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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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284. Molpastes leucogenys (Gray). White-cheeked Bulbul

Otocompsa leucogenys (Gray), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 90; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 458.

The White-cheeked Bulbul breeds throughout the Himalayas, from Afghanistan to Bhutan, from April to July, and at all heights from 3000 to 7000 feet. The nest is a loose, slender fabric, externally composed of fine stems of some herbaceous plant and a few blades of grass, and internally lined with very fine hair-like grass. The nests may measure externally, at most, 4 inches in diameter; but the egg-cavity, which is in proportion very large and deep, is fully 2 inches across by 1 inch deep. As I before said, the nest is usually very slightly and loosely put together, so that it is difficult to remove it without injury; but sometimes they are more substantial, and occasionally the cup is much shallower and wider than I have above described. Four is the full complement of eggs.

Captain Unwin says: "I found a nest containing three fresh eggs near the village of Jaskote, in the Agrore Valley, on the 24th April, 1870. The nest was placed about 5 feet from the ground in a small wild ber-tree in a water-course. On the 7th May I found another nest placed in a small thick cheer-tree in the same valley, which contained four eggs."

From Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall tells us that this species "breeds in the valleys, at about 4000 or 5000 feet up, in the end of June. Lays four eggs with a white ground, very thickly blotched with claret-red; nest roughly made of grass and roots, in low bushes."

About Shimla and the valleys of the Sutluj and Beas I have found it common, and my experience of its nidification in these localities has been above recorded.

From Mussoorie, Captain Hutton wrote that it is "common in the Dhoon throughout the year, and in the hills during the summer. It breeds in April and May. The nest is neat and cup-shaped, placed in the forks of bushes or pollard trees, and is composed externally of the dried stalks of forget-me-not, lined with fine grass-stalks. Eggs three or four, rosy or faint purplish white, thickly sprinkled with specks and spots of darker rufescent purple or claret colour. Sometimes the outside of the nest is composed of fine dried stalks of woody plants, whose roughness causes them to adhere together."

Mr. W. E. Brooks remarks: "I found this bird common at Almorah, and procured several nests. They were placed in a bush or small tree, and were slightly composed of fine grass, roots, and fibres: eggs three; ground-colour purplish white, speckled all over, most densely at the larger end, with spots and blotches of purple-brown and purplish grey: laying in Kumaon from the beginning of May to June."

Dr. Scully states that in Nepal this Bulbul "breeds in May and June, principally at elevations of from 5000 to 6000 feet. Its nests were secured on the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 14th, and 28th June; the usual number of eggs laid seems to be three."

Colonel G. F. L. Marshall writes: "This species breeds both at Nainital (7000 feet) and at Bheem Tal (4000 feet). In Kumaon the eggs seem to be laid in the first half of June; the earliest date I have taken them was a single fresh egg on the 23rd May, and the latest, four eggs on the 25th Jane: the nest is seldom more than six feet from the ground, and is placed either in a thick bush or in the outer twigs of a low bough of a tree."

The eggs are of the regular Bulbul type, as those of Molpastes haemorrhous, and vary much in colour, size, and shape. Typically they are a long oval, somewhat pointed at one end, have a pinkish or reddish-white ground with little or no gloss, and are thickly speckled, freckled, streaked, or blotched, as the case may be, with blood-, brownish-, or purplish-red, etc., and here and there, chiefly towards the large end, exhibit, besides these primary markings, tiny underlying spots and clouds of pale inky purple. Some eggs have a pretty well-marked zone or irregular cap at the large end, but this is not very common. In size they average somewhat larger than those of Molpastes leucotis and Otocompsa emeria, both of which they closely resemble; but they are smaller and as a body less richly colored than those of O. fuscicaudata. They vary in length from 082 to 095, and from 058 to 07 in breadth; but the average of fifty-seven specimens measured was 088 by 065.

285. Molpastes leucotis (Gould). White-eared Bulbul

Otocompsa leucotis (Gould), Jerdon B. Ind. ii. p. 91; Hume. Rough Draft N. & E. no. 459.

The White-eared Bulbul is, so far as my experience goes, entirely a Western Indian form. In the cold weather it may be met with at Agra, Kanpur, and even Jhansi, Saugor, and Hoshungabad; but during the summer months I only know of its occurring in Kutch, Katywar, Sindh, Rajpootana, and the Punjab. In all these localities it breeds, laying for the most part in July and August in the Punjab, but somewhat earlier in Sindh. I have, even in Rajpootana, seen eggs towards the end of May, but this is the exception.

The nests are usually in dense and thorny bushes - acacias, catechu, and jhand (Prosopis spicigera) - and are placed at heights of from 4 to 6 feet from the ground. The Customs hedge is a great place for their nests, but I have noticed that they are partial to bushes in the immediate neighborhood of water; and at Hansi, whence he sent me many nests and eggs, Mr. W. Blewitt always found them either in the fort ditch or along the banks of the canal.

The nests, which very much resemble those of Molpastes haemorrhous, are usually composed of very fine dry twigs of some herbaceous plant, intermingled with vegetable fibre resembling tow, and scantily lined with very fine grass-roots. They are rather slender structures, shallow cups measuring internally from 25 to 3 inches in diameter, and a little more than 1 inch in depth. Three was the largest number of eggs I ever found in any nest, and several sets were fully incubated.

Mr. W. Theobald makes the following note on the nidification of this bird in the neighborhood of Pind Dadan Khan and Katas in the Salt Range: "Lay in May, June, and July: eggs four; shape ovato pyriform; size 091 inch by 064 inch: colour white, much dotted with claret-red; nest a neat cup of vegetable fibres in bushes,"

Mr. S. Doig informs us that this bird breeds on the Eastern Narra in Sind from May to August.

Colonel Butler writes: "I found a nest of the White-eared Bulbul at Deesa on the 5th August containing three fresh eggs. It was placed in the fork of a low Beer tree about 4 feet from the ground, and in structure closely resembled the nest of M. haemorrhous.

"On the 17th August I found another nest built by the same pair of birds in an exactly similar situation, about 60 yards from the first nest, containing three more fresh eggs."

The eggs, which I need not here describe in detail, are precisely similar to, but as a body slightly smaller than, those of Molpastes leucogenys. The only point of difference that I seem to notice, and this might disappear with a larger series before me, is that there is a rather greater tendency in the eggs of this species to exhibit a zone or cap. In length they vary from 075 to 09, and in breadth from 052 to 068; but the average of twenty-three eggs measured was 083 barely, by 064.

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