Drongos - The Nests & Eggs of Indian Birds

The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds  (Volume 1) Second Edition 1889  -  by  Allan O. Hume

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335. Chibia hottentotta (Linn.). Hair-crested Drongo

Chibia hottentota (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 439; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 286.

Mr. R. Thompson says: "The Hair-crested Drongo is extremely common as a breeder in all our hot valleys (Kumaon and Garhwal). It lays in May and June, building in forks of branches of small leafy trees situated in warm valleys having an elevation of from 2000 to 2500 feet. The nest is circular, about 5 inches in diameter, rather deep and hollow; it is composed of fine roots and fibres bound together with cobwebs, and it is lined with hairs and fine roots. They lay from three to four much elongated, purplish-white eggs, spotted with pink or claret colour."

Dr. Jerdon remarks: "The Lepchas at Darjeeling brought me the nest, which was said to have been placed high up in a large tree; it was composed of twigs and roots and a few bits of grass, and contained two eggs, livid white, with purplish and claret spots, and of a very elongated form."

The Jobraj, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes and figures, begins to lay in Nepal in April. It builds a large shallow nest, 8 or 9 inches in diameter externally, with the cavity of about half that diameter, attached, as a rule, to the slender branches of some horizontal fork, between which it is suspended much like that of an Oriole, though much shallower than this latter; it is composed of small twigs, fine roots, and grass-stems bound together, and it is attached to the branches by vegetable fibre, and more or less coated with cobwebs; little pieces of lichen and moss are also blended in the nest. It lays three or four eggs, rather pyriform in shape, measuring 1·25 by 0·86 inch, with a whitish or pinky-whitish ground, speckled and spotted pretty well all over, but most densely towards the large end, with reddish pink.

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "I took two nests of the Hair-crested Drongo this year in June, both at about an elevation of 1500 feet in wooded valleys, placed well up in the outer branches of tall, slender trees; they are of a broad saucer-shape, openly but firmly made of roots and stems of slender climbers, and destitute of lining. There is a good deal of cobweb on the outsides of the nests, and they were attached to the supporting branches by the same material. One was fixed in among several upright sprays, the other suspended in a slender fork after the manner of an Oriole. They measured about 6 inches broad by 2¼ deep externally, internally 4 by 1¾. One nest contained four fresh eggs, the other three partially-incubated eggs."

Mr. Oates, writing from Pegu, says: "In the first week of May I took several nests of this bird, but in all cases the nests were situated in such dangerous places that most of the eggs got broken; there were three in each nest. The position of the nest and the nest itself are very much like those of D. paradiseus. Comparing many nests of both species together, the only difference appears to be that the nests of the Hair-crested Drongo are slightly larger on the whole.

"The only two eggs saved measure 1·10 by ·8 and 1·11 by ·81; they are slightly glossy, dull white, minutely and thickly freckled and spotted with reddish brown and pale underlying marks of neutral tint. I may add that at the commencement of May all the eggs were much incubated."

Major C. T. Bingham remarks: "During the breeding season in the end of March and in April I saw a great number of nests round and about Meeawuddy in Tenasserim, but all inaccessible, as they were invariably built out at the very end of the thinnest branches of eng, teak, thingan (Hopea odorata), and other trees. Except during those two months, I have not seen the bird plentiful anywhere."

Mr. J. R. Cripps has written the following valuable notes regarding the breeding of the Hair-crested Drongo in the Dibrugarh district in Assam:

"17th May, 1879. Nest with three fresh eggs, attached to a fork in one of the outer brandies of an otinga (Dillenia pentagyna) tree, and about 15 feet off the ground.

"15th May, 1880. Three fresh eggs in a nest 20 feet off the ground, and a few yards from my bungalow, in an oorian (Bischoffia javanica, Blyth).

"5th June, 1880. Nest with three partly-incubated eggs, in one of the outer branches of a jack (Artocarpus integrifolia) tree, and about 15 feet off the ground.

