Part 10 out of 12
" 8th. " " 4 "
" 9th. " " 2 "
" 10th. " " 5 "
" 10th. " " 4 "
Aug. 9th. " " 3 "
"I found many other nests in the same neighbourhood containing young
birds during the last week of July."
Regarding the Rufous-backed Shrike, Mr. Benjamin Aitken has sent me
the subjoined interesting note:--"This Shrike makes its appearance in
Bombay regularly during the last week of September, and announces its
arrival by loud cries for the first few days, till it has made itself
at home in the new neighbourhood; after which it spends nearly the
whole of its days on a favourite perch, darting down on every insect
that appears within a radius of thirty yards. It pursues this
occupation with a system and perseverance to which _L. lahtora_ makes
but a small approach. When its stomach is full, it enlivens the weary
hours with the nearest semblance to a song of which its vocal organs
are capable; for while many human bipeds have a good voice but no
ear, the _L. erythronotus_ has an excellent ear but a voice that no
modulation will make tolerable. It remains in Bombay till towards the
end of February, and then suddenly becomes restless and quarrelsome,
making as much ado as the _Koel_ in June, and then taking its
departure, for what part of the world I do not know. This I know, that
from March to August there is never a Rufous-backed Shrike in Bombay.
"The Rufous-backed Shrike, though not so large as the Grey Shrike, is
a much bolder and fiercer bird. It will come down at once to a cage of
small birds exposed at a window, and I once had an Amadavat killed and
partly eaten through the wires by one of these Shrikes, which I saw in
the act with my own eyes. The next day I caught the Shrike in a large
basket which I set over the cage of Amadavats. On another occasion I
exposed a rat in a cage for the purpose of attracting a Hawk, and in a
few minutes found a _L. erythronotus_ fiercely attacking the cage on
all sides. I once caught one alive and kept it for some time. As soon
as it found itself safely enclosed in the cage, it scorned to show any
fear, and the third day took food from my hand. It was very fond of
bathing, and was a handsome and interesting pet."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden remark:--"Very common in Satara; breeding
freely in beginning of the rains; observed at Lanoli. Bare in the
Sholapoor District and does not appear to breed there." And the former
gentleman, writing of Western Khandeish, says:--"A few pairs breed
about Dhulia in June and July."
Mr. C.J.W. Taylor records the following note from Manzeerabad in
Mysore:--"Plentiful all over the district. Breeding in May; eggs taken
on the 7th."
I have so fully described the eggs of _L. lahtora_, of which the eggs
of this present species are almost miniatures, that I need say but
little in regard to these. On the whole, the markings in this species
are, I think, feebler and less numerous than in _L. lahtora_; and
though this would not strike one in the comparison of a few eggs in
each, it is apparent enough when several hundreds of each are laid
side by side, four or five abreast, in broad parallel rows. The
ground-colour, too, in the egg of _L. erythronotus_ has seldom, if
ever, as much green in it, and has commonly more of the pale creamy or
pinky stone-colour than in the case of _L. lahtora_.
In size the eggs of _L. erythronotus_ appear to approach those of
the English Red-backed Shrike, though they average perhaps somewhat
In length they vary from 0.85 to 1.05 inch, and in breadth from 0.65
to 0.77 inch, but the average of more than one hundred eggs measured
is 0.92 by 0.71 inch.
This closely allied species, the Pale Rufous-backed Shrike, breeds
only, so far as I yet know, in the Nilghiris, Palanis, &c.
It lays from March to July, the majority, I think, breeding in June.
Its nest is very similar and is similarly placed to that of the
preceding, from which, if it differs at all, it only differs in being
It lays from four to six eggs, slightly more elongated ovals than
those of _L. erythronotus_, taken as a body, but not, in my opinion,
separable from these when mixed with a large number.
Captain Hutton, however, does not concur in this: he remarks:--"This
species, which is very common in Afghanistan, occurs also in the Doon
and on the hills up to about 6000 feet. At Jeripanee I took a nest
on the 21st June containing five eggs, of a pale livid white colour,
sprinkled with brown spots, chiefly collected at the larger end,
where, however, they cannot be said to form a ring; interspersed with
these are other dull sepia spots appearing beneath the shell. Diameter
0.94 by 0.69 inch, or in some rather more. Shape rather tapering
"The differences perceptible between this and the last are the much
smaller size of the spots and blotches, the latter, indeed, scarcely
existing, while in _L. erythronotus_ they are large and numerous;
there is great difference likewise in the shape of the egg, those of
the present species being less globular or more tapering. The nest was
found in a thick bush about 5 feet from the ground, and was far more
neatly made than that of the foregoing species; it is likewise less
deep internally. It was composed of the dry stalks of 'forget-me-not,'
compactly held together by the intermixture of a quantity of moss
interwoven with fine flax and seed-down, and lined with fine
grass-stalks. Internal diameter 31/2 inches; external 6 inches; depth
11/2 inch, forming a flattish cup, of which the sides are about 11/2 inch
thick. The depth, therefore, is less by 1 inch than in that of the
Mr. H.R.P. Carter tells me that "at Coonoor, on the Nilghiris, this
species breeds in April and May, placing its nest in large shrubs,
orange-trees, and other low trees which are thick and leafy. The nest
is externally irregular in shape, and is composed of fibres and roots
mixed with cotton-wool and rags; in one nest I found a piece of lace,
6 or 8 inches long; internally it is a deep cup, some 4 inches in
diameter and 2 in depth. The eggs are sometimes three in number,
Mr. Wait says that "the breeding-season extends from March to July in
the Nilghiris; the nest, cup-shaped and neatly built, is placed in low
trees, shrubs, and bushes, generally thorny ones; the outside of the
nest is chiefly composed of weeds (a white downy species is invariably
present), fibres, and hay, and it is lined with grass and hair; there
is often a good deal of earth built in, with roots and fibres in the
foundation of this nest; four appears to be the usual number of eggs
Miss Cockburn, from Kotagherry, also on the Nilghiris, tells me that
"the Pale Rufous-backed Shrike builds in the months of February and
March and forms a large nest, the foundation of which is occasionally
laid with large pieces of rags, or (as I have once or twice found)
pieces of carpet. To these they add sticks, moss, and fine grass as
a lining, and lay four eggs, which are white, but have a circle of
ash-coloured streaks and blotches at the thick end, resembling those
on Flycatchers' eggs. They are exceedingly watchful of their nests
while they contain eggs or young, and never go out of sight of the
bush which contains the precious abode."
Mr. Davison remarks that "this species builds in bushes or trees at
about 6 to 20 feet from the ground: a thorny thick bush is generally
preferred, _Berberis asiatica_ being a favourite. The nest is a large
deep cup-shaped structure, rather neatly made of grass, mingled with
odd pieces of rag, paper, &c., and lined with fine grass. The eggs,
four or five in number, are white, spotted with blackish brown,
chiefly at the thicker end, where the spots generally form a zone.
The usual breeding-season is May and the early part of June, though
sometimes nests are found in April and even as late as the last week
in June, by which time the south-west monsoon has generally burst on
Dr. Fairbank writes:--"This bird lives through the year on the Palanis
and breeds there. I found a nest with five eggs when there in 1867,
but have not the notes then made about it."
Captain Horace Terry informs us that this Shrike is a most common bird
in the Palani hills, found everywhere and breeding freely.
Mr. H. Parker, writing from Ceylon, says:--"A pair of these Shrikes
reared three clutches of young in my compound (two of them out of
one nest) from December to May, inclusive; but this must be abnormal
Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon':--"This bird breeds in
the Jaffna district and on the north-west coast from February until
May. Mr. Holdsworth found its nest in a thorn-bush about 6 feet high,
near the compound of his bungalow, in the beginning of February....
Layard speaks of the young being fledged in June at Point Pedro, and
says that it builds in _Euphorbia_-trees in that district."
The eggs of this species, sent me by Captain Hutton from the Doon and
by numerous correspondents from the Nilghiris, are indistinguishable
from many types of _L. erythronotus_, and indeed the birds are so
closely allied that this was only to be expected. It is unnecessary
to describe these at length, as my description of the eggs of _L.
erythronotus_ applies equally to these.
In size the eggs, however, vary less and _average_ longer than those
of this latter species. In length they range from 0.93 to 1 inch, and
in breadth from 0.7 to 0.72 inch, but the average of twenty was 0.95
by 0.7 inch.
477. Lanius tephronotus (Vigors). _The Grey-backed Shrike_.
Lanius tephronotus (_Vig.), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 403.
Collyrio tephronotus, _Vigors, Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 258.
As far as I yet know, the Grey-backed Shrike breeds, within our
limits, only in the Himalayas, and chiefly in the interior, at heights
of from 5000 to 8000 feet above the sea-level. In the interior of
Sikhim, in the Sutlej Valley near Chini, in Lahoul, and well up the
valley of the Beas, they are pretty common during the summer; they lay
from May to July, and the young are about by the end of July or the
early part of August. I have never seen a nest, although I have had
eggs and birds sent me from both Sikhim and the Sutlej Valley. There
were only two eggs in each case, but doubtless, like other Shrikes,
they lay from four to six.
Mr. Blanford remarks that _L. tephronotus_ was "common at Lachung, in
Sikhim, 8000 to 9000 feet, in the beginning of September, but three
weeks later all had disappeared. Many of those seen were in young
plumage, with hair on the breast, back, and scapulars."
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall records from Murree:--"This species much
resembles _L. erythronotus_, but the eggs differ considerably, being
more creamy white, blotched and spotted (more particularly at the
larger end) with pale red and grey. They are the same size as those
of the preceding species. Lays in the beginning of July at the same
elevation as _L. erythronotus_."
As to the size I cannot concur with the above.
Colonel Marshall has since kindly sent me two of the eggs above
referred to; they are clearly, it seems to me, eggs of _Dicrurus
longicaudatus_, or the slightly smaller hill-form named _himalayanus_,
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall writes:--"A nest found at about three feet
from the ground in a thick bush at Bheem Tal, at the edge of the lake,
contained five fresh eggs on the 28th May: the nest was a coarsely
built massive cup; the eggs were about the same size as those of _L.
erythronotus_, but the spots were larger and less closely gathered
than is usual with that species."
Dr. Scully says:--"The Grey-backed Shrike is common in the Valley of
Nepal from about the end of September to the middle of March; it is
the only Shrike found in the Valley during the winter season, but it
migrates further north to breed. In December it was fairly common
about Chitlang, which is higher than Kathmandu, but seemed to be
entirely replaced in the Hetoura Dun by _L. nigriceps_. It frequents
gardens, groves, and cultivated ground, perching on bushes and hedges
and small bare trees. It has a very harsh chattering note, louder than
that of _L. nigriceps_, and appears to be most noisy towards sunset,
when its cry would often lead one to suppose that the bird was being
strangled in the clutches of a raptor."
