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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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263. Criniger flaveolus (Gould). White-throated Bulbul

Criniger flaveolus (Gould), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 83; Hume. Rough Draft N. & E. no. 451.

A nest of this species sent me from Darjeeling was found in July, at an elevation of about 3000 feet. It was placed on the branches of a medium-sized tree, at a height of about 5 feet from the ground. The nest was a compact, shallow saucer, 55 inches in diameter and about 2 inches in height externally. The cavity was about 35 in diameter and an inch in depth. The greater portion of the nest was composed of dead leaves bound together firmly by fine brown roots; inside the leaves was just a lining of rather coarser brown roots, and again an inner lining of black horsehair-like roots and fine steins of the maiden-hair fern.

The nest contained three fresh eggs. These eggs vary from broad to somewhat elongated ovals, are more or less pointed towards the small end, and exhibit a fine gloss. The ground is a beautiful salmon-pink, and it is thinly spotted, blotched, and marked with irregular lines of deep maroon-red. Most of the markings in one egg are gathered into a very irregular straggling zone round the large end, and the other egg exhibits a tendency to form a similar zone. Besides these primary markings a few spots and clouds of dull purple, looking as if beneath the surface of the shell, are thinly scattered about the egg, chiefly in the neighborhood of the zone. These eggs vary from 09 to 10 in length, and from 07 to 072 in breadth.

Several nests of this species sent me by Mr. Mandelli and obtained by him in Sikkim during July and early part of August are all of the same type. Each contained two fresh eggs; they were all placed in the branches of small trees in the midst of dense brushwood or heavy jungle, at heights of from 4 to 10 feet. The nests are broad and saucer-like, nearly 5 inches in diameter, not much above 2 in height externally; the cavities average about 325 in diameter and about 1 in depth. The body of the nest is composed of dead leaves, the sides are felted round with rich brown fibrous, wool-like roots; inside the leaves fine twigs and stems of herbaceous plants, all of a uniform brown tint, are wound round and round, to keep the leaves in their places interiorly, and then the cavity is lined with jet-black horsehair-like vegetable fibres. The contrast of colour between the jet-black lining and the rich brown of the lip of the saucer, which is constant in all the nests, is very striking.

The eggs of this species sent me by Mr. Mandelli, obtained by him in Sikkim at elevations 2000 to 4000 feet, in July and early August, possess a very distinctive character. They are broad ovals, much pointed towards the small end, and are more glossy than the eggs of any other of this family with which I am acquainted. The ground-colour is pink. The markings consist of curious hair-line scratches, blotches, and irregular spots - in some eggs all very hazy and ill-defined, in others more scratchy and sharp. The great majority of the markings seem to be gathered together into an irregular and zone round the large end. In colour the markings vary from a deep brownish maroon to a dull brickdust-red, sometimes they are slightly more purplish. In some eggs small spots of subsurface-looking dusky purple may be noticed mingled with the rest of the markings.

These eggs are totally unlike the eggs of Criniger ictericus. I have never had an opportunity of verifying the eggs myself, but as three different nests have now been taken, all containing precisely similar eggs, I believe there can be no doubt of their authenticity.

269. Hypsipetes psaroides, Vigors. Himalayan Black Bulbul

Hypsipetes psaroides (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind ii, p. 77; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 444.

The Himalayan Black Bulbul breeds throughout the outer and lower ranges of the Himalayas, at any rate from Bhutan to Afghanistan, at elevations from 2000 to 6000 feet. They lay mostly in May and June, but eggs may occasionally be met with during the latter half of April.

The nest of Hypsipetes psaroides is usually made of coarse-bladed grass, with exteriorly a number of dry leaves, and more or less moss incorporated, and lined with very fine grass-stems and roots of moss. A good deal of spider's web is often used exteriorly to bind the nest together, or attach it more firmly to the fork in which it rests. Its general shape is a moderately deep cup, the cavity measuring 2 inches in diameter by 1 inch in depth. The sides, into which leaves and moss are freely interwoven, vary from an inch to a couple of inches in thickness. The bottom, loosely put together, is rarely more than from a quarter to half an inch in depth. It is generally placed on the fork of a branch, at a moderate height from the ground.

Four is the normal number of eggs, but I have more than once found three partially incubated eggs in a nest.

From Darjeeling Mr. Gammie remarks: "A nest of this bird, which I took on the 17th June, at a height of nearly 50 feet from the ground, on one of the topmost branches of a tree, contained three hard-set eggs. This was below Rungbee, at an elevation of 3000 feet. The nest was a compact, moderately deep cup, composed of very fine twigs and stems, and with a quantity of dead leaves incorporated in the structure, especially towards its lower surface; it had no lining, but the stems used towards the interior of the nest were somewhat finer than the rest. Exteriorly the nest had a diameter of about 45 inches, and a height of about 25; interiorly a diameter of about 25, and a depth of nearly 15".

Mr. Hodgson, writing from Nepal, says: "May 20th, Jaha Powah - Two nests on the skirts of the forest in medium-sized trees, placed on the fork of a branch. They are made of moss and dry fern and dry elastic twig-tops, and lined with long elastic needles of Pinus longifolia. They are compact and rather deep, half pensile, that is to say, partly slung between the branches of the fork to which they are attached by bands of vegetable fibres. Each contained four eggs, pinkish-white, thickly spotted with dark sanguine."

