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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 24f

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

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508. Campophaga sykesi (Strickl.). Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike

Volvocivora sykesii (Strickl.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 414; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 268.

Mr. F. R. Blewitt took the eggs of Sykes's Cuckoo-Shrike many years ago. He furnishes the following note:

"I first met with this bird in the southern part of Bundlekund. Nowhere here is it common, and I have never seen more than a pair together. It is to be found in wooded tracts of country, but more frequently among thin large trees surrounding villages. Dr. Jerdon has correctly described its restless habits, and its careful examination of the foliage and branches of trees for food. It is usually a silent bird, but during the earlier portion of the breeding-season the male bird may frequently be heard repeating for minutes together his clear plaintive notes. Each time, as it flies from one tree to another, the song is repeated. The flight is easy, slightly undulating, and the strokes of the wing somewhat rapid. In the latter end of July I procured one nest. It was found on a mowa-tree (Bassia latifolia), placed on and at the end of two small out-shooting branches. When my man, mounting the tree, approached the nest the parent birds evinced the greatest anxiety, flew just above his head, uttering all the while a sharply repeated cry. Even when one of the birds was shot the other would not leave the spot, but remained hovering about and uttering its shrill cry. The nest is slightly made, and constructed of thin twigs and roots; the exterior is covered slightly with spider's web. If we except the size, the formation of this Cuckoo-Shrike's nest is almost identical with that of Graucalus macii. I secured two eggs in the nest. In colour they are, when fresh, of a deepish green, mottled with dark brown spots; indeed the eggs, when first taken, a good deal resemble those of Copsychus saularis. The maximum number of eggs, no doubt, is three, as those I secured were fresh-laid. The bird breeds from June to August."

The nest above referred to, and now in my museum, was a very shallow, rather broad cup. The egg-cavity about 2½ inches in diameter and about ¾ inch deep, and the nest very loosely put together of very fine twigs, and exteriorly coated and bound together with cobwebs. The sides of the nest are about 0·6 inch thick, but the bottom is a mere network of slender twigs, not above ¼ inch thick, and can be readily looked through.

Mr. I. Macpherson writes: "This bird is found in the open scrub-forests of the Mysore district, but is nowhere common.

"14th May, 1880.--While passing a small sandal-wood tree a bird flew out, and on looking into the tree I found a very shallow nest at the junction of two small branches about 10 feet from the ground; the nest contained three eggs.

"Returned again in a quarter of an hour and shot the bird (the male) as it flew out of the tree. The eggs were within a few days of being hatched off.

"20th May, 1880. While out driving this morning saw a male bird of this species fly out of a small sandal-wood tree close to the roadside. Pulled up to watch, and shortly saw the female bird fly into the tree. Got out and shot her and took the nest, which was beautifully fixed in a fork with three branches only eight feet from the ground. The nest contained three eggs very hard-set."

Mr. J. Davidson remarks: "This pretty little Cuckoo-Shrike is one of the earliest migrants in the rains, arriving about the 8th of June, and breeding all along the scrub-jungles which stretch between the Nasik and Khandeish Collectorates. It appears particularly partial to the Angan forest, and, as far as I remember, all the many nests I have seen have been in forks of angan trees. The nest is a pretty firm platform composed of fine roots; and the eggs, which much resemble those of the Magpie-Robin, are three in number."

Colonel Legge writes, in his 'Birds of Ceylon': "With us this Cuckoo-Shrike breeds in April in the Western Province. Mr. MacVicar writes me of the discovery, by himself, of two nests last year near Colombo. One was built on the topmost branch of a young jack-tree about 40 feet high. It was very small and shallow, measuring 2·8 inches in breadth and only 0·8 inch in depth, and the old bird could be seen plainly from beneath sitting across it. The other was situated on the top of a tree about 20 feet from the ground, and was built in the same manner. The materials are not mentioned."

I have only seen two eggs of this species, sent me with the nest and parent bird by Mr. F. R. Blewitt. They are oval eggs, moderately broad and obtuse at both ends, about the same size as average eggs of Lanius vittatus. They are slightly glossy, have a pale greenish-white ground, and are thickly blotched and streaked throughout, but most densely so towards the large end, with somewhat pale brown, much the same colour as the markings on typical eggs of L. erythronotus. They measure 0·85 inch in length by 0·65 and 0·68 inch in breadth respectively. Other eggs since received from Calcutta and Mysore measure from 0·87 to 0·81 in length, and from 0·68 to 0·62 in breadth.