"27th May, 1881. Three fresh eggs in a nest on a soom (Machilus odoratissima) tree at the edge of the forest bordering the tea. The nests are deep saucers, 3½ inches in diameter, internally 1½ deep, with the sides about ¼ thick; but the bottom is so flimsy that the eggs are easily seen from below, the materials being grass, roots, and fine tendrils of creepers, especially if these are thorny, when they are used as a lining. The nest is always situated in the fork of a branch."

The nests are large, shallow, King-Crow-like structures, often suspended between forks, sometimes placed between four or five upright shoots, at times resting on a horizontal bough against and attached to some more or less upright shoots. They are composed mainly of roots thinly but firmly twisted together, have sometimes a good deal of cobweb twisted round their outer surface, often a good deal of vegetable fibre used for the same purpose and, though they have no lining, are always composed interiorly of finer material than that used for the outer portion of the structure. Exteriorly the diameter varies from 6 to nearly 7 inches, the height from nearly 2 to 2½; the cavity is usually about 4 inches in diameter and 1·5 to 1·75 in depth. I have taken the nests in May and June alike in small and large trees, at elevations of from 10 to 30 feet from the ground.

Typically the eggs are rather broad ovals, a good deal pointed towards the small end, but they vary a great deal both in size and shape, are occasionally very much elongated, and again, at times, exhibit the characteristic pointing but feebly. The ground-colour varies from greyish white to a delicate pale pink; as a rule the markings are small and inconspicuous frecklings and specklings of pale purple reddish where the ground, is pink, greyish where it is white, tolerably thickly set about the large end and somewhat sparsely elsewhere; but in some eggs these markings are everywhere almost obsolete. In many there is a dull pale purplish cloud underlying the primary markings, extending over the greater part of the large end of the egg. Not uncommonly a few specks and spots of yellowish brown are scattered here and there about the egg. In one egg before me the markings are larger, more decided, and fewer in number - distinct spots, some of them one tenth of an inch in diameter; and in this egg the spots are decidedly brownish red, while intermixed with, them are a few specks and clouds of inky purple. The ground in this case is a pale pinky white.

As a rule the eggs are entirely devoid of gloss, but one or two have a very faint gloss.

The eggs measure from 1·01 to 1·21 in length, and from 0·79 to 0·86 in breadth; but the average of twenty-nine eggs is 1·12 by 0·81.

338. Dissemurulus lophorhinus (Vieill.). Ceylon Black Drongo

Dissemuroides lophorhinus (Vieill.), Hume, cat. no. 283 quat.

Colonel Legge says, in his 'Birds of Ceylon': "This species breeds in the south of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the beginning of April. I have seen the young just able to fly in the Opaté forests at the end of this month; but I have not succeeded in getting any information concerning its nest or eggs."

339. Bhringa remifer (Temm.). Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo

Bhringa remifer (Temm.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 434.
Bhringa tenuirostris, (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 283.

Of the Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo Mr. R. Thompson says: "This elegant Drongo is somewhat common in our lower Kumaon ranges. Its lively clear and ringing notes are one of the greatest charms of the spring season in our forests. It breeds in May and June, and builds upon lofty trees in dense forests, usually in some deep damp valley. The nest from below looks just like that of a common King-Crow - a broad shallow cup; but I never closely examined either nest or eggs."

Dr. Jerdon remarks: "A nest with eggs were brought to me in June, said to be of this species. The nest was loosely made of sticks and roots, and contained three eggs, reddish white, with a very few reddish-brown blotches."

From. Sikkim, Mr. Gammie writes: "I have taken but one nest of this Drongo. It was suspended between two small horizontal forking branches of a tall tree, some 20 feet from ground. It is a neat, saucer-shaped structure, somewhat triangular, to fit well up to the fork, built of fibry roots, and firmly bound to the branches by spiders' webs. The sides and bottom are strong, but so thin that they can everywhere be seen through. Externally it measures 4.5 inches across by 1·9 in height; internally 3·5 by 1·3. It was taken on the 15th May at 2500 feet, and contained three partially incubated eggs."

