and lined with black horse- or buffalo-hair, or hair-like moss-roots. The nests differ much in appearance: I have seen one composed almost entirely of moss, and another of nothing but dry bamboo-sheaths, with a scrap or two of moss. They are always pretty substantial, but sometimes they are very massive for the size of the bird.

Three is certainly the usual complement of eggs.

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes, this species breeds in the central mountainous region of Nepal, and lays from April to August. The nest, which is somewhat purse-shaped, is placed in some upright fork between three or four slender branches, to all of which it is more or less attached. It is composed of moss, dry leaves, often of the bamboo, and the bark of trees, and is compactly bound together with moss-roots and fibres of different kinds; it is lined with horse-hair and moss-roots, and contains generally three or four eggs.

The following note I quote verbatim: "Central Hills, August 12th - Male, female, and nest. Nest in a low leafy tree 5 cubits from the ground in the Shewpoori forest; partly suspended and partly rested on the fork of the branch; suspension effected by twisting part of the material round the prongs of the fork; made of moss and lichens and dry leaves, well compacted into a deep saucer-shaped cavity; 362 high, 45 wide outside, and inside 225 deep and 3 inches wide; eggs pale verditer, spotted brown, and ready for hatching. The bird found in small flocks of ten to twelve, except at breeding-season."

A nest sent to me last year by Mr. Gammie was found by him on the 24th April, at an elevation of about 5000 feet, in the neighborhood of Rungbee. It was built by the side of a stream in a small bush, at a height of about 3 feet from the ground, and contained three eggs. The nest is a deep and, for the size of the bird, very massive cup, exteriorly composed entirely of broad flag-like grass-leaves, with which, however, a few slender stems of creepers are intermingled, internally of grass-roots; the egg-cavity being thinly lined with coarse, black buffalo-hair. Externally the nest is more than 5 inches in diameter and nearly 4 inches high; but the egg-cavity, which is very regularly shaped, is 2 inches in diameter and 2 inches in depth.

This year Mr. Gammie writes to me: "I have taken many nests of the Red-billed Liothrix here in our Chinchona reserves, at all elevations from 3500 to 5000 feet. They breed in May and June, amongst dense scrub, placing their nests in shrubs, at heights of from 3 to 5 feet from the ground, and either suspending them from horizontal branches, or hanging them between several upright stems, to which they firmly attach them. The nest itself is cup-shaped and composed principally of dry bamboo-leaves held together by a few fibres, and a few strings of green moss wound round the outside. The lining consists of a few black hairs, and the usual number of eggs is three. A nest I recently measured was externally 4 inches in diameter and 27 in height, while the cavity was 26 across by 19 in depth."

Mr. Gammie subsequently found a nest on the very late date of 17th October at Rishap, Darjeeling. It contained three eggs, two of which were addled.

Dr. Jerdon says that at Darjeeling he "got the nest and eggs repeatedly; the nest made chiefly of grass, with roots and fibres, and fragments of moss, and usually containing three or four eggs, bluish, white, with a few purple and red blotches. It is generally placed in a leafy bush at no great height from the ground. Gould, quoting from Mr. Shore's notes, says that the eggs are black spotted with yellow: this is of course erroneous. I have taken the nest myself on several occasions, and killed the bird, and in every case the eggs were colored as above."

The eggs vary a good deal in shade and size, but are more or less long ovals, slightly pointed towards the lesser end. The ground-colour is a delicate very pale green or greenish blue, in one, not very common type, almost pure white, and they are pretty boldly blotched or spotted and speckled as the case may be, and clouded, most thickly towards the large end, and very often almost exclusively in a zone or cap round this latter, with various shades of red or purple and brown. Some blotches in some eggs are almost carmine-red, but the majority are brownish red or reddish brown, varying much in depth and intensity of colour. There is something Shrike-like in the markings of many eggs; and where the markings are most numerous, namely at the large end, they are commonly intermingled with streaks and clouds of pale lilac. The smaller end of the egg is often entirely free from markings. I should mention that all the eggs have a faint gloss, and that some are decidedly glossy.

They vary in length from 076 to 095, and in breadth from 059 to 066; but the average of thirty-four eggs is 085 by 062.

237. Pteruthius erythropterus (Vig.). The Red-winged Shrike-Tit

Pteruthius erythropterus (Vig.) Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 245; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 609.