509. Campophaga terat (Bodd.)* Pied Cuckoo-Shrike

*[I cannot find any note among Mr. Hume's papers regarding the discovery of the nest of this bird. The nest may possibly have been found at Camorta (Nicobar Islands), where this species is not uncommon.--ED.]

Lalage terat (Bodd.), Hume, cat. no, 269 ter.

The eggs are quite of the Graucalus and Campophaga type, but perhaps a little more elongated in shape. Very regular, slightly elongated ovals, with scarcely any gloss on them, the ground greenish white, but everywhere thickly streaked and mottled and freckled over, most thickly about the large end, with a dull pale slightly olivaceous brown intermingled with brownish, or in some specimens faintly purplish grey. The two eggs I possess measure 0·85 and 0·87 in length, by 0·61 and 0·62 respectively in breadth.

510. Graucalus macii, Lesson. Large Cuckoo-Shrike

Graucalus macei, (Less.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 417; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 270.

My friend Mr. F. R. Blewitt seems to be the only ornithologist who has taken many nests of the Large Grey Cuckoo-Shrike. I never was so fortunate as to find one. He says: "This Shrike begins to pair about May, and in June the work of nidification commences. The place selected for the nest is the most lofty branch of a tree, and is built near the fork of two outlying twigs. If this bird has a preference it would appear to be for mango and mowa trees, on which I found most of the nests. The nest is in form circular, and its exterior is somewhat thickly made; the interior is moderately cup-shaped. Thin twigs and grass-roots are freely used in its construction, while the outer part of the nest is somewhat thickly covered with what appears to be spider's web. Altogether the nest, considering the size of the birds, is of light structure. I am sorry I did not take the dimensions of each nest secured, but I sent you two very perfect ones. I found the first eggs in the beginning of July. They are of a dull lightish green, with brown spots of all sizes, more dense towards the large end. The maximum number of eggs is three. The bird breeds from June to August."

The nests which Mr. Blewitt sent me remind one a good deal of those of the Dicruri. They are broad shallow saucers, with an egg-cavity about 3 inches in diameter, and ¾ inch in depth, composed in the only two specimens that I possess of very fine twigs, chiefly those of the furash (Tamarix orientalis). Exteriorly they are bound round with cobwebs, in which a quantity of lichen is incorporated. The nests are loose flimsy fabrics, which but for the exterior coating of cobwebs would certainly never have borne removal.

Dr. Jerdon remarks: "I once obtained its nest and eggs. The nest was built in a lofty casuarina tree, close to my house at Tellicherry; it was composed of small twigs and roots merely, of Moderate size, and rather deeply cup-shaped, and contained three eggs, of a greenish-fawn colour, with large blotches of purplish brown."

Professor H. Littledale writing from Baroda says: "The Large Cuckoo-Shrike is a permanent resident here. I found six nests last August near Baroda, each with one egg; and my men found a nest building in the Police Lines at Khaira on the 10th October."

Mr. J. Davidson informs us that "a pair of Graucalus macii were apparently breeding near this place (the Kondabhari Ghât). He found a nest with two young in the previous September near the same place."

Mr. G. W. Vidal, referring to the South Konkan, says: "Common; breeds in February and March."

A nest that was placed in the fork of a bough was composed entirely of slender twigs, the petioles of some pennated-leaved tree, bound together all round the outside with abundance of cobwebs, so that notwithstanding the incoherent nature of the materials the nest was extremely firm. It is a shallow saucer quite of the Dicrurine type, with a cavity 3 inches in diameter and barely 0·75 in depth.

The eggs are typically of a somewhat elongated oval, a good deal pointed towards one end, but some are broader and more of a typical Shrike shape. The eggs are of course considerably larger than those of Lanius lahtora. The shell is compact and fine, and faintly glossy. The ground-colour is a palish-green stone-colour, greener in some, and somewhat more creamy in others. The markings are very Shrike-like, and consist of brown blotches, streaks, and spots, with numerous clouds and blotches of pale inky-purple, which appear to underlie the brown markings. The markings in some eggs are all very faint, and, as it were, half washed out, while in others they are very bright and clear. In some these are comparatively sparse and few; in others close-set and numerous, especially in a broad zone near the large end; but this zone is by no means invariably present; in fact, not above one in five eggs exhibit it. There is something in these eggs which reminds one of some of the Terns' eggs; and although, when compared with a large series of L. lahtora, individuals of this latter species may be found resembling them to a certain extent, I do not think that at first sight any zoologist would have felt sure that they were Shrike's eggs.

They vary in length from 1·12 to 1·41 inch, and in breadth from 0·8 to 0·95 inch, but the average of eight eggs is 1·26 by 0·9 inch nearly.


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