The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds (Volume 1) Second
Edition 1889 - by Allan O. Hume
|Order PASSERES Family SYLVIIDAE|
363. Acrocephalus stentoreus (H. & E.). Indian Great Reed-Warbler
Acrocephalus brunnescens (Jerdon), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 154.
Both Mr. Brooks and Captain Cock succeeded in securing the nests and eggs of the Indian Great Reed-Warbler in Kashmir. Common as it is, my own collectors failed to get eggs, though they brought plenty of nests.
The nest is a very deep massive cup hung to the sides of reeds. A nest before me, taken in Kashmir on the 10th June, is an inverted and slightly truncated cone. Externally it has a diameter of 3¼ inches and a depth of nearly 6 inches. It is massive, but by no means neat; composed of coarse water-grass, mingled with a few dead leaves and fibrous roots of water-plants. The egg-cavity is lined with finer and more compactly woven grass, and measures about 1¾ inch in diameter and 2¼ inches in depth. It breeds in May and June; at the beginning of July all the nests either contained young or were empty. Four is the full complement of eggs.
Mr. Brooks noted in epist.: "Srinagar, 10th June. I went out early this morning on the lake here to look for eggs of Acrocephalus stentoreus, but it came on to rain so heavily that I only partially succeeded. I took three nests, two with three eggs each, and one with four young ones, the latter half-hatched. The eggs very much resemble large and boldly-marked Sparrows' eggs. They are smaller than the eggs of A. arundinaceus, but very similar. The latter have larger clear spaces without spots than those of our bird. I neither saw nor heard any other aquatic warbler."
Later, in a paper on the eggs and nests he had obtained in Kashmir, he stated that this species "breeds abundantly in the Kashmir lakes. The nest is supported, about 18 inches above the water, by three or four reeds, and is a deep cup composed of grasses and fibres. The eggs are four, very like those of A. arundinaceus, but the markings are more plentiful and smaller."
Captain Cock writes to me that "the Large Reed-Warbler is very common in the reeds that fringe all the lakes in Kashmir. It breeds in June, builds a largish nest of dry sedge, woven round five or six reeds, of a deep cup form, which it places about 2 feet above the water. It lays four or five eggs, rather blunt ovals, equally blunt at both ends, blotched with olive and dusky grey on a dirty-white ground."
Mr. S. B. Doig, who found this bird breeding in the Eastern Narra in Sind, writes: "On the 4th August, while my man was poling along in a canoe in a large swamp on the lookout for eggs, he passed a small bunch of reeds and in them spotted a nest with a bird on it. The nest contained three beautiful fresh eggs. A few days later I joined him, and on asking about these eggs he described the bird and said he had found several other nests of the same species, but all of them contained young ones nearly fledged. I made him show me some of these nests, all of which were situated in clumps of reed, in the middle of the swamp, and in these same reeds I found and shot the young ones which, though fledged, were not able to fly. These I sent with one of the eggs to Mr. Hume, who has identified them as belonging to this species. The nests were composed of frayed pieces of reed-grass and fine sedge, the latter being principally towards the inside, thus forming a kind of lining. The nests were loosely put together, were about 3 inches inner diameter, 1¼ inch deep, the outer diameter being 6 inches. They were situated about a foot over water-line in the tops of reeds growing in the water."
Colonel Legge says: "This species breeds in Ceylon during June and July. Its nest was procured by me in the former month at the Tamara-Kulam, and was a very interesting structure, built into the fork of one of the tall seed-stalks of the rush growing there; the walls rested exteriorly against three of the branches of the fork, but were worked round some of the stems of the flower itself which sprung from the base of the fork. It was composed of various fine grasses, with a few rush-blades among them, and was lined with the fine stalks of the flower divested, by the bird I conclude, of the seed-matter growing on them. In form it was a tolerably deep cup, well shaped, measuring 2½ inches in internal diameter by 2 in depth. The single egg which it contained at the time of my finding it was a broad oval in shape, pale green, boldly blotched with blackish over spots of olive and olivaceous brown, mingled with linear markings of the same, under which there were small clouds and blotches of bluish grey. The black markings were longitudinal and thickest at the obtuse end. It measured 0·89 by 0·67 inch."
The eggs of this species, as might have been expected, greatly resemble those of A. arundinaceus. In shape they are moderately elongated ovals, in some cases almost absolutely perfect, but generally slightly compressed towards one end. The shell, though fine, is entirely devoid of gloss. The ground-colour varies much, but the two commonest types are pale green or greenish white and a pale somewhat creamy stone-colour. Occasionally the ground-colour has a bluish tinge.
The markings vary even more than the ground-colour. In one type the ground is everywhere minutely, but not densely, stippled with minute specks, too minute for one to be able to say of what colour; over this are pretty thickly scattered fairly bold and well-marked spots and blotches of greyish black, inky purple, olive-brown, yellowish olive, and reddish-umber brown; here and there pale inky clouds underlay the more distinct markings. In other eggs the stippling is altogether wanting, and the markings are smaller and less well-defined. In some eggs one or more of the colors predominate greatly, and in some several are almost entirely wanting. In most eggs the markings are densest towards the large end, where they sometimes form more or less of a mottled, irregular, ill-defined cap.
In length the eggs vary from 0·8 to 0·97, and in breadth from 0·58 to 0·63; but the average of the only nine eggs that I measured was 0·89, nearly, by rather more than 0·61.
366. Acrocephalus dumetorum, Blyth. Blyth's Reed-Warbler
Acrocephalus dumetorum, (Blyth), Jerdon. B. Ind. ii, p. 155.
Blyth's Reed-Warbler breeds, I believe, for the most part along the course of the streams of the lower Himalayan and sub-Himalayan ranges, and in suitable localities on and about these ranges; such at least is my present idea. They are with us in the plains up to quite the end of March, and are back again by the last day of August, and during May at any rate they may be heard and seen everywhere in the valleys south of the first snowy range.
Mr. Brooks remarks that "this species was excessively common on the Hindustan side of the Pir-pinjal Range, but I have never seen it in Kashmir. I think it breeds in the low valleys by the river-sides, for it was in very vigorous song there at the end of May." This is my experience also, and probably while many may go north to Central Asia to breed, a good many remain in the localities indicated.
Captain Hutton says: "This species arrives in the hills up to 7000 feet at least, in April, when it is very common, and appears in pairs with something of the manner of a Phylloscopus. The note is a sharp tchick, tchick, resembling the sound emitted by a flint and steel.
"It disappears by the end of May, in which month they breed; but, owing to the high winds and strong weather experienced in that month in 1848, many nests were left incomplete, and the birds must have departed without breeding."