Writing from Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall says: "There is no record about the nidification of this species. Its nest is exceedingly difficult to find, and it was only by long and careful watching through field-glasses that Captain Cock discovered that there was a nest at the top of a very high chestnut-tree, to and from which the birds kept flying with building-materials in their beaks. The nest is most skillfully concealed, being at the top of the tree, with bunches of leaves both above and below. The nest, like that of the Oriole, is built pendent in a fork. It is somewhat roughly made of moss and hair. The eggs are pinky white, blotched with red, forming in some a ring round the larger end. They average 09 in length and 065 in breadth. We were fortunate enough to secure two nests; both were more than 60 feet from the ground. Breeds in the end of May, at an elevation of 7000 feet."

Captain Cock says: "I first found this bird building its nest on the top of a high chestnut-tree at Murree in the month of May. When the nest was ready I took my friend Captain C. H. T. Marshall to be present at the taking of it, as it had never, I think, been taken before. We took the nest on the 30th May. It was an open flattish cup, like the nest of O. kundoo in structure, only shallower. It contained three eggs, pinky white, covered with a shower of claret spots that at the larger end formed a cap of dark claret colour. Another nest, which I took in June from the top of an oak, contained two eggs."

To Colonel Marshall and Captain Cock I am indebted for a nest and egg of this species.

The nest is a moderately deep cup, suspended between two prongs of a horizontal fork. Externally it is about 4 inches in diameter and about 3 inches in depth. The egg-cavity is nearly hemispherical, 3 inches in diameter and 15 in depth. It is a very loosely made structure, composed internally of not very fine roots and externally coated with green moss. Along the lines of suspension a good deal of wool is incorporated in the structure, and it is chiefly by this wool that the nest is suspended. The fork is a slender one, the prongs being from 03 to 04 in diameter.

The egg is a broad oval, a good deal pointed towards the small end. The shell is very fine and compact, and has a fine gloss. The ground-colour is white or pinky white, and is pretty thickly speckled and finely spotted all over with brownish red and a little pale inky purple. Just towards the large end the markings are very dense, and form, more or less of a confluent cap of mingled brownish red and pale lilac, the latter everywhere appearing to underlie the former.

The egg was taken on the 10th June, and measures 09 by 068.

239. Pteruthius melanotis, Hodgs. The Chestnut-throated Shrike-Tit

Allotrius oenobarbus, (Temm.) apud Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 246.
Allotrius melanotis, (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 611.

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes and figures, the Chestnut-throated Shrike-Tit breeds in Sikkim and Nepal up to an elevation of 6000 or 7000 feet. The nest is placed at a height of 6 to 10 feet from the ground, between some slender, leafy, horizontal fork, between which it is suspended like that of an Oriole or White-eye. It is composed of moss and moss-roots and vegetable fibres, beautifully and compactly woven into a shallow cup some 4 inches in diameter, and with a cavity some 25 in diameter and less than 1 in depth. Interiorly the nest is lined with hair-like fibres and moss-roots; exteriorly it is adorned with pieces of lichen. The eggs are two or three in number, very regular ovals, about 077 in length by 049 in width. The ground-colour is a delicate pinky lilac, and they are speckled and spotted with violet or violet-purple, the markings being most numerous towards the large end, where they have a tendency to form a mottled zone.

243. Aegithine tiphia (Linn.). The Common Iora

Iora zeylonica (Gm.) _et_ I. typhia (Linn.), Jerdon. B. Ind. ii, pp. 101, 103.
Aegithine tiphia (Linn.), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. nos. 467, 468.

I have already on several occasions recorded my inability to distinguish as distinct species Ae. tiphia and Ae. zeylonica. I am quite open to conviction; but believing them, so far as my present investigations go, to be inseparable, I propose to treat them as a single species in the present notice.

The Common Iora (the genus, though possibly nearly allied, is too distinct from Chloropsis to allow me to adopt, as Jerdon does, one common trivial name for both) breeds in different localities from May to September. I have taken nests and eggs of typical examples of both supposed species, and have had them sent me with the parent birds by many correspondents; and though both vary a good deal, I am convinced that all the variations which occur in the nests and eggs of one race occur also in those of the other. If one gets only two or three clutches of the eggs of each, great differences, naturally attributed to difference of species, may be detected; but I have seen more than fifty, and, so far as I am concerned, I have no hesitation in asserting that, as in the case of the birds so in that of their nests and eggs, no constant differences can be detected if only sufficiently large series are compared.

The birds build usually on the upper surface of a horizontal bough, at a height of from 10 to 25 feet from the ground. Sometimes, when the bough is more or less slanting, the nest assumes somewhat more of a pocket-shape. Occasionally it is built between three or four slender twigs, forming an upright fork; but this is quite exceptional.