A nest of this species taken by Mr. Gammie at Rishap (elevation 4800) in Sikkim, on the 20th May, is a very broad shallow saucer, composed almost entirely of moderately fine dark brown roots, but with a few slender herbaceous twigs intermingled. It is suspended in the fork of two widely diverging twigs, to which either margin is attached, chiefly by cobwebs, though on one side at one place part of the substance of the nest is wound round the twig: the cavity, which is not lined, is oval, and measures 3·5 inches by 2·75, by barely 0·75 in depth. The female seated on the nest had long tail-feathers, so this species does not drop these for convenience in incubating.

Several nests of this species obtained in Sikkim by Messrs. Gammie, Mandelli, etc. are all precisely similar - broad saucers, suspended Oriole-like between the fork of a small branch. Exteriorly composed of moderately fine brown roots, more or less bound together, especially those portions of them that are bound round the twigs of the fork with cobwebs, and lined interiorly with fine black horsehair-like roots. They seem to be always right up in the angle of the fork, whereas in Chaptia they are often some inches down the fork, and consequently the cavity is triangular on the one side, and semicircular on the other. The cavities measure from 3 to nearly 4 inches in their greatest diameters, and vary from 1 to 1½ inch in depth; though strong and firm, and fully ¼ of an inch thick at bottom, the materials are so put together that, held up against the light, they look like a fine network.

The eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Gammie, though more elongated in shape and somewhat larger, very closely resemble in coloration the more ordinary type of the eggs of Dicrurus longicaudatus. In shape they are elongated ovals, a good deal compressed towards the smaller end. The shell is fine, but has scarcely any gloss. The ground-colour is a moderately warm salmon-pink. It is spotted, streaked, and blotched thickly about the large end (where there is a tendency to form a cap or zone), thinly elsewhere, with somewhat brownish red, or in some merely a darker shade of the ground-colour; where the markings are thickest about the large end, in some only one or two, in others numerous blotches and clouds of a dull inky purple are intermingled, and a few specks and spots of the same colour often occur elsewhere about the egg.

Two eggs measure 1·09 by 0·75, and a third measures 0·98 by 0·75.

340. Dissemurus paradiseus (Linn.). Larger Racket-tailed Drongo

Edolius paradiseus (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 435.
Edolius inalabaricus (Scop.), Jerdon t.c. p. 437.
Dissemurus malabaroides (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 284.

Of the Larger Racket-tailed Drongo Dr. Jerdon tells us that he has "had its nest brought him several times at Darjeeling; rather a large structure of twigs and roots; and the eggs, usually three in number, pinkish white, with claret-colored or purple spots, but they vary a great deal in size, form, and coloring. They breed in April and May."

The solitary egg that I possess of this species, given me by Dr. Jerdon, is probably an exceptionally small one. It is a broad oval, tapering a good deal towards one end, a good deal smaller than the eggs of Chibia hottentotta, and not very much larger than some eggs of D. ater. Its coloration, however, resembles that of Chibia hottentotta, and differs conspicuously, when compared with them (though it may be difficult to make this apparent by description), from those of the true Dicruri. The ground-colour is a dead white, and it is very thinly speckled all over, a little more thickly towards the large end, with minute dots and spots, chiefly of a very pale inky purple, a very few only of the spots being a dark inky purple. The texture of the egg is fine and close, but it is devoid of gloss. This egg measures 1·1 by 0·87 inch.

Mr. Iver Macpherson writes from Mysore: "Kakencotte State Forest, Mysore District. - I send you six eggs, specimens from three different nests. This bird is very common in the heavy forests of the Mysore District, but the only nest I have ever found myself was on the 2nd May, 1880, and contained two or three young birds. I could not distinctly see how many. The nest was fixed towards the end of a branch of a tree, at a considerable height from the ground, and was almost impossible to get at. Had there been eggs in it I could not have taken them.

"The breeding-season I should say was from the beginning of April to the end of May. Three nests, each containing three eggs, were brought to me this season on the 10th and 26th April, and 9th May, 1880, by Cooroobahs (the jungle-tribes in these forests); and although the eggs in each nest vary considerably from one another, there is no doubt in my mind that the eggs belong to one and the same species of bird. It is a bird so well known in these forests that it would be impossible to mistake it for any other. In one case only was the nest brought to me, and this, which unfortunately I did not keep, was loosely made of twigs and roots."