"One nest, which I took on the 6th May, was a round ball with a lateral entrance; it was placed in a thick barberry-bush growing at the side of a deep and sheltered ditch; it was composed of coarse dry grasses externally and lined with finer grass. Eggs three and pearl-white, with minute scattered specks of rufous, chiefly at the larger end. Diameter 0·62 by 0·5."
Mr. A. Anderson wrote the following note: "On the fifth day after leaving Nainital - ever mindful of my friend Mr. Brooks's parting advice to me (in reference to the part of the country which required to be investigated), 'avoid the lower hills as the plague' - I reached Takula, which is the first march beyond Almora on the road to the Pindari glacier, late on the evening of the 10th of May. It rained heavily all that night, so that I was obliged to halt the next day, my tents being far too wet to be struck, and the distance to the next halting-place necessitating a start the first thing in the morning.
"Takula is at an elevation between 5000 and 6000 feet; it is beautifully wooded, with a small mountain-stream flowing right under the camping-ground, and the climate is delightful. All things considered, I was not sorry at having an opportunity of exploring such productive-looking ground; and before it was fairly daylight the next morning operations were commenced in right earnest. To each of my collectors I apportioned off a well-wooded mountain-slope, reserving for my own hunting-ground (as I had not yet got my hill-legs) the water-courses and ravines in the immediate vicinity of my camp.
"Not more than 20 yards from where my tent stood, there is a deep ravine clothed on both banks with a dense jungle of the larger kind of nettle (Girardinia heterophylla), the hilldock (Rumea nepalensis), and wild-rose trees. Wending my way through this dark, damp, and muggy nullah to the best of my ability, I came upon the nest of this interesting little bird; it was placed in the centre of a rose-bush, at an elevation of some two feet above the bank and about four feet from where I stood, but yet in a most tantalizing situation, inasmuch as it was necessary to remove several thorny branches before an examination of the nest was possible.
"The act of cutting away the branches alarmed my sombre little friend (I knew that the nest was tenanted, as the bill and head were distinctly visible through the lateral entrance), and out she darted with such a whir that anything like satisfactory identification for a bird of this sort was utterly hopeless. The nest contained four beautiful little eggs, so that to bag the parent bird was a matter of the first importance; all my attempts, however, first to capture her on the nest and next to shoot her as she flew off, were equally futile, her movements being as rapid and erratic as forked lightning. And here let me give a word of advice to my brother ornithologists: Never attempt to shoot a wary little bird in the act of leaving its nest, as you only run the risk of wounding perhaps an unknown bird, in which case she will never again return to her nest; but lie in ambush for her with, outlying scants, and make certain of her as she is returning to her nest. She will first alight on a neighboring tree, then on one closer, coming nearer and nearer each time; finally, she will perch on the very tree or bush in which the nest is built, and while taking a look round to see that all is well before making a final ascent, you have yourself to blame if you fail to bag her. All this sounds very cruel; but if a bird must be shot for scientific purposes, it is surely preferable to kill it outright than to let it die a lingering death. Thus it was that I eventually succeeded, even at the expense of being devoured alive by midges and mosquitoes; but then had I not the satisfaction of knowing that to become the happy possessor of authentic eggs of Acrocephalus dumetorum was in itself sufficient to repay me for my hill excursion!
"I cannot, however, pretend to lay claim to originality in the discovery of the breeding-habits of this bird, for Hutton's description of the nest and eggs taken by him so fully accords with my own experience, that it is but fair to conclude he was correct in his identification. I would add, however, with reference to his remarks, that the nest above alluded to was more elliptical than spherical, being about the size and shape of an Ostrich's egg, that it was constructed throughout of the largest and coarsest blades of various kinds of dry grass, the egg-cavity being lined with grass-bents of a finer quality, and that it was domed over, having a lateral entrance about the middle of the nest. The whole structure was so loosely put together as to fall to pieces immediately it was removed.
"The eggs, four in number, are pure while, beautifully glossed, and well covered with rufous or reddish-brown specks, most numerous at the obtuse end. Owing to its similarity to a number of eggs, particularly to those of the Titmouse group, it is just one of those that I would never feel comfortable in accepting on trust.
"It was a remarkable coincidence that the very day I took this nest my post brought me part iv. of the P.Z.S. for 1874, containing Mr. Dresser's interesting paper on the nidification of the Hypolais and Acrocephalus groups; and if I understand him rightly, he is certainly correct in his surmise as to the eggs of Acrocephalus dumetorum approaching those of the Hypolais group.
"My good luck, as regards Blyth's Reed-Warbler, did not end here, for on the following day, at Bagesur, at an elevation of only 3000 feet, I again encountered a pair of these birds, finding their nest on the banks of the Surjoo. The position, shape, and architecture of this nest were identical with the one I have above described, but the eggs unfortunately had not been laid. The little birds, on this occasion, were quite fearless, hopping from stem to stem of the dense undergrowth which throughout the Bagesur valley fringes both banks of the river, every now and again making a temporary halt for the purpose of picking insects off the leaves, with an occasional tchick,' which Hutton resembles to the 'sound emitted by a flint and steel,' but all the time enticing me away from the site of their dwelling-place. In this way they led me a wild-goose chase several times up and down the river-bank before I was able to discover the whereabouts of their nest."
Captain Hutton sent me three eggs of this species. The eggs are otherwise unknown to me, and I describe them only on Captain Hutton's authority. The eggs are rather broad ovals, very smooth and compact in texture, but with little or no gloss. They are pure white, very thinly speckled with reddish and yellowish brown, the markings being most numerous towards the large end, and even there somewhat sparse and very minute. They measure respectively 0·65 by 0·52, 0·65 by 0·51, and 0·62 by 0·51.
Acrocephalus agricolus (Jerdon), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 156.
The Paddy-field Reed-Warbler nests apparently occasionally in May and Jane in the valleys of the Himalayas, the great majority probably going further north-west to breed. Very little is known about the matter. I have shot the birds in the interior of the hills in May, but I have never seen a nest.
Mr. Brooks, however, says: "Near Shupyion (Kashmir) I found a finished empty nest of this truly aquatic warbler in a rose-bush which was intergrown with rank nettles. This was in the roadside where there was a shallow stream of beautifully clear water. On either side of the road were vast tracts of paddy swamp, in which the natives were busily engaged planting the young rice-plants. The nest strongly resembled that of Curruca garrula. The male with his throat puffed out was singing on the bush a loud vigorous pretty song like a Lesser Whitethroat's, but more varied. I shot the strange songster, on which the female flew from the nest. This was the only pair of these interesting birds that I met with. I think, therefore, that their breeding in Kashmir is not a common occurrence."
This nest, now in my collection, was found on the 13th June, at an elevation of about 5500 feet, in the Valley of Kashmir. It is a deep, almost purse-like cup, very loosely and carelessly put together, of moderately fine grass, in amongst which a quantity of wool has been intermingled.
Dumeticola affinis (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 158.
