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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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288. Otocompsa emeria (Linn.). Bengal Red-whiskered Bulbul

Otocompsa jocosa (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind ii, p, 92 (part).
Otocompsa emeria (Shaw), Hume, Rough Draft N.& E. no. 460.

The Bengal Red-whiskered Bulbul breeds from March to the end of May. Its nest is placed, according to my experience in Lower Bengal, in any thick bush, clump of grass, or knot of creepers; sometimes in the immediate proximity of native villages or in the gardens, and sometimes quite away in the jungle. It is a typical Bulbul nest, a broad shallow saucer, compactly put together with twigs of herbaceous plants, amongst which, especially towards the base, a few dry leaves are incorporated, and lined with roots or fine grass. Exteriorly a little cobweb is wound on to keep twigs and leaves firm and in their places. All the nests that I have seen were near the ground, at heights ranging from 3 to 5 feet.

Three is the normal number of the eggs, but only the other day we obtained one containing four.

Mr. R. M. Adam says: "This bird is very common in Oudh. It affects gardens and low scrub-jungle, flying about with a jerky flight from bush to bush. They are very fond of the fruit of the mangot-tree (F. indica), and may be seen in great numbers about these trees when the fruit is ripe. Their note is something like that of the common Bulbul, but livelier and louder. I have seen a number of this year's young birds well grown, but as yet without the red cheek-tuft.

"They build in clamps of moong-grass about 2 to 3 feet from the ground. One I found in the tendrils of a creeper about 20 feet from the ground. The nest is well fixed in the grass and fastened to it by the intertwining of some of the fibres of which it is composed. It is cup-shaped, and measures 4 inches in diameter, about 0·75 in thickness, with an egg-cavity 2·75 in diameter and 1·5 deep.

"The nest is formed of roots, twigs, and grass loosely worked together, and over the exterior, with the view of binding the mass together, dried or skeleton leaves, pieces of cloth, broad pieces of grass, and plaintain-bark are fastened carelessly on by means of cobwebs and the silk from cocoons. The egg-cavity is lined with fine roots. I never have found more than three eggs; on several occasions only two."

I do not think it possible to separate the Andaman bird. Of its nidification in those islands Mr. Davison says: "I found a nest of this species in April near Port Blair, in a low mangrove-bush growing quite at the edge of the water; it (the nest) was cup-shaped and composed of roots, dried leaves, and small pieces of bark, lined with fine roots and cocoanut fibres; it contained three eggs, with a pinkish-white ground thickly mottled and blotched with purplish red, the spots coalescing at the thicker end to form a zone."

Mr. J. H. Cripps writes from Eastern Bengal: "Very common and a permanent resident; it freely enters gardens and orchards. In my garden there was a kamiinee-tree (Murraya exotica), in which I found a nest of this species on the 27th March in course of construction; and on looking at it on the 12th April found two young that had just been hatched. Cane-brakes are favorite places for them to nest in. On the 6th May I found a nest in one of these about 4 feet off the ground, and containing three partly incubated eggs. This species does not, as a rule, build in such exposed situations as M. bengalensis; it eats the fruit of jungly trees, Ficis, etc., as well as insects."

On the breeding of this Bulbul in Pegu Mr. Oates remarks: "This bird breeds as early as February, on the 27th of which month I procured a nest with two eggs nearly hatched. It stops nesting, I think, at the beginning of the rains."

Mr. W. Davison informs us that he "took a nest of this bird at Bankasoon, in Southern Tenasserim, on the 15th March. It was placed in a small bush growing in an old garden about 4 feet above the ground. The nest was of the usual type, a compactly-woven cup, composed externally of dry twigs, leaves, etc., the egg-cavity lined with fibres. It contained three nearly fresh eggs."

The eggs in size, colour, and shape closely resemble those of Molpastes leucotis. All that I have said in regard to these latter is applicable to those of the present species, and, so far as varieties of coloration go, the description of the eggs of Molpastes leucogenys is equally applicable to those of the present species. If any distinction can be drawn, it is that, as a body, bold blotches of rich red and pale purple are more commonly exhibited in the eggs of this species than in those of either of the preceding ones.

In length the eggs vary from 0·8 to 0·9, and in breadth from 0·85 to 0·7, but the average of twenty-seven eggs was 0·83 nearly, by 0·63 barely.