As a rule nests of the Iora very closely resemble those of Leucocerca, so much so that when I sent a beautiful photograph of a nest, which I had myself watched building, of the latter species to Mr. Blyth, he unhesitatingly pronounced it to be a nest of the former. There is, however, a certain amount of difference; the Iora's nests are looser and somewhat less compact and firm. My experience does not confirm Mr. Brooks's remarks that they are usually shallower; on the contrary all those now before me are, as indeed all the many I can remember to have seen were, deep, thin-walled cups, which had been placed on more or less horizontal branches, not uncommonly where some upright-growing twig afforded the nest additional security. The egg-cavity averages about 2 inches in diameter, and varies from an inch to 1 inch in depth; the walls, composed of vegetable fibres, and varying in different specimens from only one eighth to three eighths of an inch in thickness, are everywhere thickly coated externally with cobwebs, by which also the nest is firmly attached to the branch on which it is seated, as well as, where such adjoin the nest, to any little twig springing from that branch. Interiorly they are more or less neatly lined with very fine grass-stems. The bottom of the nest in its thinnest part is rarely above one eighth of an inch in thickness, but running, as it so often does, down the curving sides of the branch, it becomes a good deal thicker, and where placed on a small branch, say not exceeding an inch in diameter, the lateral portions of the bottom of the nest are sometimes more than half an inch in thickness.

One nest which I obtained recently in the Botanical Gardens at Calcutta was built in an upright fork of four slender twigs; and in this case the bottom of the nest was obtusely conical, and at its deepest point may have been nearly an inch in depth. I have never seen a similar nest.

The eggs are normally three in number, but I have at times found only two, and these more or less incubated.

Mr. Brooks, writing of a nest he took in the Mirzapoor District, says: "Did you ever get particulars of the nest of Iora zeylonica on the forked branch of a mango-tree 12 or 14 feet from the ground? Nest composed of the same materials as that of Leucocerca albifrontata, but not quite so neat and much more shallow; eggs salmon-colored and spotted with pale reddish brown, intermixed with a few larger dashes of purple-grey. The bird lays in July; three eggs. This is the only nest I have not taken since I came to India the second time."

From Raipoor, Mr. F. R. Blewitt remarks: "The Iora breeds from July to September, and certainly not, as Dr. Jerdon supposes, twice a year. Both birds assist in the building of the nests, and there evidently appears to be no choice of any particular kind of tree on which to build. I have found them indiscriminately on the mango, mowah, Neem, and other trees. The nest is invariably made either just above or between the fork of two outshooting slender horizontal branches. It is very neatly made, deeply cup-shaped, of grass and fibres, with spider's web on the exterior. The maximum number of eggs is three; they are of a pale whitish colour, marked generally, chiefly at the broad end, with brownish spots. The brown spots vary in size on different eggs. I secured the first eggs on the 12th July, and the last on the 2nd September. A pair of birds were on this last date just completing their nest, which unfortunately was destroyed by the heavy rains."

Captain Cock says: "Iora tiphia is tolerably common at Seetapoor (Oudh), and I have several times taken their nests and eggs. I may here mention that I have taken eggs of Iora zeylonica at Etawah, and that knowing the birds well, I can say that it is quite a distinct bird; although in the marking of its eggs there is a slight resemblance, yet the nests of the two species are quite different. On the 13th May I observed a nest of I. tiphia on a young mango-tree, at the edge of a croquet-ground in our garden. I shot both male and female and took the eggs; the nest was placed on the upperside of a sloping bough, was covered outside with cobweb, and lined with thin dry grass. It contained two fresh eggs of a delicate pink colour, with broad irregularly-shaped dashes of light brown down the sides of the shell, not tending to coalesce in any way at either apex. Another pair also built their nest on the edge of the same ground in another tree; but unfortunately in a weak moment I pointed out the nest to a lady friend, and as thereafter no one ever played croquet on the ground without staring at the nest, the birds got disgusted and soon deserted it."

To this I need merely add that of course typical Ae. tiphia and typical Ae. zeylonica are very distinct, but that as every intermediate form occurs, they are not, according to my views of what constitutes a species, entitled to specific separation, and that as regards nest and eggs, according to my experience, every variety in the one is to be found in the other.

Dr. Jerdon, speaking of Southern India, remarks: "I have seen the nest and eggs on several occasions. The nest is deep, cup-shaped, very neatly made with grass, various fibres, hairs, and spiders' webs; and the eggs, two or three in number, are reddish white, with numerous darker red spots, chiefly at the thicker end. It breeds in the south of India in August and September; perhaps, however, twice a year."

