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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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99. Trochalopterum lineatum (Vig.). Himalayan Streaked Laughing-Thrush

Trochalopteron lineatum (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 50; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 425*.

*[I omit the note on T. imbricatum in the 'Rough Draft,' because, as I have shown in the 'Birds of India,' this bird was unknown to Hodgson, and his note refers to T. lineatum. Sufficient is now known about the nidification of this latter to render the insertion of Hodgson's note unnecessary.--ED.]

Next to the Common House-Sparrow, the Himalayan Streaked Laughing-Thrush is perhaps the most familiar bird about our houses at all the hill-stations of the Himalayas westward of Nepal and throughout the lower ranges on which these stations are situated; this species breeds at elevations of from 5000 to 8000 feet.

It lays from the end of April to the beginning of September, and very possibly occasionally even earlier and later. I took a nest on the 29th April near Mussoorie; Mr. Brooks obtained eggs in May and June at Almorah; Colonel G. F. L. Marshall at Mussoorie in July and August; and Colonel C. H. T. Marshall at Murree from May to the end of July. I again took them in July and August near Shimla, and Captain Beavan found them as late as the 6th of September near the same station.

So far as my own experience goes, the nests are always placed in very thick bushes or in low thick branches of some tree, the Deodar appearing to be a great favorite. Those I found averaged about 4 feet from the ground, but I took a single one in a Deodar tree fully 8 feet up. The bird, as a rule, conceals its nest so well that, though a loose and, for the size of the architect, a large structure, it is difficult to find, even when one closely examines the bush in which it is. The nest is nearly circular, with a deep cup-like cavity in the centre, reminding one much of that of Crateropus canorus, and is constructed of dry grass and the fine stems of herbaceous plants, often intermingled with the bark of some fibrous plant, with a considerable number of dead leaves interwoven in the fabric, especially towards the base. The cavity is neatly lined with fine grass-roots, or occasionally very fine grass. The cavity varies from 3 inches to 35 in diameter, and from 225 inches to 275 in depth; the walls immediately surrounding the cavity are very compact, but the compact portion rarely exceeds from 75 to 1 inch in thickness, beyond which the loose ends of the material straggle more or less, so that the external diameter varies from 55 inches to nearly 10.

The normal number of eggs appears to me to be three, although Captain Beavan cites an instance of four being found.

Captain Hutton tells us (J.A.S.B. xvii.) that in the neighborhood of Mussoorie "this bird is met with in pairs, sometimes in a family of four or five, and may be seen under every bush. The nest is placed near the ground, in the midst of some thick low bush, or on the side of a bank amidst overhanging coarse grass, and not unfrequently in exposed and well-frequented places; it is loosely and rather slovenly constructed of coarse dry grasses and stalks externally, lined sometimes with fine grass, sometimes with fine roots. The eggs are three in number, and in shape and size exceedingly variable, being sometimes of an ordinary oval, at others nearly round."

From Almorah and Nainital my friend Mr. Brooks writes to me "that this bird is common everywhere. The nest is generally placed in a low tree or bush where the foliage is thick. It is composed of grass, and lined with finer grass. The eggs are three in number, one inch and one line long by nine lines broad. They are of a light greenish blue, the tint being much the same as that of the eggs of Acridotheres tristis. They lay from the commencement of May to the end of June."

Colonel G. F. L. Marshall tells me that "the Streaked Laughing-Thrush is very common at Mussoorie, where it is called by the public the Robin of India. It breeds in July and August all about Landour. The nest is cup-shaped, rather shallow, and loosely put together, made of grass and fibre with some moss and a few dead leaves twisted into it; it is placed in a low bush or else on the ground concealed among the grass-roots on the hill-side. The eggs, three or four in number, are oval, rather large for the bird, and of a pure light-blue colour without spots. I took eggs on the 26th and 28th July and on the 16th August."

Sir E. C. Buck writes: "At Matiana, three marches north of Shimla, I found on the 28th June a nest in a bush on the side of a scantily 'jungled' hill. It was 2 feet from the ground, constructed of grass and stalks externally, and lined with fibrous roots. It contained three fresh eggs. The nest measured - exterior diameter 6 inches, height exteriorly 4 inches; the interior diameter was 3 inches, and the depth of the cavity 2 inches."

The late Captain Beavan tells us that "on the 16th of August, 1866, I found a nest in the garden, in a rose-bush, with four pale blue eggs in it, like those of Acridotheres tristis. The nest is a large structure, firmly built of dry twigs, bark, sticks, ferns, and roots. Another nest, with three eggs only, was found in a thick clump of everlasting peas close to the ground on the 6th of September. The female sat very close, and this may have been the second nest of the same pair that built the nest mentioned above, as it was built not far from the first."