Mr. Hodgson gives a very careful figure of a female bird of this species, together with its nest and egg, but he labels it underneath affinis. As we know, he described affinis as having spots on the breast; but he further notes that at the same place at which he obtained the female, nest, and eggs, he also got a male bird with spots on the breast; in fact, in other words, he seems to have come to the conclusion that Dumeticola affinis was the male and that Dumeticola brunneipectus, which he did not separately name, though he has beautifully figured it, was the female. I have specimens of both, but the sexes were not ascertained; still I doubt whether the two birds can possibly be merely different sexes of the same species. Anyhow, the female bird which he figures is really brunneipectus, and under that name I notice the nest and eggs on which the female figured was captured. Mr. Hodgson notes: "Gosainthan. In the snows; female and nest.
"August 2nd - Nest in a bunch of reeds placed slantingly: ovate in shape; aperture at one side; placed about half a foot above the ground, made of grasses and moss, 4 or 5 inches in diameter exteriorly, interiorly between 2 and 3 inches." The eggs are figured as moderately broad ovals, measuring 0·65 by 0·48, of a uniform deep cinnabar-red, reminding one of the eggs of Prinia socialis, but much deeper in colour*.
*[There can be no doubt, I think, that T. affinis and T. brunneipectus are the same species as T. thoracica. I reproduce Mr. Hodgson's note on the nesting of this species together with Mr. Hume's remarks, but I feel sure that the nest described by Mr. Hodgson and the egg figured by him cannot belong to the present species.--ED.]
Mr. Mandelli sends me three nests of this species, all found near Yendong, in Native Sikkim, at an elevation of about 9000 feet, on the 15th, 17th, and 21st July. The nests contained two, two, and three fresh eggs respectively, and were placed, two of them in small brushwood, and one in a clump of rush or grass, from 9 to 18 inches above the ground. They seem to have all been rather massive little cups, composed exteriorly of broad grass-blades rather clumsily wound together, and lined with rather finer, but by no means fine grass. In two of them some dead leaves have been incorporated in the basal portion.
They are rather dirty, shabby-looking nests, obviously made of dead materials, old withered and partially-decayed grass, and not with fresh grass; they seem to have measured 3 inches in diameter, and 2·5 in height externally; the cavity was perhaps 1·5 to 1·75 in diameter, and 1 inch more or less in depth.
From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "Nest among scrub in small bush, 2 feet from ground, at 5000 feet above the sea. Found on the 3rd June, when it contained two eggs; taken on the 5th, with four eggs. I dissected the bird killed off the nest, and found it to be a female; in her stomach were the remains of a few insects. The nest is cup-shaped, loosely made of dry leaves and grass, lined with, for the size of the bird, coarse grass-stalks. Externally it measures 3·5 inches in breadth by 2·5 deep; internally 2 broad by 1·5 deep."
This nest taken by Mr. Gammie near Rungbee on the 5th June, 1875, at an elevation of about 5000 feet, contained four eggs. It was a massive little cup about 3 inches in diameter externally, and with an internal cavity about 2 inches in diameter and 1¾ inch deep; was rather loosely put together, externally composed of dead leaves and broad flags of grass, internally lined with grass-stems.
The eggs of this species are very regular broad ovals, the shells fine but glossless, the ground-colour a dead white, thickly speckled and spotted about the large end, thinly elsewhere, with somewhat brownish and again purplish red. The markings are all very fine and small, but where they are closely set at the large end there a few little pale purplish-grey specks and spots are intermingled.
The eggs measure 0·68 by 0·55.
The eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Mandelli in the neighborhood of Darjeeling in July are so similar to those obtained by Mr. Gammie, and of which he sent me the parent bird, that no second description is necessary. They are a shade smaller, but the difference is not more than is always observable in even the same species. They measure 0·67 in length, and 0·53 to 0·55 in breadth.
Tribura luteiventris, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 161; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 522.
A bird unquestionably belonging to this species*, the Brown Bush-Warbler, was sent me along with a single egg from Native Sikkim. The bird was said to have been killed off the nest (which was not preserved), which was found, at an elevation of about 12,000 feet, in low brushwood about 3 feet from the ground.
*[I do not place much confidence in the authenticity of the egg of this bird sent to Mr. Hume. Being a Warbler with twelve tail-feathers, it is unlikely to lay a red egg, and besides this the eggs of the allied species, T. thoracica, as found by trustworthy observers like Messrs. Gammie and Mandelli, are known to be white speckled with red, in spite of Mr. Hodgson's figure representing them to be deep cinnabar-red.--ED.]
The egg is a very regular, rather broad oval, has only a faint gloss, and is of a very rich deep maroon-red, slightly darker at the large end. The egg measures 0·62 by 0·49.
Orthotomus longicauda (Gm.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 165; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 530.
The Indian Tailor-bird breeds throughout India and Burma, alike in the plains and in the hills up to an elevation of from 3000 to 4000 feet. The breeding-season lasts from May to August, both months included; but in the plains more nests are to be found in July, and in the hills more, I think, in June, than during the other months. The nest has been often described and figured, and, as is well known, is a deep soft cup enclosed in leaves, which the bird sews together to form a receptacle for it. It is placed at all elevations, and I have as often found it high upon a mango-tree as low down amongst the leaves of the edible egg-plant (Solanum esculentum).
The nests vary much, in appearance, according to the number and description of leaves which the bird employs and the manner in which it employs them; but the nest itself is usually chiefly composed of fine cotton-wool, with a few horsehairs and, at times, a few very fine grass-stems as a lining, apparently to keep the wool in its place and enable the cavity to retain permanently its shape.
I have found the nests with three leaves fastened, at equal distances from each other, into the sides of the nest, and not joined to each other at all. I have found them between two leaves, the one forming a high back and turned up at the end to support the bottom of the nest, the other hiding the nest in front and hanging down well below it, the tip only of the first leaf being sewn to the middle of the second. I have found them with four leaves sewn together to form a canopy and sides, from which the bottom of the nest depended bare; and I have found them between two long leaves, whose sides from the very tips to near the peduncles were closely and neatly sewn together. For sewing they generally use cobweb; but silk from cocoons, thread, wool, and vegetable fibres are also used.
The eggs vary from three to four in number; but I find that out of twenty-seven nests containing more or less incubated eggs, of which I have notes, exactly two thirds contained only three, and one third four eggs.
About the colour of the eggs there has been some dispute, but this is owing to the birds laying two distinct types of eggs, which will be described below. Hutton's and Jerdon's descriptions of the eggs, white spotted with rufous or reddish brown, are quite correct, but so are those of other writers, who call them bluish green, similarly marked. Tickell, who gives them as "pale greenish blue, with irregular patches, especially towards the larger end, resembling dried stains of blood, and irregular and broken lines scratched round, forming a zone near the larger end," had of course got hold of the eggs of a Franklinia. I have taken hundreds of both types, and I note that, as in the case of Dicrurus ater, eggs of the two types are never found in the same nest. All the eggs in each nest always belong to one or the other type.