Writing from South Wynaad, Mr. J. Darling (Junior) says: "I found the nest, which with the eggs and both parents I have now sent you, in the Teriat Hills on the 24th May, at an elevation of about 2300 feet. It was placed on, and near the extremity of, a bough, at a height of about 10 feet from the ground. It is round, about 2 inches in height and the same in diameter, and the cavity was about an inch or a trifle more in depth. It is built of grass and reed-bamboo-fibres, and is coated with spider's web. It only contained two eggs."

Both parents (sexes ascertained by dissection) are in the typical tiphia plumage, without one particle of black on either head, nape, or back.

Mr. Davidson writes: "In the Satara and Sholapur districts the cock puts on his summer plumage in May and the whole back of head, neck, and back (not rump) is glossy and black. This bird lays from the end of June to beginning of August. It is very shy when building and is easily caused to forsake its nest; if a single egg is taken from the nest it does not forsake it, however, but lays on (three instances this year)."

Mr. W. E. Brooks has favored me with the following very interesting note on the habits of this Iora:

"Ioras are very numerous and have such a variety of notes that I thought at first there were several sorts; but as far as I can see there is but one species. Iora spreads its tail in a wonderful manner, and comes spinning round and round towards the ground looking more like a round ball than a bird. All the time it descends it utters a strange note, something like that of a frog or cricket, a protracted sibilant sound. This bird is close to Liothrix and Stachyrhis, although it belongs to the plains."

Colonel Butler writes: "A nest on the 17th August, 1880, on the outside branch of a silk-cotton tree in Belgaum about 12 feet from the ground, containing three fresh eggs. I found many other nests building all through the hot weather and rains; but in every single instance except the present one they were deserted before they were completed."

Major Bingham writes from Tenasserim: "This species is common throughout the country. As a rule its nest is well hid, but one I saw in the compound of a house in Maulmain was placed in the exposed leafless fork of a tree, not above six feet from the ground. It contained no eggs when I examined it, and was deserted a day or two after. This was in the beginning of May."

Mr. Oates remarks on the breeding of this bird in Pegu: "Nests are found chiefly in June and July, but the birds probably lay also in May."

In shape the eggs are moderately broad ovals, slightly pointed towards one end. They vary, however, a good deal, some being much more elongated than others. They are almost entirely devoid of gloss. The ground-colour is generally greyish white, but some have creamy and some a salmon tinge; typically they have numerous long streaky pale brown or reddish-brown blotches, chiefly confined to the large end, where they often seem to spring from an irregular imperfect zone of the same colour. The colour of the blotches varies a good deal. In some it is a pale greyish or purplish brown; in others decidedly reddish, or even well-marked and somewhat yellowish brown. Some pale, purplish streaks and clouds generally underlie the brown blotches where they are thickest, and there form a kind of nimbus. In some eggs the markings are confined to a narrow imperfect zone of pale purplish specks or very tiny blotches round the large end, and some of the eggs remind one of those of Leucocerca albifrontata. The peculiar streaky longitudinal character of the markings, almost wholly confined to the large end, best distinguishes the eggs of the Ioras from those of any other Indian bird with which they are likely to be confounded.

In length they vary from 063 to 076, and in breadth from 051 to 057: but the average of forty-seven eggs measured is 069, nearly, by a trifle more than 054.

246. Myzornis pyrrhura, Hodgson. The Fire-tailed Myzornis

Myzornis pyrrboura, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 263; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 629.

I have received a single egg said to belong to the Fire-tailed Myzornis from Native Sikkim, where it was found in May in a small nest (unfortunately mislaid) which was placed on a branch of a large tree at no great height from the ground. The place where it was found had an elevation of about 10,000 feet. Although the parent bird was sent with the egg, I cannot say that I have any great confidence in its authenticity, and only record the matter quantum valeat.

The egg is a very regular, rather elongated oval. The egg was never properly blown and has been consequently somewhat discolored. It may have been pure white, and it may have been fairly glossy when fresh, but it is now a dull ivory-white with scarcely any gloss. It measured 068 in length by 05 in breadth.

252. Chloropsis jerdoni (Blyth). Jerdon's Chloropsis

Phyllornis jerdoni, (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 97; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 463.