Mr. O. Moeller has kindly furnished me with the following note:--"On
the 7th June, 1879, my men brought a nest containing four fresh eggs,
together with a bird of the present species; I send two of the eggs:
perhaps you recollect the eggs of _L. tephronotus_, in which case you
of course will be able to see at a glance if I am correct. I have
never come across such large eggs of _L. nigriceps_, the eggs of which
also as a rule have well-defined spots and no blotches; the two other
eggs the nest contained measure 1 by 0.74, and 1.01 by 0.76 inch."
The eggs of this species are of the ordinary Shrike type, moderately
elongated ovals, a little compressed towards the small end. The shell
extremely smooth and compact, but with scarcely any perceptible gloss.
The ground-colour pale greenish or yellowish white; the markings
chiefly confined to a broad irregular ill-defined zone round the large
end--blotches, spots, specks, and smears of pale yellowish brown more
or less intermingled with small clouds and spots of pale sepia-grey or
inky purple. In some eggs a good number of the smaller markings and
occasionally one or two larger ones are scattered over the entire
surface of the egg, but typically the bulk of the markings are
comprised within the zone above referred to.
In length four eggs vary from 0.97 to 1.06 inch, and in breadth from
0.76 to 0.81 inch.
481. Lanius cristatus, Linn. _The Brown Shrike_.
Lanius cristatus, _Linn., Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 406: _Hume, Rough Draft
N. & E._ no. 261.
I am induced to notice this species, the Brown Shrike, although I
possess no detailed information as to its nidification, in consequence
of Lord Walden's remarks on this subject in 'The Ibis' of 1867. He
says "Does it, then, cross the vast ranges of the Himalaya in its
northern migration? or does it not rather find on the southern slopes
and in the valleys of those mountains all the conditions suitable for
nesting?"; and he adds in a note, "It is extremely doubtful whether
any passerine bird which frequents the plains of India during the
cooler months crosses to the north of the snowy ranges of the Himalaya
after quitting the plains to escape the rainy season or the intense
heat of summer."
Now, it is quite certain, as I have shown in 'Lahore to Yarkand,' that
several of our Indian passerine birds do cross the entire succession
of Snowy Ranges which divide the plains of India from Central Asia,
and it is tolerably certain from my researches and those of numerous
contributors that _L. cristatus_ breeds _only_ north of these ranges.
True, Tickell gives the following account of the nidification of this
species in the plains of India:--
"Nest found in large bushes or thickets, shallow, circular, 4 inches
in diameter, rather coarsely made of fine twigs and grass. Eggs three,
ordinary; 29/32 by 21/32: pale rose-colour, thickly sprinkled
with blood-red spots, with a darkish livid zone at the larger
end.--_June_." But Tickell, though he warns us at the commencement
of his paper (Journal As. Soc. 1848, p. 297) of the "attempts at
duplicity of which the wary oologist must take good heed," gives the
egg of the Sarus as plain white, and says he has seen upwards of a
dozen like this, those of the Roller as full deep Antwerp blue, those
of _Cypselus palmarum_ as white with large spots of deep claret-brown,
and so on, and it is quite clear that his supposed eggs and nest of
_L. cristatus_ belonged to one of the Bulbuls.
Of more than fifty oologists who have collected for me at different
times in hills and plains, from the Nilghiris to Huzara on the one
side, and to Sikhim on the other, not one has ever met with a nest of
_L. cristatus_. This is doubtless purely negative evidence, but it is
still entitled to considerable weight.
From the valleys of the Beas and the Sutlej, as also from Kumaon and
Gurhwal, these Shrikes seem to disappear entirely during the summer,
and they are then, as we also know, found breeding in Yarkand. It is
only in the latter part of the autumn that they reappear in the former
named localities, finding their way by the commencement of the cold
season to the foot of the hills.
Mr. R. Thompson, to quote one of many close observers, remarks:--"This
bird appears regularly at Huldwanee and Rumnugger at the foot of the
Kumaon Hills during the cold weather, confining itself to thick hedges
and deep groves of trees. Where it goes to in summer I cannot say, it
certainly does not remain in our hills."
484. Hemipus picatus (Sykes). _The Black-backed Pied Shrike_.
Hemipus picatus (_Sykes_), _Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 412; _Hume, Rough
Draft_ _N. & E._ no 267.
I quite agree with Mr. Gray that this bird is a Flycatcher and not a
Shrike; no one in fact who has watched it in life can have any doubt
on this subject; but yet, except for their being more strongly marked,
its eggs have no doubt a very Shrike-like character, at the same time
that they exhibit many affinities to those of _Rhipidura albifrontata_
and other undoubted Flycatchers.
Mr. W. Davison says:--"About the first week in March 1871, I found
at Ootacamund a nest of this bird placed in the fork of one of the
topmost branches of a rather tall _Berberis leschenaulti_. For the
size of the bird this was an exceedingly small shallow nest, and from
its position between the fork, its size, and the materials of which it
was composed externally, might very easily have passed unnoticed; the
bird sitting on it appeared to be sitting only on a small lump of moss
and lichen, the whole of the bird's tail, and as low down as the lower
part of the breast, being visible. The nest was composed of grass and
fine roots covered externally with cobweb and pieces of a grey lichen,
and bits of moss taken apparently from the same tree on which the nest
was built: the eggs were three in number. The tree on which this nest
was built was opposite my window, and I watched the birds building for
nearly a week; and, again, when having the nest taken, the birds sat
till the native lad I had sent up put out his hand to take the nest.
I am _absolutely_ certain, as to the identity of this nest and these
The eggs brought me by Mr. Davison, of the authenticity of which he is
positive, are very Shrike-like in their appearance; they are rather
elongated ovals, somewhat obtuse at both ends, and entirely devoid of
gloss. The ground-colour is a pale greenish or greyish white, and they
are profusely blotched, spotted, and streaked with darker and lighter
shades of umber-brown; in both eggs these markings are more or less
confluent along a broad zone, which in one egg encircles the larger,
in the other the smaller end: these eggs measure 0.7 by 0.5 inch and
0.69 by 0.49 inch.
Captain Horace Terry writes from the Palani Hills:--"Pittur Valley. I
had a nest brought me which from the description of the bird must, I
think, have belonged to this species. Nest rather a shallow cup placed
in a thorny tree about ten feet from the ground, neatly made of grass
and moss, lined with fine grass and a few feathers, covered a great
deal on the outside with dusky-coloured cobwebs, 2.5 inches across and
1.5 inch deep inside, and 3.25 inches to 3.5 inches across, and 2.25
inches deep outside: contained five very much incubated eggs; shape
and marking exactly like those of _L. caniceps_, having a well-defined
zone round the larger end; size about the same or rather smaller than
those of _Pratincola bicolor_."
485. Hemipus capitalis (McClelland). _The Brown-backed Pied Shrike_.
Hemipus capitalis (_McClell._), _Hume, cat._ no. 267 A.
I must premise that to the best of my belief there is no such thing
as _H. capitalis_, McClell., in India, or, in other words, that this
latter name is a mere synonym of _H. picatus_.[A]
[Footnote A: Mr. Hume would probably now agree with me that _H.
picatus_ and _H. capitalis_ are distinct species. _H. picatus_,
however, is not confined to Southern India, but occurs along the
Terais of Sikhim and Nepal, and throughout Burma. _H. capitalis_
occurs on the Himalayas from Gurwhal to Assam. There is little
doubt that Captain Hutton's nest did not really belong to a Pied
Mr. Blyth remarks, Ibis, 1866:--"_Hemipus picatus_. Under this name
two very distinct species are brought together by Dr. Jerdon: _H.
capitalis_ (McClell., 1839; _H. picaecolor_, Hodgson, 1845) of the
Himalaya, which is larger, with proportionally longer tail, and has
a brown back; and _H. picatus_ (Sykes) of Southern India and Ceylon,
which has a black back. Mr. Wallace has good series of both of them.
"_Hemipus capitalis_ has accordingly to be added to the birds of
Now, out of India, Mr. Wallace may have got hold of some brown-backed
_Hemipus_, which is really distinct, but nothing is more certain (I
speak after comparison of a large series from Southern India with a
still larger, gathered from all parts of the Himalayas) than that the
Southern and Northern Indian birds are identical, and that in both
localities the males have black and the females brown backs.
Capt. T. Hutton says:--"On the 12th of May I procured a nest of this
bird in the Dehra Doon; it was placed on the ground at the base of an
overhanging rock, and was composed entirely of the hair of horses and
cows and other cattle, which had doubtless been collected from the
bushes and pasture-lands in the vicinity. There were four eggs of a
pale sea-green, spotted with rufous-brown, and forming an indistinct
and nearly confluent ring at the larger end. The bird had begun to
"This curious little species is not uncommon in the outer hills up to
5000 feet in the summer months."
The three eggs sent me by Captain Hutton appear to differ somewhat
conspicuously from any other eggs of the _Laniidae_ that I have yet
seen. The ground-colour is a very pale greenish white, and they are
moderately thickly freckled and mottled all over, but most densely
towards the large end (where, in one egg, there is a well-marked,
though somewhat irregular, zone), with pale brownish pink and very
pale purple. In shape the eggs are very regular, rather broad ovals,
and appear to have but little or no gloss. They vary in length from
0.66 to 0.7 inch, and in breadth from 0.53 to 0.55 inch.
Dr. Jerdon's evidence, so far as it goes, tallies with Captain
Hutton's account. He says:--"I obtained its nest once at Darjeeling,
made of roots and grasses, with three greenish-white eggs, having a
few rusty-red spots."
From Sikhim, Mr. Gammie writes:--"At page 178 of 'Nests and Eggs of
Indian Birds' (Rough Draft), Captain T. Hutton's description of the
nest and eggs of _Hemipus picatus_ is given, and at page 179 that of
Mr. W. Davison. The two descriptions differ so radically that, as
there remarked, one of the two must be in error. Permit me to record
my limited experience of the nesting of this bird.
"Common as it is in Sikhim I have but once taken its nest, and that in
the first week of May, at 4000 feet elevation. The nest, which is well
described by Mr. Davison, is made of black, fibry roots, sparingly
lined with fine grass-stalks, and covered outwardly with small
pieces of lichens bound to the sides with cobwebs. It is a very neat
diminutive cup, measuring externally 1.9 inch across by an inch deep;
internally 1.5 by half an inch.
