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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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Order PASSERES     Family SYLVIIDAE   (continued...)
 

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386. Laticilla burnesi (Blyth). Long-tailed Grass-Warbler
    Eurycercus burnesii, (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 74.

Mr. S. B. Doig appears to be the only ornithologist who has found the nest of the Long-tailed Grass-Warbler. Writing of the Eastern Narra District, in Sind, he says:

"This bird is in certain localities very numerous, but invariably confines itself to dense thickets of revel and tamarisk jungle. The discovery of my first nest was as follows:

"On the 13th March, while closely searching some thick grass along the banks of a small canal, I heard a peculiar twittering which I did not recognize. After standing perfectly still for a short while, I at length caught sight of the bird, which I at once identified as L burnesi. Leaving the bed of the canal in which I was walking and making a slight detour, I came suddenly over the spoil-bank of the canal on to the place where the bird had been calling. My sudden appearance caused the bird to get very excited, and it kept on twittering, approaching me at one time until quite close and then going away again a short distance; I at once began searching for its nest, and out of the first tussock of grass I touched, close to where I was standing, flew the female, who joined her mate, after which both birds kept up a continuous and angry twittering. On opening out the grass, I found the nest with three fresh eggs in it, placed right in the centre of the tuft and close to the ground. The eggs were of a pale green ground-colour, covered with large irregular blotches of purplish brown, and not very unlike some of the eggs of Passer flavicollis. After this I found several nests, but they were all building, and were one and all deserted, though in many instances I never touched the nest, often never saw it, as on seeing the birds flying in and out of the grass with building material in their bills I left the place and returned in ten days' time, but only to find the nest deserted. In one case where a single egg had been laid, I found that the bird before deserting the nest had broken the egg. In July I again got a nest and shot the parent birds; the eggs in this nest were quite of a different type, being of a very pale cream ground-colour, with large rusty blotches, principally confined to the larger end. The nests of this bird are composed of coarse grass, the inside being composed of the finer parts; they are 4 to 5 inches external diameter and 2 inches internal diameter, the cavity being about 1 inches deep. The months in which they breed are, as far as I at present know, March, June, and September. The eggs vary in size from 65 to 80 in length and from 50 to 55 in breadth. The average of seven eggs is 72 in length and 54 in breadth."

The eggs of this species vary somewhat in size and shape, but they are typically regular rather elongated ovals, rather obtuse at both ends, and often slightly compressed towards the small end. The shell is fine and compact and has a slight gloss; the ground-colour is sometimes greenish white, sometimes faintly creamy. The eggs are generally pretty thickly and finely speckled and scratched all over, and besides the fine markings there are a greater or smaller number of more or less large irregular blotches and splashes, chiefly confined to the large end. These markings, large and small, are brown, very variable in shade, in some eggs reddish, in some chocolate, in some raw sienna, etc. Besides these primary markings most eggs exhibit a number of paler subsurface secondary markings, varying in colour from sepia to lavender or pale purple; these are mostly confined to the large end (though tiny spots of the same tint occur occasionally on all parts of the egg), where with the large blotches they often form a more or less conspicuous and more or less confluent but always ill-defined zone or even cap. Here and there an egg absolutely wants the larger blotches, but even in such cases the specklings are more crowded about the large end, and these with the lilac clouds still combine to indicate a sort of zone.

The eggs I possess of this species, sent me by Mr. Doig, vary from 071 to 081 in length by 052 to 059 in breadth; but the average of seven eggs is 072 by 055.


388. Graminicola bengalensis, Jerdon Large Grass-Warbler

Graminicola bengalensis, (Jerdon) B. Ind. ii, p. 177.
Drymoica bengalensis (Jerdon), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 542.

Long ago Colonel Tytler gave me the following note on this species: "I shot these birds at Dacca in 1852, and sent a description and a drawing of them to Mr. Blyth. They were named after my esteemed friend Jules Verreaux, of Paris. They are not uncommon at Dacca in grass-jungle. I think the bird Dr. Jerdon gives in his 'Birds of India' as Graminicola bengalensis, No. 542, p. 177, vol. ii., is meant for this species. The genus Graminicola, under which he places this bird, appears to be a genus of Dr. Jerdon's own, for it is not in Gray's 'Genera and Subgenera of Birds in the British Museum,' printed in 1855. If it is the same bird as Dr. Jerdon's, then my name, which I communicated in 1851-52 not only to Mr. Blyth but also to Prince Bonaparte and M. Jules Verreaux, and which was published in my Fauna of Dacca, has, it seems to me, the priority."

The birds are identical. Jerdon gave me one of his Cachar specimens, and I compared it with Tytler's types, and certainly Tytler's name was published ten years before Jerdon's (vide Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist., Sept. 1854, p. 176); but no description was published, and I fear therefore that the name given by Colonel Tytler cannot be maintained, unless indeed, which I have been unable to ascertain, either Bonaparte or Verreaux figured or described the specimens Tytler sent them in some French work.

I have only one supposed nest of this species, brought me from Dacca by a native collector who worked there for me under Mr. F. B. Simson. He did not take it himself; it was brought to him with one of the parent birds by a shikari. The evidence is, therefore, very bad, but I give the facts for what they are worth.

The nest is a rather massive and deep cup, the lower portion prolonged downwards so as to form a short truncated cone. It is fixed between three reeds, is constructed of sedge and vegetable fibre firmly wound together and round the reeds, and is lined with fine grass-roots. It measures externally 5 inches in height and nearly 4 inches in diameter, measuring outside the reeds which are incorporated in the outer surface of the nest. The cavity is about 2 inches in diameter and nearly 2 inches deep. It contained four eggs, hard-set; only one could be preserved, and that was broken in bringing up-country; so I could not measure it, but the shell was a sort of pale greenish grey or dull greenish white, rather thickly but very faintly speckled and spotted with very dull purplish and reddish brown, with some grey spots intermingled. The nest was obtained between the middle of July and the middle of August. I note that the eggs were on the point of hatching, so that the fresh egg would probably be somewhat brighter colored.


 

389. Megalurus palustris, Horsf. Striated Marsh-Warbler

Megalurus palustris, (Horsf.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 70; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 440.

Nothing has hitherto been recorded of the nidification of the Striated Marsh-Warbler, although it has a very wide distribution and is very common in suitable localities. The Striated Marsh-Babbler, as Jerdon calls it, has nothing of the Babbler in it. It rises perpendicularly out of the reeds, sings rather screechingly while in the air, and descends suddenly. It has much more of a song than any of the Babblers, a much stronger flight, and its sudden, upward, towering flight and equally sudden descent are unlike anything seen amongst the Babblers.

Mr. E. C. Nunn procured the nest and an egg of this species (which along with the parent birds he kindly forwarded to me) at Hoshungabad on the 4th May, 1868. The nest was round, composed of dry grass, and situated in a cluster of reeds between two rocks in the bed of the Nerbudda (Narmada?). It contained a single fresh egg.

Writing from Wau, in the Pegu District, Mr. Oates remarks: "I found a nest on the 19th May containing four eggs recently laid. The female flew off only at the last moment, when my pony was about to tread on the tuft of grass she had selected for her home.