I have never myself found the nest of Jerdon's Chloropsis, but my friend Mr. F. R. Blewitt has sent me numerous specimens of both nests and eggs from Raipoor and its neighborhood. In that part of the country July and August appear to be the months in which it lays; but elsewhere its eggs have been taken in April, May, and June, so that its breeding-season is much the same as that of many of the Bulbuls. The nest is a small, rather shallow cup, at most 3 inches in diameter and 1 in depth; is composed externally entirely of soft tow-like vegetable fibre, which appears to be worked over a light framework of fine roots and slender tamarisk-stems, amongst which, some little pieces of lichen are intermingled. There is no attempt at a lining, the eggs being laid on the fine grass and slender twigs (about the thickness of an ordinary-sized pin) which compose the framework of the nest.

The eggs as a rule appear to be two in number.

Mr. Blewitt remarks: "The Green Bulbul breeds in July and August. The bird does not preferentially select any one description of tree for its nest, though the greater number secured were taken from mowah trees (Bassia latifolia). The nest is generally firmly affixed at the fork of the end twigs of an upper branch from 15 to 25 feet from the ground. Sometimes, however, eschewing twigs, the bird constructs its nest on the _top_ of the main branch itself, cunningly securing it with the material to the rough exterior surface of the branch. Three is certainly the maximum number of eggs. During the period of nidification the parent birds are very watchful and noisy, and their alarm and over-anxiety on the near approach of a stranger often betray the nest."

The late Captain Beavan recorded the following interesting note in regard to this species:

"This handsome bird is very abundant in Manbhoom, where it is called 'Hurrooa' by the natives. Its note is so much like that of Dicrurus ater that I have frequently been deceived by the resemblance. It breeds in the district. A nest with two eggs was brought to me at Beerachalee on April 4th, 1865. It is built at the fork of a bough and neatly suspended from it, like a hammock, by silky fibres, which are firmly fixed to the two sprigs of the fork, and also form part of the bottom and outside of the nest. The inside is lined with dry bents and hairs. The eggs (creamy white with a few light pinky-brown spots) are rather elongated, measuring 085 by 062. Interior diameter of nest 225, depth 15. The cry of alarm of this species is like that of Parus major."

Dr. Jerdon remarked ('Illustrations of Indian Ornithology'), writing at the time from Southern India:

"I have seen a nest of this species in the possession of S. N. Ward, Esq. It is a neat but slightly cup-shaped nest, composed chiefly of fine grass, and was placed near the extremity of a branch, some of the nearest leaves being, it was said, brought down and loosely surrounding it. It contained two eggs, white, with a few claret-colored blotches. Its nest and eggs, I may remark, show an analogy to that of the Orioles."

Mr. Layard tells us that this species is "extremely common in the south of Ceylon, but rare towards the north. It feeds in small flocks on seeds and insects, and builds an open cup-shaped nest. The eggs, four in number, are white, thickly mottled at the obtuse end with purplish spots."

And Sir W. Jardine says: "For the interesting nest and eggs of Phyllornis jerdoni, (Blyth), we are indebted to E. S. Layard, Esq., Magistrate of the district of Point Pedro (the northernmost extremity of Ceylon), in which district we understand it to have been procured. A large groove along the underside of the nest indicates it to have been placed upon a branch; the general form is somewhat flat, and it is composed of very soft materials, chiefly dry grass and silky vegetable fibres, rather compactly interwoven with some pieces of dead leaf and bark on the outside, over which a good deal of spider's web has been worked. It contains four eggs, white, abruptly speckled over with dark bistre mingled with some ashy spots." Layard is not generally reliable where eggs are concerned, for he did not usually take them with his own hands and natives will lie; and I doubt the four eggs here, but I think, so far as the nest goes, that he was right in this case.

The eggs are rather elongated ovals; some of them a good deal pointed towards one end, others again slightly pyriform. The shell is very delicate; the ground-colour white to creamy white; as a rule almost glossless, in some specimens slightly glossy. They are sparingly marked, usually chiefly at the large end, with spots, specks, small blotches, hair-lines, or hieroglyphic-like figures, which are typically almost black, but which in some eggs are blackish, or even reddish, or purplish brown. In no specimens that I have seen were the markings at all numerous, except just at the large end; and in some they consist solely of a few tiny specks, scattered about the crown of the egg.

The eggs vary from 08 to 092 in length, and from 056 to 063 in breadth; but the average of a dozen was 086 by 06.

254. Irena puella (Latham). The Fairy Blue-bird

Irena puella (Latham), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 105; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no 469.

Mr. Frank Bourdillon favored me with an egg of the Fairy Blue-bird, which with other rare eggs he obtained on the Assamboo Hills. So little is known of this range that I quote his remarks upon this locality.