289. Otocompsa fuscicaudata, Gould. Southern Red-whiskered Bulbul

Otocompsa fuscicaudata, (Gould), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 400 bis.

The Southern Red-whiskered Bulbul is found throughout the more hilly and more or less elevated tracts of the peninsula, from Cape Comorin northwards as far as Mount Abu on the west, and the Eastern Ghâts, above Nellore, on the east. How far northwards it extends in the centre of the peninsula I am not certain, but I have seen a specimen from the Satpooras. They breed any time from the beginning of February to the end of May. Their nests are usually placed at no great height from the ground (say at from 2 to 6 feet) in some thick bush.

The nests of this species that I procured at Mount Abu, and which have been sent me by Mr. Carter both from Coonoor and Salem, and by other friends from other parts of the Nilgiris, where the bird is excessively common, resemble those of O. emeria, but they are somewhat neater and more substantial in structure. They differ a good deal in size and shape, as the nests of Bulbuls are wont to do. Some are broad and shallow, with egg-cavities measuring 3¼ inches across, and perhaps 1 inch in depth; while others are deeper and more cup-shaped, the cavity measuring only 2½ inches across and fully 1½ inch in depth. They are composed in some cases almost wholly of grass-roots, in others of very fine twigs of the furash (Tamarix furas) in others again of fine grass, and all have a quantity of dead leaves or dry ferns worked into the bottom, and all are lined with either very fine grass or very fine grass-roots. The external diameter averages about 4½ inches, but some stand fully 3 inches high, while others are not above 2 inches in height. As might be expected, the White-cheeked and White-eared and the two Red-whiskered Bulbuls' types of architecture differ considerably; inter se, the nests of M. leucotis and M. leucogenys differ just sufficiently to render it generally possible to separate them, and the same may be said of the nests of O. emeria and O. fuscicaudata. But there is a very wide difference between the nests of the two former and the two latter species, so that it would be scarcely possible to mistake a nest belonging to the one group for that of the other. The incorporation of a quantity of dead leaves in the body of the nests is characteristic of the Red-whiskered Bulbul, and is scarcely to be met with in those of the White-cheeked or White-eared ones.

Mr. H. R. P. Carter says: "At Coonoor on the Nilgiris I have found the nests from the 13th March to the 22nd April, but I believe they commence laying in February. They are generally placed in coffee-bushes and low shrubs, as a rule in a fork, but I have frequently found them suspended between the twigs of a bush which had no fork. I have also found the nest of this bird in the thatch of the eaves of a deserted bungalow, and in tufts of grass on the edge of a cutting overhanging the public road.

"The nest is cup-shaped, rather loosely constructed outside, but closely and neatly finished inside. The outside is nearly always fern-leaves at the bottom, coarse grass and fibres above, and lined inside either with fine fibres or fine grass. I have never found more than two eggs, and I have taken great numbers of nests; but I am told that three in a nest is not uncommon."

Writing from Kotagherry, Miss Cockburn says: "Our Red-whiskered Bulbul builds a cup-shaped nest in any thick bush. The foundation is generally laid with pieces of dry leaves and fern, after which small sticks are added, and the whole neatly finished with a lining of fine grass. They lay two (sometimes three) very prettily spotted eggs of different shades of red and white, which are found in February, March, and April."

Mr. Wait remarks: "This bird breeds at Coonoor from February to June. It builds usually in isolated bushes and shrubs, in gardens and open jungle. The nest is cup-shaped, loosely but strongly built of grass-bents, rooty fibres, and thin stalks, and is lined with finer grass-stems and roots. I think the internal diameter averages about 2½ inches, and about an inch in depth; but they vary a good deal in size. They lay two or three eggs, rarely four; and the eggs vary a good deal in shape and size, being sometimes very round and sometimes comparatively long ovals. The birds swarm on oar coffee estates, and breed freely in the coffee-bushes."

Dr. Jerdon says: "I have frequently had its nest and eggs brought me on the Nilgiris. The nest was very neatly made, deep, cup-shaped, of moss, lichens, and small roots, lined with hair and down. The eggs are barely distinguishable from those of the next bird (M. bengalensis), being reddish white with spots of purplish or lake-red all over, larger at the thick end."