"The whole nest, although quite a substantially built structure, is
barely the eighth part of an ounce in weight. It was placed on the
upper side of a horizontal branch close to its broken end, about
fifteen feet from the ground, and contained two fresh eggs. I send
you the nest and an egg, both of which will, I think, be found on
comparison to agree exactly with those taken by Mr. Davison."
Mr. Mandelli has sent me two nests of this species, found on the 15th
August above Namtchu in Native Sikhim. They were placed about two feet
from each other, each in a small fork of the branches of a small tree
which was situated in heavy forest. Each contained two fresh eggs.
The nests are very similar, but one is rather larger and less tidily
finished-off than the other. Both are shallow cups, miniatures of some
of the nests of _Dicrurus_, composed of excessively fine grass-stems,
coated exteriorly all round the sides with cobwebs, and, in the case
of one of them, plastered exteriorly with tiny films of bark and dry
leaves like some of the nests of the _Pericrocoti_. Both have a little
soft silky vegetable down at the bottom of the cavity. The one nest is
about two inches, the other about two and a half inches in diameter
exteriorly, and both are a little less than three quarters of an inch
high outside. The cavity in the one is about an inch and a half, in
the other about an inch and three quarters in diameter, and both are
about half an inch deep.
Eggs received from Sikhim are broad ovals, glossless, with
greenish-white grounds, profusely speckled and mottled with slightly
varying shades of brown, here and there intermingled with dull, pale
inky purple. The markings are densest generally round the broadest
part of the egg. They measured from 0.61 to 0.7 in length, and from
0.51 to 0.55 in breadth.
486. Tephrodornis pelvicus (Hodgs.). _The Nepal Wood-Shrike_.
Tephrodornis pelvica (_Hodgs.), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 409; _Hume. cat._
The Nepal Wood-Shrike is a permanent resident throughout Burma, Assam,
Cachar, and the sub-Himalayan Terais and Ranges to which the typical
Indo-Burmese fauna extends. Still we have no information as to its
nidification, and the only egg of the species that I possess was
extracted from the oviduct of a female shot by Mr. Davison on the 26th
of March, 1874, near Tavoy in Tenasserim. The egg is rather a handsome
one--very Shrike-like in its character, but rather small for the size
of the bird. In shape it is a broad oval, very slightly compressed
towards one end. The shell is fine and compact, but has no gloss.
The ground is white, with the faintest possible greenish tinge only
noticeable when the egg is placed alongside a pure white one, such as
a Bee-eater's for instance. The markings are bold, but except at the
large end not very dense--spots and blotches of a light clear brown,
and (chiefly at the large end) somewhat pale inky grey. Where the two
colours overlap each other, there the result of the mixture is a dark
dusky brown, so that the markings appear to be of three colours. Fully
half the markings are gathered into a broad conspicuous but very
broken and irregular zone about the broad end. The egg measured only
0.86 by 0.69.
Subsequently to writing the above Mr. Mandelli sent me a nest of this
species found at Ging near Darjeeling on the 27th April. It contained
four fresh eggs, and was placed on branches of a very large tree about
22 feet from the ground. The tree was situated at an elevation of
about 3000 feet. The nest is a large massive cup, 5 inches in exterior
diameter and rather more than 3 in height. It is composed of tendrils
of creepers and stems of herbaceous plants, to many of which the
bright yellow amaranth flowers remain attached; and all over the sides
and bottom masses of flower-stems of grass with the white silky down
attached are thickly plastered, which, intermingled as this white down
is with the glistening yellow flowers, produces a very ornamental
effect, and looks as it the bird had really had an eye to decoration.
Inside the nest is entirely lined with very fine grass-stems. The nest
is everywhere about an inch thick, and the cavity about 3 inches in
diameter by nearly 2 deep.
Eggs said to belong to this species kindly sent me by Mr. Mandelli,
whose men obtained them on the 27th April, are very Shrike-like in
their appearance. In shape they vary from broad to ordinary ovals,
generally somewhat compressed towards the small end. The shell is
white but almost glossless. The ground-colour is a dead white, and
they are profusely speckled and spotted with yellowish brown, paler in
some eggs, darker in others. In all the eggs the markings are by far
the most numerous towards the large end. Two eggs measure 0.95 and
0.91 in length by 0.74 and 0.72 in breadth respectively.
487. Tephrodornis sylvicola, Jerdon. _The Malabar Wood-Shrike_.
Tephrodornis sylvicola, _Jerd., Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 409; _Hume, cat._
Major M. Forbes Coussmaker has furnished me with the following note on
the nidification of the Malabar Wood-Shrike:--"I took the nest of this
bird on April 13th, 1875. It was composed of fine roots and fibres,
neatly woven into a shallow cup-like nest, secured to the fork of
a horizontal bough and fixed in its place with cobweb, and covered
externally with lichen corresponding to that on the bough. It measured
4.2 inches in diameter externally, and 2.4 internally and .7 deep.
Both parent birds were shot. The eggs two in number, rather round,
coloured white with faint inky and brown spots."
One of these eggs is a very regular oval, the shell fine but
glossless, the ground-colour white, with a faint greenish tinge; round
the large end is a pretty conspicuous zone of black or blackish-brown
and pale inky purple spots and small blotches, and similar spots and
blotches of the same colour are somewhat sparsely scattered over the
rest of the surface of the egg. The egg measured 0.98 by 0.73.
488. Tephrodornis pondicerianus (Gm.). _The Common Wood-Shrike_.
Tephrodornis pondiceriana (_Gm.), Jerd B. Ind._ i, p. 410; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 265.
The Common Wood-Shrike lays during the latter half of March and April.
This at least is, I think, the normal season, but Mr. W. Blevutt found
a nest at Hansee on the 2nd of June containing two fresh eggs.
I have only taken one nest myself (though I have had many others
sent me), and that was on the 2nd of April at Chundowah in Jodpoor,
Rajpootana. The nest was in the fork of a ber tree (_Zizyphus
jujuba_), on a small horizontal bough, about 5 feet from the ground.
It was a broad shallow cup, somewhat oval interiorly, with the
materials very compactly and closely put together. The basal portion
and framework of the sides consisted of very fine stems of some
herbaceous plant about the thickness of an ordinary pin. It was lined
with a little wool and a quantity of silky fibre; exteriorly it was
bound round with a good deal of the same fibre and pretty thickly
felted with cobwebs. The egg-cavity measured 2.5 inches in diameter
one way and only 2 the other way, while in depth it was barely .86.
The exterior diameter of the nest was about 4 inches and the height
nearly 2 inches. It contained three fresh eggs, of a slightly
greyish-white ground, very thickly spotted and speckled with yellowish
brown, dark umber-brown, and a pale washed-out inky-purple. In all,
the spots were thickest in a zone round the large end, where they
became more or less confluent. I have, however, a large series of
these nests, and taking them as a whole, although much more massive,
they remind one no little of those of _Rhipidura albifrontata_ and
_Terpsiphone paradisi_ and even _Aegithina tiphia_. They are broad
shallow cups, measuring internally 21/4 inches across and about 7/8 inch
in depth. They are placed in a horizontal fork of a branch, and are
composed of vegetable fibre and fine grass-roots, thickly coated
externally with cobwebs, by which also they are fixed on to branches,
and lined internally with silky vegetable down or fibre. Externally
their colour always approximates closely to the bark of the branch on
which they are placed; they are not thin, basket-like structures like
those of _Aegithina_ or _Rhipidura_, but are fully 1/2 inch thick at the
sides and probably 3/4 inch thick at the bottom.
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall writes:--"The Common Wood-Shrike builds in
the Saharunpoor district in the latter half of March, the young being
hatched early in April. The bird is common; but owing to the small
size and bark-like colour of its nest, the latter is very difficult to
find. On the 8th April I fired at a specimen and missed it; it then
flew off and settled in a fork of another tree about 30 feet from the
ground. On looking carefully with an opera-glass, I found that it was
sitting on its nest. I drove it off and shot it. The nest was very
small and shallow, cup-shaped, and wedged in between two small boughs
at their junction, and not appearing either above or below. The
egg-receptacle was 21/4 inches in diameter. The nest was made of grass
and bits of bark, beautifully woven together and bound with cobwebs,
and exactly resembling the boughs between which it was placed, or, I
might say, wedged in. The eggs, four in number, were slightly set;
they were small for the bird, and of a rather round oval shape; the
colour was a creamy-yellow ground, thickly spotted and blotched with
the different shades of brown and sienna, the bulk of the spots
tending to form a zone near the thick end, as in the typical form,
of the eggs of the _Laniidae_ and a number of faint purple blotches
underlying the zone."
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"I have only found three nests of this bird,
and these at Delhi. At Allahabad it was not very common. It is a
difficult nest to find, being generally well hidden in the forks of
leafy trees. All three nests I got were of one type--shallow saucers,
made of vegetable fibre matted together into a soft felt-like
substance. In two of the nests I found three and in the third one egg.
These are thickly spotted and blotched with brown and a washed-out
purple, on a pale greyish-yellow ground. The average measurements of
the seven eggs are--length 0.77, breadth 0.61."
Colonel E.A. Butler writes from Sind:--
"_Hyderabad, 19th April_, 1878.--Noticed two young birds scarcely able
to fly; fresh eggs were laid, therefore, about the beginning of March.
On the 20th April near the same place I found a nest containing young
birds. It consisted of a neat little cup composed of dry grass smeared
all over exteriorly with cobwebs, and fixed in a fork of one of the
outer branches of a large babool-tree about 10 feet from the ground.
The nest was very small for the size of the bird, and had I not seen
the old bird on it. I should have taken it for a nest of _Rhipidura
The late Captain Beavan remarked that this bird "appears to come to
the Maunbhoom District for the purpose of breeding. I procured the
nest and eggs early in April, and the young were nearly fledged by the
20th of that month; they appear to come year after year to particular
localities to breed.
"Several nests were brought me from the neighbourhood of Kashurghur
both in 1864 and 1865, whereas none were seen elsewhere. The nest is
very small for the size of the bird, and the material of which it is
composed closely resembles the bird's plumage in colour. The nest
is round and very shallow, something like a Chaffinch's, being very
neatly made; diameter inside 2 inches, depth 1 inch; composed of grey
fibres, bits of bark, grass, and the like, cemented with spider's web.
The eggs are two in number, greenish white, spotted with brown and
slate-coloured dots, which in most specimens form a well-defined zone
round the thickest part of the egg, leaving both ends without marks.
Length of the egg .75 inch; breadth .59 inch. This bird was not
observed in Maunbhoom except during the breeding-season."
Mr. G.W. Vidal, writing from the South Konkan, remarks:--"Common, as
also at Savant Vadi. Nest found with three hard-set eggs on the 18th
February, low down in a mango-tree. Nest a very neat compact cap of
grasses and fibres, woven throughout with spiders' webs. Eggs greyish
white, with brown and inky-purple spots."