"The nest was placed in a small but very dense grass-tuft about a foot above the ground. It was made entirely of coarse grasses, and assimilated well with the dry and entangled stems among which it lay. The nest was very deep and purse-shaped. It was about 8 inches in total height at the back, and some 2 inches lower in front, the upper part of the purse being as it were cut off slantingly, and thus leaving an entrance which was more or less circular. The width is 6 inches, and the breadth from front to back 4 inches. The interior is smooth, lined with somewhat finer grass, and measures 4 inches in depth by 3 inches from side to side, and by 2 inches from front to back.

"Megalurus palustris is very common throughout the large plains lying between the Pegu and Sittang Rivers. At the end of May they were all breeding. The nest is, however, difficult to find, owing to the vast extent of favorable ground suited to its habits. Every yard of the land produces a clump of grass likely enough to hold a nest, and as the female sits still till the nest is actually touched, it becomes a difficult and laborious task to find the nest."

He subsequently remarks: "May seems to be the month in which these birds lay here. The nest is very often placed on the ground under the shelter of some grass-tuft."

Mr. Cockburn writes to me: "I found a nest of this bird on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, near Sadija. One of the birds darted off the nest a foot or two from me in an excited way, which led me to search. The nest was almost a perfect oval, with a slice taken off at the top on one side, built in a clump of grass, and only 9 or 10 inches from the ground. It was made of sarpat-grass, and lined internally with finer grasses. The grass had a bleached and washed-out appearance, while the clump was quite green. This was on the 29th May. I noticed at the same time that the nest was not interwoven with the living grass. I removed it easily with the hand."

Mr. Cripps says: "They breed in April and May in the Dibrugarh district, placing their deep cup-shaped nests in tussocks of grass wherever it is swampy, in some instances the bottoms of the nests being wet. Four seems to be the greatest number of eggs in a nest."

The eggs are much the same shape and size as those of Acrocephalus stentoreus. They have a dead-white ground, thickly speckled and spotted with blackish and purplish brown, and have but a slight gloss; the speckling, everywhere thick, is generally densest at the large end, and there chiefly do spots, as big as an ordinary pin's head, occur. At the large end, besides these specklings, there is a cloudy, dull, irregular cap, or else isolated patches, of very pale inky purple, which more or less obscure the ground-colour. In the peculiar speckly character of the markings these eggs recall doubtless some specimens of the eggs of the different Bulbuls, but their natural affinities seem to be with those of the Acrocephalinae.

The eggs vary from 08 to 097 in length, and from 061 to 069 in breadth; but the average of twelve eggs is 085 by 064.


390. Schoenicola platyura (Jerdon). Broad-tailed Grass-Warbler

Schoenicola platyura (Jerdon), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 73.

Colonel E. A. Butler discovered the nest of the Broad-tailed Grass-Warbler at Belgaum. He writes:

"On the 1st September, 1880, I shot a pair of these birds as they rose out of some long grass by the side of a rice-field; and, thinking there might be a nest, I commenced a diligent search, which resulted in my finding one. It consisted of a good-sized ball of coarse blades of dry grass, with an entrance on one side, and was built in long grass about a foot from the ground. Though it was apparently finished, there were unfortunately no eggs, but dissection of the hen proved that she would have laid in a day or two. On the 10th instant I found another nest exactly similar, built in a tussock of coarse grass, near the same place; but this was subsequently deserted without the bird laying. On the 19th September I went in the early morning to the same patch of grass and watched another pair, soon seeing the hen disappear amongst some thick tussocks. On my approaching the spot she flew off the nest, which contained four eggs much incubated. The nest was precisely similar to the others, but with the entrance-hole perhaps rather nearer the top, though still on one side. The situation in the grass was the same - in fact it was very similar in every respect to the nest of Drymoeca insignis. The eggs are very like those of Molpastes haemorrhous, but smaller, having a purplish-white ground, sprinkled all over with numerous small specks and spots of purple and purplish brown, with a cap of the same at the large end, underlaid with inky lilac.

"These birds closely resemble Chaetornis striatus in their actions and habits, and in the breeding-season rise constantly into the air, chirruping like that species, and descending afterwards in the same way on to some low bush or tussock of grass, sometimes even on to the telegraph-wires. They are fearful little skulks, however, if you attempt to pursue them, and the moment you approach disappear into the grass like a shot, from whence it is almost impossible to flush them again unless you all but tread on them. It is perfectly marvelous the way they will hide themselves in a patch of grass when they have once taken refuge in it; and although you may know within a yard or two of where the bird is, you may search for half an hour without finding it. If you shoot at them and miss, they drop to the shot into the grass as if killed, and nothing will dissuade you from the belief that they are so until, after a long search, the little beast gets up exactly where you have been hunting all along, from almost under your feet, and darts off to disappear, after another short flight of fifteen or twenty yards, in another patch of grass, from whence you may again try in vain to dislodge it."

The eggs of this species, though much smaller, are precisely of the same type as those of Megalurus palustris and Chaetornis striatus; moderately broad ovals with a very fine compact shell, with but little gloss, though perhaps rather more of this than in either of the species above referred to. The ground-colour is white, with perhaps a faint pinkish shade, and it is profusely speckled and spotted with brownish red, almost black in some spots, more chestnut in others. Here and there a few larger spots or small irregular blotches occur. Besides these markings, clouds, streaks, and tiny spots of grey or lavender-grey occur, chiefly about the large end, where, with the markings (often more numerous there than elsewhere), they form at times a more or less confluent but irregular and ill-defined cap.

One egg measured 073 by 06.


391. Acanthoptila nepalensis (Hodgson). Spiny Warbler

Acanthoptila nipalensis (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p 57.
Acanthoptila pellotis, (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 431 bis.

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes and figures, this species builds, in a fork of a tree, a very loose, shallow grass nest. One is recorded to have measured 487 in diameter and 175 in height externally, and internally 337 in diameter and an inch in depth. The eggs are verditer-blue, and are figured as 11 by 065.

I may here note that Acanthoptila pellotis and A. leucotis are totally distinct, as Mr. Hodgson's figures clearly show. Hodgson published A. leucotis apparently under the name of A. nipalensis, so that the two will stand as A. pellotis and A. nipalensis.*

*[I do not agree with. Mr. Hume on this point. It seems to me that this bird has both a summer and a winter plumage, and Hodgson's two names refer to one and the same bird.--ED.]


392. Chaetornis locustelloides (Blyth). Bristled Grass-Warbler

Chaetornis striatus (Jerdon), Jerdon. B. Ind. ii. p. 72; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 441.

Dr. Jerdon remarks that Mr. Blyth mentions that the nest of the Grass-Babbler, as he calls it, nearly accords with that of Malacocercus, and that the eggs are blue. I cannot find the passage in which Blyth states this, and I cannot help doubting its correctness. This bird, like the preceding, is not a bit of a Babbler. I have often watched them in Lower Bengal amongst comparatively low grass and rush along the margins of ponds and jheels, not, as a rule, affecting high reed or seeking to conceal themselves, but showing themselves freely enough, and with a song and flight wholly unlike that of any Babbler.

