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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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50. Conostoma aemodium, Hodgs. Red-billed Crow-Tit

Conostoma aemodium. (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 10; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 381.

A nest of the Red-billed Crow-Tit was sent me from Native Sikkim, where it was found at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, in a cluster of the small Ringal bamboo. It contained three eggs, two of which were broken in blowing them.

The nest is a very regular and perfect hemisphere, both externally and internally. It is very compactly made, externally of coarse grass and strips of bamboo-leaves, and internally very thickly lined with stiff but very fine grass-stems, about the thickness of an ordinary pin, very carefully curved to the shape of the nest. The coarser exterior grass appears to have been used when dry; but the fine grass, with which the interior is so densely lined, is still green. It is the most perfectly hemispherical nest I ever saw. Exteriorly it is exactly 6 inches in diameter and 3 in height; internally the cavity measures 4.5 in diameter and 225 in depth.

The egg is a regular moderately elongated oval, slightly compressed towards the smaller end. The shell is fine and thin, and has only a faint gloss. The ground-colour is a dull white, and it is sparsely blotched, streaked, and smudged with pale yellowish brown, besides which, about the large end, there are a number of small pale inky purple spots and clouds, looking as if they were beneath the surface of the shell.

The single egg preserved measures 111 by 08.

A nest sent me by Mr. Mandelli was found, he says, in May, in Native Sikkim, in a cluster of Ringal (hill-bamboo) at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. It is a large, rather broad and shallow cup, the great bulk of the nest composed of extremely fine hair-like grass-stems, obviously used when green, and coated thinly exteriorly with coarse blades of grass, giving the outside a ragged and untidy appearance. The greatest external diameter is 5.5, the height 32, but the cavity is 45 in diameter and 2.2 in depth, so that, though owing to the fine material used throughout except in the outer coating the nest is extremely firm and compact, it is not at all a massive-looking one.

60. Scaeorhynchus ruficeps (Bl.). Larger Red-headed Crow-Tit

Paradoxornis ruficeps, (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 5.

Mr. Gammie writes from Sikkim: "In May, at 2000 feet elevation, I took a nest of this bird, which appears to have been rarely, if ever, taken by any European, and is not described in your Rough Draft of 'Nests and Eggs.' It was seated among, and fastened to, the spray of a bamboo near its top, and is a deep, compactly built cap, measuring externally 35 inches wide and the same in depth; internally 27 wide by 19 deep. The material used is particularly clean and new-looking, and has none of the secondhand appearance of much of the building-stuffs of many birds. The outer layer is of strips torn off large grass-stalks and a very few cobwebs; the lining, of fine fibrous strips, or rather threads, of bamboo-stems. There were three eggs, which were ready for hatching-off. They averaged 083 in. by 063 in. I send you the nest and two of the eggs.

"Both Jerdon and Tickell say they found this bird feeding on grain and other seeds, but those I examined had all confined their diet to different sorts of insects, such as would be found about the flowers of bamboo, buckwheat, etc. Probably they do eat a few seeds occasionally, but their principal food is certainly insects. Very usually, in winter especially, they feed in company with Gampsorhynchus rufulus. Rather curious that the two Red-heads should affect each other's society."

The eggs are broad ovals, rather cylindrical, very blunt at both ends. The shell fine, with a slight gloss. The ground is white, and it is rather thinly and irregularly spotted, blotched, and smeared in patches with a dingy yellowish brown, chiefly about the larger end, to which also are nearly confined the secondary markings, which are pale greyish lilac or purplish grey.

61. Scaeorhynchus gularis (Horsf.). Hoary-headed Crow-Tit

Paradoxornis gularis, (Horsf.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p, 5.

A nest sent me by Mr. Mandelli as belonging to this species was found, he tells me, at an elevation of 8000 feet in Native Sikkim on the 17th May. It was placed in a fork amongst the branches of a medium-sized tree at a height of about 30 feet from the ground. The nest is a very massive cup, composed of soft grass-blades, none of them much exceeding 1 inch in width, wound round and round together very closely and compactly, and then tied over exteriorly everywhere, but not thickly, with just enough wool and wild silk to keep the nest perfectly strong and firm. Inside, the nest is lined with extremely fine grass-stems; the nest is barely 4 inches in diameter exteriorly and 25 in height; the egg-cavity is 24 in diameter and 12 in depth.

Mr. Mandelli sends me an egg which he considers to belong to this species, found near Darjeeling on the 7th May. It is a broad oval, very slightly compressed at one end; the shell dull and glossless; the ground a dead white, profusely streaked and smudged pretty thickly all over with pale yellowish brown; the whole bigger end of the egg clouded with dull inky purple and two or three hair-lines of burnt sienna in different parts of the egg. The egg measures 08 by 061.

Two eggs of this species, procured in Sikkim on the 17th May, are very regular ovals, scarcely at all pointed towards the lesser end. The ground-colour is creamy white, and the markings consist of large indistinct blotches of pale yellow; round the large end is an almost confluent zone or cap of purplish grey, darker in one egg; they have no gloss, and both measure 082 by 061.

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