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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 24g

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

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Subfamily ARTAMINAE


512. Artamus fuscus, Vieill. Ashy Swallow-Shrike

Artamus fuscus, (Vieill.), Jerdon B. Ind. i, p. 441; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 287.

Mr. R. Thompson says: "I have frequently found the nests of the Ashy Swallow-Shrike, and have watched the old birds constructing them, but never took down their eggs. Two or three pairs may always be found nesting on the long-leaved pine, as one comes up from Kaladoongee to Nainital and passes halfway up from the first dāk chokee at Ghutgurh. They lay in May and June, constructing their nest on the horizontal extension of a main branch of some lofty tree, generally Pinus longifolia. The nest, composed of fine grasses, roots, and fibres, is a loose, only slightly cup-shaped structure, some 5 inches in diameter."

Dr. Jerdon says on the other hand: "I have procured the nest of this bird situated on a palmyra tree on the stem of the leaf. It was a deep cup-shaped nest, made of grass, leaves, and numerous feathers, and contained two eggs, white with a greenish tinge, and with light brown spots, chiefly at the larger end. I see that Mr. Layard procured the nest in Ceylon, where this bird is common, in the heads of cocoanut trees, made of fibres and grasses, and it was probably the nest of this bird that was brought to Tickell as that of the Palm-Swift."

According to Mr. Hodgson this species begins to lay in March, the young being fledged in June; the nest is a broad shallow saucer, from 6 to 8 inches in diameter, composed of grass and roots, together with a little lichen, loosely put together, a green leaf or two being sometimes found as a lining to the nest. The nest is placed on some broad horizontal branch, where two or three slender twigs or shoots grow out of it, or on the top of some stump of a tree, or broken end of a branch, generally, at a considerable height from the ground. The eggs are figured as white, spotted and blotched almost exclusively at the large end with yellowish brown, and measuring 0·8 by 0·52 inch, but no actual measurements are recorded.

Mr. Gammie, however, himself found, and kindly sent me, a nest and eggs of this species, at Mongpho near Darjeeling, at an elevation of about 3500 feet, on the 13th May, 1873. It was placed in the hole of a trunk of a dead tree at a height of about 40 feet from the ground, and it contained three hard-set eggs. The nest was a loose shallow saucer of coarse roots devoid of lining. The eggs were rather narrow ovals, a good deal pointed towards one end; the shell fine and with a slight gloss. The ground-colour was creamy white, and the markings, which are almost entirely confined to a broad ring round the large end and the space within it, consisted of spots and clouds of very pale yellowish brown, intermingled with clouds and specks of excessively pale, nearly washed out, lilac.

He subsequently furnished me with the following note from Sikkim: "In the hills this bird is migratory, coming about the last week in February and leaving in the last week of October. It is exceedingly abundant on the outer ridges running in from the Teesta Valley, and most numerous about the elevation of 3000 feet, but stragglers get up as high as 5000 feet. It prefers dry ridges on which there are a few scattered tall trees, from the tops of which it can make short flights, over the open country, after insects. It goes very little abroad in the height of the day, and feeds principally in the evenings. It rarely keeps on the wing for more than a minute or two at a time, but occasionally will fly for ten minutes on end. It is quite as bold and persevering in its habit of attacking and driving off hawks and kites as the king-crow. Towards the end of September it begins to congregate in rows along dead branches in the tops of trees.

"It begins to lay in April and, I think, has only one brood in the year. It builds in holes of trees, on surfaces of large horizontal branches 30 or 40 feet up, or in depressions in ends of lofty stumps. The nest is a shallow saucer, made entirely of light-colored roots and twigs loosely put together. The usual number of eggs appears to be three."

Mr. J. R. Cripps informs us that at Furreedpore in Eastern Bengal this species is "common, and a permanent resident, very partial to perching on the tips of bamboos, and I have seen as many as 13 sitting side by side on a bamboo tip. I took seven nests this season, all from date-trees (Phoenix sylvestris), which trees are very common in the district. The nest is generally built at the junction of the leaf-stem and the trunk of the tree, though in two instances the nest was placed on a ledge from which all leaves had been removed to enable the tree to be tapped for its juice. In every instance the nest was exposed, and if any bird, even a hawk, came near, these courageous little fellows would drive it off. My nests were found from the 5th April to 6th June; shallow saucers made of fine twigs and grasses with a lining of the same, and contained two to four eggs in each. Height of nest from ground about 12 to 15 feet. On the 17th April I took two fresh eggs from a nest, and the birds laying again, I, on the 8th May, again took three fresh eggs. When on the wing they utter their note, generally returning to the same perch."

