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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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87. Trochalopterum phoeniceum (Gould). Crimson-winged Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron phoeniceum (Gould), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 48; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 422.

Mr. Gammie says: "I have found altogether seven nests of the Crimson-winged Laughing-Thrush in and about Rishap, at elevations between 4000 and 5000 feet, and on various dates between the 4th and 23rd May. The locality chosen for the nest is in some moist forest amongst dense undergrowth. It is placed in shrubs, at heights of from 6 to 10 feet from the ground, and is generally suspended between several upright stems, to which it is firmly attached by fibres. It is chiefly composed of dry bamboo-leaves and a few twigs, and lined with black fibres and moss-roots. A few strings of moss are twisted round it externally to aid in concealing it. It is a moderately deep cup, measuring externally about 5 inches in diameter and 4 inches in height, and internally 3 inches in width and 2 inches in depth.

"The eggs are almost always three in number, but occasionally only two. Of the seven nests taken by me, five contained eggs and two young birds."

The Crimson-winged Laughing-Thrush, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, breeds in Sikkim, at elevations of from 3000 to 5000 feet, during the months of April, May, and June. The nest is placed in the fork of some thick bush or small tree, where three or four sprays divide, at from 2 to 5 feet above the ground. The nest is a very deep compact cup. One measured in situ was 45 inches in diameter and the same in height externally, while the cavity was 3 inches in diameter and 225 deep. It was very compact and was composed of dry leaves, creepers, grass-flowers, and vegetable fibres, more or less lined with moss-roots and coated externally with dry bamboo-leaves. They lay, we are told, three or four eggs.

Dr. Jerdon says: "A nest and eggs said to be of this bird were brought to me at Darjeeling; the nest made of roots and grass, and the eggs, three in number, pale blue, with a few narrow and wavy dusky streaks."

The eggs are singularly lovely. In shape they are elongated ovals, generally very obtuse at both ends, and many of them exhibiting cylindrical or pyriform tendencies. The shell is very fine and fairly glossy, and the ground-colour is a most beautiful clear pale sea-green in some, greenish blue in others. The character of the markings is more that of the Buntings than of this family. There are a few strongly marked deep maroon, generally more or less angular, spots or dashes, principally about the large end, and there are a few spots and tiny clouds of pale soft purple, and then there are an infinite variety of hair-line hieroglyphics, twisted and scrawled in brownish or reddish purple, about the egg. The markings are nowhere as a rule crowded, and towards the small end are usually sparse and occasionally wholly wanting. In some eggs a bad pen seems to have been used to scribble the pattern, and every here and there instead of a fine hair-line there is a coarse thick one.

The eggs are pretty constant in size and colour, but here and there an abnormally pale specimen, in which the green has almost entirely disappeared, is met with. In length they vary from 098 to 115, and in breadth from 07 to 082, but the average of thirty-one eggs is 104 by 074.

88. Trochalopterum subunicolor, Hodgs. Plain-colored Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron subunicolor, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 44; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 417.

The Olivaceous or Plain-colored Laughing-Thrush breeds, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, in the central region of Nepal from April to June. It nests in open forests and groves, building its nest on some low branch of a tree, 2 or 3 feet from the ground, between a number of twigs. The nest is large and cup-shaped: one measured externally 55 inches in diameter and 338 in height; internally 275 deep and 312 in diameter. The nest is composed externally of grass and mosses lined with soft bamboo-leaves. Three or four eggs are laid, unspotted greenish blue. One is figured as 107 by 07.

90. Trochalopterum variegatum (Vig.). Eastern Variegated Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron variegatum (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 45; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 418 (part).

The Eastern Variegated Laughing-Thrush breeds only at elevations of from 4000 to 7000 or 8000 feet, from Shimla to Nepal, during the latter half of April, May, and June. The nest is a pretty compact, rather shallow cup, composed exteriorly of coarse grass, in which a few dead leaves are intermingled; it has no lining, but the interior is composed of rather finer and softer grass than the exterior, and a good number of dry needle-like fir-leaves are used towards the interior. It is from 5 to 8 inches in diameter exteriorly, and the cavity from 3 inches to 35 in diameter and about 2 inches deep. The nest is usually placed in some low, densely-foliaged branch of a tree, at say from 3 to 8 feet from the ground; but I recently obtained one placed in a thick tuft of grass, growing at the roots of a young Deodar, not above 6 inches from the ground. They lay four or five eggs.