Dr. Jerdon remarks:--"The nest has been brought to me in August at
Nellore, chiefly made of roots and lined with hair; and the eggs,
three in number, were greenish white with large brown blotches."
Major M.F. Coussmaker sends me the following note from Mysore:--"I
took the nest of this bird on April 16th. It was composed of fine
roots and fibres closely woven into a compact nest, secured to a
horizontal bough with cobweb and covered externally with lichen to
match the tree. It measured in diameter 4.1 inches externally and 2.2
internally and .8 deep. The parent bird was shot from the nest.
"The nest contained two eggs, white with brown spots and markings.
They were so broken when I got them that no reliable measurements
could be taken."
Lastly, Mr. Gates writes from Pegu:--"Nest with three fresh eggs on
the 3rd March near Pegu."
The eggs are very Shrike-like in appearance, and many of them are
perfect miniatures of the eggs of _Lanius lahtora_, but some of them
have a more uniformly brown tint than any of this latter species that
I have yet met with. The ground-colour is generally either a very pale
greenish white or a creamy-stone colour, and more or less thickly
spotted and blotched with different shades of yellowish and reddish
brown; many of the markings are almost invariably gathered into a
conspicuous, but irregular and ill-defined, zone near the large end,
in which zone clouds of subsurface-looking, pale, and dingy purple,
not usually observable on any other portion of the egg, are thickly
intermingled. The texture of the shell is fine and close, but scarcely
any gloss is ever perceptible. Occasionally the eggs are very faintly
coloured, and have a dull white ground, while the markings consist of
only a few spots and specks of very pale purple and pale rust-colour
confined to a zone near the large end.
In length the eggs vary from 0.69 to 0.8 inch, and in breadth from
0.57 to 0.65 inch; but the average of a dozen eggs is 0.75 by 0.61
490. Pericrocotus speciosus (Lath.). _The Indian Scarlet Minivet_.
Pericrocotus speciosus (_Lath.). Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 419; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 271.
Captain Hutton records that the Indian Scarlet Minivet breeds both on
the Doon and in the hills overlooking it, to an elevation of about
5000 feet. He says:--"The nest is generally placed high up on the
branch of some tall tree, often overhanging the side of a fearful
precipice. On the 6th and 17th of June I procured two nests in ravines
opening upon the Doon, one of which contained four, and the other five
eggs, of a dull-white colour, sparingly spotted and blotched with
earthy brown, more thickly so at the larger end, where they form an
open ring of spots; other small blotches of a fainter colour are seen
beneath the shell.
"It is a curious fact that in the latter nest, out of the five eggs
_three_ were ringed at the larger end, and the other two _at the
smaller end_. The nest is rather coarsely made, being very thick at
the sides, and the materials not neatly interwoven; it is composed
externally of dried grasses and the fine stalks of various small
plants, interspersed with bits of cotton and grass-roots, and lined
with the fine seed-stalks of small grasses."
I am not at all sure that there is not some mistake here. The nest
described is rather that of _L. erythronotus_ than of any of the
_Pericrocoti_, and but for the excellent authority on which the above
rests, I should certainly not have accepted it.
This species breeds in the forests of the central hills of Nepal;
recording to Mr. Hodgson's notes and drawings they begin laying about
April, and lay three or four eggs, which are neither described nor
figured. The nest is a beautiful deep cup externally about 3.25 inches
in diameter, and rather more than 2 inches high, composed of moss
and moss-roots lined internally with the latter, and entirely coated
exteriorly with lichen and a few stray pieces of green moss firmly
secured in their places by spiders' webs. The nest is placed in some
slender branch between three or four upright sprays. This, I may note,
is just the kind of nest one would have expected this Large Minivet to
The only specimens, supposed to be the eggs of this species, that I
possess I owe to Captain Hutton. They closely resemble the eggs of _L.
erythronotus_, but are perhaps shorter, and hence _look_ broader than
those of this latter. They are slightly bigger than the eggs of _L.
vittatus_. In shape they seem to be typically a slightly broader oval
than those of any of our true Shrikes, but elongated and pointed
examples occur. Their ground-colour is a very pale greyish white,
thickly spotted all over the large end, and thickly dotted elsewhere,
with specks, spots, and tiny blotches of pale yellowish brown and pale
inky-purple. Compared with the eggs of the other _Pericrocoti_, they
are very dingily coloured. The eggs are devoid of gloss. I am doubtful
about these eggs.
In length they vary from 0.88 to 0.93 inch, and in breadth from 0.72
to 0.75 inch; but the average of five eggs is 0.9 by 0.72 inch.
494. Pericrocotus flammeus (Forst.). _The Orange Minivet_.
Pericrocotus flammeus (_Forst.), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 420; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 272.
The Orange Minivet lays, I believe, in June and July on the Nilghiris.
I have never taken a nest myself, but I have received several, with a
few words in regard to them, from Miss Cockburn.
The nests are comparatively massive little cups placed on, or
sometimes in, the forks of slender boughs. They are usually composed
of excessively fine twigs, the size of fir-needles, and they are
densely plastered over the whole exterior surface with greenish-grey
lichen, so closely and cleverly put together that the side of the nest
looks exactly like a piece of a lichen-covered branch. There appears
to be no lining, and the eggs are laid on the fine little twigs which
compose the body of the nest.
The nests are externally from 3 to 31/4 inches in diameter, and about 11/2
inch deep, with an egg-cavity about 2 inches in diameter and about 3/4
inch in depth. Some, however, when placed in a fork are much deeper
and narrower, say externally 21/2 inches in diameter and the same
height; the egg-cavity about 13/4 inch in diameter and 11/4 inch in depth.
Miss Cockburn notes that one nest was found on the 24th of June on a
high tree, the nest being placed on a thin branch between 30 or 40
feet from the ground. It contained a single fresh egg, which was
broken in the fall of the branch, which had to be cut. This egg, the
remains of which were sent me, had a pale greenish ground, and was
pretty thickly streaked and spotted, most thickly so at the large end,
with pale yellowish brown and pale rather dingy-purple, the latter
Another egg which she subsequently sent me, obtained on the 17th of
July, is a regular, moderately elongated oval, a little pointed
towards one end. The shell is fine, but glossless. The ground is a
delicate pale sea-green or greenish white, and it is rather sparsely
spotted and speckled with pale yellowish brown. Only one or two
purplish-grey specks are to be detected on this egg; it measures 0.9
Mr. J. Darling, junior, sends me the following note:--"I had the good
fortune to find a nest of the Orange Minivet at Neddivattam, about
6000 feet above the level of the sea, on the 5th September, 1870. It
was placed on a tall tree near the edge of a jungle and was built in a
fork, about 30 feet from the ground.
"The nest was built of small twigs and grasses, and covered on the
outside with lichens, moss, and cobwebs, making it appear as part and
parcel of the tree. I noticed it merely from the fact of seeing the
bird sitting on her nest, and even then could not make up my mind, and
came away. Being of an inquisitive nature, next day I went again and
saw the bird in the same place, so I climbed up and managed to pull
the nest towards me with a hook, and took two eggs, one of which I
"In August 1874 at Vythory I saw a bird sitting on her nest, and
watched her rear and take away her brood, but could not get at the
An egg sent me by Mr. Darling is very similar to the eggs sent me
by Miss Cockburn, except that the brown markings are rather more
numerous, especially in a broad zone round the large end, and that
with these a good many pale purple or lilac spots or specks are
intermingled. It measures 0.88 by 0.68 inch.
495. Pericrocotus brevirostris (Vigors). _The Short-billed Minivet_.
Pericrocotus brevirostris (_Vig._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 421; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 273.
The Short-billed Minivet breeds in the Himalayas at elevations of from
3000 to 6000 feet in Kumaon, and again in Kulu and the valley of the
Sutlej. It lays in May and June, building a compact and delicate
cup-shaped nest on a horizontal bough pretty high up in some oak,
rhododendron, or other forest tree. I have never seen one on any kind
Sometimes the nest is merely placed on, and attached firmly to, the
upper surface of the branch; but, more commonly, the place where two
smallish branches fork horizontally is chosen, and the nest is placed
just at the fork. I got one nest at Kotgurh, however, wedged in
between two upright shoots from a horizontal oak-branch. The nests are
composed of fine twigs, fir-needles, grass-roots, fine grass, slender
dry stems of herbaceous plants, as the case may be, generally loosely,
but occasionally compactly interlaced, intermingled and densely coated
over the whole exterior with cobwebs and pieces of lichen, the latter
so neatly put on that they appear to have grown where they are.
Sometimes, especially at the base of the nest, a little moss is
attached exteriorly, but, as a rule, there is nothing but lichen. The
nest has no lining. The external diameter is about 21/2 inches, and the
usual height of the nest from 11/2 to 2 inches; but this varies a good
deal according to situation, and the bottom of the nest, which in some
may be at most 1/4 inch thick, in another is a full inch. The sides
rarely exceed 1/4 inch in thickness. The egg-cavity has a diameter of
about 2 inches, and a depth of from 1 to 1.25 inch.
Five seems to be the maximum number of eggs laid, but I have now twice
met with three, more or less incubated, eggs.
Mr. Hodgson notes:--"May 16th: At the top of the great forest of
Sheopoori, secured a nest built near the top of a kaiphul tree, and
laid on a thick branch amongst smaller twigs. The nest is about 2
inches deep and the same in diameter: inside it is 1.5 inch deep; it
is made of paper-like bits of lichen welded together with spiders'
webs, and with a lining of elastic fibres. It is the shape of a deep
soap-stand, open at the top of course. It contained two eggs of a
bluish or greenish-white ground, much spotted with liver colour,
especially near the large end, where the spots are clustered into a
Dr. Scully, writing also from Nepal, says:--"During the
breeding-season (May and June) this Minivet is found in forests on
the hills up to an elevation of 7500 feet. A nest was found in the
Sheopoori forest on the 17th June, which contained two very young
birds and one egg."
The eggs of this species that I have seen are moderately broad ovals,
as a rule, very regular in their shape, and scarcely compressed at all
towards the lesser end. The shell is fine and satiny, but the eggs
have little or no real gloss. The ground-colour is a dull white,
sometimes slightly tinged with pink, sometimes with green, and they
are richly and profusely blotched, spotted, and streaked, most
densely, as a rule, towards the large end, with brownish red and
pale purple. Most eggs exhibit a more or less conspicuous, though
irregular, zone round the larger end.
The eggs vary in length from 0.71 to 0.8 inch, and in breadth from
0.54 to 0.6 inch.
