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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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Page 24c

Order PASSERES     Family LANIIDAE   Subfamily LANIINAE (continued...) & ARTAMINAE 

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495. Pericrocotus brevirostris (Vigors). Short-billed Minivet

Pericrocotus brevirostris (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 421; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 273.

The Short-billed Minivet breeds in the Himalayas at elevations of from 3000 to 6000 feet in Kumaon, and again in Kulu and the valley of the Sutluj. It lays in May and June, building a compact and delicate cup-shaped nest on a horizontal bough pretty high up in some oak, rhododendron, or other forest tree. I have never seen one on any kind of fir-tree.

Sometimes the nest is merely placed on, and attached firmly to, the upper surface of the branch; but, more commonly, the place where two smallish branches fork horizontally is chosen, and the nest is placed just at the fork. I got one nest at Kotgarh, however, wedged in between two upright shoots from a horizontal oak-branch. The nests are composed of fine twigs, fir-needles, grass-roots, fine grass, slender dry stems of herbaceous plants, as the case may be, generally loosely, but occasionally compactly interlaced, intermingled and densely coated over the whole exterior with cobwebs and pieces of lichen, the latter so neatly put on that they appear to have grown where they are. Sometimes, especially at the base of the nest, a little moss is attached exteriorly, but, as a rule, there is nothing but lichen. The nest has no lining. The external diameter is about 2 inches, and the usual height of the nest from 1 to 2 inches; but this varies a good deal according to situation, and the bottom of the nest, which in some may be at most inch thick, in another is a full inch. The sides rarely exceed inch in thickness. The egg-cavity has a diameter of about 2 inches, and a depth of from 1 to 125 inch.

Five seems to be the maximum number of eggs laid, but I have now twice met with three, more or less incubated, eggs.

Mr. Hodgson notes: "May 16th: At the top of the great forest of Sheopoori, secured a nest built near the top of a kaiphul (Jaiphal?) tree, and laid on a thick branch amongst smaller twigs. The nest is about 2 inches deep and the same in diameter: inside it is 15 inch deep; it is made of paper-like bits of lichen welded together with spiders' webs, and with a lining of elastic fibres. It is the shape of a deep soap-stand, open at the top of course. It contained two eggs of a bluish or greenish-white ground, much spotted with liver colour, especially near the large end, where the spots are clustered into a zone."

Dr. Scully, writing also from Nepal, says: "During the breeding-season (May and June) this Minivet is found in forests on the hills up to an elevation of 7500 feet. A nest was found in the Sheopoori forest on the 17th June, which contained two very young birds and one egg."

The eggs of this species that I have seen are moderately broad ovals, as a rule, very regular in their shape, and scarcely compressed at all towards the lesser end. The shell is fine and satiny, but the eggs have little or no real gloss. The ground-colour is a dull white, sometimes slightly tinged with pink, sometimes with green, and they are richly and profusely blotched, spotted, and streaked, most densely, as a rule, towards the large end, with brownish red and pale purple. Most eggs exhibit a more or less conspicuous, though irregular, zone round the larger end.

The eggs vary in length from 071 to 08 inch, and in breadth from 054 to 06 inch.

499. Pericrocotus roseus (Vieill.). Rosy Minivet

Pericrocotus roseus (Vieill.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 422; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 275.

The only one of my contributors who appears to have taken the eggs of the Rosy Minivet is Colonel C. H. T. Marshall. Mr. R. Thompson says: "They breed in the warmer valleys of Kumaon, up to an elevation of some 5000 feet, in May and June;" but he adds: "have never got down the nests."

Colonel Marshall, writing from Murree, says: "The Rosy Minivet builds a beautifully little shallow cup-shaped nest, the outer edge being quite narrow and pointed. The external covering of the nest is fine pieces of lichen fastened on with cobwebs. It was found on the 12th of June, and contained three fresh eggs, white, with greyish-brown spots and blotches sparsely scattered about the larger end; the length is 08 by 055 inch; 5000 feet up."

The nest, which I owe to this gentleman, is externally a short section of a cylinder, rather than a cup, the walls standing up outside almost perpendicularly. It is 25 inches in diameter and nearly 175 in height. The rim of the nest is inch wide, and the cavity, a shallow cup, 2 inches wide by scarcely an inch deep; the walls of the nest increase in thickness as they approach the base.

Externally the whole surface is entirely covered by small scales of lichen, firmly bound into their respective places by gossamer threads; internally the nest is a very loosely put together basket-work of excessively fine twigs and grass-stems not thicker than common needles. A morsel or two of moss have become involved in the fabric, as well as two fine blades of grass; but there is no lining, and the eggs are obviously laid upon the soft loose basket frame of the nest.

The egg which accompanied the nest is a regular oval, slightly compressed towards one end. The ground-colour is pale greenish white entirely devoid of gloss. The egg is richly blotched, spotted, and speckled (most densely so towards the larger end) with reddish brown and greenish purple, there being two conspicuously different shades (a much darker and a much lighter, the latter of which appears like subsurface tints) of each of these colors. This egg measures 082 by 06 inch nearly.

Another egg of the same clutch was less richly colored, the markings being merely brown, with scarcely a perceptible reddish tinge, and dull mostly inky, but here and there somewhat reddish, purple. The markings, too, were fewer in number, but there was a more marked tendency for these to form a zone about the larger end.

In another clutch the markings were almost entirely confined to a dense zone round the larger end about a third of the way up from the middle of the egg. In this zone they were so densely set as to be quite confluent, and they consisted of yellowish brown and inky purple.

Mr. J. R. Cripps found the nest of this Minivet in the Bhaman tea-garden, in the Dibrugarh District of Assam, on the 31st May, 1879. The nest contained three eggs, and was placed on the upper side of a large lateral branch of a tree that grew on the main garden road, about 15 feet from the ground.

Seven eggs of this bird vary in length from 075 to 086, and in breadth from 058 to 06.

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