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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 9f

Subfamily CRATEROPODINAE (continued...)

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125. Pomatorhinus ruficollis, Hodgs. Rufous-necked Scimitar Babbler

Pomatorhinus ruficollis, (Hodgson), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 29; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 400.

The Rufous-necked Scimitar Babbler breeds in Nepal, the Himalayas eastward of that State, and in the various ranges running down from Assam to Burma. The breeding-season appears to be April and May. They lay five, or sometimes only four, eggs.

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "This species breeds, I think, from the middle of April to the middle of May; but I have only as yet taken a single nest, and this I found at Rishap on the 5th May, at an elevation of about 4500 feet. The nest was placed on the ground in open country, but partially concealed by overhanging grass and weeds, and immediately adjoining a deep humid ravine filled with a dense undergrowth. The nest was composed of dry grass, fern, bamboo, and other dry leaves put loosely together and lined with a few fibres. In shape it was domed or hooded, and exteriorly it measured 57 inches in height and 5 in diameter. Interiorly the cavity was 26 in diameter, and had a total depth of 38 measured from the roof, but of only 2 inches below the lower margin of the aperture. This nest contained five eggs, much incubated; indeed, they would have hatched off in one or two days."

The Rufous-necked Scimitar Babbler breeds, according to Mr. Hodgson, in the central portion of Nepal in April and May, building a large, coarse, globular nest of dry grass and bamboo-leaves on the ground in some thick bush or bamboo-clump. The opening of the nest is at the side. They lay four or five white eggs, measuring as figured 09 by 068.

The eggs sent me by Mr. Gammie are rather elongated ovals, a good deal pointed towards one end, pure white, the shells very fine and fragile, and with a fair amount of gloss.

Ten eggs varied from 085 to 102 in length, and from 062 to 074 in breadth, but the average was 095 by 068.

129. Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, Vigors. Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler

Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 31; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 405.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler breeds from April to June in the Himalayas, at any rate from Darjeeling to the Valley of the Beas, at elevations of from 2000 to 6000 feet. It may be met with at double this latter altitude, but I doubt if it nests higher.

As a rule, the nest is placed on the ground, in some thick clump of dry fern or coarse grass, amongst dead leaves and moss, but at times I have seen it placed in a thick bush 2 or 3 feet from the ground. It is very common near Kotgarh and below Narkanda, where we found nearly a dozen nests, almost all, however, containing young ones. Typically the nest is domed, and is loosely constructed of the materials at hand - coarse grass, dry fern, dead leaves, moss-roots, and the like, some 6 or 7 inches in diameter and 5 or 6 inches high, with a broad entrance on one side, a good deal above the middle. In some cases, however, where a dense bunch of grass or fern completely curves over the spot selected for the nest, the latter is a mere broad, shallow saucer. There is no regular lining to the nests, but a good many fine roots are at times incorporated in the interior of the cavity. All the nests that I have seen were placed near the edges of clumps of brushwood or scrubby jungle.

I ought here to mention that I am by no means certain that the Nepalese and Sikkim, in fact the eastern race of this species (P. ferrugilatus Hodgs.), will not have to be separated from the more western P. erythrogenys of Gould. Long ago Blyth remarked ('Journal Asiatic Society,' 1845, p. 598) that "there seems to be two marked varieties of P. erythrogenys, one having white under-parts, with merely faint traces of darker spots, the other with the throat and breast densely mottled with greenish olive," or, as I should call it, dingy olive-grey. This is perfectly true, and, as far as I can make out, the latter variety is not one of sex or age, but is local and confined to Kumaon (where the other form also occurs) and the hills eastward of this province. My own remarks above given refer to the true P. erythrogenys, and so do Hutton's; but Hodgson's and Mr. Gammie's birds both appear to have been, and the latter's certainly were, grey-throated examples. The eggs are undistinguishable, as, indeed, though they vary somewhat in shape and size, are those of most of the Pomatorhini.

Captain Hutton says that this species is "common from 3500 feet up to 10,000 or 12,000 feet, always in pairs, turning up the dead leaves on copsewood covered banks, uttering a loud whistle, answering and calling each other. It breeds in April, constructing its nest on the ground of coarse dry grasses and leaf-stalks of walnut-trees, and is covered with a dome-shaped roof, so nicely blended with the fallen leaves and withered grasses, among which it is placed, as to be almost undistinguishable from them. The eggs are three in number, and pure white; diameter 112 by 081 inches, of an ordinary oval shape. When disturbed, the bird sprung along the ground with long bounding hops, so quickly that, from its motions and the appearance of the nest, I was led to believe it a species of rat. The nest is placed in a slight hollow, probably formed by the bird itself."