The parent birds that lay these very different looking eggs certainly do not differ; that I have positively satisfied myself.
I quote an exact description of a nest which I took at Bareilly, and which was recorded on the spot: "Three of the long ovato-lanceolate leaves of the mango, whose peduncles sprang from the same point, had been neatly drawn together with gossamer threads run through the sides of the leaves and knotted outside, so as to form a cavity like the end of a netted purse, with a wide slit on the side nearest the trunk beginning near the bottom and widening upwards. Inside this, the real nest, nearly 3 inches deep and about 2 inches in diameter, was neatly constructed of wool and fine vegetable fibres, the bottom being thinly lined with horsehair. In this lay three tiny delicate bluish-white eggs, with a few pale reddish-brown blotches at the large ends, and just a very few spots and specks of the same colour elsewhere."
Dr. Jerdon says: "The Tailor-bird makes its nest with cotton, wool, and various other soft materials, sometimes also lined with hair, and draws together one leaf or more, generally two leaves, on each side of the nest, and stitches them together with cotton, either woven by itself, or cotton-thread picked up, and after passing the thread through the leaf, it makes a knot at the end to fix it. I have seen a Tailor-bird at Saugor watch till the native tailor had left the verandah where he had been working, fly in, seize some pieces of the thread that were lying about, and go off in triumph with them; this was repeated in my presence several days running. I have known many different trees selected to build in; in gardens very often a guava-tree. The nest is generally built at from 2 to 4 feet above the ground. The eggs are two, three, or four in number, and in every case which I have seen were white spotted with reddish brown chiefly at the large end... Layard describes one nest made of cocoanut-fibre entirely, with a dozen leaves of oleander drawn and stitched together. I cannot call to recollection ever having seen a nest made with more than two leaves... Pennant gives the earliest, though somewhat erroneous, account of the nest. He says: 'The bird picks up a dead leaf and, surprising to relate, sews it to the side of a living one.'"
I have often seen nests made between many leaves, and I have seen plenty with a dead leaf stitched to a yet living one; but in these points my experience entirely coincides with that of Mr. A. Anderson, whose note I proceed to quote: "The dry leaves that are sometimes met with attached to the nest of this species, and which gave rise to the erroneous idea that the bird picks up a dead leaf and, surprising to relate, sews it to the side of a living one, are easily accounted for.
"I took a nest of the Tailor-bird a short time ago" (11th July, 1871) from a brinjal plant (Solanum esculentum), which had all the appearance of having had dry leaves attached to it. The nest originally consisted of three leaves, but two of them had been pierced (in the act of passing the thread through them) to excess, and had in consequence not only decayed, but actually separated from the stem of the plant. These decayed leaves were hanging from the side of the nest by a mere thread, and could have been removed with perfect safety. Perhaps instinct teaches the birds to injure certain leaves in order that they may decay?
"Jerdon says that he does not remember ever having seen a nest made with more than two leaves. I have found the nest of this species vary considerably in appearance, size, and in the number of leaves employed, and, I would also add, in the site selected, as well as in the markings of the eggs, which latter never exceed four in number.
"The nest already described was built hardly 2 feet off the ground, was rather clumsy and was composed of three leaves. The eggs were white, covered with brownish-pink blotches almost coalescing at the large end. Another nest, taken in my presence (July, again, which is the general time) from the very top of a high tree, was enclosed inside of one leaf, the sides being neatly sewn together, and the cavity at the bottom lined with wool, down, and horsehair. These eggs (four) are covered, chiefly at the larger ends, with minute red spots.
"A third nest seen by me was composed of seven or eight leaves".
Captain Hutton tells us that he has seen many nests. All were "composed of cotton, wool, vegetable fibre, and horsehair, formed in the shape of a deep cup or purse, enclosed between two long leaves, the edges of which were sewed to the sides of the nest, in a manner to support it, by threads spun by the bird."
He adds that the birds, though common at their bases, do not ascend the hills; but this is a mistake, for I have repeatedly taken nests at elevations of over 3000 feet; and Mr. Gammie, writing from Sikkim, says: "We often find nests of this species near my house at Mongphoo (which is at an elevation of about 3500 feet). I took one there on the 16th May, which contained four hard-set eggs. It was in a calicarpa tree and between two of its long ovate leaves, the terminal halves of which were sewn together by the edges, so as to form a purse in which the real nest was placed. Yellow silk of some wild silkworm was the sewing material used."
Again, writing from the Nilgiris, Miss Cockburn remarks: "The Tailor-bird is seldom met with on the highest ranges, but appears to prefer the warmer climates enjoyed at the elevation of about 3500 or 4000 feet. They often build in the coffee-trees; a nest now before me was built on a coffee-tree, two of the leaves of which were bent down and sewn together. The threads are of cobweb, and the cavity is lined with the down of seed-pods and fine grass. At the back of the nest the leaves are made to meet, but are a little apart in front, so as to form an opening for the birds to hop in and out. The depth of the nest inside is 2½ inches. It was found in the month of June, and contained four eggs, which were white spotted with light red."
Of its breeding in Nepal, Dr. Scully tells us: "It breeds freely in the valley at an elevation of 4500 feet. I took many of its nests in the Residency grounds, Rani Jangal, etc., in May, June, and July."
Major C. T. Bingham writes: "The Indian Tailor-bird breeds in April, May, and June, both at Allahabad and at Delhi. The nest formed of one, two, and occasionally three, leaves neatly sewn so as to form a cone, and lined with the down of the madar, is well known."
Colonel Butler has furnished me with the following note:
"The Tailor-bird breeds, I fancy, at least twice in the year, as I have seen young birds early in the hot weather both at Mount Abu and in Deesa, and I have also taken nests in the rains. The nest is usually constructed with much skill and ingenuity. One nest which I took on the 3rd September at Mount Abu consisted of three leaves cleverly sewn together with raw cotton, leaving a moderate-sized entrance on one side near the top, the inside being lined exclusively with horsehair and fine dry fibres.
"I captured the hen bird with a horsehair noose fixed to the end of a long thin rod as she left the nest. Another nest which I took in Deesa on the 3rd September, 1876, was composed almost entirely of raw cotton with a scanty lining of horsehairs and dry grass-stems. It was fixed to the outside twigs of a lime-tree, two of the leaves of which were sewn to it; two dead leaves were also attached to the nest, one being sewn on each side as a support to the cotton. It was cup-shaped and open at the top, much like a Chaffinch's nest."