The first egg that I obtained of this species, sent me by Sir E. C. Buck, and taken by himself near Narkanda, late in June, out of a nest containing two eggs and two young ones, was a nearly perfect, rather long oval, and precisely the same type of egg as those of T. erythrocephalum and T. cachinnans, but considerably smaller than the former. The ground-colour is a pale, rather dingy greenish blue, and it is blotched, spotted, and speckled, almost exclusively at the larger end, and even there not very thickly, with reddish brown. The egg appeared to have but little gloss. Other eggs subsequently obtained by myself were very similar, but slightly larger and rather more thickly and boldly blotched, the majority of the markings being still at the large end.

The colour of the markings varies a good deal: a liver-red is perhaps the most common, but yellowish brown, pale purple, purplish red, and brownish red also occur. Here and there an egg is met with almost entirely devoid of markings, with perhaps only one moderately large spot and a dozen specks, and these so deep a red as to be all but black.

The eggs vary from 107 to 115 in length, and from 076 to 082 in breadth.

91. Trochalopterum simile, Hume. Western Variegated Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopterum simile, (Hume;) Hume, Cat. no. 418 bis.

Messrs. Cock and Marshall write from Murree: "The nidification of this Trochalopterum was apparently unknown before. We found one nest on the 15th June, about twenty feet up a spruce-fir at the extremity of the bough. Nest deep, cup-shaped, solidly built of grass, roots, and twigs; the bird sits close. Eggs light greenish blue, sparingly spotted with pale purple, the same size as those of Merula castanea".

92. Trochalopterum squamatum (Gould). Blue-winged Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron squamatum (Gould), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 46; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 420.

From Sikkim my friend Mr. Gammie writes: "I have never as yet found more than one nest of the Blue-winged Laughing-Thrush, and this one was found on the 18th May at Mongphoo, at an elevation of about 3500 feet. The nest was placed in a bush (one of the Zingiberaceae), growing in a marshy place, in the midst of dense scrub, at a height of about 4 feet from the ground, and was firmly attached to several upright stems. It was composed of dry bamboo-leaves, held together by the stems of delicate creepers, and was lined with a few black fibres. It was cup-shaped, and measured externally 57 in diameter by 36 in height, and internally 37 in width by 26 in depth. The nest contained three eggs, which were unfortunately almost ready to hatch off, so that three is probably the normal number of the eggs."

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes the Blue-winged Laughing-Thrush breeds in May and June in the central region of Nepal in forests, at elevations of from 2000 to 6000 feet. The nest is placed in a fork of a branch on some small tree, and is a large mass of dry leaves and coarse dry grass, 7 or 8 inches in diameter externally, mortar-shaped, the cavity about 25 deep, and lined with hair-like fibres. The nest, though composed of loose materials, is very firm and compact. They lay four or five eggs, unspotted, verditer-blue, one of which is figured as a broad regular oval, only slightly compressed towards one end, measuring 12 by 09.

One of the eggs taken by Mr. Gammie (the others were unfortunately broken) is a long, almost cylindrical, oval, very obtuse at both ends and slightly compressed towards the smaller end, so that the egg has a pyriform tendency. It measures 125 by 082. The colour is an excessively pale greenish blue, precisely the same as that of the eggs of Sturnia malabarica; but then this present egg was nearly ready to hatch off when taken, and the fresh eggs are somewhat deeper colored.

Subsequent to his letter above quoted, Mr. Gammie on the 10th June found a second nest of this species similar to the first, containing three nearly fresh eggs. These are similar in shape to that above described, but in colour are a beautiful clear verditer-blue, altogether a much brighter and richer tint than that of the first. They measure 12 and 125 by 088.

One nest was taken by Mr. Gammie above Mongphoo at an elevation of about 4500 feet on the 30th of April. It was placed in a bush at a height of about 6 feet from the ground, and contained three fresh eggs. It was a loosely put together, massive cup, some 7 inches in diameter and 4 in height externally. It was composed mainly of fine twigs, creeper-stems, and grass, with a few bamboo-leaves intermingled, and the cavity was carefully lined with bamboo-leaves, and then within that thinly with black fibrous roots; the cavity measured 37 inches in diameter and 23 in depth.

The eggs of this species, of which I have now received many, appear to be typically somewhat elongated ovals, and not unfrequently they are more or less pyriform or even cylindrical. As a rule, they are fairly glossy, a bright pale, somewhat greenish blue, quite spotless, and varying a little in tint. In length they appear to vary from 111 to 125, and in breadth from 082 to 091; but the average of eleven eggs is 12 by 087.

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