The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds (Volume 1) Second Edition 1889 - by
Allan O. Hume
34. Parus monticola, Vig. Green-backed Tit
Parus monticolus, (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 277; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 644.
The Green-backed Tit breeds through the Himalayas, at elevations of from 4000 to 7000 or 8000 feet.
The breeding season lasts from March to June, and some birds at any rate must have two broods, since I found three fresh eggs in the wall of the Pownda dak bungalow about the 20th June. More eggs are, however, to be got in April than in any other month. They build in holes, in trees, bamboos, walls, and even banks, but walls receive, I think, the preference. The nests are loose dense masses of soft downy fur or feathers, with more or less moss, according to the situation.
The eggs vary from six to eight, and I have repeatedly found seven and eight young ones; but Captain Beavan has found only five of these latter, and although I consider from six to eight the normal complement, I believe they very often fail to complete the full number.
Captain Beavan says: "At Shimla, on May 4th, 1866, I found a nest of this species in the wall of one of my servant's houses. It contained five young ones, and was composed of fine grey pushmina or wool resting on an understructure of moss."
At Murree Colonel C. H. T. Marshall notes that this species "breeds early in May in holes in walls and trees, laying white eggs covered with red spots."
Speaking of a nest he took at Dharamshala, Captain Cock says:
"The nest was in a cavity of a rhododendron tree, and was a large mass of down of some animal; it looked like rabbit's fur, which of course it was not, but it was some dark, soft, dense fur. The nest contained seven eggs, and was found on the 28th April, 1869. The eggs were all fresh."
Mr. Gammie says: "I got one nest of this Tit here on the 14th May in the Chinchona reserves (Sikkim), at an elevation of about 4500 feet. It was in partially cleared country, in a natural hole of a stump, about 5 feet from the ground. The nest was made of moss and lined with soft matted hair; but I pulled it out of the hole carelessly and cannot say whether it had originally any defined shape. It contained four hard-set eggs."
The eggs are very like those of Parus atriceps; but they are somewhat longer and more slender, and as a rule are rather more thickly and richly marked.
They are moderately broad ovals, sometimes almost perfectly symmetrical, at times slightly pointed towards one end, and almost entirely devoid of gloss. The ground is white, or occasionally a delicate pinkish white, in some richly and profusely spotted and blotched, in others more or less thickly speckled and spotted with darker or lighter shades of blood-, brick-, slightly purplish-, or brownish-red, as the case may be. The markings are much denser towards the large end, where in some eggs they form an imperfect and irregular cap. In size they vary from 0·68 to 0·76 in length, and from 0·49 to 0·54 in breadth; but the average of thirty-two eggs is 0·72 by 0·52 nearly.
Aegithaliscus erythrocephalus (Vigors) Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 270; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 634.
The Red-headed Tit breeds throughout the Himalayas from Murree to Bhutan, at elevations of from 6000 to 9000 or perhaps 10,000 feet. They commence breeding very early. I have known nests to be taken quite at the beginning of March, and they continue laying till the end of May.
The nest is, I think, most commonly placed in low stunted hill-oak bushes, either suspended between several twigs, to all of which it is more or less attached, or wedged into a fork. I have found the nest in a deodar tree, laid on a horizontal bough. I have seen them in tufts of grass, in banks and other unusual situations; but the great bulk build in low bushes, and of these the hill-oak is, I think, their favorite.
The nests closely resemble those of the Long-tailed Tit (Acredula rosea). They are large ovoidal masses of moss, lichen, and moss-roots, often tacked together a good deal outside with cotton-wool, down of different descriptions, and cobwebs. They average about 4½ inches in height or length, and about 3½ inches in diameter. The aperture is on one side near the top. The egg-cavity, which may average about 2¼ inches in diameter and about the same in depth below the lower edge of the aperture, is densely lined with very soft down or feathers.
They lay from six to eight eggs, but I once found only four eggs in a nest, and these fully incubated.
From Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall notes that this species "builds a globular nest of moss and hair and feathers in thorny bushes. The eggs we found were pinkish white, with a ring of obsolete brown spots at the larger end. Size 0·55 by 0·43. Lays in May."
Captain Hutton tells us that the Red-cap Tit is "common at Mussoorie and in the hills generally, throughout the year. It breeds in April and May. The situation chosen is various, as one taken in the former month at Mussoorie, at 7000 feet elevation, was placed on the side of a bank among overhanging coarse grass, while another taken in the latter month, at 5000 feet, was built among some ivy twining round a tree, and at least 14 feet from the ground. The nest is in shape a round ball with a small lateral entrance, and is composed of green mosses warmly lined with feathers. The eggs are five in number, white with a pinkish tinge, and sparingly sprinkled with lilac spots or specks, and having a well-defined lilac ring at the larger end."
From Nainital, Colonel G. F. L. Marshall writes: "This species makes a beautifully neat nest of fine moss and lichens, globular, with side entrance, and thickly lined with soft feathers. A nest found on Cheena, above Nainital, on the 24th May, 1873, at an elevation of about 7000 feet, was wedged into a fork at the end of a bough of a cypress tree, about 10 feet from the ground, the entrance turned inwards towards the trunk of the tree. It contained one tiny egg, white, with a dark cloudy zone round the larger end.
"About the 10th of May, at Nainital, I was watching one of these little birds, which kept hanging about a small rhododendron stump about 2 feet high, with very few leaves on it, but I could see no nest. A few days later I saw the bird carry a big caterpillar to the same stump and come away shortly without it; so I looked more closely and found the nest, containing nearly full-fledged young, so beautifully wedged into the stump that it appeared to be part of it, and nothing but the tiny circular entrance revealed that the nest was there. It was the best-concealed nest for that style of position that I have ever seen."
These tiny eggs, almost smaller than those of any European bird that I know, are broad ovals, sometimes almost globular, but generally somewhat compressed towards one end, so as to assume something of a pyriform shape. They are almost entirely glossless, have a pinkish or at times creamy-white ground, and exhibit a conspicuous reddish or purple zone towards the large end, composed of multitudes of minute spots almost confluent, and interspaced with a purplish cloud. Faint traces of similar excessively minute purple or red points extend more or less above and below the zone. The eggs vary from 0·53 to 0·58 in length, and from 0·43 to 0·46 in breadth; but the average of twenty-five is 0·56 nearly by 0·45 nearly.
Machlolophus spilonotus (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 281.
Mr. Mandelli found a nest of this species at Lebong in Sikkim on the 15th June in a hole in a dead tree, about 5 feet from the ground. The nest was a mere pad of the soft fur of some animal, in which a little of the brown silky down from fern-stems and a little moss was intermingled. It contained three hard-set eggs.
One of these eggs is a very regular oval, scarcely, if at all, pointed towards the lesser end; the ground-colour is a pure dead white, and the
markings, spots, and specks of pale reddish brown, and underlying spots of pale purple, are evenly scattered all over the egg; it measures 0·78 by 0·55.
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