499. Pericrocotus roseus (Vieill.). _The Rosy Minivet_.
Pericrocotus roseus (_Vieill._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 422; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 275.
The only one of my contributors who appears to have taken the eggs
of the Rosy Minivet is Colonel C.H.T. Marshall. Mr. R. Thompson
says:--"They breed in the warmer valleys of Kumaon, up to an elevation
of some 5000 feet, in May and June;" but he adds: "have never got down
Colonel Marshall, writing from Murree, says:--"The Rosy Minivet builds
a beautifully little shallow cup-shaped nest, the outer edge being
quite narrow and pointed. The external covering of the nest is fine
pieces of lichen fastened on with cobwebs. It was found on the 12th of
June, and contained three fresh eggs, white, with greyish-brown spots
and blotches sparsely scattered about the larger end; the length is
0.8 by 0.55 inch; 5000 feet up."
The nest, which I owe to this gentleman, is externally a short section
of a cylinder, rather than a cup, the walls standing up outside almost
perpendicularly. It is 2.5 inches in diameter and nearly 1.75 in
height. The rim of the nest is 1/4 inch wide, and the cavity, a shallow
cup, 2 inches wide by scarcely an inch deep; the walls of the nest
increase in thickness as they approach the base.
Externally the whole surface is _entirely_ covered by small scales of
lichen, firmly bound into their respective places by gossamer threads;
internally the nest is a very loosely put together basket-work of
excessively fine twigs and grass-stems not thicker than common
needles. A morsel or two of moss have become involved in the fabric,
as well as two fine blades of grass; but there is no lining, and the
eggs are obviously laid upon the soft loose basket frame of the nest.
The egg which accompanied the nest is a regular oval, slightly
compressed towards one end. The ground-colour is pale greenish white
entirely devoid of gloss. The egg is richly blotched, spotted, and
speckled (most densely so towards the larger end) with reddish brown
and greenish purple, there being two conspicuously different shades
(a much darker and a much lighter, the latter of which appears like
subsurface tints) of each of these colours. This egg measures 0.82 by
0.6 inch nearly.
Another egg of the same clutch was less richly coloured, the markings
being merely brown, with scarcely a perceptible reddish tinge, and
dull mostly inky, but here and there somewhat reddish, purple. The
markings, too, were fewer in number, but there was a more marked
tendency for these to form a zone about the larger end.
In another clutch the markings were almost entirely confined to a
dense zone round the larger end about a third of the way up from the
middle of the egg. In this zone they were so densely set as to be
quite confluent, and they consisted of yellowish brown and inky
Mr. J.R. Cripps found the nest of this Minivet in the Bhaman
tea-garden, in the Dibrugarh District of Assam, on the 31st May, 1879.
The nest contained three eggs, and was placed on the upper side of
a large lateral branch of a tree that grew on the main garden road,
about 15 feet from the ground.
Seven eggs of this bird vary in length from 0.75 to 0.86, and in
breadth from 0.58 to 0.6.
500. Pericrocotus peregrinus (Linn.). _The Small Minivet_.
Pericrocotus peregrinus (_Linn_), _Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 423; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 276.
Our Small Minivet lays during the latter half of June (as soon, in
fact, as the rains set in), and throughout July and August. I believe
it breeds pretty well all over India and Burma.
The nest is small and neat, and done up generally like a Chaffinch's,
to resemble the bark of the tree on which it is placed.
The nests that I have seen have been invariably placed at a
considerable height from the ground in the fork of a branch, most
commonly, I think, a mango-tree, though I have occasionally noticed
them in other trees.
The nest is a small moderately deep cup, with an internal cavity about
1.7 inch to 1.9 in diameter, and nearly an inch in depth. The sides of
the nest are about 3/8 inch thick, and the thickness of the bottom of
the nest varies according to the shape of the fork chosen, whether
obtuse or acute-angled. In the former case the bottom of the nest
is sometimes not above 1/4 inch in depth. In the latter case, it is
sometimes as much as an inch in thickness. It is composed of very
fine, needle-like twigs (with at times here and there a few feathers)
carefully bound together externally with cobwebs, and coated with
small pieces of bark or dead leaves, or both, so that looked at from
below with the naked eye it is impossible to distinguish it from one
of the many little excrescences so common, especially on mango-trees.
There appears to be rarely any regular lining, a very little down and
cobwebs forming the only bed for the eggs, and even this is often
wanting. Sometimes a few tiny dead leaves or a little lichen will be
found incorporated in the nest, and occasionally, but rarely, fine
grass-stems take the place of very slender twigs.
Three is, I believe, the normal number of the eggs. I extract a couple
of old notes I made in regard to the nests of this species:--"_August
5th_.--Took three eggs of this bird, shooting the two old birds at the
same time. The tree was a mango, the nest was in the fork of a branch,
some 40 feet from the ground, built interiorly with very small twigs,
with here and there a very few feathers intermixed, and was exteriorly
coated with fine flakes of bark held in their place by gossamer
threads. It was cup-shaped, with an interior diameter of 1-7/8 by 3/4
"The eggs had a slightly greenish-white ground, thickly spotted and
speckled, and towards the larger end blotched, with somewhat brownish
red; the markings showing a decided tendency to form a zone round, or
cap at the larger end."
"_Allygurh, August 27th_.--Another beautiful little nest in a
mango-tree high up, a tiny cup about 11/2 inch internal diameter by 3/4
inch deep, woven with very fine twigs, and exteriorly coated with tiny
fragments of bark and dead leaves firmly secured in their places with
gossamer threads and cobwebs. It contained two fresh eggs; a pale
slightly greenish-white ground, richly speckled and spotted and
sparsely blotched with a purplish and a brownish red, the markings
greatly predominating towards the larger end."
Mr. F.R. Blewitt, detailing his experiences in Jhansie and Saugor,
says:--"Breeds in June and July. The tamarind-tree is by preference
chosen by this bird for its nest; at least the three I saw were all on
tamarind-trees. The nest, cup-shaped, is a compactly made structure;
the exterior appeared to be composed of the very fine petioles of
leaves, with a thick coating all over of what looked like spider's
web; attached to this web-like substance here and there, for better
disguise, were the dry leaves of the tamarind-tree; the lining of very
fine grass. The outer diameter of a nest may fairly be given at 2.2
inches, inner at 1.8, depth of nest 0.9. Two is the regular number
of eggs, at least that was the number in the three nests I took. In
colour they are of a pale greenish white, sparingly speckled on the
narrower half of the egg with brownish spots, but they have on the
broader half the spots more dense, and forming at the end a more or
less complete cap. The feat of securing a nest is a most hazardous
one, for it is always fixed close in between two delicate forks at the
extreme end of a slight side-branch near to the top of the tree. On
each occasion that the nest was detected the male bird was found
flitting about near to it, the female all the while sitting on the
eggs. On the last two occasions of finding the nests, it was this
flitting to and fro of the male that attracted us; otherwise the nest,
is so small that from the ground the eye can scarcely distinguish
it from the branch. The bird appears to be migratory, for since the
termination of the breeding-season it has disappeared from these
Major C.T. Bingham writes to me:--"Although this bird is common enough
both at Allahabad and at Delhi, I have found it difficult to find its
nest, from the fact that it is placed at the very extreme tip of leafy
branches. However, with careful watching and patience, I managed to
find one nest at Allahabad and five at Delhi. The first I found on
the 3rd July at Chupree near Allahabad. It contained two well-fledged
young ones, that hopped out as soon as the nest was touched. Out of
the five at Delhi I managed to get six eggs; three of the nests when
found being empty, were afterwards deserted by the birds. Of the two
nests with eggs, one contained four and the other two. The nests are
tiny little cups, made of very fine grass, and coated externally with
cobwebs, to which are attached bits of bark and dry leaves. The eggs
are a greenish stone-colour, thickly speckled with light purple and
brownish red. The earliest nest I have found was on the 21st March,
on the banks of the canal at Delhi, so that the bird occasionally, at
Delhi at least, lays in spring. The average of eggs I have is 0.68 in
length, and 0.55 in breadth."
Colonel E.A. Butler furnishes us with the following interesting
note:--"Found a nest at Belgaum, containing two fresh eggs, on the 3rd
September, 1879. It was situated in the fork of one of the small outer
top branches of a tall mango-tree, and was on the whole about the
prettiest nest I have seen in India. It consisted of a tiny cup about
11/4 x 2 inches measured interiorly, and 1-7/8 x 21/2 inches exteriorly.
Depth inside 1 inch, outside 11/2 inches from rim to proper base,
excluding about an inch of lichen continued down one side of the bough
below the fork in which the nest was built. It was composed, so far as
I could judge after a very minute examination, almost entirely of the
white lichen which grows so freely on the bark of every tree during
the rains, with a few cobwebs incorporated and wound round the outside
to keep it together, assimilating so perfectly with the branch upon
which it was placed, which was also overgrown with the same kind of
lichen, that without watching the old birds closely it never could
have been discovered.
"It contained no regular lining, though a few coarse dry leaf-stems
of a dark colour were encircled within. I observed the birds building
first on the 21st August, and the nest from below looked then almost
finished. The cock and hen worked together, flying to and fro very
busily with bits of lichen picked off the branches of another tree
adjoining. On the 25th I watched the nest for some time, but the birds
only came to it once, and then the hen bird went on and smeared some
cobwebs round the outside, at least that is what she seemed to me to
be doing. On the 28th I watched it again, and although both birds were
in the adjoining tree, I did not see them go to the nest. On the 31st,
about 10 A.M., I found the hen on the nest, and she remained on till
about 10.30, when she flew off and joined the cock, who was sitting
pluming himself on a branch of the next tree the whole time she was on
the nest. Immediately she joined him, he commenced catching flies and
feeding her, as if she were a young bird, and eventually they both
flew away together. Arriving at the conclusion that she only went on
the nest to lay, I decided on taking the nest three days later, and
accordingly returned for that purpose with a small boy on the 3rd
Sept., and found, as I expected, the hen sitting and the cock in
another tree close by.
"I sent the boy up the tree, and as he approached the nest, which was
some 30 or 35 feet from the ground, the hen bird became very uneasy,
moving her head from side to side, and looking down to see what was
going on below. When the boy was within about 10 feet of the nest she
flew off and joined the cock, after which I saw her no more. The eggs
were then secured with difficulty, as the branches surrounding the
nest were very thin and blown about a good deal by the wind.
