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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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76. Garrulax albigularis (Gould). White-throated Laughing-Thrush

Garrulax albogularis (Gould), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p, 38; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 411.

The White-throated Laughing-Thrush breeds throughout the lower southern ranges of the Himalayas from Assam to Afghanistan at elevations of from 4000 to nearly 8000 feet. They lay from the commencement of April to the end of June. The nest varies in shape from a moderately deep cup to a broad shallow saucer, and from 5 to 7 or even 8 inches in external diameter, and from less than 2 to nearly 4 inches in depth internally. Coarse grass, flags, creepers, dead leaves, moss, moss- and grass-roots, all at times enter more or less largely into the composition of the nest, which, though sometimes wholly unlined, is often neatly cushioned with red and black fern and moss-roots. The nests are placed in small bushes, shrubs, or trees, at heights of from 3 to 10 feet, sometimes in forks, but more often, I think, on low horizontal branches, between two or three upright shoots.

Three is, I think, the regular complement of eggs, and this is the number I have always found when the eggs were much incubated. I have not myself observed that this species breeds in company, nor can I ever remember to have taken two nests within 100 yards of each other.

Captain Hutton remarks: "This is very common in Mussoorie at all seasons, and congregates into large and noisy flocks, turning up the dead leaves, and screaming and chattering together in most discordant concert. It breeds in April and May, placing the nest in the forks of young oaks and other trees, about 7 or 8 feet from the ground, though sometimes higher, and fastening the sides of it firmly to the supporting twigs by tendrils of climbing-plants. It is sometimes composed externally almost entirely of such woody tendrils, intermixed with a few other twigs, and lined with black hair-like fibres of mosses and lichens; at other times it is externally composed of coarse dry grasses and leaves of different kinds of orchids, and lined with fibres, the materials varying with the locality. The eggs are of a deep and beautiful green, shining as if recently varnished, and three in number. In shape they taper somewhat suddenly to the smaller end, which may almost be termed obtusely pointed. The size 119 by 087 inch. The usual number of eggs is three, though sometimes only one or two are found; but only on one occasion out of more than a dozen nests have I found four eggs. The old bird will remain on the nest until within reach of the hand."

From Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall writes: "This was the most beautiful egg taken this season, being of a rich, deep, glossy, greenish-blue colour. The nest is composed of fresh ivy-twigs, with the leaves attached, tightly woven together. The birds breed on small trees, not high up, at the end of a branch. While their nests were being examined, they came round in flocks to see what was happening, chattering and making that peculiar laughing note from which this genus takes its name. They are even gregarious in the breeding-season, and all the nests were found pretty near each other about 6000 feet up."

The nest sent me by Colonel Marshall is a broad, shallow cup, or saucer as I should perhaps call it, some 6 inches in diameter, with a central depression of at most 15 inch, below which the nest is an inch or 15 in thickness. It is very loosely put together, and composed interiorly of moderately fine dry twigs and roots, but exteriorly it is completely wound round with slender green ivy-twigs to which the leaves are attached. It has no lining or pretence for such.

Captain Cock says: "The White-throated Laughing-Thrush lays one of the most lovely eggs with which I am acquainted. The nest is usually low, never more than 10 feet or so from the ground; and of some fifteen or more nests that I have taken, all were constructed of long stalks of the ground-ivy, twisted round and round into a wreath. The nest is not a deep cup; if anything it is rather shallow, but it is very wide. I always found these nests in thick forest, at high elevations from 6000 to 7000 feet. The birds used to sit close, and when put off their nests would commence their outcries, and from all parts they would assemble and flit about almost within reach of one's hand, making an awful noise, and in the dark shade of the forest their white gorgets had quite a ghostly look. The eggs are always three in number, of a beautiful shining blue-green, sometimes of a very long oval type. I have found the nests at Murree from the 3rd May to quite the end of June."

Colonel G. F. L. Marshall writing of this species says: "A nest found at Nainital on Ayar Pata, about 7000 feet above the sea, contained two fresh eggs on the 31st May. The eggs were of a rich deep greenish blue, unspotted. The nest was a scanty and loosely-built structure, composed of roots and stems of grass and creepers, cup-shaped, rather shallow, and lined with a curious black creeper, very like coarse hair. The birds were gregarious even though brueding, and were moving about the underwood in parties of three to five. The nest was near the top of an oak-sapling in a dense coppice, placed close against the stem in a bunch of leaves at the top. The only difficulty in finding it lay in the scantiness of the structure rather than in the concealment by the foliage. The bird was on the nest and only moved off about 3 feet, sitting close by and chattering indignantly during my inspection. They are noisy birds, constantly on the move, and their notes, though rather harsh, are very varied and quite conversational".

