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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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93. Trochalopterum cachinnans (Jerd.). Nilgiri Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron cachinnans (Jerdon), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 48; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 423.

The Nilgiri Laughing-Thrush breeds, according to my many informants, throughout the more elevated portions of the mountains from which it derives its trivial name, from February to the beginning of June.

A nest of this species sent me by Mr. H. R. P. Carter, who took it at Coonoor on April 22nd (when it contained two fresh eggs), is externally a rather coarse clumsy structure, composed of roots, dead leaves, small twigs, and a little lichen, about 5 inches in diameter, and standing about 4 inches high. The egg-cavity is, however, very regularly shaped, and neatly lined with very fine grass-stems and a little fine tow-like vegetable fibre. It is a deep cup, measuring 2 inches across and fully 3 inches in depth.

A nest taken by Miss Cockburn was a much more compact structure, placed between four or five twigs. It was composed of coarse grass, dead and skeleton leaves, a very little lichen, and a quantity of moss. The egg-cavity was lined with very fine grass. The nest was externally about 5 inches in diameter and nearly 6 inches in height, but the egg-cavity had a diameter of only about 2 inches and was only about 2 inches deep.

It was Jerdon, I believe, who gave the name of Laughing-Thrushes to this group, and this name is applicable enough to this particular bird, the one with which he was most familiar, for it does laugh - albeit, a most maniacal laugh; but the majority of the group have not the shadow of a giggle even in them, and should have been designated "Screaming Squabblers."

Mr. J. Darling, Jr., says: "This bird breeds from February to May. I have found the nests all over the Nilgiris, at elevations of from 4500 to 7500 feet above the sea. The nest is placed indiscriminately in any bush or tree that happens to take the bird's fancy, at heights of from 3 to 12 feet from the ground.

"In shape it is circular, a deep cup, externally some 6 inches in diameter and 5 or 6 inches in height, and with a cavity 3 to 4 inches wide and often fully 4 inches in depth. The nest is composed of moss and small twigs, at times of grass mingled with some spiders' webs: sometimes there is a foundation of dead leaves. The cavity is lined with fur, cotton-wool, feathers, etc.

"The eggs are two or three in number."

Mr. Wait, writing from Coonoor, says: "T. cachinnans breeds about May, and lays from three to five oval eggs. The ground is bluish, with ash-colored and brown spots and blotches, and occasionally marks." None of my other correspondents, however, admit that the bird ever lays more than three eggs.

Mr. Davison tells me that "this bird breeds commonly on the Nilgiris, just before the rains set in, in May and the earlier part of June, but it occasionally breeds earlier (in April) or later (in the latter end of June). The nest is cup-shaped, composed of dead leaves, moss, grass, etc., and lined with a few moss-roots or fine grass. It is placed in the fork of a branch about 6 or 8 feet from the ground. The eggs are a bluish green, mottled chiefly towards the larger end, and sometimes also streaked with purplish brown. The normal number of eggs is two; sometimes, however, three are laid."

From Kotagherry, Miss Cockburn remarks: "The name 'Laughing-Thrush' is most applicable to this bird, and its notes are often mistaken for the sound of the human voice. This bird is very shy, except when its nest contains eggs or young, when it becomes extremely bold. I was quite surprised to see a pair whose nest I was taking come so close as to induce me to put out my hand to catch them. The Laughing-Thrush builds a pretty, though large, nest, and generally selects the forked branches of a thick bush, and commences its nest with a large quantity of moss, after which there is a lining of fine grass and roots, and the withered fibrous covering of the Peruvian Cherry (Physalis peruviana), the nest being finished with a few feathers, in general belonging to the bird. The inside of the nest is perfectly round, and rarely contains more than two eggs, belonging to the owner. The eggs are of a beautiful greenish-blue colour, with a few large and small brown blotches and streaks, mostly at the large end. I have found the nests of these birds in February, March, and April. Occasionally the Black-and-white Crested Cuckoo (Pied Cuckoo), which appears on these hills in the month of March, deposits its eggs (two in number) in the nest of this Thrush. They are easily distinguished, as their colour is quite different from the Thrush's eggs, being entirely dark bluish green."

Mr. Rhodes W. Morgan writing from South India, says, in 'The Ibis': "It builds a very neat nest of moss, dried leaves, and the outer husk of the fruit of the Brazil Cherry, lined with feathers, bits of fur, and other soft substances. The nest is cup-shaped, and generally contains three eggs, most peculiarly marked with blotches, streaks, and wavy lines of a dark claret-colour on a light blue ground. The markings are almost always at the larger end."

The first specimens that I obtained of the eggs of this species were kindly sent to me by the late Captain Mitchell and Mr. H. R. P. Carter of Madras; they were taken on the Nilgiris. They are moderately broad ovals, somewhat pointed towards one end, larger than the average eggs of T. lineatum, and about the same size as large specimens of the eggs of Crateropus canorus and Argya malcolmi. The ground-colour is of a delicate pale blue, and towards the large end, and sometimes over the whole surface, they are speckled, spotted, and blotched, but only sparingly, with brownish red and blackish brown, and amongst these markings a few cloudy streaks and spots of dull faint reddish purple are observable. The eggs have not much gloss.

Numerous other specimens subsequently received from Miss Cockburn and others correspond well with the above description. More or less pyriform varieties are common. In some eggs the markings are almost entirely wanting, there being only a very faint brownish-pink freckling at the large end; and in many eggs, even some that are profusely spotted all over, the markings consist only of darker or lighter brownish-pink shades. Occasionally a few, almost black, twisted lines are intermingled with the other markings, and in these cases the lines are frequently surrounded by a reddish-purple nimbus.

The eggs vary in length from 092 to 108, and in breadth from 074 to 08, but the average of twenty eggs measured was 10 by 076.

96. Trochalopterum fairbanki, Blanf. Palni Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopterum fairbanki, (Blanford), Hume, Cat. no. 423 bis.

The Rev. S. B. Fairbank, the discoverer of this species, found its nest at Kodai Kanal, in the Palni Hills, in May. The nest was placed in the crotch of a tree, at about 10 feet from the ground, and at an elevation of nearly 6500 feet above the level of the sea. The eggs are moderately elongated ovals, with a fine, fairly glossy shell. The ground is pale greenish blue or bluish green; the markings are spots, small blotches, hair-lines, and hieroglyphic-like scrawls, rather thinly scattered about the surface, and varying in colour through several shades of brownish and reddish purple to bright claret-colour.

The only egg I have measures 1 inch in length by 08 inch in breadth.

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