They are very restless, soaring about and singing a monotonous song of two notes, somewhat resembling that of a Pipit, but clear and loud. They do not soar in one spot like a Sky-Lark, as Jerdon says, but rise to the height of from 30 to 50 yards, fly rapidly right and left, over perhaps one fourth of a mile, and then suddenly drop on to the top of some little bush or other convenient post, and there continue their song.

Mr. Brooks remarks: "On the 28th August, 1869, I observed at the side of the railway, at Jheenjuck Jheel, on the borders of the Etawah and Kanpur Districts, several pairs of Chaetornis. A good part of the jheel was covered with grass about 18 inches high, and to this they appeared partial, though occasionally I found them among the long reeds. The part of the jheel where they were found was drier than the rest, there being only about an inch of water in places, while other portions were quite dry.

"I noticed the bird singing while seated on a bush or large clump of grass, and sometimes it perched on the telegraph-wires alongside of the line of railway, continuing its song while perched. By habits and song it seems more nearly allied to the Pipits than the Babblers. Males shot early in September were obviously breeding, and a female shot on the 13th of that month contained a nearly full-sized egg."

It does not do to be too positive, but I should be inclined to believe that the eggs are not uniform colored, blue and glossy like a Babbler's, but dull, dead, or greenish white, with numerous small specks and spots*.

*[The discovery of this bird's eggs has proved Mr. Hume to be right in his conjecture.--ED.]

Colonel E. A. Butler, who was the first to discover the eggs of the Bristled Grass-Warbler, writes:

"The Grass-Babbler is not uncommon about Deesa in the rains, at which season it breeds. I found a nest containing four eggs on the 18th August, 1876. It consisted of a round ball of dry grass with a circular entrance on one side, near the top, was placed on the ground in the centre of a low scrubby bush in a grass Bheerh, and when the hen-bird flew off, which was not until I almost put my foot on the nest, I mistook her for Argya caudata. On looking, however, into the bush, I saw at once by the eggs that it was a species new to me. I left the spot and returned again in about an hour's time, when, to my disappointment, I found that three of the eggs had hatched. The fourth egg being stale, I took it and added it to my collection. The eggs are about the size of the eggs of A. caudata, but in colour very like those of Franklinia buchanani, namely, white, speckled all over with reddish brown and pale lavender, most densely at the large end. This bird has a peculiar habit in the breeding-season of rising suddenly into the air and soaring about, often for a considerable distance, uttering a loud note resembling the words 'chirrup, chirrup-chirrup,' repeated all the time the bird is in the air, and then suddenly descending slowly into the grass with outspread wings, much in the style of Mirafra erythroptera. This bird is so similar in appearance, when flying and hopping about in the long grass, to A. caudata, that I have no doubt it is often mistaken for that species. I have invariably found it during the rains in grass Bheerhs overgrown with low thorny bushes (Zizyphus jujuba, etc.). Whether it remains the whole year round I cannot say; at all events, if it does, its close resemblance to A. caudata enables it to escape notice at other seasons."

Mr. Cripps, writing from Fureedpore, says: "Very common in long grass fields. Permanent resident. It utters its soft notes while on the wing, not only in the cold season but the year through; it is very noisy during the breeding-time. Breeds in clumps of grass a few inches above as well as on the ground. I found five nests in the month of May from 23rd to 28th: one was on the ground in a field of indigo; the rest were in clumps of 'sone' grass and from the same field composed of this grass. One nest contained three half-fledged young, and the rest had four eggs slightly incubated in each. Although they nest in 'sone' grass which is rarely over three feet in height, it is very difficult to find the nest, as the grass generally overhangs and hides it. Only when the bird rises almost from your feet are you able to discover the whereabouts. On several occasions I have noticed this species perching on bushes."

The eggs, which, to judge from a large series sent me by Mr. Cripps, do not appear to vary much in shape, are moderately broad ovals, more or less pointed towards one end. The shell is fine and fragile but entirely devoid of gloss; the ground-colour is white with a very faint pinky or lilac tinge, and they are thickly speckled all over with minute markings of two different shades - the one a sort of purplish brown (they are so small that it is difficult to make certain of the exact colour), and the other inky purple or grey. In most eggs the markings are most dense at or about the large end, and occasionally a spot may be met with larger than the rest, as big as a pin's head say, and some of these seem to have a reddish tinge, while some are more of a sepia.

The eggs vary from 075 to 086 in length and from 059 to 062 in breadth, but the average of twelve eggs is almost exactly 08 by 06.


394. Hypolais rama (Sykes). Sykes's Tree-Warbler

Phyllopneuste rama (Sykes), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 189.
Iduna caligata, (Licht.), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 553.

I have never myself obtained the nest and eggs of Sykes's Tree-Warbler, P. rama, apud Jerd.* On the 1st April, at Etawah, my friend Mr. Brooks shot a male of this species off a nest; and I saw the bird, nest, and eggs within an hour, and visited the spot later. The nest was placed in a low thorny bush, about a foot from the ground, on the side of a sloping bank in one of the large dry ravines that in the Etawah District fringe the River Junina for a breadth of from a mile to four miles. The nest was nearly egg-shaped, with a circular entrance near the top. It was loosely woven with coarse and fine grass, and a little of the fibre of the "sun" (Crotalaria juncea), and very neatly felted on the whole interior surface of the lower two thirds with a compact coating of the down of flowering-grasses and little bits of spider's web. It was about 5 inches in its longest and 3 inches in its shortest diameter. It contained three fresh eggs, which were white, very thickly speckled with brownish pink, in places confluent and having a decided tendency to form a zone near the large end. Three or four days later we shot the female at the same spot.

*[I reproduce the note on this bird as it appeared in the 'Rough Draft,' but I think some mistake has been made, as Mr. Hume himself suggests. Full reliance, however, may be placed on Mr. Doig's note, which is a most interesting contribution.--ED]

A similar nest and two eggs, taken in Jhansi on the 12th August, were sent me with one of the parent birds by Mr. F. R. Blewitt, and, again, another nest with four eggs was sent me from Hoshungabad.

There ought to be no doubt about these nests and eggs, the more so that I have several specimens of the bird from various parts of the North-Western Provinces and Central Provinces killed in August and September, but somehow I do not feel quite certain that we have not made some mistake. Beyond doubt the great mass of this species migrate and breed further north. I have never obtained specimens in June or July; and if these nests really, as the evidence seems to show, belonged to the birds that were shot on or near them, these latter must have bred in India before or after their migration, as well as in Northern Asia.

Though one may make minute differences, I do not think either of the three nests or sets of eggs could be certainly separated from those of Franklinia buchanani, which might well have eggs about both in April and August; and I am not prepared to say that in each of these three cases Hypolais rama, which frequents precisely the same kind of bushes that F. buchanani breeds in, may not accidentally have been shot in the immediate proximity to a nest of the latter, the owner of which had crept noiselessly away, as these birds so often do.

Dr. Jerdon says: "I have obtained the nest and eggs of this species on one occasion only at Jaulnah in the Dekhan; the nest was cup-shaped, made of roots and grass, and contained four pure white eggs."