"I must premise that the specimens were obtained along the Assamboo Range of hills, between the elevations of 1500 and 3000 feet above sea-level. This range of hills, running in a north-westerly and south-easterly direction from Cape Comorin to 833' north latitude, forms the boundary line between Travancore and the British Territory of Tinnevelly, the average height of the range being about 4000 feet, while some of the peaks are as high as 5500 feet. The general character of the hills is dense forest, broken here and there by grass ridges and crowned by precipitous rocks, above which lies an almost unexplored table-land, varying in width from a mile to 12 or 15 miles, at an elevation of almost 4000 feet."

"The egg of the Fairy Blue-bird," he adds, "was taken slightly set on the 28th February, 1873, from a loose sparsely-built nest situated in a sapling about 12 feet from the ground. The nest was composed of dead twigs lined with leaves, and was about 4 inches broad and very slightly indented."

As will be remembered, Dr. Jerdon states that "Mr. Ward obtained, what he was informed were, the nest and eggs; the nest was large, made of roots and fibres and lined with moss; and the eggs, two in number, were pale greenish, much spotted with dusky:" and I have no doubt that Mr. Ward's eggs were genuine.

The egg is an elongated oval, compressed almost throughout its entire length, very blunt at both points; a long cone, the apex broadly truncated and rounded off obtusely, sealed on half a very oblate spheroid. In no one single point--shape, texture of shell, colour or character of markings - does this egg approach to those of either the Oriole or the Chloropsis. This shell is very close-grained and fine, but only moderately glossy. The ground is pale green, and it is streaked and blotched with pale dull brown. The markings are almost entirely confluent over the large end (where they appear to be underlaid by dingy, dimly discernible greyish blotches), and from the cap thus formed they descend in streaky mottlings towards the small end, growing fewer and further apart as they approach this latter, which is almost devoid of markings.

It is impossible to generalize from a single specimen as to the position this bird should hold, but this one egg renders it quite certain to my mind that the nearest allies of Irena are neither Oriolus nor Chloropsis, and that it is quite impossible to place it with the Dicruridae. The eggs of Psaroglossa spiloptera are not very dissimilar, and I expect that it is somewhere between the Paradiseidae, Sturnidae, and Icteridae that Irena will ultimately have to be located.

The egg measures 11 by 073.

Mr. Fulton Bourdillon writes: "The last note I have to send you at present is that of a Blue-bird's nest (Irena puella). Of this there can be no possible doubt, as my brother and I shot both the male and female birds, and I took the nest with my own hands. It was in a pollard tree beside a stream among some thick branches about 20 feet from the ground. The nest was neatly but very loosely constructed of fresh green moss, which formed the bulk of the nest, and lined with the flower-stalks of a jungle shrub. It was very well concealed, and was about 4 inches broad with a cavity not more than 1 inch deep. It contained two eggs slightly set, measuring respectively 111 x 84 and 116 x 81. These eggs tally very fairly in colour, shape, and size with those sent last year; of the identity of which I was doubtful at the time, though now I think there can be no mistake.

"Since writing last I have had another nest of Irena puella brought me with two fresh eggs. The nest was very loosely put together and similar in all respects to the one last sent. The eggs measure 95 x 81 and 92 x 79, with the same well-defined ring round the larger end. The nest was in a small tree about 10 feet from the ground and was well concealed. It was composed of twigs, without any lining."

The nest sent me by Mr. Bourdillon is a very flimsy affair, reminding one much of the nest of Graucalus macii and not in the smallest degree of that of an Oriole. A mere pad, some 4 inches in diameter, composed of very thin twigs or dry flower-stalks with a couple of dead leaves intermingled, and an external coating of green moss.

Major C. T. Bingham has favored me with the following notes from Tenasserim: "At the sources of the Winsaw stream, a feeder of the Thoungyeen river, on the 30th April I found a nest of this bird, a mere irregularly roundish pad of moss with very little depression in the centre, containing two fresh eggs, and placed 12 feet or so above the ground in the fork of an evergreen sapling. The eggs measure 118 x 086 and 119 x 086 respectively, and are so thickly spotted and blotched with brown as to show very little of the ground-colour, which latter, however, appears to be of a greenish white.

"On the 11th April I was slowly clambering along a very steep hill-side overlooking the Queebaw choung, a small tributary of the Meplay stream, when from a tree whose crown was below my feet I startled a female Irena puella off her nest. I could see the nest and that it contained two eggs, so I shot the female, who had taken to a tree a little above me. On getting the nest down, I found it a poor affair of little twigs, with a superstructure of moss, shaped into a shallow saucer, on which reposed two eggs, large for the size of the bird, of a dull greenish white, much dashed, speckled, and spotted with brown. They were so hard-set that I only managed to save one, which measured 109 by 077 inch."