Mr. Oates remarks: "This is a common bird in Burma in the plains, and possibly also on the hills, though I did not observe it on the latter. I found the nest of this species containing young birds in the Thayetmyo cantonment on the 12th August. In the Pegu plains it appears to nest from the middle of May to the end of August."
The eggs are typically long ovals, often tapering much towards the small end. The shells are very thin, delicate, and semi-transparent, and have but little gloss.
The ground-colour is either reddish white or pale bluish green. Of the two types, the reddish white is the more common in the proportion of two to one. The markings consist of bold blotchings or sometimes ill-defined clouds (in this respect recalling the eggs of Prinia inornata) chiefly confined to the large end; and specks, spots, and splashes, extending more or less over the whole surface, typically of a bright brownish red, varying, however, in different examples both in shade and intensity. The markings have a strong tendency to form a bold, irregular zone or cap at the large end, and in some specimens the markings are entirely confined to this portion of the egg's surface.
The eggs, which have a reddish-white ground, though smaller and of a much more elongated shape, closely resemble those of Suya fuliginosa. In length the eggs vary from 0·6 to 0·7, and in breadth from 0·45 to 0·5; but the average of fifty eggs measured is 0·64 by 0·46.
Orthotomus atrigularis, (Temm.), Hume, cat. no. 530 bis.
Mr. Mandelli sends me a nest which he assures me belongs to this species, and the bird he sent me for identification certainly did so belong. The nest was found near the great Ranjit River on the 18th July, and then contained three fresh eggs. The nest, which is a regular Tailor-bird's, composed entirely of the finest imaginable panicle-stems of flowering grass, is a deep cup placed in between two living leaves, which have been sewn together at the tips and along the margins from the tip for about half their length, so as to provide a perfect pocket in which the nest rests. The leaves of which the pocket is composed were the terminal ones of the twigs of a sapling, and only about 3 feet from the ground. The leaves are large oval ones, each about 7 inches in length; they have been sewn together with wild silk carefully knotted, exactly as is the practice of the common Tailor-bird.
The eggs of this species are not separable from others of O. sutorius, and though they may possibly average somewhat larger, I have not seen enough of them to be able to make sure of this; and as regards shape, colors, and markings the description given of the eggs of O. sutorius applies equally to eggs of this species.
This species was not known to Jerdon, nor was it known to occur in Burma at the time that I issued my Catalogue. Mr. Oates, writing of the breeding of this bird in Southern Pegu, where it is common, says: "Breeding operations commence in the middle of May; on the 28th of this month I found two nests, one containing four eggs slightly incubated, and the other two, quite fresh.
"The nest is a small bag about 4 inches in height and 2 or 3 in diameter, with an opening about an inch in diameter near the top. The general shape of the nest is oval. It is composed entirely of the white feathery flowers of the thatch-grass. The walls of the nest are very thin but strong. The nest is placed about one foot from the ground in a bunch of grass, and, in the two instances where I found it, against a weed, with one or two leaves of which the materials of the nest were slightly bound.
"The eggs are very glossy pale blue, spotted all over with large and small blotches of rusty brown. I have no eggs of C. cursitans which match them, in that species the spots being always minute and thickly scattered over the shell, whereas in O. volitans the marks are large and fewer in number. Six eggs measured in length from ·54 to ·57, and in breadth from ·42 to ·43."
Cisticola schoenicola, (Bp.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 174; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 539.
The Rufous Fantail-Warbler breeds pretty well all over India and Ceylon, confining itself, as far as my experience goes, to the low country, and never ascending the mountains to any great elevation. The breeding-season lasts, according to locality, from April to October, but it never breeds with us in dry weather, always laying during rainy months. Very likely at the Nicobars, where it rains pretty well all the year round, March being the only fairly dry month, it may breed at all seasons.
I have myself taken several, and have had a great many nests sent to me. With rare exceptions all belonged to one type. The bird selects a patch of dense fine-stemmed grass, from 18 inches to 2 feet in height, and, as a rule, standing in a moist place; in this, at the height of from 6 to 8 inches from the ground, the nest is constructed; the sides are formed by the blades and stems of the grass, in situ, closely tacked and caught together with cobwebs and very fine silky vegetable fibre. This is done for a length of from 2 to nearly 3 inches, and, as it were, a narrow tube, from 1 to 1·5 in diameter, formed in the grass. To this a bottom, from 4 to 6 inches above the surface of the ground, is added, a few of the blades of the grass being bent across, tacked and woven together with cobwebs and fine vegetable fibre. The whole interior is then closely felted with silky down, in Upper India usually that of the mudar (Calotropis hamiltoni). The nest thus constructed forms a deep and narrow purse, about 3 inches in depth, an inch in diameter at top, and 1·5 at the broadest part below. The tacking together of the stems of the grass is commonly continued a good deal higher up on one side than on the other, and it is through or between the untacked stems opposite to this that the tiny entrance exists. Of course above the nest the stems and blades of the grass, meeting together, completely hide it. The dimensions above given are those of the interior of the nest; its exterior dimensions cannot be given. The bird tacks together not merely the few stems absolutely necessary to form a side to the nest, but most of the stems all round, decreasing the extent of attachment as they recede from the nest-cavity. It does this, too, very irregularly; on one side of the nest perhaps no stem more than an inch distant from the interior surface of the nest will be found in any way bound up in the fabric, while on the opposite side perhaps stems fully 3 inches distant, together with all the intermediate ones, will be found more or less webbed together. Occasionally, but rarely, I have found a nest of a different type. Of these one was built amongst the stems of a common prickly labiate marsh-plant which has white and mauve flowers. There was a straggling framework of fine grass, firmly netted together with cobwebs, and a very scanty lining of down. The nest was egg-shaped, and the aperture on one side near the top. Mr. Brooks, I believe, once obtained a similar one; but the vast majority of the others that any of us have ever got have been of the type first described, which corresponds closely with Passler's account.
Five is the usual complement of eggs; at any rate I have notes of more than a dozen nests that contained this number, and in more than half the cases the eggs were partly incubated. I have no record of more than five, and though I have any number of notes of nests containing one, two, three, and four eggs, yet these latter in almost all these cases were fresh.
Mr. Blyth says that this species is "remarkable for the beautiful construction of its nest, sewing together a number of growing stems and leaves of grass, with a delicate pappus which forms also the lining, and laying four or five translucent white eggs, with reddish-brown spots, more numerous and forming a ring at the large end, very like those of Orthotomus sutorius. It abounds in suitable localities throughout the country."
I must here note that Mr. Blyth never paid special attention to eggs, or he would have hardly said this, because the character of the markings are essentially different. Those of the Tailor-bird are typically blotchy, of the present species speckly.
Colonel Legge writes to me from Ceylon that "in the Western Province it breeds from May until September, and constructs its nest either in paddy-fields or in guinea-grass plots attached to bungalows."