I do not attach undue weight to this, for Dr. Jerdon did not care about eggs, and was rather careless about them; but still his statement has to be noted, and the whole matter requires careful investigation.

Mr. Doig found this species breeding on the Eastern Narra in Sind. He writes: "I first obtained eggs of this bird in March 1879. The first nest was found by one of my men, who afterwards showed me a bird close to the place he got the eggs, which he said was either the bird to which the nest and eggs belonged or one of the same kind. This I shot and sent to Mr. Hume with one of the eggs to identify. Some time after I again came across a lot of these birds breeding, and this time lay in wait myself for the bird to come to the nest and eggs, and when it did I shot it. This I also sent to Mr. Hume to identify. Some time after I beard from Mr. Hume, who said that there must be some mistake, as the birds sent belonged to two different species, viz. Sylvia affinis and Hypolais rama, and were both, he believed, only cold-weather visitants. This year I again 'went for' these birds and again sent specimens of birds and eggs to Mr. Hume, who informed me that the birds now sent were H. rama, and that the eggs must belong to this species soon after this Mr. Brooks saw the eggs with Mr. Hume and identified them as being those H. rama and identical with eggs he saw at home collected by, I think, Mr. Seebohm of this species in Siberia. Only fancy a bird breeding on the Narra of all places, especially in May, June, and July, in preference to Siberia! Locally they are very numerous, as I collected upwards of 90 to 100 eggs in one field about eight acres in size. They build in stunted tamarisk bushes, or rather in bushes of this kind which originally were cut down to admit of cultivation being carried on, and which afterwards had again sprouted. These bushes are very dense, and in their centre is situated the nest, composed of sedge, with a lining of fine grass, mixed sometimes with a little soft grass-reed. The eggs are, as a rule, four in number, of a dull white ground-colour with brown spots, the large end having as a rule a ring round it of most delicate, fine, hair-like brown lines, something similar to the tracing to be seen on the eggs of Drymoeca inornata. The egg in size is also similar to those of that species."

The eggs of this species vary from broad to moderately elongated ovals, but they are almost always somewhat pointed towards the small end; the shell is fine but as a rule glossless; here and there, however, an egg exhibits a faint gloss. The ground-colour is whitish, never pure white, with an excessively faint greenish, greyish, creamy, or pinky tinge. The markings are very variable in amount and extent, but they are always black or nearly so and pale inky grey; perhaps typically the markings consist of a zone of black hair-lines twisted and entangled together, in which irregular shaped spots and small blotches of the same colour appear to have been caught, which zone is underlaid and more or less surrounded by clouds, streaks, and spots of pale inky grey. This zone is typically about the large end, but in one or two eggs is near the middle of the egg and in one or two is about the small end. Outside this zone a few small specks and spots, and rarely one or two tiny blotches, of both black and grey are thinly scattered; occasionally, however, the hair-lines so characteristic of this egg are almost entirely wanting, there is no apparent zone, and the markings, spots, and specks are thinly and irregularly distributed about the entire surface; here and there the whole of the dark markings on the egg are entirely confined to the zone, elsewhere only pale lilac specks are visible. Occasionally together with a well-defined zone numerous specks, spots, and a few hair-line scratches of black are intermingled with faint purplish-grey spots, and pretty thinly scattered everywhere.

The eggs vary from 053 to 068 in length and from 046 to 051 in breadth; but the average of a very large number is 061 by 049.


402. Sylvia affinis (Blyth). Indian Lesser White-throated Warbler

Sylvia curruca (Gm.), apud Jerdon B.I. ii, p. 209.
Sterparola curruca (Latham), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 583.

Of the nidification of the Lesser Whitethroat within our limits, I only know that it was found in May, breeding abundantly in Kashmir in the lower hills, by Mr. Brooks. He did not notice it comparatively high up; for instance at Gulmerg, which, though not above 9000 feet high, is at the base of a snowy range, he did not see it at all.

It builds a loose, rather shallow, cup-shaped nest, composed chiefly of grass, coarser on the exterior and finer interiorly, which it places in low bushes and thickets at no great elevation from the ground. The nest is more or less lined with fine grass and roots. It lays four or sometimes five eggs.

Mr. Brooks writes: "I found this Whitethroat tolerably numerous in Kashmir, where it appears generally distributed, occurring at from 5500 to 6500 feet elevation or thereabouts, It frequents places where there is abundance of brushwood or underwood, especially along the banks of rivers or near them.

"I found several nests, and they were all placed in small bushes, and from 4 to 6 feet above the ground. One was in a bush on a small island in the Kangan River, which runs into the Sind River; and this nest I well remember was just so high that I could not look into it as I stood. The nests precisely resembled in size and structure those of C. garrula which I have seen at home, being formed of grasses, roots, and fine fibres, and I think scantily lined with a few black horsehairs; but I forget this now. They were slight, thinly formed nests, very neat but strong, and had bits of spider's web stuck about the outside here and there. This appears to be the decoration this bird and C. garrula are partial to. They were not added, I think, for the purpose of rendering the nest inconspicuous, for there were just enough to give the nest a spotted appearance.

"The song of this species strongly resembles that of its congener, and is full, loud, and sweet. I found the nests by the song of the male, for he generally sings near the nest. The eggs don't differ from those of C. garrula in my collection."

Major Wardlaw Ramsay says, writing of Afghanistan: "This Warbler was very common and was breeding by the 27th May. All the nests found were shallow cups, composed entirely of dried grass, and situated in small bushes, frequently juniper, about 2 feet from the ground. The eggs vary much both in size and colour - some being long ovals, nearly pure white, spotted with pale brown towards the larger end, and others of a much rounder form and a pale greenish white, thickly spotted in a broad zone near the thicker end and smeared with very pale brown, or else spotted and smeared with olive-brown over the whole of the thicker end."

The eggs are somewhat broad ovals, typically a good deal pointed towards the lesser end. They vary, however, much both in size and shape: some are short and broad, decidedly pointed at the small end; others are more elongated, and some are almost regular ellipsoids. The eggs have little or no gloss; the ground-colour is white, with a more or less perceptible though very faint greenish tinge. Typically they are very Shrike-like in their markings, the majority of these being gathered together in a more or less dense zone near the large end. The markings consist of small spots, blotches, and specks of pale yellowish brown, more or less intermingled with spots and specks of dull inky purple or grey; in many eggs there are very few markings, and these are mere spots except in the zone, while in others full-sized markings are scattered, though thinly, more or less over the whole surface of the egg. In some the zone is confluent and blurred; in others composed of small sharply defined specks and spots. Here and there a pretty large yellowish-brown cloud may be met with partially or entirely bounded by a narrow hair-like black line. Tiny black specks now and then occur, and little zigzag lines that might have been borrowed from a Bunting's egg; but these are not met with in probably more than one out of ten eggs.

In length the eggs vary from 06 to 075, and in breadth from 048 to 055; but the average of sixteen eggs is 066 by 05.


406. Phylloscopus tytleri, Brooks. Tytler's Willow-Warbler

Phylloscopus tytleri, (Brooks), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 560 bis.