"After breaking off the bough, nest and all, the boy descended. One
branch of the fork in which the nest was placed was rotten, and broke
off at the junction at the base of the nest as the boy was descending
the tree; but the nest, which was firmly bound to it with cobwebs,
remained in its place and was not injured, and I had the nest and
bough beautifully painted for me by a lady friend the same day. The
eggs were pale bluish green, speckled and spotted, most densely at
the large end, with two shades of dusky purple, the markings of the
lighter shade appearing to underlie those of the darker. On the
6th Sept., the same pair of birds commenced a new nest on another
mango-tree about 20 yards off. This time it was placed in a fork of
one of the small outside lateral branches about 25 feet from the
ground, and resembled in every respect the first nest. On the 15th
Sept., the hen bird began to sit, and on the 18th I sent a boy up the
tree by means of a ladder, and secured two more fresh, eggs, similar
to those already described. On this occasion the two old birds evinced
signs of the greatest anxiety, the hen remaining on the nest till the
boy was close to her, and, joined by the cock immediately she left
it, the pair kept flying from bough to bough in the greatest possible
state of excitement the whole time the nest was being taken, the hen
actually once or twice going on to the nest again after she had left
it, when the boy was within 3 feet of her. On examining the nest I
found that one of the branches of the fork consisted of a small rotten
stump, similar to the one described in the first nest, and in the
bottom of both nests there were three or four small black downy
feathers, intermingled with the dead leaf-stems that constituted the
In his recent "Notes on Birds'-nesting in Rajpootana," Lieut. H.E.
Barnes writes, "The Small Minivet breeds during July and August."
Mr. Benjamin Aitken writes:--"You say that the Small Minivet lays
during the latter half of June and throughout July and August. I
would therefore remark that on the 11th November, 1871, I saw several
newly-fledged young ones at Poona. There could be no mistake about
this, as I stood under the tree, which was a small one, and saw the
young ones being fed."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden remark that in the Deccan it is "common,
and breeds in the rains."
The latter gentleman subsequently added the following note:--"In July,
my men found a nest with two eggs at Nulwar, Deccan. It was built on a
small branch of a tamarind-tree, 20 feet from the ground. The nest
is similar to that described in the 'Rough Draft' as being found at
Allyghur. The whole of the bark used on the outer coating is that
of tamarind-tree, and there are a good many feathers and much down
incorporated into the structure, inside and out. The eggs differ
considerably in colouring. In both the ground-colour is greenish
white. One is profusely speckled all over, but more thickly at the
smaller end, with brownish red and a few purple blotches, whilst the
other egg has the specks less numerous but larger, and chiefly on
the larger end, with little or no purple, and the small end almost
Finally, Mr. Oates records that "in Lower Pegu nests of this bird may
be found from the end of April to the middle of June."
The eggs are of a rather broad oval shape, and, as is often the
case even in the typical Shrikes, very blunt at both ends. The
ground-colour is a pale delicate greenish white, and they are more or
less richly marked with bright, slightly brownish-red specks, spots,
and blotches, which, always more numerous at the large end, have a
tendency there to form a mottled irregular cap. In many eggs, besides
these primary markings, a number of small faint, patches and blotches
of pale inky purple are observable, almost exclusively at the large
end. The eggs appear to be quite devoid of gloss. I have eggs both of
_Copsychus saularis_ and _Thamnobia cambaiensis_, strange as it may
seem, closely resembling, except in size, some types of this bird's
egg; and I have one egg of _Merula simillima_ from the Nilghiris,
which, though immensely larger, so far as tint, colour, and character
of ground and markings go, is positively identical with eggs that I
have of this species.
In length the eggs vary from 0.6 to 0.7 inch, and in breadth from 0.5
to 0.56 inch, but the average of twenty-eight eggs is 0.67 nearly by
501. Pericrocotus erythropygius (Jerd.). _The White-bellied
Pericrocotus erythropygius (_Jerd.), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 424; _Hume,
cat._ no. 277.
Mr. J. Davidson, C.S., is apparently the only ornithologist who has
discovered the nest of the White-bellied Minivet. Writing on the 25th
August, from Khandeish, he says:--"Yesterday I took two nests of
_Pericrocotus erythropygius_. Both nests were like those of _P.
peregrinus_, and were placed about 21/2 feet from the ground in a fork
of a straggling thorn-bush among thin scrub-jungle. One contained 3
young birds, and one 3 hard-set eggs. I watched the nest, and found
the cock sitting on the eggs, and watched him for a minute, so there
is no possibility of mistake; but the eggs are not the least what I
expected. They are fairly glossy, one being very much elongated, of a
greenish-grey ground, with long longitudinal dashes of dark brown, as
unlike Minivets' eggs as they can possibly be. They were the only two
pairs I saw in a long morning walk, and the nests were easily found by
watching the birds. I wish I had known the birds were breeding where
they were, as by going three weeks ago I should probably have found
many nests, as there are miles and miles of similar jungle, and it is
barely 12 miles from Dhulia. It is very provoking. I have had great
trouble trying to make the Bhils work for me. They will bring in eggs
but not mark them down."
Later on, Mr. Davidson wrote:--"I happened to be staying a few days at
Arvee, in the extreme south of Dhulia, and found this bird breeding
there in considerable numbers. This was in the end of August (26th to
31st), and I was rather late, most of the nests containing young, and
in some cases the young were able to fly. I, however, found eight
nests with eggs (most of them hard-set). All the nests, which are
small and less ornamented than those of _P. peregrinus_, were placed
from 3 to 4 feet from the ground, in a small common thorny scrub. They
were all placed in low thin jungle, and never where the jungle was
thick and difficult to walk through. A great deal of the jungle round
Arvee is full of anjan-trees, but none of the birds seem to breed in
The nests are elegant little cups, reminding one of those of
_Rhipidura albifrontata_, measuring internally about 1.75 inch in
diameter and 1 inch in depth, the thickness of the walls of the nest
being usually somewhat less than a quarter of an inch. Interiorly the
nest is composed of excessively fine flowering-stems of grasses, and
externally and on the upper edge it is densely coated with fine,
rather silky greyish-white vegetable fibres, in places more or less
felted together. It is not ornamented externally with moss and
lichen, as those of so many of the _Pericrocoti_ commonly are, only
occasionally one or two little ornamental brown patches of withered
glossy vegetable scales are worked into the exterior of the nest.
The eggs are not at all like those of the other _Pericrocoti_ with
which we are best acquainted; though less densely, and even more
streakily marked, they most remind me of the egg of _Volvocivora_, and
in a lesser degree of that of _Hemipus picatus_.
The eggs vary in shape from rather broad to rather elongated ovals.
The shell is very fine and smooth, but has scarcely any perceptible
gloss. The ground-colour is greenish or greyish white, and they are
profusely marked with comparatively fine longitudinal streaks of a
moderately dark brown, which in some lines is more of a chocolate, in
others perhaps more umber. At both ends of the egg, but especially the
smaller end, the markings often become spotty or speckly, but the fine
longitudinal streaking of the sides of the egg is very conspicuous.
In size the eggs vary from 0.69 to 0.71 in length, by 0.51 to 0.58 in
breadth. I have measured too few eggs to be able to give a reliable
505. Campophaga melanoschista (Hodgs.). _The Dark-grey
Volvocivora melaschistos, _Hodgs., Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 415: _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 269.
I have never found the nest of the Dark-grey Cuckoo-Shrike. Captain
Hutton tells us:--
"This, too, is a mere summer visitor in the hills, arriving up to 7000
feet about the end of March, and breeding early in May. The nest is
small and shallow, placed in the bifurcation of a horizontal bough
of some tall oak tree, and always high up; it is composed externally
almost entirely of grey lichens picked from the tree, and lined with
bits of very fine roots or thin stalks of leaves. Seen from beneath
the tree the nest appears like a bunch of moss or lichens, and the
smallness and frailty would lead one to suppose it incapable of
holding two young birds of such size. Externally the nest is compactly
held together by being thickly pasted over with cobwebs. The eggs,
two in number, of a dull grey-green, closely and in part confluently
dashed with streaks of dusky brown."
This species, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes and drawings, breeds in
Nepal in the central districts of the hills from April to July, laying
three or four eggs. The nest is a broad shallow saucer, some 4 inches
in external diameter and 1.75 inch in height; it is placed in a fork
where two or three slender branches divide, to one or more of which it
is firmly bound with vegetable fibres and grass-roots, and is composed
of fine roots and vegetable fibres, and plastered over externally
with pieces of lichen and moss. The eggs are regular ovals, with a
pale-greenish ground, blotched and spotted with a somewhat olivaceous
A nest of this species found at Mongphoo (elevation 5500 feet) on the
15th June contained three eggs nearly ready to hatch off. The nest was
placed on a nearly horizontal fork of a small branch. It is composed
of very fine twigs loosely twisted together and coated everywhere
exteriorly with cobwebs and scraps of grey lichen. At the lower part,
which, owing to the slope of the branch, had to be thicker, it is
exteriorly about an inch and a half in height. At the upper end it is
only about half an inch high. The shallow saucer-like cavity is about
two and a half inches in diameter and about half an inch in depth.
The eggs of this species, sent me by Captain Hutton from Mussoorie,
much resemble those of _Graucalus macii_ and _C. sykesi_, but they
are decidedly longer than the latter, and the general tone of their
colouring is somewhat duller. In shape they are somewhat elongated
ovals, more or less compressed towards one end; the general colour is
greenish white, very thickly blotched and streaked with dull brown
and very pale purple. The markings are very closely set, leaving but
little of the ground-colour visible. They have little or no gloss.
They measure 1.03 by 0.72 inch, and 0.95 by 0.68 inch.
Other eggs that I have since obtained have been quite similar, but
have not had the markings quite so densely set: the secondary markings
have been greyer and less purple, and several eggs have exhibited
an appreciable gloss; others, again, were quite like those first
described and entirely devoid of gloss. They measured 0.9 to 0.98 in
length by 0.65 to 0.71 in breadth.
508. Campophaga sykesi (Strickl.). _The Black-headed Cuckoo-Shrike_.
Volvocivora sykesii (_Strickl.), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 414; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 268.
Mr. F.R. Blewitt took the eggs of Sykes's Cuckoo-Shrike many years
ago. He furnishes the following note:--
"I first met with this bird in the southern part of Bundlekund.