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes, this species would appear to breed at heights of from 2000 to 8000 feet. It lays in May and June. On the 20th May, and again on the 6th June, Mr. Hodgson found nests of this species in thick bushes 3 or 4 feet above the ground. They were broad saucer-shaped nests of coarse vegetable fibres, grass, and grass-roots, 7 inches or so in diameter, and the cavity, which had no lining, was about 4 inches in diameter by 2 inches in depth. They contained three and four white eggs respectively. One figured measures 098 by 073. On June 8th he found two more nests at Jaha Powah, on the ground, on edges of brushy slopes close to grassy open plains, the nest a large mass of grass, oven-shaped, open at one and in one case at both ends, protected by the root of a tree. There were two and three white eggs in the nests respectively. The eggs of these nests are figured as measuring 108 by 073.

Mr. Gammie remarks: "I found a nest of this species below Rungbee, at an elevation of about 2000 feet, on the 17th June. It was placed on, and partially in a hole in a bank, and contained two hard-set eggs. It was a large, loose pad of fine grass and dead fern, with a few broad flag-like grass-leaves incorporated towards the base, and overhung by a sort of canopy of similar materials. The basal portion was some 6 inches long and 5 inches broad, and about 2 inches thick in the thickest part, with a broad shallow depression for the eggs of about half that depth."

Writing again this year (1874) he says: "I have only found two more nests this year, and both in the last week of April; the one contained three partially incubated eggs, the other three young birds. These nests were at Gielle, at an elevation of about 2500 feet. As a rule, these birds nest in open country, immediately adjoining moist thickly wooded ravines, in which they feed, and take refuge if disturbed from the nest. The nest is usually placed on sloping ground, more or less concealed by overhanging herbage, and is composed, according to my experience, of dry grass sparingly lined with fibres. It is large; one I measured in situ was 8 inches in height and 7 inches in diameter; the vertical diameter of the cavity was 4 inches and the horizontal 3 inches. I have not yet found more than three eggs or young ones in any nest."

Dr. Scully remarks of this bird in Nipal: "It lays in May and June; two nests, taken on the 30th May and 6th June, were large loosely-made pads, not domed, and with the egg-cavity saucer-shaped, each nest contained three pure white eggs."

The eggs of this species are long, and at times narrow, ovals, pure white and fairly glossy, but occasionally almost glossless, without any marks or spottings.

In length they vary from 10 to 12, and in breadth from 073 to 085, but the average of twenty eggs is about 111 by nearly 08.

133. Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (Blyth). Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler

Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 33; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 406.

The Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, breeds in Sikkim, at elevations of 3000 to 6000 feet, during the months of May and June. The nest is a large globular one, composed of dry bamboo-leaves and green grass, intermingled and lined with fine roots and fibres. The entrance, which is about 2 to 25 inches in diameter, is at one end. A nest containing four eggs, obtained on the 12th June, measured about 7 inches in diameter externally, and it was placed in the crown of a stump from 2 to 3 feet from the ground. Sometimes the nests are placed in tufts of high grass or in thick bushes, but never at any great elevation above the ground. They lay three or four eggs, which are pure white, and one of which is figured as a broad oval, measuring 095 by 07.

From Sikkim Mr. Gammie writes: "I took a nest of this Scimitar Babbler on the 29th May, in the middle of the large forest on the top of the Mahalderam ridge, at about 7000 feet elevation. It was built on the ground, on top of a dry bank by the side of a path, and was overhung by a few grassy weeds. In shape it was a blunt cone laid on its side, with the entrance at the wide end. It was loosely made of the dead leaves of a deciduous orchid (Pleione wallichiana), small bamboo, chestnut, and grass, intermixed with decaying stems of small climbing-plants. It measured externally 6 inches long, with a diameter of 55 at front, and of 175 at back. The cavity was quite devoid of lining and measured 35 in length by 25 wide at entrance, slightly contracting inwards. It contained three partially incubated eggs."

Two eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Gammie are elongated ovals, pure white, and with only a faint gloss. They measure 099 and 105 in length, by 068 and 075 in breadth respectively.

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