Mr. Davison writes: "At Kussoom, in some moderately thin tree-jungle I found the nest of Irena puella. The nest was placed in the fork of a sapling some 12 feet from the ground. The nest externally was composed of dry twigs, carelessly and irregularly put together. The egg-cavity was shallow, not more than 15 inch at its deepest part, and it was lined with finer twigs, fern-roots, and some yellowish fibre. The nest contained two fresh eggs."

Two eggs, taken by Mr. Davison at Kussoom in the north of the Malay Peninsula, to which the Malayan form does not extend, are rather elongated ovals, with a slightly pyriform tendency. The shell is fine, smooth, and compact, and has a perceptible gloss. The ground-colour is greenish white; round the large end is a huge, smudgy, irregular zone of reddish brown and inky grey, the one colour predominating in the one egg, the other in the other. Inside the zone are specks and spots of the same colors, and below the zone streaks and spots of these same colors, thinly set, stretched downwards towards the small end of the egg.

Other eggs subsequently received are very similar to that first sent by Mr. Bourdillon, except that in shape they are more regular ovals, and that the brown markings in some have a reddish and in some a purplish tinge, and that in some eggs the mottings and markings are pretty thick even at the small end. In length they seem to vary from 108 to 12 inch and in breadth from 073 to 088 inch.

In some eggs the ground appears to have no green tinge, but is simply a greyish white. In one egg the markings are all of one colour, a sort of chocolate-brown, a dense almost confluent mass of mottlings in a broad irregular zone round the large end and elsewhere pretty thickly set over the entire surface of the egg. They have always a certain amount of gloss, but are never very glossy.

257. Mesia argentauris, Hodgson Silver-eared Mesia

Leiothrix argentauris (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 251.
Mesia argentauris, (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 615.

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes, the Silver-eared Mesia breeds in the low-lands of Nepal, laying in May and June. The nest is placed in a bushy tree, between two or three thin twigs, to which it is attached. It is composed of dry bamboo and other leaves, thin grass-roots and moss, and is lined inside with fine roots. Three or four eggs are laid: one of these is figured as a broad oval, much pointed towards one end, measuring 08 by 06, having a pale green ground with a few brownish-red specks, and a close circle of spots of the same colour round the large end.

Dr. Jerdon brought me two eggs from Darjeeling, which he believed to belong to this species. They much resemble those of Liothrix lutea. They are oval, scarcely pointed at all towards the lesser end, and are faintly glossed. The ground-colour of one is greenish, the other creamy, white, and both are spotted and streaked, chiefly in an irregular zone near the large end, with different shades of red and purple. The markings are smaller than those of the preceding species. Further observations are necessary to confirm the authenticity of the eggs.

They measure 085 and 087 by 065.

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "I have taken about half a dozen nests of this bird. They closely resemble those of Liothrix lutea in size and structure and are similarly situated, but instead of having the egg-cavity lined with dark-colored material, as that species has, all I found had light-colored linings; such was even the case with one nest I found within three or four yards of a nest of the other species. The eggs are usually four in number."

Other eggs obtained by Mr. Gammie correspond with those given me by Dr. Jerdon. They are as like the eggs of L. lutea as they can possibly be, and if there is any difference, it consists in the markings of the present species being as a body smaller and more speckled than those of L. lutea.

The six eggs that I have vary in length from 082 to 09, and in breadth from 06 to 065.

[Footnote: There is in the Tweeddale collection a skin of a young nestling of this species procured by Limborg on Muleyit mountain in Tenasserim in the second week of April. On the label attached to the specimen is a note to the effect that the nest from which the nestling was taken was made of moss.--ED.]

258. Minla igneitincta, Hodgson Red-tailed Minla

Minla ignotincta, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 254: Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 618.

The Red-tailed Minla, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes and figures, breeds in the central region of Nepal and near Darjeeling, during May and June. It builds a beautiful rather deep cup-shaped nest of mosses, moss-roots, and some cow's hair, lined with these two latter. The nest is placed in the fork of three or four slender branches of some bushy tree, at no great elevation from the ground, and is attached to one or more of the stems in which it is placed by bands of moss and fibres. A nest taken on the 24th May measured externally 328 inches in diameter and 225 in height; internally the cavity was 2 inches in diameter and 162 in depth. They lay from two to four eggs, of a pale verditer-blue ground, speckled and spotted pretty boldly with brownish red. An egg is figured as a regular rather broad oval, measuring 078 by 055.