Another year he wrote: "May 9th, in the Valley - A mature female with nest and eggs. Nest saucer-shaped, the cavity 35 wide by 25 deep, made of slender twigs and grass-fibres, with no lining. Eggs three, pale pink, blotched all over with sanguine brown."

Writing from Almorah, Mr. Brooks tells us that "the nest and eggs were found by Mr. Horne on the 27th May near Bheem Tal."

Colonel G. F. L. Marshall also found a nest in the same place. He says: "I have only myself found the nest once at Bheem Tal (4000 feet); it was situated in a thicket. The nest of this species is similar in shape but much more substantial than those of the Common Bulbul. The eggs are much larger and more elongated in shape, but the coloring is similar to those of the Bulbul, and in many cases the blotches have a tendency to form a zone near the thick end. The nest I found was taken on the 10th June and contained fresh eggs."

"On the 30th May, 1875, I found a nest of this species at Nainital on Ayarpata, over 7000 feet above the sea. I record the circumstance, as their breeding at so great an elevation is exceptional. The nest contained three fresh eggs; it was made of leaves and moss, lined with bents of grass, between two branches but partially resting on a third, in a bush at the outskirts of a forest on a steep bank and about eight feet from the ground."

From Mussoorie, Captain Hutton recorded the following very full and interesting note:

"They breed during April, May, and June, making a neat cup-shaped nest, which is usually placed in the bifurcation of a horizontal branch of some tall tree; the bottom of it is composed of thin dead leaves and dried grasses, and the sides of fine woody stalks of plants, such as those used by the White-cheeked Bulbul, and they are plastered over externally with spiders' webs; the lining is sometimes of very fine tendrils, at other times of dry grasses, fibrous lichen, and thin shavings of the bark of trees left by the wood-cutters. I have one nest, however, which is externally formed of green moss with a few dry stalks, and the spiders' webs, instead of being plastered all over the outside, are merely used to bind the nest to the small branches among which it is placed. The lining is of bark-shavings, dry grasses, black fibrous lichens, and a few fine seed-stalks of grasses. The internal diameter of the nest is 2 inches, and it is 1 inches deep. The eggs are usually three in number, of a rosy or purplish white, sprinkled over numerously with deep claret or rufescent purple specks and spots. In colors and distribution of spots there is great variation, sometimes the rufous and sometimes the purple spots prevailing; sometimes the spots are mere specks and freckles, sometimes large and forming blotches; in some the spots are wide apart, in others they are nearly, and sometimes in places quite, confluent; while from one nest the eggs were white, with widely dispersed dark purple spots and dull indistinct ones appearing under the shell. In all the spots were more crowded at the larger end."

Colonel C. H. T. Marshall remarks: "Numerous nests of this species were found at Murree, agreeing well with Hutton's description. They breed in May and June, never above 6000 feet."

The eggs are rather long ovals. Typically a good deal pointed towards the small end, and more or less pyriform, but at times nearly perfect ovals. They have little or no gloss. The ground-colour varies from white, faintly tinged with pink, to a delicate pink, and they are profusely speckled, spotted, or blotched with various shades of red, brownish red, and purple. The markings vary much in character, extent, and intensity of colour. There seem to be two leading types, with, however, almost every possible intermediate variety of markings. The one is thickly speckled over its whole surface with minute dots of reddish purple, no dot much bigger than the point of a pin, and no portion of the ground-colour exceeding 01 in diameter free from spots. In these eggs the specklings are most dense, throughout a broad irregular zone surrounding the large end, and this zone is thickly underlaid with irregular ill-defined streaky clouds of dull inky purple. In some eggs of this type, the smaller end is comparatively free from specks. In the other type, the surface of the egg is sparingly, but boldly, blotched and splashed, first with deep umber, chocolate, or purple-brown, and, secondly, with spots and clouds of faint inky purple, recalling not a little the style of markings of the eggs of Rhynchops albicollis. Then there are eggs partly speckly and blotched, some in which the markings are all rich red and where no secondary pale purple clouds are observable, and others again in which all the markings are dull purplish brown. Generally it may be said that the markings have a tendency to form a cap or zone at the large end.

A nest of three eggs recently obtained from Mussoorie were more richly colored than any I have yet seen, and were decidedly glossy. The ground-colour is a rich rosy pink, boldly, but sparingly, blotched and spotted with deep maroon, underlaid by clouds and spots of pale purple, which appear as if beneath the surface of the shell. In all the eggs the markings are far more numerous at the large end, where in one they form a huge confluent maroon-colored patch, mottled lighter and darker.

An egg recently obtained in Kashmir on the 20th June was a somewhat elongated oval, more or less compressed towards one end; a delicate glossy white ground with a faint pink tinge; a rich zone of reddish-purple spots and specks round the large end; a few similar markings scattered sparingly over the rest of the surface of the egg, and a multitude of very faint streaks and clouds of very pale inky purple underlying the primary markings.

In length the eggs vary from 09 to 115, and in breadth from 07 to 078; but the average of twenty-five eggs measured is 103 by 075.


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