Professor H. Littledale, quoting Mr. J. Davidson, informs us that this species breeds in the east of Godhra, and therefore probably throughout the Panch Mehals.

Mr. J. Inglis, writing from Cachar, says: "The Bhimraj is very common, frequenting thick jungle; it often goes in company with other birds, which it mimics to perfection. It lays about four eggs in a shallow nest made of grass similar to the above; it is very easily tamed. The hill-tribes use the long tail-feathers for ornamenting their head-dresses."

Mr. Oates writes from Pegu: "I have taken the eggs of this species on all dates, from the 30th April to the 16th June. The nest is placed in forks of the outer branches of trees at all heights from 20 to 70 feet, and in all cases they are very difficult to take without breaking the eggs. The nest is a cradle, and the whole of it lies below the fork to which it is attached. It is made entirely of small branches of weeds and creepers, finer as they approach the interior. The egg-cup is generally, but not always, lined with dry grass. The outside dimensions are 6 inches in diameter and 3 deep. The interior measures 4 inches by 2. In one nest the sides are bound to the fork by cotton thread in addition to the usual weeds and creepers."

"The eggs have very little or no gloss, and differ among themselves a good deal in colour. In one clutch the ground-colour is white, spotted and blotched, not very thickly, with neutral tint and inky purple, chiefly at the larger end. Other eggs are pinkish salmon, and the shell is more or less thickly or thinly covered with pale greyish purple or neutral tint, and brownish-yellow or orange-brown spots and dashes. They vary in size from 1·2 to 1·06 in length, and ·85 to ·8 in breadth."

Major C. T. Bingham has the following note: "About five miles below the large village of Meplay, in the district of that name, the main stream of the Meplay river is joined by a tributary, the Theedoquee. On the 4th April I was wading across the mouth of the latter, when my attention was attracted by seeing a pair of the above birds dart from a small tree growing at the very point of the fork where the streams met, and sweep down at my dog, not actually striking him, but nearly doing so. Of course, I made for the tree, and sure enough there, about 15 feet from the ground, in a fork, was a large mass of twigs, above which was placed a neatly made cup-shaped nest, lined with fine black roots, and containing three fresh eggs, densely spotted, chiefly at the larger end, with yellowish brown and sepia, on a ground-colour of dull greenish white. The whole time the peon I had sent up was climbing up and getting the nest, the two birds kept sweeping round and round with harsh cries. I secured them both for the identification of the eggs."

The eggs of this species are typically rather long ovals, generally a good deal pointed towards the small end. They are dull eggs, and never seem to have any perceptible gloss. The ground-colour varies from white to a rich warm pink. The markings are of all sizes and shapes, from large blotches to the tiniest specks, and they vary in every egg, being thickly set in some, thinly in others, but as a rule the largest and most conspicuous markings are about the large end. Again, in colour the markings vary very much: they are red, purplish red, reddish brown, pale purple, and inky grey; generally the eggs exhibit both colored markings reddish and lilac, but sometimes the white-grounded eggs have only these latter. Some of the pink eggs are strikingly handsome, and remind one of those of some of the Bulbuls. Others are dull eggs with only a few irregular grey clouds about the large end, thinly interspersed with brownish-red spots, usually darker about the centre, and elsewhere excessively minutely and thinly speckled with spots too small to render it possible to say what colour they are.

An egg I received from Darjeeling measures 1·1 by 0·87; others received from Mynall from Mr. Bourdillon, and the Kakencotte Forest, Mysore, from Mr. I. Macpherson, vary in length from 1·16 to 1·1, and in breadth from 0·84 to 0·75. Three eggs, taken in Pegu by Mr. Oates, measure from 1·1 to 1·05 in length, by 0·83 to 0·81 in breadth, and are smaller than those the dimensions of which he himself records above.

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