The eggs are long, and pointed at the small end, to which they sometimes taper much. They are very glossy, and vary from a deep dull blue (the blue of a dark oil-paint, very much deeper than that of any other of the Crateropodinae with which I am acquainted) to a deep intense greenish blue. Possibly other as deeply colored eggs occur in this family, but I have seen none like them. They are of course entirely unspotted.

In length they vary from 116 to 125, and in breadth from 08 to 086; but the average of some twenty eggs measured is 122 by 083.

78. Ianthocincla ocellata (Vig.). White-spotted Laughing-Thrush

Garrulax ocellatus (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 41; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 414.

I know nothing personally of the nidification of the White-spotted Laughing-Thrush, which breeds nowhere, so far as I know, west of Nepal, but I had a nest with a couple of eggs and one of the parent-birds sent me from Darjeeling. The nest was taken in May in one of the low warm valleys leading to the Great Runjeet, and is said to have been placed close to the ground in a thick clump of fern and grass. The nest is chiefly composed of these, intermingled with moss and roots, and is a large loose structure some 7 inches in diameter.

Mr. Blyth remarked in 'The Ibis' (1867) that this species was "surely a Trochalopteron rather than a Garrulax," and the eggs seem to confirm this view. These are long, cylindrical ovals, very obtuse even at the smaller end. They are about the same size as those of Garrulax albigularis, with a very delicate pale blue ground and little or no gloss. One egg is spotless; the other has a few chocolate-brown specks or spots towards the large end. They measure 118 by 086 and 125 by 085.

80. Ianthocincla rufigularis, Gould. Rufous-chinned Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron rufogulare (Gould), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 47; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 421.

Common as this species is about Shimla, I have never yet secured the nest, and know nothing certain about the eggs.

Captain Hutton says: "This species appears usually in pairs, sometimes in a family of four or five. It breeds in May, in which month I took a nest, at about 6500 feet elevation, in a retired and wooded glen; it was composed of small twigs externally and lined with the fine black fibres of lichens. The nest was placed on a horizontal bough, about 7 feet from the ground, and contained three pure white eggs. Size 112 by 069; shape ordinary. The stomach of the old bird contained sand, seed, and the remains of wasps."

One egg that I possess of this species I owe to Captain Hutton, and it is of the Pomatorhinus type - a long oval, slightly pointed pure white egg, with but little gloss, measuring 108 by 075.

From Sikkim a nest, said to belong to this species, has been recently sent me. It was found below Darjeeling in July, and was placed in a double fork of the branchlets of a medium-sized tree. It is a moderately deep cup, composed almost entirely of dry, coarser and finer, tendrils of creepers, and is lined with a some black moss-roots and a few scraps of dead leaves. It contained three fresh eggs.

Numerous nests of this species subsequently sent me from Sikkim are all of the same type, all moderately deep cups composed entirely of creeper-tendrils, the cavity only being lined with fine black roots. They appear from the specimens before me to be quite sui generis and unlike those of any of its congeners. No grass, no dead leaves, no moss seems to be employed; nothing but the tendrils of some creeper. The nests appear to be always placed at the fork, where three, four, or more shoots diverge, and to be generally more or less like inverted cones, measuring say 4 to 5 inches in height, and about the same in breadth at the top, while the cavities are about 3 inches in diameter and 15 to 2 in depth. The nests appear to have been found at very varying heights from the ground from 5 to 15 feet, and at elevations of from 3000 to 5000 feet. They appear to have contained three fresh or more or less incubated eggs.

The eggs were found in Sikkim on different dates between 25th May and 8th September.

Exceptional as the coloration of the eggs of this species may seem, there is no doubt that they are pure white. The shell is thin and fragile, but has generally a decided gloss, and the eggs are typically elongated ovals, obtuse-ended, and more or less pyriform or cylindrical. The eggs vary from 092 to 113 in length, and from 075 to 08 in breadth, but the average of eleven eggs is 106 by 077 nearly.

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