The nest is so beautiful and so neatly constructed that perhaps a short description of it will not be out of place. A framework of cotton or other fibrous material is formed round two or three upright stalks, about 2 feet from the ground, the material being sewn into the grass and passed from one stalk to the other until a complete net is made. This takes the bird from one to two days to construct*. Several blades, belonging to the stalks round which the cotton is passed, are then bent down and interlaced across to form a bottom on which, and inside the cotton network, a neat little nest of fine strips of grass torn off from the blade is built; this is most beautifully lined with cotton or other downy substance, which appears to be plastered with the saliva of the bird, until it takes the appearance and texture of soft felt.
*[Footnote A: Numbers of these birds used to build in a guinea-grass field attached to my bungalow at Colombo, and I had full opportunity of watching the construction of the nest on many occasions.--W.V.L.]
"The average dimensions of the interior or cup are 2 inches in depth by 1¼ in breadth. The whole structure is generally completed in about five days, and the first egg laid on the fifth or sixth day from the commencement. The number of eggs varies from two to four, most nests containing three. The time of incubation is, as a rule, from nine to eleven days.
"I have found but little variation in the eggs of this species either as regards size or colour. They are white or pale greenish white, spotted and blotched in a zone round the larger end with red and reddish grey, a few spots extending towards the point: axis 0·63 inch; diameter 0·51 inch. From close observation I can certify that this and many other small birds do not here sit during the daytime. I scarcely ever found a Cisticola on the nest between sunrise and sunset,"
Colonel E. A. Butler writing from Deesa says: "The Rufous Fantail-Warbler breeds in the plains during the monsoon, making a long bottle-shaped nest of silky-white vegetable down, with an entrance at the top, in a tuft of coarse grass a few inches from the ground. I have taken nests on the following dates:
"July 29, 1875. A nest containing 4 fresh eggs.
And he adds the following note: "Belgaum, 22nd July, 1879. Four fresh eggs. Same locality, numerous other nests in August and September."
Major C. T. Bingham notes: "I have not yet observed this bird at Delhi. At Allahabad I procured one nest in the beginning of March, shooting the birds. The nest was made of very fine dry grass, and contained four small white eggs, speckled thickly with minute points of brick-red. The average of the four eggs is 0·60 by 0·41 inch."
Mr. Cripps informs us that in Eastern Bengal this bird is very common and a permanent resident. Eggs are found from the beginning of May to the end of June, in grass-jungle almost on the ground. The nest is a deep cup, externally of fine grasses, internally of the downy tops of the sun-grass.
In the Deccan, Messrs. Davidson and Wenden state that it is "common in all grass-lands. It breeds in the rainy season."
Mr. Oates, writing on the breeding of this bird in Pegu, says: "The majority of birds begin laying at the commencement of June, and probably nests may be found throughout the rains. I procured a nest on the 2nd of November, a very late date I imagine. It contained four eggs."
I have taken the eggs of this bird myself on many occasions. I have had them sent me with the nest and bird by Mr. Brooks from Etawah, and Mr. F. R. Blewitt from Jhansi. From first to last I have seen fully fifty authentic eggs of this species. All were of one and the same type, and that type widely different from any one of those that Dr. Bree, following European ornithologists, figures. Dr. Bree's three figures all represent a perfectly spotless egg - one pink, the other bluish white, and the third a pretty dark bluish green. Our eggs, on the contrary, are spotted; the ground is white with, when fresh and unblown, a delicate pink hue, due not to the shell itself, but to its contents, which partially show through it. Occasionally the white ground has a faint greenish tinge.
Every egg is spotted, and most densely so towards the large end, with, as a rule, excessively minute red, reddish-purple, and pale purple specks, thus resembling, though smaller, more glossy, and far less densely speckled, the eggs of Franklinia buchanani. These are beyond all question the eggs of our Indian species, and the only type of them that I have yet observed; but the question remains - Is our Indian Prinia cursitans, (Franklin), really identical with the European C. schoenicola, (Bonaparte)?* - and this can only be settled by careful comparison of an enormous series of good specimens of each bird. For my part I personally have little doubts as to the identity of the two. At the same time differences in the eggs may indicate difference of species. Thus of the closely allied C. volitans, Swinhoe, the latter gentleman informs us that "the eggs of our bird vary from three to five, are thin and fragile, and of a pale clear greenish blue"**. He called it C. schoenicola when he wrote, but he really referred to the Formosan bird, which he has since separated.
*[The Indian and European birds are now generally allowed to be perfectly identical, notwithstanding the alleged difference in the colour of the eggs; and Mr. Hume is now, I think, of this opinion.--ED.]
**[But C. volitans, or the closely allied race which occurs in Pegu, assuredly lays spotted eggs. I found two nests of this bird, both with spotted eggs vide (p. 236).--ED.]
The eggs of course vary somewhat. Of one nest I wrote at the time I found it "The eggs are a rather short oval, slightly pointed at one end, with a white ground, thickly sprinkled with numerous specks and tiny spots of pale brownish red. They measured ·58 by ·46." Of another I say "The ground had a faint pearly tinge, and there was a well-marked, though, irregular and ill-defined, zone towards the large end, formed by the agglomeration there of multitudinous specks, which in places were almost confluent." Of another set "The eggs were much glossier and had a china-white ground; but instead of a multitude of small specks over the whole surface, they had nearly the whole coloring-matter gathered together at the large end in a cap of bold, almost maroon-red spots, only a very few spots of the same colour being scattered over the rest of the egg."
The eggs measure from ·53 to ·62 in length, and from ·43 to ·48 in breadth; but the average dimensions of a large number measured were ·59 by ·46.
Prinia gracilis, (Frankl.) Jerdon B. Ind. ii. p. 172; Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E. no. 536.
I have never myself succeeded in finding a nest of Franklin's Wren-Warbler, but my friend Mr. F. R. Blewitt has sent me no less than forty nests and eggs, with the parents; so that, although the eggs belong to two, I might even say three, very different types, I entertain no doubt that he is correct in assigning them to the same species, the more so as, although the eggs vary, the nests are identical. He has sent me several notes in regard to this species. He says: "On the 1st July, three miles south of the village of Doongurgurh in the Raipoor District, I found a nest of Franklin's Wren-Warbler, containing three fresh eggs. It was on rocky ground between a footpath and a water-course, about 2 feet from the ground, and firmly sewn to a single leaf of a murori plant. The nest was constructed exclusively of very fine grass, with spiders' web affixed in places to the exterior. It was somewhat cup-shaped, 3·3 inches in depth and 2·4 in breadth externally. The egg-cavity was about 1·4 in diameter, and about the same depth. The eggs were a delicate pale unspotted blue.
"About 100 yards from the first, a second precisely similar, and similarly situated, nest of this same species was found, which contained three hard-set eggs, exactly similar in shape, texture, and ground-colour to those in the first nest, but everywhere excessively finely and thickly speckled with red, the specks exhibiting a strong tendency to coalesce in a zone round the large end.
