Allan O. Hume.

The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds, Volume 1 online

. (page 11 of 48)
Online LibraryAllan O. HumeThe Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds, Volume 1 → online text (page 11 of 48)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

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 neighbourhood of Darjeeling, and measure from 0·95 to
1·04: in length, and 0·72 to 0·73 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 0·95 by 0·77, and 0·98 by 0·78.

118. Pomatorhinus olivaceus, Blyth. _The Tenasserim Scimitar

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, &c. The entrance was to one side,
circular, and measuring 2·5 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

"The measurements of two were 1·1 and 1·09 in length by 0·75 in

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 1½ inches in diameter, and the same in depth, containing three
pure white eggs, perfectly fresh (measured afterwards two proved
respectively, 0·98 x 0·71, 0·99 x 0·73 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

119. Pomatorhinus melanurus, Blyth. _The Ceylonese Scimitar

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 0·96 to 0·98 in
length, by 0·7 in breadth."

120. Pomatorhinus horsfieldii, Sykes. _The Southern Scimitar

Pomatorhinus horsfieldii, _Sykes, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 31; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 404.

The Southern Scimitar Babbler breeds throughout the hilly tracts of
Southern India, up to an elevation of fully 7000 feet. They are common
in Ootacamund, and even on Dodabet as high up as it is wooded. They
seem to breed less plentifully about Kotagherry than they do at
Ootacamund itself, Coonoor, Neddivattam, &c.

They lay from February to May, building a largish globular nest of
grass, moss, and roots, placed on or very near to the ground in some
bush or clump of fern or grass. They lay five eggs.

A nest of this species which I owe to Mr. Carter, and which was found
at Coonoor on the 7th April, 1869, is a huge globular mass of moss and
fine moss-roots some 7 inches in diameter, with, on the upper side,
an entrance to a small egg-cavity some 3½ inches in diameter, and 2
inches in depth. It is a most singular nest, a great compact ball of
soft feathery moss and very fine moss-roots, which latter predominate
in the interior of the cavity, and so form a sort of lining to it. The
great body of the nest is below the cavity, the overhanging dome-like
covering of the cavity being comparatively thin.

Mr. Davison remarks: - "The nest of this bird is very peculiar in
structure, more like the nest of a field-mouse than of a bird, being
in fact merely a ball of grass rather loosely put together, the grass
on the exterior being intermingled with dry leaves and other rubbish.
The nest is generally placed either in a clump of fern, or at the
roots of some grass-grown bush. The eggs are pure white, very
elongated, and with a remarkably thin and delicate shell. The normal
number appears to be five. The breeding-season is, I think, the latter
end of April and May."

Later, he writes: - "It must, I think, breed twice, as I found a nest
on the 10th March with fully-fledged young, and late in April another
nest with perfectly fresh eggs."

Writing of this species Dr. Jerdon says: - "I procured its nest near
Neddivattam on the Nilghiris, on a bank on the roadside, made with
moss and roots, and containing four white eggs of a very elongated

Miss Cockburn, of Kotagherry, furnishes me with the following note on
the nidification of this species: - "These birds build rather large
nests, among the _roots_ of bushes, and generally prefer those which
grow on the slopes of steep hills. Their nests are composed of coarse
grass, a few roots of the same, and the bark of a bush, which cracks
when dry and is very easily pulled off. These materials are put
together into a round nest, and also form a covering above, which
makes the inside look very snug indeed. But if any attempts are made
to remove the nest, it generally falls to pieces, the materials having
no tenacity. This bird commonly uses no lining to its nest, but lays
its eggs (three to five in number) on the coarse grass of which
the inside is composed. The eggs are pure white, particularly
thin-shelled, and consequently perfectly translucent. They are found
during the months of February and March."

Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, writing from the Deccan, remark: - "Very
common along tops of ghâts. D. got a nest with two eggs in March."

Mr. T. Fulton Bourdillon writes from Travancore: - "I have been so
fortunate as to obtain two nests of this bird lately, though I have
never found any before. The first contained three fresh eggs on the
5th December last, and was situated in a bank on the roadside at
an elevation of about 3000 feet above sea-level. The nest was very
loosely made of grass, with finer kinds of grass for the lining. I
endeavoured to preserve it, but it fell to pieces on being taken from
its position, and I only succeeded in saving the eggs. As the bird,
usually a very shy one, flew off on my approach and remained close
by while I was examining the nest, I have no doubt of its identity.
Whether she would have laid more eggs I cannot say, but I fancy not;
three seems to be the usual number judging from the two clutches
taken. The other nest I found on the 8th of this month just completed.
It was in much the same position as the last, viz. a bank by the
roadside, and as it was near my bungalow I watched to see how the eggs
were deposited. The bird laid one egg each day on the 11th, 12th and
13th, and then began to sit, so on the 15th I took the nest. When
fresh the eggs are beautifully pink from the thinness of the shell."

Mr. J. Darling, junior, remarks: -

"Mr. Davison makes a very good remark on the nest of this bird, but I
found one once under the roots of a tree at Neddivattam, and it was
a most beautiful nest, built entirely of the fibrous bark of the
Nilghiri nettle, in the shape of an oven, with a hole to go in at one
side. It contained four pure white delicate eggs. Another one found
near the same place was of the same nature, only resting on some
fern-leaves and under a rock, and contained five eggs.

"I found a nest down at Vythery, Wynaad, in a hole in the bank of a
road, in December 1874, made entirely of broad grass, very untidy, and
containing three eggs."