Nowhere here is it common, and I have never seen more than a pair
together. It is to be found in wooded tracts of country, but more
frequently among thin large trees surrounding villages. Dr. Jerdon has
correctly described its restless habits, and its careful examination
of the foliage and branches of trees for food. It is usually a silent
bird, but during the earlier portion of the breeding-season the male
bird may frequently be heard repeating for minutes together his clear
plaintive notes. Each time, as it flies from one tree to another, the
song is repeated. The flight is easy, slightly undulating, and the
strokes of the wing somewhat rapid. In the latter end of July I
procured one nest. It was found on a mowa-tree (_Bassia latifolia_),
placed on and at the end of two small out-shooting branches. When my
man, mounting the tree, approached the nest the parent birds evinced
the greatest anxiety, flew just above his head, uttering all the while
a sharply repeated cry. Even when one of the birds was shot the other
would not leave the spot, but remained hovering about and uttering its
shrill cry. The nest is slightly made, and constructed of thin twigs
and roots; the exterior is covered slightly with spider's web. If we
except the size, the formation of this Cuckoo-Shrike's nest is almost
identical with that of _Graucalus macii_. I secured two eggs in the
nest. In colour they are, when fresh, of a deepish green, mottled
with dark brown spots; indeed the eggs, when first taken, a good deal
resemble those of _Copsychus saularis_. The maximum number of eggs, no
doubt, is three, as those I secured were fresh-laid. The bird breeds
from June to August."
The nest above referred to, and now in my museum, was a very shallow,
rather broad cup. The egg-cavity about 21/2 inches in diameter and about
3/4 inch deep, and the nest very loosely put together of very fine
twigs, and exteriorly coated and bound together with cobwebs. The
sides of the nest are about 0.6 inch thick, but the bottom is a mere
network of slender twigs, not above 1/4 inch thick, and can be readily
Mr. I. Macpherson writes:--"This bird is found in the open
scrub-forests of the Mysore district, but is nowhere common.
"14th May, 1880.--While passing a small sandal-wood tree a bird flew
out, and on looking into the tree I found a very shallow nest at the
junction of two small branches about 10 feet from the ground; the nest
contained three eggs.
"Returned again in a quarter of an hour and shot the bird (the male)
as it flew out of the tree. The eggs were within a few days of being
"20th May, 1880.--While out driving this morning saw a male bird
of this species fly out of a small sandal-wood tree close to the
roadside. Pulled up to watch, and shortly saw the female bird fly
into the tree. Got out and shot her and took the nest, which was
beautifully fixed in a fork with three branches only eight feet from
"The nest contained three eggs very hard-set."
Mr. J. Davidson, C.S., remarks:--"This pretty little Cuckoo-Shrike is
one of the earliest migrants in the rains, arriving about the 8th of
June, and breeding all along the scrub-jungles which stretch between
the Nasik and Khandeish Collectorates. It appears particularly partial
to the Angan forest, and, as far as I remember, all the many nests I
have seen have been in forks of angan trees. The nest is a pretty firm
platform composed of fine roots; and the eggs, which much resemble
those of the Magpie-Robin, are three in number."
Colonel Legge writes, in his 'Birds of Ceylon':--"With us this
Cuckoo-Shrike breeds in April in the Western Province. Mr. MacVicar
writes me of the discovery, by himself, of two nests last year near
Colombo. One was built on the topmost branch of a young jack-tree
about 40 feet high. It was very small and shallow, measuring 2.8
inches in breadth and only 0.8 inch in depth, and the old bird could
be seen plainly from beneath sitting across it. The other was situated
on the top of a tree about 20 feet from the ground, and was built in
the same manner. The materials are not mentioned."
I have only seen two eggs of this species, sent me with the nest and
parent bird by Mr. F.R. Blewitt. They are oval eggs, moderately broad
and obtuse at both ends, about the same size as average eggs
of _Lanius vittatus_. They are slightly glossy, have a pale
greenish-white ground, and are thickly blotched and streaked
throughout, but most densely so towards the large end, with somewhat
pale brown, much the same colour as the markings on typical eggs of
_L. erythronotus_. They measure 0.85 inch in length by 0.65 and 0.68
inch in breadth respectively. Other eggs since received from Calcutta
and Mysore measure from 0.87 to 0.81 in length, and from 0.68 to 0.62
509. Campophaga terat (Bodd.)[A]. _The Pied Cuckoo-Shrike_.
[Footnote A: I cannot find any note among Mr. Hume's papers regarding
the discovery of the nest of this bird. The nest may possibly have
been found at Camorta (Nicobar Islands), where this species is not
Lalage terat (_Bodd.), Hume, cat._ no, 269 ter.
The eggs are quite of the _Graucalus_ and _Campophaga_ type, but
perhaps a little more elongated in shape. Very regular, slightly
elongated ovals, with scarcely any gloss on them, the ground greenish
white, but everywhere thickly streaked and mottled and freckled over,
most thickly about the large end, with a dull pale slightly olivaceous
brown intermingled with brownish, or in some specimens faintly
purplish grey. The two eggs I possess measure 0.85 and 0.87 in length,
by 0.61 and 0.62 respectively in breadth.
510. Graucalus macii, Lesson. _The Large Cuckoo-Shrike_.
Graucalus macei, _Less., Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 417; _Hume, Rough Draft
N. & E._ no. 270.
My friend Mr. F.R. Blewitt seems to be the only ornithologist who
has taken many nests of the Large Grey Cuckoo-Shrike. I never was so
fortunate as to find one. He says:--"This Shrike begins to pair
about May, and in June the work of nidification commences. The place
selected for the nest is the most lofty branch of a tree, and is built
near the fork of two outlying twigs. If this bird has a preference it
would appear to be for mango and mowa trees, on which I found most of
the nests. The nest is in form circular, and its exterior is somewhat
thickly made; the interior is moderately cup-shaped. Thin twigs and
grass-roots are freely used in its construction, while the outer
part of the nest is somewhat thickly covered with what appears to be
spider's web. Altogether the nest, considering the size of the birds,
is of light structure. I am sorry I did not take the dimensions of
each nest secured, but I sent you two very perfect ones. I found the
first eggs in the beginning of July. They are of a dull lightish
green, with brown spots of all sizes, more dense towards the large
end. The maximum number of eggs is three. The bird breeds from June to
The nests which Mr. Blewitt sent me remind one a good deal of those
of the _Dicruri_. They are broad shallow saucers, with an egg-cavity
about 3 inches in diameter, and 3/4 inch in depth, composed in the only
two specimens that I possess of very fine twigs, chiefly those of the
furash (_Tamarix orientalis_). Exteriorly they are bound round with
cobwebs, in which a quantity of lichen is incorporated. The nests are
loose flimsy fabrics, which but for the exterior coating of cobwebs
would certainly never have borne removal.
Dr. Jerdon remarks:--"I once obtained its nest and eggs. The nest was
built in a lofty casuarina tree, close to my house at Tellicherry; it
was composed of small twigs and roots merely, of Moderate size, and
rather deeply cup-shaped, and contained three eggs, of a greenish-fawn
colour, with large blotches of purplish brown."
Professor H. Littledale writing from Baroda says:--"The Large
Cuckoo-Shrike is a permanent resident here. I found six nests last
August near Baroda, each with one egg; and my men found a nest
building in the Police Lines at Khaira on the 10th October."
Mr. J. Davidson informs us that "a pair of _Graucalus macii_ were
apparently breeding near this place (the Kondabhari Ghat). He found a
nest with two young in the previous September near the same place."
Mr. G.W. Vidal, referring to the South Konkan, says:--"Common; breeds
in February and March."
A nest that was placed in the fork of a bough was composed entirely
of slender twigs, the petioles of some pennated-leaved tree, bound
together all round the outside with abundance of cobwebs, so that
notwithstanding the incoherent nature of the materials the nest was
extremely firm. It is a shallow saucer quite of the Dicrurine type,
with a cavity 3 inches in diameter and barely 0.75 in depth.
The eggs are typically of a somewhat elongated oval, a good deal
pointed towards one end, but some are broader and more of a typical
Shrike shape. The eggs are of course considerably larger than those of
_Lanius lahtora_. The shell is compact and fine, and faintly glossy.
The ground-colour is a palish-green stone-colour, greener in some, and
somewhat more creamy in others. The markings are very Shrike-like, and
consist of brown blotches, streaks, and spots, with numerous clouds
and blotches of pale inky-purple, which appear to underlie the brown
markings. The markings in some eggs are all very faint, and, as it
were, half washed out, while in others they are very bright and clear.
In some these are comparatively sparse and few; in others close-set
and numerous, especially in a broad zone near the large end; but this
zone is by no means invariably present; in fact, not above one in five
eggs exhibit it. There is something in these eggs which reminds one
of some of the Terns' eggs; and although, when compared with a large
series of _L. lahtora_, individuals of this latter species may be
found resembling them to a certain extent, I do not think that at
first sight any zoologist would have felt sure that they _were_
They vary in length from 1.12 to 1.41 inch, and in breadth from 0.8 to
0.95 inch, but the average of eight eggs is 1.26 by 0.9 inch nearly.
512. Artamus fuscus, Vieill. _The Ashy Swallow-Shrike_.
Artamus fuscus, _V., Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 441; _Hume, Rough Draft N. &
E._ no. 287.
Mr. R. Thompson says:--"I have frequently found the nests of the Ashy
Swallow-Shrike, and have watched the old birds constructing them, but
never took down their eggs. Two or three pairs may always be found
nesting on the long-leaved pine, as one comes up from Kaladoongee to
Nyneetal and passes halfway up from the first dak chokee at Ghutgurh.
They lay in May and June, constructing their nest on the horizontal
extension of a main branch of some lofty tree, generally _Pinus
longifolia_. The nest, composed of fine grasses, roots, and fibres,
is a loose, only slightly cup-shaped structure, some 5 inches in
Dr. Jerdon says on the other hand:--"I have procured the nest of this
bird situated on a palmyra tree on the stem of the leaf. It was a deep
cup-shaped nest, made of grass, leaves, and numerous feathers, and
contained two eggs, white with a greenish tinge, and with light brown
spots, chiefly at the larger end. I see that Mr. Layard procured the
nest in Ceylon, where this bird is common, in the heads of cocoanut
trees, made of fibres and grasses, and it was probably the nest of
this bird that was brought to Tickell as that of the Palm-Swift."
According to Mr. Hodgson this species begins to lay in March, the
young being fledged in June; the nest is a broad shallow saucer, from
6 to 8 inches in diameter, composed of grass and roots, together with
a little lichen, loosely put together, a green leaf or two being
sometimes found as a lining to the nest. The nest is placed on some
broad horizontal branch, where two or three slender twigs or shoots
grow out of it, or on the top of some stump of a tree, or broken end
of a branch, generally, at a considerable height from the ground. The
eggs are _figured_ as white, spotted and blotched almost exclusively
at the large end with yellowish brown, and measuring 0.8 by 0.52 inch,
but no actual measurements are recorded.