Tytler's Willow-Warbler, as yet a rare bird in collections, and which appears only to straggle down to the plains of Upper India during the cold season, was found by Captain Cock breeding at Sonamerg (9400 feet elevation) in the Sindh Valley, Kashmir, in June.

Mr. Brooks, who discriminated the bird, said of it and its nidification: "In plumage resembling P. viridanus, but of a richer and deeper olive; it is entirely without the 'whitish wing-bar,' which is always present in viridanus, unless in very abraded plumage. The wing is shorter, so is the tail; but the great difference is in the bill, which is much longer, darker, and of a more pointed and slender form in P. tytleri. The song and notes are utterly different, so are the localities frequented. P. viridanus is an inhabitant of brushwood ravines, at 9000 and 10,000 feet elevation; while P. tytleri is exclusively a pine-forest Phylloscopus. In the places frequented by P. viridanus, it must build on the ground, or very near it; but our new species builds, 40 feet up a pine-tree, a compact half-domed nest on the side of a branch.

"Captain Cock shot one of this species off the nest at Sonamerg with four eggs. The bird he sent to me, and gave me two of the eggs. Regarding the nest he says: 'I took a nest, containing four eggs, about 40 feet up a pine, on the outer end of a bough, by means of ropes and sticks, and I shot the female bird. I do not know what the bird is. I thought it was P. viridanus, but I send it to you. The nest was very deep, solidly built, and cup-shaped. Eggs, plain white.' In conversation with Captain Cock he afterwards told me that he had watched the bird building its nest. It was rather on the side of the branch, and its solid formation reminded him of a Goldfinch's nest. It was composed of grass, fibres, moss, and lichens externally and thickly lined with hair and feathers. The eggs were pure unspotted white, rather smaller than those of Reguloides occipitalis. Two of them measured 58 by 48 and 57 by 45. They were taken on the 4th June."

Captain Cock himself writes to me: "Of all the birds' nests that I know of, this is one of the most difficult to find. One day in the forest at Sonamerg, Kashmir, I noticed a Warbler fly into a high pine with a feather in its bill. I watched with the glasses and saw that it was constructing a nest, so allowing a reasonable time to elapse (nine days or so) I went and took the nest. It was placed on the outer end of a bough, about 40 feet up a high pine, and I had to take the nest by means of a spar lashed at right angles to the tree, the outer extremity of which was supported by a rope fastened to the top of the pine. The nest was a very solid, deep cup, of grass, fibres, and lichens externally, and lined with hair and feathers. It contained four white eggs, measuring 058 by 048.

"I shot the female, which I sent to Mr. Brooks for identification. "I forgot to add that this nest, the only one I ever found, was taken early in June."

The egg of this species closely resembles that of some of the species of Abrornis - a moderately broad oval, slightly pointed at the small end, pure white, and almost glossless. The only specimen I have seen measures 058 by 045.


410. Phylloscopus fuscatus (Blyth). Dusky Willow-Warbler

Phylloscopus fuscatus (Blyth), Jerdon B.I. ii, p. 191.
Horornis fulviventer, (Hodgson), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 523.

Mr. Blyth long ago stated in 'The Ibis' that Horornis fulviventris was identical with P. fuscatus*.

*[It is with considerable hesitation that I reproduce this note. Horornis fulviventris with which Jerdon identified the bird, the nest of which he describes, is certainly P. fuscatus. The only doubt I have is whether Jerdon, who apparently had not seen a specimen of H. fulviventris, rightly identified his bird with it. With this explanation the note is republished as it appeared in the 'Rough Draft.'--ED.]

Subsequently I procured several specimens which were quite distinct from P. fuscatus, structurally as well as in plumage answering perfectly to Hodgson's description.

I wrote to Dr. Jerdon mentioning this fact, and he replied: "I also am not satisfied of the identity of this species (H. fulviventris) with Phylloscopus fuscatus. I have recently got at Darjeeling what I take to be Horornis fulviventris, and it is somewhat smaller in all its dimensions, but I had not a typical P. fuscatus with which to compare it. Specimens measured 4 to 4-7/8 inches; expanse 6 inches; wing 2 to 2-1/16 inches. I procured the nest and eggs in July; the nest, cup-shaped, on a bank, composed of grass chiefly, with a few fibres; and the eggs, three in number, pinky white, with a few reddish spots."

It is certainly not P. fuscatus (though possibly some specimens of P. fuscatus in the British Museum may bear a label formerly attached to a bird of this species), nor any other Horornis or Horeites included in Dr. Jerdon's work, all of which I have. Mr. Blyth possibly went by Mr. Hodgson's specimens in the British Museum, but some confusion has, it is known, somehow crept in amongst these; and I have no doubt myself that Horornis fulviventris is a good species, and that it was the nest and eggs of this species which Dr. Jerdon found*.

*[I omit the article on Abrornis chloronotus, (Hodgson), which appeared in the 'Rough Draft' under number 574 bis. There is no manner of doubt that Hodgson got the wrong nest, a nest of a Sunbird, and figured it as that of this bird.--ED.]


415. Phylloscopus proregulus (Pallas). Pallas's Willow-Warbler

Reguloides chloronotus (Hodgson), Jerdon B.I. ii, p. 197.
Reguloides proregulus (Pallas), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 566.

Captain Cock has the honor of being the first to take, and, I believe, up to date the only oologist who has ever taken, the nest and eggs of Pallas's Willow-Warbler. Mr. Brooks tried hard for the prize, but he searched on the ground and so missed the nest. He wrote to me from Kashmir, just about the time (June 1871) that Captain Cock found the nest he obtained: "I have been utterly unable to do anything with P. proregulus. I shot a female, with an egg nearly ready to lay, when I first went to Gulmerg, but though I often heard the males singing, I never could find any indication of the nesting female. The feeble song, like that of P. sibilatrix, alluded to by Blyth as being that of P. superciliosus, is not that of this latter bird, but of P. proregulus".

Later, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society, he noted that "Captain Cock took the nest and eggs at Sonamerg. It builds, like the Golden-crested Regulus, up a fir-tree, at from 6 to 40 feet elevation, on the outer ends of the branches. The nest is of moss, wool and fibres, and profusely lined with feathers. Eggs, four or five, pure white, profusely spotted with red and a few spots of purple grey. Size, 053 by 043."

Later still he added in 'The Ibis:' "Captain Cock writes from Sonamerg: 'The second day I found my first nest with eggs. It was the nest of P. proregulus. I shot the old bird. Three eggs. These nests are often placed on a bough high up in a pine-tree, and are domed or roofed, made of moss and lined with feathers. I took another one to day with five eggs, and shot the bird just as it was entering its nest. This was on a bough of a pine, but low down. I know of two more nests of P. proregulus, all on pine-trees, from which I hope to take eggs.'

"After describing the nest of P. humii, and saying that it was lined with the hair of the musk-deer, he adds: 'In this the nest differs from that of P. proregulus, which lines its nest with feathers and bits of thin birch-bark; and the nest of P. proregulus is only partly domed.'