"On the 12th and 13th July we obtained ten nests of Franklin's Wren-Warbler, all in the neighborhood of Doongurgurh. From what I have seen, I gather that this species breeds from the middle of June to the middle of August in this part of the country. They appear to resort to tracts at some little elevation, where the murori and kydia bushes are abundant, and where grass grows rapidly in the early part of the rains. The nests, very ingeniously made, are invariably sewn to one or two leaves in the centre of one of the above-named bushes, the entrance above, just as in the nest of an Orthotomus. They are placed at heights of from a foot to 3 feet from the ground. Fine grass, vegetable fibres, and other soft materials are chiefly used in their construction, a little cobweb being often added. The eggs are laid daily, and four is the normal number, though three hard-set ones are sometimes found. The nest is prepared annually. As far as I know they have only one brood. Both parents unite in building the nest and in hatching and feeding the young.
"Of the ten nests now taken four contained speckled and six unspeckled eggs. The two types are never found in the same nest. I send all the nests, eggs, and birds."
Dr. Jerdon says: "I found the nest of this species at Saugor, very like that of the Tailor-bird but smaller, made of cotton, wool, and various soft vegetable fibres, and occasionally bits of cloth, and I invariably found it sewn to one leaf of the kydia, so common in the jungles there. The eggs were pale blue, with some brown or reddish spots often rarely visible."
Colonel E. A. Butler writes from Deesa:
"July 26, 1876. A nest containing 3 fresh eggs.
"All of the above nests were exactly alike, being composed of fine dry grass without any lining, felted here and there exteriorly with small lumps of woolly vegetable down, and built between two leaves carefully sewn to the nest in the same way as the nests of Orthotomus sutorius. The eggs, three or four in number, are white, sparingly speckled with light reddish chestnut, with a cap more or less dense of the same markings at the large end. All of the eggs in the above-mentioned nests were of this type. I found the nests in a grass Beerh near Deesa, studded over with low ber bushes (Zizyphus jujuba), generally about 2 or 3 feet from the ground, and in similar situations to those selected by Prinia socialis, often amongst dry nullahs overgrown with low bushes and long grass."
Mr. Vidal notes in his list of the Birds of the South Konkan: "Common in mangrove-swamps, reeds, hedgerows, thickets, and bush-jungle throughout the district. Breeds during the rainy months."
Mr. Oates writes from Pegu: "Nest with three fresh eggs on the 19th August; no details appear necessary except the colour of the eggs, since this bird appears to lay two kinds of eggs. My eggs are very glossy, of a light blue speckled with minute dots of reddish brown, more thickly so at the large end than elsewhere."
The nests sent by Mr. Blewitt are regular Tailor-birds' nests, composed chiefly of very fine grass, about the thickness of fine human hair, with no special lining, carefully sewn with cobwebs, silk from cocoons, or wool, into one or two leaves, which often completely envelop it, so as to leave no portion of the true nest visible.
The eggs belong to at least two very distinct types. Both are typically rather slender ovals, a good deal compressed towards one end; but in both somewhat broader and more or less pyriform varieties occur. In both the shell is exquisitely fine and glossy; in some specimens it is excessively glossy. In both the ground-colour is a very delicate pale greenish blue, occasionally so pale that the ground is all but white - in one type entirely unspeckled and unspotted, in the other finely and thickly speckled everywhere, and towards the large end more or less spotted, with brownish or purplish red. The markings are densest towards the large end, where they either actually form, or exhibit a strong tendency to form, a more or less conspicuous speckled, semi-confluent zone.
Out of fifty-six eggs, twenty-one belong to the latter type. As in Dicrurus ater, the two types never appear to be found in the same nest; but the nests in which the two types are found are precisely similar, and the parent birds are identical.
In length the eggs vary from 0·53 to 0·62, and in width from 0·4 to 0·45; but the average of fifty-six eggs is 0·58 by 0·42. There is no difference whatever in the size of the two types.
Prinia beavani, (Wald.), Hume, cat. no. 538 bis.
Mr. Oates, who found the nest of this Warbler in Pegu, says: "June 29th. Found a nest sewn into a broad soft leaf of a weed in forest about 2 feet from the ground. The edges of the leaf are drawn together and fastened by white vegetable fibres. The nest is composed entirely of fine grass, no other material entering into its composition. For further security the nest is stitched to the leaves in a few places; the depth of the nest is about 3 inches, and internal diameter all the way down about 1½. Eggs three, very glossy, pale blue, with specks and dashes of pale reddish brown, chiefly at the larger end, where they form a cap. Size ·58, ·62, ·61, by ·47."
Mr. Mandelli sends me a regular Tailor-bird's nest as that of this species. It was found below Yendong in Native Sikkim on the 1st May, and contained three fresh eggs. The nest itself is a beautiful little cup, composed of silky vegetable down and excessively fine grass-stems, and a very little black hair firmly felted together, and is placed between two living leaves of a sapling neatly sewn together at the margins with bright yellow silk.
The eggs are rather elongated, very regular ovals. The shell stout for the size of the egg, but very fine and compact, and with a moderate gloss. The ground-colour is a very delicate pale greenish blue. At or round the larger end there is very generally a mottled cap or zone (more commonly the latter) of duller or brighter brownish red, while irregular blotches, streaks, spots, and specks of the same colour, but usually a slightly paler shade, are more or less sparsely scattered over the rest of the surface of the egg, sometimes they are almost wholly wanting. Occasionally the zone is at the small end.
The eggs measure from 0·60 to 0·62 in length, by 0·43 to 0·48 in breadth; but the average of six eggs is 0·61 by 0·45.
Franklinia buchanani (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 186; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 551.
The Rufous-fronted Wren-Warbler breeds throughout Central India, the Central Provinces, the North-western Provinces, the Punjab, and Rajpootana. It affects chiefly the drier and warmer tracts, and, though said to have been obtained in the Nepal Terai, has never been met with by me either there or in any very moist, swampy locality. The breeding-season extends from the end of May until the beginning of September.
The nests, according to my experience, are always placed at heights of from a foot to 4 feet from the ground, in low scrub-jungle or bushes. They vary greatly in size and shape, according to position. Some are oblate spheroids with the aperture near the top, some are purse-like and suspended, and some are regular cups. One of the former description measured externally 5 inches in diameter one way by 3¼ inches the other. One of the suspended nests was 7 inches long by 3 wide, and one of the cup-shaped nests was nearly 4 inches in diameter and stood, perhaps, at most 2½ inches high. The egg-cavity in the different nests varies from 1¾ to 2¼ inches in diameter, and from less than 2 to fully 3 inches in depth. Externally the nest is very loosely and, generally, raggedly constructed of very fine grass-stems and tow-like vegetable fibre used in different proportions in different nests; those in which grass is chiefly used being most ragged and straggling, and those in which most vegetable fibre has been made use of being neatest and most compact. In all the nests that I have seen the egg-cavity has been lined with something very soft. In many of the nests the lining is composed of small felt-like pieces of some dull salmon-colored fungus, with which the whole interior is closely plastered; in others there is a dense lining of soft silky vegetable down; and in others the down and fungus are mingled. They lay from four to five eggs, never more than this latter number according to my experience.