And he adds:

"16th April, 1878. Took two perfectly fresh eggs from a nest built on a date-tree. The date-trees in this district are tapped annually for the juice, from which sugar is manufactured. The leaves and the bark for a depth of 3 inches are sliced away from one half of the trunk, the leaves on the other half remaining, and at the root of one of these the nest was built, wedged in between the trunk and the leaves; the external diameter was 4½ inches, depth 3 inches, thickness of sides of nest ¾ inch; a rather shallow cup, composed exclusively of fine grasses with no attempt at a lining.

"17th April, 1878. Secured two fresh eggs from another nest on a date-tree. In size and shape they were similar and the materials were the same grasses with no lining. The trees these nests were on formed a small clump alongside a ryot's house. People were passing under them all day, but the birds never noticed them. Any bird, from a Kite to a Bulbul, coming near received a warm welcome. The nests are at all times exposed, and the natives believe that two males and one female are found occupying one nest. The birds being gregarious build on adjoining trees, and while the ladies are engaged with their domestic affairs their lords keep each other company, so the natives put them down as polyandrous. I have found over a dozen nests, and every one has been the counterpart of the other, and only on date-trees."

Miss Cockburn writes from the Nilgiris: "On the 17th May, 1873, a nest of this bird was found. It was formed in a perpendicular hole in a dried stump of a tree, about 15 feet in height. The nest consisted entirely of slight sticks lined with fine grass, no soft material being added as a finish, and the whole structure went to pieces when removed. This nest contained three eggs, their colour white, with a few dark and light brown spots and blotches all over, and a strongly marked ring round the thick end.

"The birds frequently returned to the place while the eggs were being taken, till one of them was shot."

Mr. J. Davidson remarks: "This bird is very local in the Tumkur districts in Mysore, and I have only found it in three or four gardens. I knew it had been breeding (from dissection) since March, but till to-day (May 9th) I could not find its nest. To-day, however, I saw four or five birds perpetually flying round and round a very ragged old cocoanut-tree, the highest in that part of the garden, and determined to send a man up. Two birds, however, at that moment lit on one branch and I shot them both, and they proved to be fully-fledged young ones. I sent the man up, however, and was rewarded by his announcing two old nests and a new one containing one egg. The nests were near the trunk of the tree on the horizontal leaves, and were formed of thin roots and a little grass and were very slight. The egg, which is large for the size of the bird, is creamy white, with a broad ring round the larger end formed of blotches of orange, brown, and purple, and in the cap within the ring there are a number of faint purple spots. The egg was perfectly fresh, and the old birds defended it by swooping down upon the man; and I can't help thinking that both the young birds and the new nest belonged to one pair of birds, and that as soon as their first brood was fledged they had commenced to lay again."

A nest taken by Mr. Gammie on the 24th April, at an elevation of about 3500 feet in Sikkim, was placed on a dead horizontal limb near the top of a large tree. It contained four eggs slightly set; it is a somewhat shallow cup, interiorly 3 inches in diameter by nearly 1½ in depth, and composed almost entirely of fine roots, pretty firmly interwoven. It has no lining, but at the bottom exteriorly it is coated partially with a sort of plaster, composed apparently of strips of bark and vegetable fibre partially cemented together in some way.

The egg sent me by Miss Cockburn is of quite the same type as those found by Mr. Gammie, but it is a trifle longer, measuring 1·0 by 0·7, and the coloring is much brighter. The ground is a sort of creamy white. There is a strongly marked though irregular zone round the large end of more or less confluent brownish rusty patches (amongst which a few pale grey spots may be detected), and a good many spots and small blotches of the same are scattered about the whole of the rest of the surface of the egg.

Numerous eggs subsequently obtained by Mr. Gammie correspond well with those already described as procured by himself and Miss Cockburn.

In length the eggs vary from 0·82 to 1·0, and in breadth from 0·6 to 0·72, but the average is 0·94 by 0·68.


513. Artamus leucogaster (Valenc.). White-rumped Swallow-Shrike

Artamus leucorhynchus (Gm.), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 287 bis.

The White-rumped Swallow-Shrike breeds, we know, in the Andamans and Great Cocos, and that is nearly all we do know. Mr. Davison says: "On the 2nd of May I saw a bird of this species fly into a hollow at the top of a rotten mangrove stump about 20 feet high. The next day I went, but did not like to climb the stump, as it appeared unsafe, so I determined to cut it down, and after giving about six strokes that made the stump shake from end to end, the bird flew out. I made sure that as the bird sat so close the nest must contain eggs, so I ceased cutting and managed to get a very light native, who volunteered to climb it; but on his reaching the top, he found, to my astonishment, that the nest, although apparently finished, was empty. The nest was built entirely of grass, somewhat coarse on the exterior, finer on the inside; it was a shallow saucer-shaped structure, and was placed in a hollow at the top of the stump.
 

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