"I measured four eggs of P. proregulus which Captain Cock kindly gave me, and the dimensions are as follows: 55 by 44, 53 by 43, 53 by 43, and 54 by 43. They are pure white, richly marked with dark brownish red, particularly at the larger end, forming there a fine zone on most of the eggs. Intermingled with these spots, and especially on the zone, are some spots and blotches of deep purple-grey. The egg is very handsome, and reminds one strongly of those of Parus cristatus on a smaller scale. The dates when the eggs were taken are 30th May and 2nd June, and the place Sonamerg, which is four marches up the valley of the Sindh River."

Captain Cock himself tells me that he "took several nests of this bird at Sonamerg in Kashmir in pine-forests. It breeds in May and June, making a partially domed nest, which is sometimes placed low down on the bough of a pine-tree, sometimes on a small sapling pine where the junction of the bough with the stem takes place, and at other times high up on the outer end of a bough. It lays five eggs, like those of P. humii only smaller. The nests I found were all lined with feathers and thin birch-bark strips. I never found a hair-lining in any of this bird's nests. The outer portions of the nest consisted of moss and lichen, arranged so as to harmonize with the bough on which it was placed. The nests are compact little structures."

Mr. Brooks, writing of the valley of the Bhagirati river, says: "Common in the alpine parts of the valley. It breeds about Derali, Bairamghati, and Gangotri, in the large moss-grown deodars."

The eggs of this species closely resemble those of P. humii, but are smaller, and, to judge from a few specimens taken by Captain Cock that I have seen, they are somewhat shorter and broader.

Texture smooth, without any perceptible gloss. Ground-colour pure white, spotted freely and principally towards the larger end with red: brick-dust red would perhaps scarcely be a correct term. The colour would be obtained by mixing a little brown and a good deal of purple with vermilion, or by mixing Indian red with a little Venetian red. At the larger end they have an irregular zone of small, more or less confluent, spots and specks of this red, mingled with reddish or brownish purple, and a few specks and spots of the red scattered over the rest of the surface of the egg.

This egg may also be well described, as regards colour and mode of marking, by saying that it resembles the illustration in Hewitson's work of the eggs of Parus cristatus, except that the egg of P. proregulus has a distinct zone of nearly confluent spots, and their colour is more of a brownish red than those shown in the plate above referred to, which by-the-by do not correctly represent the colour of the spots upon the eggs of P. cristatus which I have seen. These spots are colored with too much of a tendency towards crimson instead of brownish red.

Three of the eggs taken by Captain Cock varied from 053 to 055 in length, and from 043 to 044 in breadth.


416. Phylloscopus subviridis (Brooks). Brooks's Willow-Warbler

Reguloides subviridis, (Brooks), Hume, cat. no. 566 bis.

Colonel Biddulph remarks that this species is common in Gilgit at 5000 feet in March, April, May, and beginning of June, and that it breeds in the Nulter valley in July at 10,000 feet. Young birds were shot in August fully fledged.

Major Wardlaw Ramsay observes on the label of a specimen procured by him at Bian Kheyl in Afghanistan in April, "evidently breeding"; and on that of another specimen shot in May at the same place, "contained eggs nearly ready to lay."


418. Phylloscopus humii (Brooks). Hume's Willow-Warbler

Reguloides humii, (Brooks), Hume, cat. no. 565 bis.
Reguloides superciliosus (Gm), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 565.

Mr. Brooks and Captain Cock are the only persons I know of who have taken the eggs and nests of this species. The nest and eggs sent to and described by me in 'The Ibis' as belonging to this bird cannot really have pertained to it.

Mr. Brooks tells us that P. humii "is very abundant in Kashmir, and I believe in all hills immediately below the snows. It would be vain to look for this bird at elevations below 8000 feet, or at any distance from the snows. It was common even in the birch woods above the upper line of pines. I found many nests. It builds a globular nest of coarse grass on a bank side, always on the ground, and never up a tree. The nest is lined with hair in greater or lesser quantities. The eggs, four or five in number, average 56 by 44, are pure white, profusely spotted with red, and sometimes have also a few spots of purplish grey. On the 15th June I found a nest with four young ones on the south side of the Pir-Pinjal Pass. This bird has no song, only a double chirp in addition to its callnote. The double chirp, which is very loud, is intended for a song, for the male bird incessantly repeats it as he feeds from tree to tree near where the female is sitting upon her nest."

Nests of this species obtained in Kashmir towards the end of May and during June near Gulmerg, and brought me by Mr. Brooks, were certainly by no means worthy of this pretty little Warbler. They are very loosely made, more or less straggling cups of somewhat coarse grass, only slightly lined interiorly with fine moss-roots. The egg-cavity is very small compared with the size of the nest, some of which, look like balls of grass with a small hole in the centre. They average from 4 to 5 inches in external diameter, and from 2 to 3 inches in height. The egg cavity does not exceed 2 inches in diameter, and seems often to be less, and is from an inch to half an inch in depth.

From Kashmir, when in the thick of the nests of this species, Mr. Brooks wrote to me as follows:

"From Gulmerg, which is at the foot of a snowy range, I went up to the foot of the snows through pine-forests. The pines ceased near the snow and were replaced by birch wood on tremendously rocky ground, which bothered me greatly to get over. I had missed P. humii after leaving the foot of the hill, where water was plentiful, but here again the bird became abundant. I could not, however, find a nest here, though I watched several pairs. I think in the cooler country they breed later. Flowers which had gone out of bloom below I again met with up here in full flower.

"Blyth says: R. superciliosus has not any song, unless a sort of double call, consisting of two notes, can be called a song,' This the males vigorously uttered all day long, but I did not notice this much; but as soon as the female sharply and rapidly uttered the well-known bell-like call, I knew she was disturbed from her nest, or had left it of her own accord. Whichever of us heard this rushed quickly to the spot, and the female once sighted was kept in view as she flitted from tree to tree, apparently carelessly feeding all the while; soon she came lower down to the bashes below, and now her note quickened and betokened anxiety; generally before half an hour would elapse she would make a dash at a particular spot, and wish to go in but checked herself. This would be repeated two or three times, and now the nest was within the compass of 2 or 3 yards. At last down she went and her note ceased. When all had been quiet for a minute or two, the male meanwhile continuing his double note in the trees above, I cautiously approached the place. Sometimes the nest was very artfully concealed, but other times there it was--the round green ball with the opening at one side. I often saw the female put her head out and then partially draw it in again. Her well-defined supercilium was very distinct. I thought I could catch her on the nest once, and went round above her, but out came her head a little further, and she bolted as I brought down my pocket handkerchief on the nest. I shot one or two from the nest, but this I found unnecessary. In every case the female shouted vigorously on leaving the nest or immediately after, and by her very peculiar note fully authenticated the eggs."