Mr. Gammie, however, himself found, and kindly sent me, a nest and
eggs of this species, at Mongpho near Darjeeling, at an elevation of
about 3500 feet, on the 13th May, 1873. It was placed in the hole of a
trunk of a dead tree at a height of about 40 feet from the ground, and
it contained three hard-set eggs. The nest was a loose shallow saucer
of coarse roots devoid of lining. The eggs were rather narrow ovals,
a good deal pointed towards one end; the shell fine and with a slight
gloss. The ground-colour was creamy white, and the markings, which are
almost entirely confined to a broad ring round the large end and the
space within it, consisted of spots and clouds of very pale yellowish
brown, intermingled with clouds and specks of excessively pale, nearly
washed out, lilac.
He subsequently furnished me with the following note from Sikhim:--"In
the hills this bird is migratory, coming about the last week in
February and leaving in the last week of October. It is exceedingly
abundant on the outer ridges running in from the Teesta Valley, and
most numerous about the elevation of 3000 feet, but stragglers get up
as high as 5000 feet. It prefers dry ridges on which there are a
few scattered tall trees, from the tops of which it can make short
flights, over the open country, after insects. It goes very little
abroad in the height of the day, and feeds principally in the
evenings. It rarely keeps on the wing for more than a minute or two at
a time, but occasionally will fly for ten minutes on end. It is quite
as bold and persevering in its habit of attacking and driving off
hawks and kites as the king-crow. Towards the end of September it
begins to congregate in rows along dead branches in the tops of trees.
"It begins to lay in April and, I think, has only one brood in the
year. It builds in holes of trees, on surfaces of large horizontal
branches 30 or 40 feet up, or in depressions in ends of lofty stumps.
The nest is a shallow saucer, made entirely of light-coloured roots
and twigs loosely put together. The usual number of eggs appears to be
Mr. J.R. Cripps informs us that at Furreedpore in Eastern Bengal this
species is "common, and a permanent resident, very partial to perching
on the tips of bamboos, and I have seen as many as 13 sitting side
by side on a bamboo tip. I took seven nests this season, all from
date-trees (_Phoenix sylvestris_), which trees are very common in the
district. The nest is generally built at the junction of the leaf-stem
and the trunk of the tree, though in two instances the nest was placed
on a ledge from which all leaves had been removed to enable the tree
to be tapped for its juice. In every instance the nest was exposed,
and if any bird, even a hawk, came near, these courageous little
fellows would drive it off. My nests were found from the 5th April to
6th June; shallow saucers made of fine twigs and grasses with a lining
of the same, and contained two to four eggs in each. Height of nest
from ground about 12 to 15 feet. On the 17th April I took two fresh
eggs from a nest, and the birds laying again, I, on the 8th May,
again took three fresh eggs. When on the wing they utter their note,
generally returning to the same perch."
And he adds:--
"_16th April, 1878_.--Took two perfectly fresh eggs from a nest built
on a date-tree. The date-trees in this district are tapped annually
for the juice, from which sugar is manufactured. The leaves and the
bark for a depth of 3 inches are sliced away from one half of the
trunk, the leaves on the other half remaining, and at the root of
one of these the nest was built, wedged in between the trunk and the
leaves; the external diameter was 41/2 inches, depth 3 inches, thickness
of sides of nest 3/4 inch; a rather shallow cup, composed exclusively of
fine grasses with no attempt at a lining.
"_17th April, 1878_.--Secured two fresh eggs from another nest on a
date-tree. In size and shape they were similar and the materials were
the same grasses with no lining. The trees these nests were on formed
a small clump alongside a ryot's house. People were passing under them
all day, but the birds never noticed them. Any bird, from a Kite to
a Bulbul, coming near received a warm welcome. The nests are at all
times exposed, and the natives believe that two males and one female
are found occupying one nest. The birds being gregarious build on
adjoining trees, and while the ladies are engaged with their domestic
affairs their lords keep each other company, so the natives put them
down as polyandrous. I have found over a dozen nests, and every one
has been the counterpart of the other, and only on date-trees."
Miss Cockburn writes from the Nilghiris:--"On the 17th May, 1873, a
nest of this bird was found. It was formed in a perpendicular hole in
a dried stump of a tree, about 15 feet in height. The nest consisted
entirely of slight sticks lined with fine grass, no soft material
being added as a finish, and the whole structure went to pieces when
removed. This nest contained three eggs, their colour white, with a
few dark and light brown spots and blotches all over, and a strongly
marked ring round the thick end.
"The birds frequently returned to the place while the eggs were being
taken, till one of them was shot."
Mr. J. Davidson remarks:--"This bird is very local in the Tumkur
districts in Mysore, and I have only found it in three or four
gardens. I knew it had been breeding (from dissection) since March,
but till to-day (May 9th) I could not find its nest. To-day, however,
I saw four or five birds perpetually flying round and round a very
ragged old cocoanut-tree, the highest in that part of the garden, and
determined to send a man up. Two birds, however, at that moment lit on
one branch and I shot them both, and they proved to be fully-fledged
young ones. I sent the man up, however, and was rewarded by his
announcing two old nests and a new one containing one egg. The nests
were near the trunk of the tree on the horizontal leaves, and were
formed of thin roots and a little grass and were very slight. The egg,
which is large for the size of the bird, is creamy white, with a broad
ring round the larger end formed of blotches of orange, brown, and
purple, and in the cap within the ring there are a number of faint
purple spots. The egg was perfectly fresh, and the old birds defended
it by swooping down upon the man; and I can't help thinking that both
the young birds and the new nest belonged to one pair of birds, and
that as soon as their first brood was fledged they had commenced to
A nest taken by Mr. Gammie on the 24th April, at an elevation of about
3500 feet in Sikhim, was placed on a dead horizontal limb near the top
of a large tree. It contained four eggs slightly set; it is a somewhat
shallow cup, interiorly 3 inches in diameter by nearly 11/2 in depth,
and composed almost entirely of fine roots, pretty firmly interwoven.
It has no lining, but at the bottom exteriorly it is coated partially
with a sort of plaster, composed apparently of strips of bark and
vegetable fibre partially cemented together in some way.
The egg sent me by Miss Cockburn is of quite the same type as those
found by Mr. Gammie, but it is a trifle longer, measuring 1.0 by 0.7,
and the colouring is much brighter. The ground is a sort of creamy
white. There is a strongly marked though irregular zone round the
large end of more or less confluent brownish rusty patches (amongst
which a few pale grey spots may be detected), and a good many spots
and small blotches of the same are scattered about the whole of the
rest of the surface of the egg.
Numerous eggs subsequently obtained by Mr. Gammie correspond well with
those already described as procured by himself and Miss Cockburn.
In length the eggs vary from 0.82 to 1.0, and in breadth from 0.6 to
0.72, but the average is 0.94 by 0.68.
513. Artamus leucogaster (Valenc.). _The White-rumped
Artamus leucorhynchus (_Gm.), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 287 bis.
The White-rumped Swallow-Shrike breeds, we know, in the Andamans and
Great Cocos, and that is nearly all we do know. Mr. Davison says:--"On
the 2nd of May I saw a bird of this species fly into a hollow at the
top of a rotten mangrove stump about 20 feet high. The next day I
went, but did not like to climb the stump, as it appeared unsafe, so
I determined to cut it down, and after giving about six strokes that
made the stump shake from end to end, the bird flew out. I made sure
that as the bird sat so close the nest must contain eggs, so I ceased
cutting and managed to get a very light native, who voluntered to
climb it; but on his reaching the top, he found, to my astonishment,
that the nest, although apparently finished, was empty. The nest was
built entirely of grass, somewhat coarse on the exterior, finer on the
inside; it was a shallow saucer-shaped structure, and was placed in a
hollow at the top of the stump."
518. Oriolus kundoo, Sykes. _The Indian Oriole_.
Oriolus kundoo, _Sykes, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii. p. 107; _Hume, Rough Draft
N. & E._ no. 470.
The Indian Oriole breeds from May to August (the great majority,
however, laying in June and July) almost throughout the plains country
of India and in the lower ranges of the Himalayas to an elevation of
4000 feet. In Southern and Eastern Bengal it only, so far as I
know, occurs as a straggler during the cold season, and I have no
information of its breeding there. It does not apparently ascend the
Nilghiris, and throughout the southern portion of the peninsula
it breeds very sparingly, if at all; indeed, it is just at the
commencement of the breeding-season, when the mangoes are ripening,
that Upper India is suddenly visited by vast numbers of this species
migrating from the south.
The nest is placed on some large tree, I do not think the bird has
any special preference, and is a moderately deep purse or pocket,
suspended between some slender fork towards the extremity of one of
the higher boughs. From below it looks like a round ball of grass
wedged into the fork, and the sitting bird is completely hidden within
it; but when in the hand it proves to be a most beautifully woven
purse, shallower or deeper as the case may be, hung from the fork of
two twigs, made of fine grass and slender strips of some tenacious
bark and bound round and round the twigs, and secured to them much
as a prawn-net is to its wooden framework. Some nests contain no
extraneous matters, but others have all kinds of odds and ends--scraps
of newspaper or cloth, shavings, rags, snake-skins, thread,
&c.--interwoven in the exterior. The interior is always neatly lined
with fine grass-stems.
Very commonly the bird so selects the site for its nest that the
leaves of the twigs it uses as a framework form more or less of a
shady canopy overhead; in fact, as a rule, it is from very few points
of view that even a passing bird of prey can catch sight of the female
on her eggs. Possibly the brilliant plumage of the bird (which has
endowed it amongst the natives with the name of _Peeluk_, or "The
Yellow One") may have had something to do with the concealment it so
The nests vary a good deal in size. I have seen one with an internal
cavity 31/2 inches in diameter and over 21/2 deep. I have seen others
scarcely over 21/2 inches in diameter and not 2 in depth, which you
could have put bodily, twigs and all, inside the former. As a rule,
the purse is strong and compact, the material closely matted and
firmly bound together; but I have seen very flimsy structures, through
which it was quite possible to see the eggs.
Four is the greatest number of eggs I have ever found in one nest, but
it is quite common to find only three well-incubated ones.
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall reports having found several nests of this
species about Murree at low elevations.
Mr. W. Blewitt tells me that he obtained two nests near Hansie on the
1st and 14th July respectively. The nests (which he kindly sent) were
of the usual type, and were placed, the one on an acacia, the other
on a loquat tree, at heights of 10 and 12 feet from the ground.
Each contained three eggs, the one clutch much incubated, the other
Dr. Scully writes:--"The Indian Oriole is a seasonal visitant to the
valley of Nepal, arriving about the 1st of April and departing in
August. It frequents some of the central woods, gardens, and groves,
and breeds in May and June."
Colonel J. Biddulph remarks regarding the nidification of this Oriole
in Gilgit:--"A summer visitant and common. Appears about the 1st of
May. