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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 24e

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

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501. Pericrocotus erythropygius (Jerdon). White-bellied Minivet

Pericrocotus erythropygius (Jerdon), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 424; Hume, cat. no. 277.

Mr. J. Davidson is apparently the only ornithologist who has discovered the nest of the White-bellied Minivet. Writing on the 25th August, from Khandeish, he says: "Yesterday I took two nests of Pericrocotus erythropygius. Both nests were like those of P. peregrinus, and were placed about 2 feet from the ground in a fork of a straggling thorn-bush among thin scrub-jungle. One contained 3 young birds, and one 3 hard-set eggs. I watched the nest, and found the cock sitting on the eggs, and watched him for a minute, so there is no possibility of mistake; but the eggs are not the least what I expected. They are fairly glossy, one being very much elongated, of a greenish-grey ground, with long longitudinal dashes of dark brown, as unlike Minivets' eggs as they can possibly be. They were the only two pairs I saw in a long morning walk, and the nests were easily found by watching the birds. I wish I had known the birds were breeding where they were, as by going three weeks ago I should probably have found many nests, as there are miles and miles of similar jungle, and it is barely 12 miles from Dhulia. It is very provoking. I have had great trouble trying to make the Bhils work for me. They will bring in eggs but not mark them down."

Later on, Mr. Davidson wrote: "I happened to be staying a few days at Arvee, in the extreme south of Dhulia, and found this bird breeding there in considerable numbers. This was in the end of August (26th to 31st), and I was rather late, most of the nests containing young, and in some cases the young were able to fly. I, however, found eight nests with eggs (most of them hard-set). All the nests, which are small and less ornamented than those of P. peregrinus, were placed from 3 to 4 feet from the ground, in a small common thorny scrub. They were all placed in low thin jungle, and never where the jungle was thick and difficult to walk through. A great deal of the jungle round Arvee is full of anjan-trees, but none of the birds seem to breed in these."

The nests are elegant little cups, reminding one of those of Rhipidura albifrontata, measuring internally about 175 inch in diameter and 1 inch in depth, the thickness of the walls of the nest being usually somewhat less than a quarter of an inch. Interiorly the nest is composed of excessively fine flowering-stems of grasses, and externally and on the upper edge it is densely coated with fine, rather silky greyish-white vegetable fibres, in places more or less felted together. It is not ornamented externally with moss and lichen, as those of so many of the Pericrocoti commonly are, only occasionally one or two little ornamental brown patches of withered glossy vegetable scales are worked into the exterior of the nest.

The eggs are not at all like those of the other Pericrocoti with which we are best acquainted; though less densely, and even more streakily marked, they most remind me of the egg of Volvocivora, and in a lesser degree of that of Hemipus picatus.

The eggs vary in shape from rather broad to rather elongated ovals. The shell is very fine and smooth, but has scarcely any perceptible gloss. The ground-colour is greenish or greyish white, and they are profusely marked with comparatively fine longitudinal streaks of a moderately dark brown, which in some lines is more of a chocolate, in others perhaps more umber. At both ends of the egg, but especially the smaller end, the markings often become spotty or speckly, but the fine longitudinal streaking of the sides of the egg is very conspicuous.

In size the eggs vary from 069 to 071 in length, by 051 to 058 in breadth. I have measured too few eggs to be able to give a reliable average.

505. Campophaga melanoschista (Hodgs.). Dark-grey Cuckoo-Shrike

Volvocivora melaschistos, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 415: Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 269.

I have never found the nest of the Dark-grey Cuckoo-Shrike. Captain Hutton tells us:

"This, too, is a mere summer visitor in the hills, arriving up to 7000 feet about the end of March, and breeding early in May. The nest is small and shallow, placed in the bifurcation of a horizontal bough of some tall oak tree, and always high up; it is composed externally almost entirely of grey lichens picked from the tree, and lined with bits of very fine roots or thin stalks of leaves. Seen from beneath the tree the nest appears like a bunch of moss or lichens, and the smallness and frailty would lead one to suppose it incapable of holding two young birds of such size. Externally the nest is compactly held together by being thickly pasted over with cobwebs. The eggs, two in number, of a dull grey-green, closely and in part confluently dashed with streaks of dusky brown."

This species, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes and drawings, breeds in Nepal in the central districts of the hills from April to July, laying three or four eggs. The nest is a broad shallow saucer, some 4 inches in external diameter and 175 inch in height; it is placed in a fork where two or three slender branches divide, to one or more of which it is firmly bound with vegetable fibres and grass-roots, and is composed of fine roots and vegetable fibres, and plastered over externally with pieces of lichen and moss. The eggs are regular ovals, with a pale-greenish ground, blotched and spotted with a somewhat olivaceous brown.

A nest of this species found at Mongphoo (elevation 5500 feet) on the 15th June contained three eggs nearly ready to hatch off. The nest was placed on a nearly horizontal fork of a small branch. It is composed of very fine twigs loosely twisted together and coated everywhere exteriorly with cobwebs and scraps of grey lichen. At the lower part, which, owing to the slope of the branch, had to be thicker, it is exteriorly about an inch and a half in height. At the upper end it is only about half an inch high. The shallow saucer-like cavity is about two and a half inches in diameter and about half an inch in depth.

The eggs of this species, sent me by Captain Hutton from Mussoorie, much resemble those of Graucalus macii and C. sykesi, but they are decidedly longer than the latter, and the general tone of their coloring is somewhat duller. In shape they are somewhat elongated ovals, more or less compressed towards one end; the general colour is greenish white, very thickly blotched and streaked with dull brown and very pale purple. The markings are very closely set, leaving but little of the ground-colour visible. They have little or no gloss.

They measure 103 by 072 inch, and 095 by 068 inch.

Other eggs that I have since obtained have been quite similar, but have not had the markings quite so densely set: the secondary markings have been greyer and less purple, and several eggs have exhibited an appreciable gloss; others, again, were quite like those first described and entirely devoid of gloss. They measured 09 to 098 in length by 065 to 071 in breadth.


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