Elsewhere Mr. Brooks has remarked: "Gulmerg is one of those mountain downs, or extensive pasture lands, which are numerous on the top of the range of hills immediately below the Pir-Pinjal Range, which is the first snowy range. It is a beautiful mountain common, about 3000 feet above the level of Srinagar, which latter place has an elevation of 5235 feet. This common is about 3 miles long and about a couple of miles wide, but of very irregular shape. On all sides the undulating grass-land is surrounded by pine-clad hills, and on one side the pine-slopes are surmounted by snowy mountains. On the side near the snow the supply of water in the woods is ample. The whole hill-side is intersected by small ravines, and each ravine has its stream of pure cold water - water so different from the tepid fluid we drink in the plains. In such places where there were water and old pines P. humii was very abundant: every few yards was the domain of a pair. The males were very noisy, and continually uttered their song. This song is not that described by Mr. Blyth as being similar to the notes of the English Wood-Wren (P. sibilatrix) but fainter - it is a loud double chirp or call, hardly worthy of being dignified with the name of song at all. While the female was sitting, the male continued vigorously to utter his double note as he fed from tree to tree. To this note I and my native assistants paid but little attention; but when the female, being off the nest, uttered her well-known tiss-yip, as Mr. Blyth expresses the call of a Willow-Wren, we repaired rapidly to the spot and kept her in view. In every instance, before an hour had passed, she went into her nest, first making a few impatient dashes at the place where it was, as much as to say - 'There it is, but I don't want you to see me go in.'

"The nest of P. humii is always, so far as my observation goes placed on the ground on some sloping bank or ravine-side. The situation preferred is the lower slope near the edge of the wood, and at the root of some very small bush or tree; often, however, on quite open ground, where the newly growing herbage was so short that it only partially concealed it. In form it is a true Willow-Wren's nest - a rather large globular structure with the entrance at one side. Regarding the first nest taken, I have noted that it was placed on a sloping bank on the ground, among some low ferns and other plants, and close to the root of a small broken fir tree which, being somewhat inclined over the nest, protected it from being trodden upon. It was composed of coarse dry grass and moss and lined with finer grass and a few black hairs. The cavity was about 2 inches, and the entrance about 1 inch in diameter. About 20 yards from the nest was a large, old, hollow fir tree, and in this I sat till the female returned to her nest. My attendant then quietly approached the spot, when she flew out of the nest and sat on a low bank 2 or 3 yards from it: then she uttered her 'tiss-yip' which I know so well, and darted away among the pines. My man retired, upon which she soon returned, and having called for a few minutes in the vicinity of the nest, she ceased her note and quickly entered. Again she was quietly disturbed, and sat on a twig not far from the nest. I heard her call once more, and then shot her. There were five eggs, which were slightly incubated.

* * * * *

"My second nest was placed on the side of a steep bank on the ground. The third was similarly placed, and composed of coarse grass and moss, and lined with black horsehair. In each of these nests the number of eggs was five.

"Another nest, taken on the 1st June, with four eggs, was placed on the ground on a sloping bank, at the foot of a small thin bush. It was composed as usual of coarse dry grass and moss, and lined with finer grasses and a few hairs. The eggs were five or six days incubated. Another nest, with four eggs, was placed on the ground, under the inclined trunk of a small fir. The same materials were used.

"Another nest, containing four eggs, was placed on a sloping bank and quite exposed, there being little or no herbage to conceal it. It was composed as before, with the addition of a few feathers in the outer portion of the nest. Another nest was at the roots of a fern growing on a very steep bank. The new shoots of the fern grew up above the nest, and last year's dead leaves overhung it and entirely concealed it. Another was placed on a sloping bank, immediately under the trunk of a fallen and decayed pine. On account of the irregularities in the ground, the trunk did not touch the ground where the nest was by about 2 feet. This was again an instance of contrivance for the nest's protection. It was composed of the same materials as usual.

"Another was among the branches of a shrub, right in the centre of the bush and on the ground, which was sloping as usual. Another nest, with four eggs, taken on 3rd June, was placed in the steep bank of a small stream, only 3 feet 6 inches above the water.

"The above examples will give a very fair idea of the situation of the nest; and it now remains only to describe the eggs, which average 56 long by 44 broad. The largest egg which was measured was 62 long and 45 broad, and the smallest measured 52 long and 43 broad. The ground-colour is always pure white, more or less spotted with brownish red, the spots being much more numerous and frequently in the form of a rich zone or cap at the larger end. Intermixed with the red spots are sometimes a few purplish-grey ones. Other eggs are marked with deep purple-brown spots, like those of the Chiffchaff, and the spots are also intermingled with purplish grey. Some eggs are boldly and richly marked, while others are minutely spotted. The egg also varies in shape; but, as a general rule, they are rather short and round, resembling in shape those of P. trochilus. In returning from Kashmir, on the south face of the Pir-Pinjal Mountain and close to the footpath, I found on the 15th June a nest of this bird with four young ones. This nest was placed in an unusually steep bank. Half an hour after finding the nest, and perhaps 1000 feet lower down the hill, I stood upon a mass of snow which had accumulated in the bed of a mountain-stream."

Captain Charles R. Cock writes to me that he "took numbers of nests at Sonamerg, in the Sindh Valley in Kashmir, during a nesting trip that I took in 1871 with my valued and esteemed friend W. E. Brooks. Although at the time of our finding the nest of this Warbler we were about 80 miles apart, yet we both found our first nest on the same day - the 31st May. I believe he was by a couple of hours or so the winner, as I do not think the egg had ever been taken before.

"Breeds in May or June on the ground in banks; makes a globular nest of moss, well lined with fine grass, musk-deer hair, or horse-hair. It lays five eggs, white spotted with rusty red, inclining to a zone at the larger end."

Typically the eggs of this species are broad ovals, slightly compressed towards one end; the ground pure white and almost perfectly devoid of gloss, speckled and spotted with red or purplish red, the markings, most dense about the large end, often forming an irregular mottled cap or zone. These are the general characters, but the eggs vary very much in shape, size, colour, and density of markings. Some eggs are almost spherical; others are somewhat elongated; others slightly pyriform. As a body, alike in shape and coloration, they remind one of the eggs of many species of Indian Tit, especially those of Lophophanes melanolophus. In some eggs the markings are a slightly brownish brickdust-red, moderate sized spots and specks scattered pretty thickly over the whole surface, but gathered into a dense, more or less confluent, zone or cap towards the large end. Intermingled with these primary markings a few pale purple spots are scattered towards the large end of the eggs. In other eggs the markings are mostly mere specks, and in this type of egg the specks are mostly brownish purple, in some almost black. Occasionally an egg is almost entirely spotless, having only towards the large end a clouded dingy reddish-purple zone. In some eggs again the colour of the markings is pale and washed out. As a rule, the eggs in which the markings are of the brickdust-red type have these larger, bolder, and more numerous; while those in which the markings are purple have them of a more minute character.

The shape of the eggs, as already noticed, varies much, being sometimes longer than those of P. trochilus, and at other times very much of the same rounded shape. Frequently they are more pointed at the smaller end than those of P. trochilus usually are. The texture of the egg is similar to that of P. trochilus, with scarcely any gloss. The ground-colour is always pure white, and the markings, which are always more or less plentiful, are either reddish brown or purple-brown, intermingled sparingly with lighter or darker purple-grey.

Some eggs contain hardly a speck of the purple-grey, while others have considerable blotches of that colour scattered amongst the red spots.