Mr. Rhodes W. Morgan writing from South India, says: - "Breeds in
April, constructing a neat domed nest of leaves on the ground, at the
foot of a bush. The nest is lined with fine grasses, and almost always
contains three eggs, which, when fresh, are of a beautiful pink
colour, owing to the yolk shining through the shell, which is
exceedingly fragile. The egg, when blown, is of a very beautiful
glossy white. If suddenly approached whilst on its nest, this bird
runs out like a rat, and flies when at a distance from the nest. An
egg in my collection measures 1·04 by ·7 inch."

The eggs sent me from the Nilghiris by Miss Cockburn and Mr. Carter
are nearly perfect ovals, usually much elongated, but sometimes
moderately broad, and very slightly compressed towards one end.
They are very fragile, and perfectly pure spotless white in colour.
Typically, although smooth and satiny in texture, they have but little
gloss, but occasionally a fairly glossy egg is to be met with.

In length they vary from 0·98 to 1·12, and in breadth from 0·75 to
0·79; but the average seems to be about 1·08 by 0·77.

122. Pomatorhinus ferruginosus, Blyth. _The Coral-billed Scimitar

Pomatorhinus ferruginosus, _Blyth,, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 29; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 401.

The Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes,
breeds in Sikhim, at an elevation of 5000 or 6000 feet. Its nest is
placed about a foot or 2 feet above the ground, in a bamboo-clump or
some thick bush, and is firmly wedged in between the twigs and shoots.
It is composed internally of dried bamboo-leaves, grass, and vegetable
fibres, outside which bamboo-sheaths are bound on with creepers and
fibres of different kinds. The nest is more or less egg-shaped, with
the longer diameter horizontal, some 7 inches or so in length and 5
inches in height, and with the entrance at one end, measuring some
3 inches in diameter. Four or five eggs are laid, elongated ovals,
somewhat pointed towards the small end, pure white, and measuring
about 1·08 by 0·7.

From Sikhim Mr. Gammie writes: - "I took a nest of this bird on the
19th May, at an elevation of about 5000 feet. It was placed on the
ground, among low scrub, near the outskirts of a large forest, and was
neatly made, for a _Pomatorhinus_, of bamboo-leaves and long grass,
with a thin lining of fibry strips torn from old bamboo-stems. In
shape it was a cone laid on its side. Externally it measured 9 inches
in length by the same in height at front, while the egg-cavity
measured 3·5 inches across, and 1·75 in depth. The entrance, which was
at the end, measured 3 inches in diameter.

"Next to the lining was a layer of broadish grass-blades, placed
lengthways, _i.e._ from base to apex of the cone, then came a
cross layer of broad bamboo-leaves succeeded by a second layer of
bamboo-leaves placed lengthways. By this arrangement the nest was
kept perfectly water-tight. So nicely were these simple materials
put together that they held each other in their places without the
assistance of a single fibre.

"The nest contained four partially incubated eggs: three of them
pointed and exactly alike, but the fourth rounded, and apparently of a
different texture, so that it may have been introduced by a Cuckoo."

Two eggs sent by Mr. Gammie are moderately elongated ovals, somewhat
obtuse even, at the smaller end. The shell is very fine, pure white,
and has a fine gloss. They measure 1·1 by 0·83, and 1·06 by 0·78.

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

Pomatorhinus ruficollis, _Hodgs., Jerd, 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 Burmah.

The breeding-season appears to be April and May. They lay five, or
sometimes only four, eggs.

From Sikhim 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 5·7 inches in
height and 5 in diameter. Interiorly the cavity was 2·6 in diameter,
and had a total depth of 3·8 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 0·9 by

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 0·85 to 1·02 in length, and from 0·62 to 0·74 in
breadth, but the average was 0·95 by 0·68.

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

Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, _Vig., Jerd. 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 Kotegurh and below Narkunda, 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 Sikhim, 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 1·12 by 0·81 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
0·98 by 0·73. 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 1·08 by 0·73.

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 3½
inches. I have not yet found more than three eggs or young ones in any

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 1·0 to 1·2, and in breadth from 0·73 to 0·85,
but the average of twenty eggs is about 1·11 by nearly 0·8.

133. Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (Blyth). _The Slender-billed
Scimitar Babbler_.

Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (_Blyth), Jerd. 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 Sikhim, 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 2·5 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 0·95 by 0·7.

From Sikhim 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 5·5 at front, and of 1·75 at back. The cavity was quite devoid of
lining and measured 3·5 in length by 2·5 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 0·99 and 1·05 in
length, by 0·68 and 0·75 in breadth respectively.


134. Timelia pileata, Horsf. _The Red-capped Babbler_.

Timelia pileata, _Horsf., Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 24; _Hume, Rough Draft
N. & E._ no. 396.

Mr. Eugene Oates records that he "found the nest of this bird at
Thayetmyo on the 2nd June with young ones a few days old. The nest
was placed on the ground in the centre of a low but very thick thorny

Subsequently he wrote from Pegu, further south: - "The nest is placed
in the fork of a shrub, very near to, or quite on, the ground, and is
surrounded in every case by long grass. A nest found on the 4th July,
on which the female was sitting closely, contained three eggs slightly
incubated. The breeding-season seems to be in June and July.

"The nest is made entirely of bamboo-leaves and is lined sparingly
with fine grass. No other material enters into its composition. It
is oval, about 7 inches in height and 4 in diameter, with a large

Online LibraryAllan O. HumeThe Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds, Volume 1 → online text (page 11 of 48)