But Dr. Jerdon rarely took nests with his own hand, and in this case clearly wrong nests must have been brought to him.

From Trevandrum Mr. F. Bourdillon says: "It lays three or four eggs of a pale pink colour, with purple spots, in a nest of roots, lined with finer roots and interwoven with the leaves of a jungle-shrub gathered green. The nest, 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep, is generally situated in a bush 4 to 5 feet from the ground."

Mr. J. Davidson remarks: "This bird simply swarms along the Western Ghâts from Mahabuleshwur down the Koina and Werna valleys, and seems to have a extended breeding-time. Last year (1873) I took its nests in March and May on several occasions, and this year I found three nests in March and April in the Werna valley; and the Hill people stated that this species breeds there throughout the Rains, a season when, owing to the tremendous rainfall, no European can remain. If this be true they must breed at least twice a year. All the nests I saw were placed in bushes from 2 to 4 feet high, some of them most carefully concealed amongst thorns. Out of, I think, nine nests, all taken by myself personally, I never found more than two eggs in any; and on two occasions last year I obtained single eggs nearly fully incubated."

Messrs Davidson and Wenden, writing of the Deccan, remark: "Commonish in wooded localities. D. took several nests in the Satara Hills in March and the two following months."

Captain Butler writes: "The Red-whiskered Bulbul is common at Mount Abu and breeds in March, April, and May. The nest is usually placed in low bushes from 4 to 8 feet from the ground, and is a neat cup-shaped structure composed externally of fibrous roots and dry grass-stems, and lined with fine grass, horsehair, etc. Round the edge and woven into the outside I have generally found small spiders' nests looking like lumps of wool. The eggs, usually two but sometimes three in number, are of a pinkish-white colour, covered all over with spots and blotches and streaks of purplish or lake-red, forming a dense confluent cap at the large end. A nest I examined on the 24th April contained two nestlings almost ready to fly.

"On the 3rd May, 1875, I took a nest in a low carinda bush, containing two fresh eggs."

Mr. C. J. W. Taylor, writing from Manzeerabad, Mysore, says: "Most abundant in the wooded district. Common everywhere. Eggs taken March and April. On the 5th July, 1883, I procured a, nest of this species with three pure white eggs. I found it in a coffee-bush the day before leaving, so snared parent bird to make sure it was O. fuscicaudata, or otherwise should have left a couple of the eggs to see if young would turn out true to parents."

Captain Horace Terry states that on the Pulney hills this species is "a most common bird, found wherever there are bushes. In the small bushes along the banks of the streams is a very favorite place. I found several nests with usually two, but sometimes three eggs."

Mr. Benjamin Aitken tells us: "I never saw this bird in the plains, but it is, perhaps without exception, the commonest bird at Matheran, Khandalla, and other hill-stations in the Bombay Presidency. I have found the nests, always with eggs in May, placed from four to seven feet from the ground, and often in the most exposed situations. It is not unusual to find only two eggs in a nest. The bird is not in the least shy, and sets up no clatter, like the Common Bulbul, when its nest is disturbed."

Finally, Mr. J. Darling, Junior, remarks: "I really wonder if anyone down south does not know the Red-whiskered Bulbul and its nest. On the Nilgiris and in the Wynaad I can safely say it is the commonest nest to be met with, built in all sorts of places, sometimes high up. They generally lay two, but very often three, eggs. In a bungalow in the Wynaad there were three nests built on the wall-plate of the verandah and two eggs laid in each nest. The young were safely hatched.

"This year the nests have been rebuilt and contain eggs. As I am writing, there are two pairs building in a rose-bush about 3 yards from me. They breed from 15th February to 15th May."

The numerous eggs of this species that I possess, though truly Bulbul-like in character, all belong to one single type of that form. Almost all have a dull pinkish or reddish-white ground, very thickly freckled, mottled, and streaked all over with a rich red; in most blood-red, in others brick-red, underneath which, when closely looked into, a small number of pale inky-purple spots are visible. In half the number of eggs the markings are much densest at the large end: these eggs are one and all more brightly and intensely colored than any of those that I possess of M. leucotis, M. leucogenys, and O. emeria; they are, moreover, larger than any of these.

In length they vary from 0·82 to 0·97, and in breadth from 0·63 to 0·71; but the average of thirty-six eggs measured was 0·9 by 0·66.

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