Some eggs are scantily marked, and have the spots very small; while others are densely spotted and blotched, the spots often being more or less confluent at the larger end. Frequently they accumulate round the larger end in the form of a confluent zone. The variety with deep purple-brown spots, which is the rarest, resembles those of P. rufa in miniature; but, as a rule, the egg bears a much stronger resemblance to that of P. trochilus, though it is of course much smaller. As far as the colour goes, the representations in Hewitson's work of the eggs of Parus cristatus, Parus coeruleus, and Phylloscopus trochilus will give a very correct idea of the different varieties of the egg of the present bird.

The greatest number of eggs found in any nest by Captain Cock and Mr. Brooks was five; frequently, however, four was the number upon which the bird was sitting; eggs partially incubated. On the Pir-Pinjal Mountain, just below the snows, a nest with four young ones was found on the 15th June, so that, though five seems to be the usual number, the bird frequently lays only four.

In length the eggs vary from 052 to 062, and in breadth from 043 to 047; but the average of fifty eggs carefully measured was 056 full by 044.


428. Acanthopneuste occipitalis, Jerdon Large Crowned Willow-Warbler

Reguloides occipitalis (Jerdon), Jerdon B.I. ii, p. 196; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 563.

The Large Crowned Willow-Warbler breeds in Kashmir and the North-west Himalayas generally, during the latter half of May, June, and the first half of July, apparently at any elevation from 4000 to 8000 feet. Mr. Brooks says: "This is perhaps the commonest bird in Kashmir, even more so than Passer indicus. It is found at almost all elevations above the valley where good woods occur."

"I only took three nests, as the little bird is very cunning, and, unlike the simple P. humii, is very careful indeed how it approaches its nest when an enemy is near. The nest is placed in a hole under the roots of a large tree on some steep bank-side. I found one in a decayed stump of a large fir-tree, inside the rotten wood. It was placed on a level with the ground, and could not be seen till I had broken away part of the outside of the stump. It was composed of green moss and small dead leaves, a scanty and loosely formed nest, and not domed. It was lined with fine grass and a little wool, and also a very few hairs. There were five eggs.

"Another nest was also placed in a rotten stump, but under the roots. A third nest was placed in a hole under the roots of a large living pine, and in front of the hole grew a small rose-bush quite against the tree-trunk. This nest was most carefully concealed, for the hole behind the roots of the rose-bush was most difficult to find. The eggs, four or five in number, are of a rather longer form than those of P. humii, and are pure white without any spots. They average 65 by 5."

He added in epist.: "This is a much shier bird than P. humii. I watched many a one without effect. The nest is a loose structure of moss lined with a little wool, and would not retain its shape after coming out of the hole. It is a most amusing bird, very noisy, with a short poor song, and utters a variety of notes when you are near the nest."

Certainly the nests he brought me are nothing but little pads of moss, 3 to 4 inches in diameter and perhaps an inch in thickness. There is no pretence for a lining, but a certain amount of wool and excessively fine moss-roots are incorporated in the body of the nest. In situ they would appear to be sometimes more or less domed.

Captain Cock writes to me: "I have taken numbers of nests of this bird in Kashmir and in and about the hill-station of Murree. They commence breeding in May and have finished by July. The nests are placed under roots of trees, in crevices of trees, between large stems, and a favorite locality is, where the road has a stone embankment to support it, between the stones. The nest is globular, made of moss, and the number of eggs is four. I have often caught the old bird on the nest. The nests are easy to find, as the birds are very noisy and demonstrative when any one is near their nests."

Colonel C. H. T. Marshall also very kindly gives me the following most interesting note on the nidification of this species in the vicinity of Murree. He says:

"This little Willow-Warbler, so far as my own experience goes, always prefers a pretty high elevation for breeding. Out of the dozen nests found by Captain Cock and myself in the neighborhood of Murree, none were at an elevation of less than 6500 feet above the sea; and my shikaree, who was always on the look out for me in the lower ranges, never came across the nest of this species.

"The nest is generally placed in holes at the foot of the large spruce firs. It is a difficult nest to find, as the bird selects holes into which the hand will not go, and outside there are no signs of there being any nest within. The cock bird spends most of his time at the tops of trees, coming down at intervals. The only chance of success in taking the eggs is to watch carefully any that may be flying low in the bushes, until they disappear cautiously into the holes where they are breeding. I should mention that we have also found some nests in the rough stone walls on the hill road-sides."

"The nest is as neatly and carefully built as if it had to be exposed on the branch of a tree. It is globular in shape, made of moss, and lined with feathers. The eggs are pure white. They apparently rear two broods in the year. In the first nest, which we found under the root of an old spruce-fir on the 17th May, the eggs were quite hard-set; and I may remark that immediately over this nest, about 8 feet up the tree in a crack in the wood, a little Muscicapula superciliaris was sitting on five eggs. Later at the end of June we found fresh eggs in several nests. The eggs in our collection were all taken between the 17th May and the 10th July."

They do not always, however, select such situations as those referred to in the above accounts. Sir E. C. Buck says: "I found a nest on 11th June in the roof of Major Batchelor's bungalow at Nachar (Nichar, Kinnaur?), in the Sutluj Valley; it contained young birds. I was not allowed to disturb the nest, which was composed externally of moss. I noticed a second half-made nest near the other."

The eggs of this species are, as might be expected, somewhat larger than those of P. humii, and they are of a different character, being spotless, white, and slightly glossy. In shape the eggs vary from a nearly perfect, moderately elongated oval to a slightly pyriform shape, broad at the large end, and a good deal compressed and somewhat pointed towards the small end (vide the representation of the eggs of Ruticilla tithys in Hewitson's work).

In length they vary from 063 to 068, and in breadth from 048 to 053; but the average of fifteen eggs measured is 065 by 05.


430. Acanthopneuste davisoni, Oates. Tenasserim White-tailed Willow-Warbler

Reguloides viridipennis (Blyth), apud Hume, cat. no. 507*

*[Mr. Hume is of opinion that this bird is the true P. viridipennis of Blyth. I have elsewhere stated my reasons for disagreeing with him.--ED.]

It was on the 2nd of February, just at the foot of the final cone of Mooleyit, at an elevation of over 6000 feet, that Mr. Davison came upon the nest of this species. He says:

"In a deep ravine close below the summit of Mooleyit I found a nest of this Willow-Warbler. It was placed in a mass of creepers growing over the face of a rock about 7 feet from the ground. It was only partially screened, and I easily detected it on the bird leaving it. I was very much astonished at finding a nest of a Willow-Warbler in Burma, so I determined to make positively certain of the owner. I marked the place, and after a short time returned very quietly. I got within a couple of feet of the nest; the bird sat still, and I watched her for some time; the markings on the top of the head were very conspicuous. On my attempting to go closer the bird flew off, and settled on a small branch a few feet off. I moved back a short distance and shot her, using a very small charge.

"The nest was a globular structure, with the roof slightly projecting over the entrance. It was composed externally chiefly of moss, intermingled with dried leaves and fibres; the egg-cavity was warmly and thickly lined with a felt of pappus. "The external diameter of the nest was about 4 inches; the egg-cavity 1 inch at the entrance, and 2 inches deep.

"The nest contained three small pure white eggs. The three eggs here mentioned measured 059 and 06 in length, by 049 in breadth."
 

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