"At the end of June 1867," writes Mr. Brooks, "I took two nests of this bird at Chunar in low ber bushes about 2 feet from the ground. They were little spheres of fine grass with a hole at the side. One contained four eggs; these were of a greyish-white ground or nearly pure white, finely speckled over with reddish brown, some of the eggs exhibiting a tendency to form a zone round the large end, and others with a complete zone."
"At Sambhur," Mr. Adam says, "this Wren-Warbler is always found wherever there are low bushes. It breeds just before the rains, but I have not recorded the date. I had a nest with the bird and five eggs sent to me. The eggs are pale bluish white, with reddish-brown spots and freckles all over them."
"During July, August, and the early part of September," remarks Mr. W Blewitt, "I found a great number of the nests and eggs of this bird in the jungle-preserves of Hansi and its neighborhood. The nests, of which I have already sent you several, were mostly in ber (Zizyphus jujuba) and hinse (Capparis aphylla) bushes, at heights of from 3 to 4 feet from the ground. Five was the largest number of eggs that I found in any one nest."
Major C. T. Bingham remarks: "I found several nests of this bird in the beginning of October at Delhi in the jherberry bushes so plentiful on the Ridge. Both nests and eggs are very like those of Cisticola cursitans before described; the only difference I could find was that the entrance in the nest of C. cursitans that I found was at the top, and in all the nests of F. buchanani at the side rather low down; the nests of the latter are also firmer and more globular in shape. The eggs are, to my eye, identical in colour and form."
Mr. G. Reid informs us that at Lucknow it is fairly common and a permanent resident. It makes an oblong, loosely constructed nest with the aperture near the top, and lays three or four white eggs minutely spotted with dingy red.
Mr. J. Davidson writes that in Western Khandeish this Warbler is the commonest bird, breeding about Dhulia in July, August, and September.
Colonel E. A. Butler writes: "I found a nest of the Rufous-fronted Wren-Warbler at Deesa on the 27th July, 1875. It was in a grass beerh, and placed in a heap of dead thorns overgrown with grass and about a foot from the ground. It was composed externally of dry grass-stems, with lumps of silky white vegetable down (Calotropis) scattered sparingly over the whole nest. The lining consisted of very fine dry grass neatly put together and felted with silky down, and a considerable amount of the dull salmon-colored fungus or lichen referred to in the 'Rough Draft of Nests and Eggs,' p. 359. In shape the nest is nearly spherical, being slightly oval however, with a small aperture near the top. The entrance was 1½ inches in diameter, and the nest itself roughly measured from the outside 4½ inches in length and 4 in width. The eggs, usually four in number, are white, closely speckled over with pale rusty red, intermingled with a few pale washed-out inky markings, in some cases at the large end, which is surrounded by a zone clear and well-marked in some instances, less distinct in others. I found other nests in the same neighborhood as below:--
"Aug. 24, 1875. A nest containing 4 fresh eggs.
"In every one of the above instances the nest was exactly similar to the one I have described, and built in the same kind of situation, i.e. in heaps of dead thorns overgrown with long grass. The eggs are all much the same, the spots being larger in some than in others and more numerous in some cases than in others. In one set I have the ground is very pale bluish white (skimmed milk) instead of being pure white. As a rule the eggs are almost exactly like the eggs of C. cursitans, and if mixed I doubt very much if any person could separate them. On examining the salmon-colored fungus-lining it appears to me to be nothing more nor less than small pieces of dried ber leaves, and I have never examined a nest without finding some of this material at the bottom of it."
"The Rufous-fronted Wren-Warbler," writes Lieut. Barnes, "breeds in Rajpootana during July, August, and the early part of September. The nest, composed of grass, is loosely constructed, and placed in low bushes or scrub."
The eggs vary somewhat in size and shape; a moderately broad oval, slightly compressed towards the larger end, being, however, the commonest type. Examining a large series, it appears that variations from this type are more commonly of an elongated than a spherical form. The eggs are of the same character as those of Cisticola cursitans but yet differ somewhat. The eggs are many of them fairly glossy, the shells very delicate and fragile; the ground-colour white, usually slightly greyish, but in some specimens faintly tinged with very pale green or pink. Typically they are very thickly and very finely speckled all over with somewhat dingy red or purplish red. In three out of four eggs the markings are densest and largest towards the large end; and, to judge from the large series before me, at least one in four exhibits a more or less well-defined mottled zone or cap at this end, formed by the partial confluence of multitudinous specks.
In some specimens the markings are pale inky purple, and in some slightly purplish brown, but these are abnormal varieties. In one or two eggs fairly-sized spots and blotches are intermingled with the minute specklings, but this also is rare. Of course in different specimens the density of the speckling varies greatly: in some eggs not a fifth of the surface is covered with the markings, while in some it appears as if there were more of these than of the ground-colour.
In length the eggs vary from 0·55 to 0·66, and in breadth from 0·43 to 0·52; but the average of eighty-seven eggs is 0·62 by 0·48.
Prinia cinereocapilla, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 172; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 537.
Captain Hutton says*: "In this species the structure of the nest is somewhat coarser than in P. stewarti, and it is more loosely put together, but like that species it is also a true Tailor-bird.
*[I reproduce this note as it appeared in the 'Rough Draft,' but I have no faith in the identification of this rare bird by Capt Hutton. Mr. Hume is apparently of the same opinion, as he does not quote the Dhoon as one of the localities in which, this species occurs (S.F. ix, p. 286). It may be well, however, to point out that Mr. Brooks procured this species at Dhunda, in the Bhagirati valley, so that it is not unlikely to occur in the Dhoon.--ED.]
"In the specimen before me two large leaves are stitched together at the edges, and between these rests the cup-shaped nest composed of grass-stalks and fine roots, as in P. stewarti, and without any lining, while, being more completely surrounded by or enfolded in the leaves, the cottony seed-down which binds together the fibres in the others is here dispensed with.
"The eggs were three in number, of a pale bluish hue, irrorated with specks of rufous-brown, and chiefly so at the larger end, where they form an ill-defined ring. The eggs measured 0·62 by 0·44.
"The nest was found hanging on a large-leafed annual shrub growing in
the Dhoon, and was placed about 2 feet from the ground. It was taken on 22nd July."