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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 9d

Subfamily CRATEROPODINAE (continued...)

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116. Pomatorhinus schisticeps, Hodgs. Slaty-headed Scimitar Babbler

Pomatorhinus schisticeps, (Hodgs.), Jerdon B.I. ii, p. 29; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 402.

Speaking of the Slaty-headed Scimitar Babbler, Dr. Jerdon says: "A nest made of moss and some fibres, and with four pure white eggs, was brought to me at Darjeeling as belonging to this bird."

Two nests were sent me by Mr. Mandelli as belonging to this species, the one found near Namtchu on the 3rd April containing four fresh eggs, the other near Tendong on the 15th June, containing three. Another nest which he found on the 22nd April, near the same place as the first, contained four fresh eggs. All were placed on or very near to the ground in brushwood and grass; all appear to have been large, rather saucer-like nests, from 55 to 65 inches in diameter externally, and 25 to 3 in height. Outside and below they are composed chiefly of coarse grass, dead leaves, especially fern-leaves, while interiorly they are composed of and lined with finer - in some cases very fine - grass. The cavities average, I should guess, 375 inches in diameter, and 15, or a little more perhaps, in depth.

Mr. J. R. Cripps has the following note on the breeding of this bird in Assam: "A nest I got was situated at the roots of a clump of bushes, overhanging a small river. A bridge spanning this river was within ten yards, the intervening space being open; and for such a shy bird to have chosen such an exposed situation to build in astonished me."

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "A nest of this Babbler taken on the 20th May much resembled that of P. ferruginosus, both in size and structure. The egg-cavity had, however, a lining of at least half an inch in thickness of soft, fibrous material extracted from the bark of some tree, and a little fine grass for the eggs to lie on. It was on the ground, among low jungle, in the Ryeng Valley, at 2000 feet of elevation, and contained four eggs, two of them hatching off and two addled. According to my experience, nests containing so large a proportion of addled eggs are unusual."

Eggs sent by Mr. Mandelli as belonging to this species closely resemble those of Pomatorhinus ferruginosus, but are somewhat smaller; they are oval eggs a good deal pointed towards one end, pure white, and with a high gloss. They were obtained on the 5th and 22nd of April in the neighborhood of Darjeeling, and measure from 095 to 104: in length, and 072 to 073 in breadth. Eggs sent by Mr. Gammie are precisely similar.

Two other eggs of this species subsequently obtained were slightly shorter and broader, and measured 095 by 077, and 098 by 078.

118. Pomatorhinus olivaceus, Blyth. Tenasserim Scimitar Babbler

Pomatorhinus olivaceus, (Blyth), Hume, Cat. no. 403 bis.

Mr. Davison writes: "I found a nest of this bird on the morning of the 21st January, 1875, at Pakchan, Tenasserim Province, Burma. It was placed on the ground at the foot of a small screw pine, growing in thick bamboo-jungle; it was a large globular structure, composed externally of dry bamboo-leaves, and well secreted by the mass of dry bamboo-leaves that surrounded it; it was in fact buried in these, and if I had not seen the bird leave it, it would most undoubtedly have remained undiscovered. Externally it was about a foot in length by 9 inches in height, but it was impossible to take any accurate measurement, as the nest really had no marked external definition. Internally was a lining about half an inch thick, composed of thin strips of dry bark, fibres, etc. The entrance was to one side, circular, and measuring 25 inches in diameter; the egg-cavity measured 4 inches deep by about 3 in height.

"In the nest were three pure white ovato-pyriform eggs, but so far incubated that they would probably have hatched off before the day was out.

"The measurements of two were 11 and 109 in length by 075 in breadth."

Major C. T. Bingham says: "This is the Pomatorhinus of the Thoungyeen valley, being found from the sources to the mouth of that river. A note recorded two years ago of a nest that I found is given below: 4th March. - Having to go over the ground along the southern boundary of the proposed Meplay reserve I had to cut my way through dense bamboo, to go through a long belt of which is hard work. To make it worse in this case several clumps had been burnt by fire and blown down. As I was slowly progressing along, bent almost double, out of a little hollow at my feet a bird flew with a suddenness that nearly knocked me down. I looked into the hollow, and there under the ledge of the sheltering bank was a nest of dry bamboo-leaves lined with strips of the same, shredded fine. It was cup-shaped, loosely made, about 1 inches in diameter, and the same in depth, containing three pure white eggs, perfectly fresh (measured afterwards two proved respectively, 098 x 071, 099 x 073 inch); and gun in hand I watched, hiding myself behind a clump of bamboos about thirty yards off. For an hour I watched, but the bird did not return, so I marked the spot and went on. Returning back the same way just before dusk, I managed to start her again, and to get a hurried shot; she fell and I secured and recognized her as P. olivaceus."

The eggs, which seem small for the size of the bird, are rather broad ovals, some fairly regular, some a good deal compressed just towards the small end, which is, however, always obtuse, never pointed; the shell is fine, compact, and thin, smooth and satiny to the touch, but with scarcely any perceptible gloss. The colour is pure spotless white.

119. Pomatorhinus melanurus, Blyth. Ceylonese Scimitar Babbler

Pomatorhinus melanurus, (Blyth), Hume, Cat. no. 404 bis.

Colonel Legge writes of the nidification of this bird in Ceylon: "This Babbler breeds from December until February. I have observed one collecting materials for a nest in the former month, and at the same period Mr. Mac Vicar had the eggs brought to him; they were taken from a nest made of leaves and grass, and placed on a bank in jungle. Mr. Bligh has found the nest in crevices in trees, between a projecting piece of bark and the trunk, also in a jungle-path cutting and on a ledge of rock; it is usually composed of moss, grass-roots, fibre, and a few dead leaves, and the structure is rather a slovenly one. The eggs vary from three to five, and are pure white, the shell thin and transparent, and they measure 096 to 098 in length, by 07 in breadth."

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