Major C. T. Bingham writes: "Being at Landour for a few days in May I chanced on a nest of this bird, perhaps the commonest in the hills. It was placed under an overhanging bush on the side of Lal Tiba hill, and on the ground, being constructed rather loosely of pieces of the withered stem of some creeper, intertwined with a quantity of oak-leaves, and lined with grass-roots."

The eggs, of which I must have seen some hundreds, as this is the commonest Laughing-Thrush about both Mussoorie and Shimla, are typically regular and moderately broad ovals. Abnormally elongated, spherical, and pyriform varieties occur; some are nearly round like a Kingfisher's, and I have seen one almost as slender as a Swift's, but, as a rule, the eggs vary but little either in shape or colour. They are perfectly spotless, moderately glossy, and of a delicate pale greenish blue, which of course varies a little in shade and intensity of colour, but which is very much paler on the average than those of any of the Crateropi, and at the same time less glossy. I am not at all sure whether T. lineatum is rightly associated with species like T. cachinnans, T. variegatum, and T. erythrocephalum, which all have spotted eggs.

In length the eggs vary from 08 to 113, and in breadth from 063 to 08; but the average of fifty-eight eggs carefully measured is 101 by 073.

101. Grammatoptila striata (Vig.). Striated Laughing-Thrush

Grammatoptila striata (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii; p. 11; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 382.

The Striated Laughing-Thrush, remarks Mr. Blyth, "builds a compact Jay-like nest. The eggs are spotless blue, as shown by one of Mr. Hodgson's drawings in the British Museum."

A nest of this species found near Darjeeling in July was placed on the branches of a large tree, at a height of about 12 feet. It was a huge shallow cup, composed mainly of moss, bound together with stems of creepers and fronds of a Selaginella, and lined with coarse roots and broken pieces of dry grass. A few dead leaves were incorporated in the body of the nest. The nest was about 8 or 9 inches in diameter and about 2 in thickness, the broad, shallow, saucer-like cavity being about an inch in depth.

The nest contained two nearly fresh eggs. The eggs appear to be rather peculiarly shaped. They are moderately elongated ovals, a good deal pinched out and pointed towards the small end, in the same manner (though in a less degree) as those of some Plovers, Snipe, etc. I do not know whether this is the typical shape of this egg, or whether it is an abnormal peculiarity of the eggs of this particular nest. The shell is fine, but the eggs have very little gloss. In colour they are a very pale spotless blue, not much darker than those of Zosterops palpebrosus.

The eggs measure 13 and 132 in length, and 089 and 092 in breadth.

From Sikkim, Mr. Gammie writes: "In the first week of May I took a nest of the Striated Laughing-Thrush out of a small tree growing in the forest at 5500 feet above the sea. It was fixed among spray about 10 feet up. In shape it is a shallow, broad cup, and is built in three layers: the outer one of twining stems, which besides holding the nest together fastened it to the spray; the middle layer is an intermixture of green moss and fresh fern-fronds, and the inner a thick lining of roots. Externally it measured 75 inches broad by 525 inches deep; internally 4 inches by 275 inches. It contained two hard-set eggs."

Several nests of this species that I have now seen have all been of the same type, large nests 9 or 10 inches in diameter, and 4 to 5 in height, the body of the nest composed mainly of green moss interwoven with and bound round about with the stems of creepers and a few pliant twigs, many of which straggle away a good deal outside the limits which I have assigned in stating the dimensions above. The cavities are not quite hemispherical, a little shallower, say 45 inches in diameter and 2 inches in depth, closely lined with fine black roots. They have all been placed in the branches of trees at heights of from 8 to 20 feet.

Eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Gammie in May, and Mr. Mandelli in July, are of precisely the same type. They are rather elongated ovals, a good deal pointed towards the small end, near which they are not unfrequently a good deal compressed, so as to render the egg slightly pyriform. The shell is fine and smooth, but has little gloss. The ground-colour is a very pale greenish blue or bluish green, in some almost white; some of them are absolutely spotless, none of them are at all well marked, but some bear from half a dozen to a dozen tiny specks of a dark colour. On one only there is a triangular spot about 005 each way, which proves on examination with a microscope to be a deep brownish red. On the other eggs the markings are mere specks.

The eggs vary from 125 to 135 in length, and from 089 to 092 in breadth.

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