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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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Page 9c

Subfamily CRATEROPODINAE (continued...)

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111. Crateropus griseus (Gm.). White-headed Babbler

Malacocercus griseus (Gm.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 60; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 433.

I should say that the White-headed Babbler breeds all over the plain country of Southern India, not ascending the hills to any great elevation. At the same time, many people would very likely separate the Madras, Mangalore, and Anjango birds, and insist on their being different species; but for my part, seeing how the birds vary in each locality and what a perfect and unbroken chain of intermediate forms connects the most different-looking examples, and that all the several races are separable from the other species of this group by their more or less conspicuously pale heads, I prefer to keep them all as C. griseus.

This species, breeds apparently twice a year from April to June, and again in October and even later.

About Madras the nest is commonly placed in thick thorny hedges of a shrub locally known as "Kurka-puli," said by Balfour to be Garcinia cambogia, but which does not look like a Garcinia at all. The nest is a loosely-made cup, composed of grass-stems and roots, and the eggs vary from three to five in number.

Dr. Jerdon says: "I have often found the nest of this bird, which is composed of small twigs and roots, carelessly and loosely put together, in general at no great height from the ground. It lays three or four blue eggs."

Colonel Butler writes: "A nest containing four fresh eggs apparently of this species (it being the common Babbler in this district) was brought to me by some wood-cutters on the 18th March, 1880. It was taken in the jungles about six miles from Belgaum, and measured about 2¾ inches in diameter and about 2 inches deep interiorly, and was of the usual Babbler type, consisting of dry stems loosely but neatly constructed. The eggs were highly glossed and deep bluish green, some people might say greenish blue."

Mr. Iver Macpherson writes of this bird from Mysore: "I have found their nests in every month between March and August, and they possibly breed both earlier and later. The nests are generally fixed in thorny bushes and at no great height off the ground. Four is the usual number of eggs laid, but very often five are found, and I feel much inclined to think that the fifth egg is often that of H. varius."

The eggs of this species that I possess were taken by Mr. Davison in May, in the immediate neighborhood of Madras. They are all pretty regular, somewhat cylindrical ovals, excessively glossy, spotless, and of a deep greenish blue, much deeper than the eggs of any of the other Crateropi are as a rule; in fact, they approach in coloring to the eggs of Garrulax albigularis.

They vary in length from 0·9 to 1·0, and in breadth from 0·62 to 0·74; but I have seen too few eggs to be able to strike any reliable average.

112. Crateropus striatus (Sw.). Southern-Indian Babbler

Malacocercus striatus (Sw.), Hume, Cat. no. 432 bis.

Colonel Legge, writing of this bird's nidification in Ceylon, says: "The breeding-season of the 'Seven Brothers' lasts from  March until July. The nest is placed in a cinnamon-bush, shrub or bramble, at about four feet from the ground, and is a compact cup-shaped structure, usually fixed in a fork and made of stout grasses and plant-stalks and lined with fine grass, which, in some instances I have observed, was plucked green. The interior measures 2½ inches in depth by about 3 in width. The eggs are two or three in number, small for the size of the bird, glossy in texture, and of a uniform opaque greenish blue. They measure from 0·91 to 1·0 in length, by 0·7 to 0·74 in breadth."

113. Crateropus somervillii (Sykes). Rufous-tailed Babbler

Malacocercus somervillei (Sykes), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 63; Hume Rough Draft N. & E. no. 435.

Of the nidification of the Rufous-tailed Babbler (which, so far as I yet know, is confined to the narrow strip of country lying beneath the Ghâts for about 60 miles north and south of Bombay and to the hills or ghâts overlooking this), all I yet know is contained in the following brief note by Mr. E. Aitken: he says: "I once found a nest of the Rufous-tailed Babbler at Khandalla, I cannot tell the level precisely, but it cannot have been far from 2000 feet above the sea. It was at the end of May or the very beginning of June. The nest was in a small spreading tree in level, open forest country. The situation was just such a one as A. malcolmi generally chooses - the end of a horizontal branch with no other branches underneath it; but it was not so high as those of A. malcolmi usually are, for I could reach it from the ground. The nest was rather flat and contained three eggs, almost hatched, of an intense greenish-blue colour.

"In Bombay, where it is far more common, I once, on the 1st October, saw a pair followed by one young one and a young Coccystes melanoleucus. This was on a hill, and indeed these birds seem to confine themselves pretty much to hilly ground."

Mr. Benjamin Aitken writes: "With reference to your remark that, as far as you know, the Rufous-tailed Babbler is confined to the strip of country beneath the Ghâts, I can certainly say that they are plentiful on the slopes of Poorundhur hill, eighteen miles south of Poona. It would be interesting to learn on which other of the Deccan hills it is found. This species is decidedly fond of hilly country. It is common on the two ranges of low hills that run along the east and west shores of the island of Bombay, but never shows a feather in the gardens and groves on the level ground. I spent the greater part of two days, when I could ill spare the time, in searching for the nests, but the birds breed in the date-trees, and it would be hopeless to think of finding a nest without cutting away many of the branches or fronds. Moreover, the bird is extremely wary, and it is by no means easy to guess on which particular tree it has its nest."

114. Crateropus rufescens (Blyth). Ceylonese Babbler

Layardia rufescens (Blyth), Hume, Cat. no. 437 bis.

Colonel Legge writes regarding the nidification of this bird in Ceylon: "This bird breeds in the Western Province in March, April, and May, and constructs a nest similar to the last [M. striatus], of grass and small twigs, mixed perhaps with a few leaves, and placed among creepers surrounding the trunks of trees or in a low fork of a tree. It conceals its habitation, according to Layard, with great care; and I am aware myself that very few nests have been found. It lays two or three eggs, very similar to those of the last species, of a deep greenish blue, and pointed ovals in shape - two which were taken by Mr. MacVicar at Bolgodde measuring 0·95 by 0·75, and 0·92 by 0·74 inch."

115. Crateropus cinereifrons (Blyth). Ashy-headed Babbler

Garrulax cinereifrons (Blyth), Hume, Cat. no. 409 bis.

Colonel Legge, in his work on the birds of Ceylon, says: "The breeding-season of this bird is from April to July. Full-fledged nestlings may be found abroad with the parent birds in August; and from this I base my supposition, for I have never found the nest myself. Intelligent native woodmen, in the western forests, who are well acquainted with the bird, have informed me that it nests in April, building a large, cup-shaped nest in the fork of a bush-branch, and laying three or four dark blue eggs. Whether this account be correct or not, future investigation must decide."

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