On the other hand, Dr. Jerdon says: "Its nest has been brought to me, of ordinary shape, made of moss and grass, and with four white eggs, with a few rusty red spots."

260. Cephalopyrus flammiceps (Burton). Fire-cap

Cephalopyrus flammiceps (Burton), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 267; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 633.

Writing from Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall tells us: "On the 25th May we found the nest of this species (the Fire-cap) in a hole in a rotten sycamore-tree about 15 feet from the ground. The nest was a neatly made cup-shaped one, formed principally of fine grass. We were unfortunately too late for the eggs, as we found four nearly fledged young ones, showing that these birds lay about the 15th April. Elevation, 7000 feet."

Captain Cock says: "I found a nest in the stump of an old chestnut-tree at Murree. The nest was about 13 feet from the ground near the top of the stump, placed in a natural cavity: it was constructed of fine grass and roots carefully woven and was of a deep cup shape. It contained five fully fledged young ones. The end of May was the time when I found this, and I have never yet succeeded in finding another."

261. Psaroglossa spiloptera (Vigors). Spotted-wing

Saroglossa spiloptera (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 336; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 691.

Personally I know nothing of the nidification of the Spotted-wing.

Captain Hutton tells us that "this species arrives in the hills about the middle of April in small parties of five or six, but it does not appear to ascend above 5500 to 6000 feet, and is therefore more properly an inhabitant of the warm valleys. I do not remember seeing it at Mussoorie, which is 6500 to 7000 feet, although at 5200 feet on the same range it is abundant during summer. Its notes and flight are very much those of the Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and it delights to take a short and rapid flight and return twittering to perch on the very summit of the forest trees. I have never seen it on the ground, and its food appears to consist of berries.

"Like the two species of Acridotheres, it nidificates by itself in the holes of trees, lining the cavity with bits of leaves. The eggs are usually three, or sometimes four or five, of a delicate pale sea-green speckled with blood-like stains, which sometimes tend to form a ring near the larger end; shape oval, slightly tapering."

The eggs are so different in character from those of all the Starlings that doubts might reasonably arise as to whether this species is placed exactly where it ought to be by Jerdon and others. I possess at present only three eggs of this bird, which I owe to Captain Hutton. They are decidedly long ovals, much pointed towards the small end, and in shape and coloration not a little recall those of Myiophoneus temmincki. The eggs are glossless, of a greenish or greyish-white ground, more or less profusely speckled and spotted with red, reddish brown, and dingy purple. In two of the eggs the majority of the markings are gathered into a broad irregular speckled zone round the large end. In the third egg there is just a trace of such a zone and no markings at all elsewhere. In length they vary from 103 to 108, and in breadth from 068 to 074.*

*[Footnote: HYPOCOLIUS AMPELINUS, Bonap. Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus, Bp., Hume, cat. no. 269 quat.

Although this bird has not yet been found breeding within Indian limits, the following account of its nidification at Fao, in the Persian Gulf, by Mr. W. D. Cumming (Ibis, 1886. p. 478) will prove interesting:

"It is not till the middle of June that they breed. In 1883, first eggs were brought by an Arab about the 13th of June, and on the 15th of the same month I found a nest containing two fresh eggs. In 1884, on the 14th of June a nest was brought me containing four fresh eggs, and on the 15th I found a nest containing also four fresh eggs.

"2nd July, I came across four young birds able to fly. On the 3rd, three nests were brought, one containing two fresh eggs, another three young just fledged, and the other four eggs slightly incubated. On the 9th, another nest, containing four young just fledged was brought. On the 15th I saw a flock of small birds well able to fly; on the 18th I found a nest containing four young about a couple of days old, and on the 20th a nest containing three eggs well incubated was brought from a place called 'Goosba' on the opposite bank (Persian side) of the river.

"The nests are generally placed on the leaves of the date-palm, at no very great height. The highest I have seen was built about ten feet from the ground but from three to five feet is the average height.

"They are substantial and cup-shaped, having a diameter of about 3 inches by 2 inches in depth, lined inside with fine grass, the soft fluff from the willow when in seed, wool, and sometimes hair.

"The eggs are of a glossy leaden white, with leaden-colored blotches and spots towards the larger end, sometimes forming a ring round the larger end and at times spreading over the entire egg. On rare occasions I have noticed a greenish tinge in very fresh eggs. This, I think, is due to the colour of the inner membrane, which is generally a very light green, in some very faint and in others more decided; this tinge seems to disappear after the egg is blown.

"Very rough measurements are as follows: 09 x 063; 083 x 063; 083 x 06; 083 x 066; 086 x 066."]

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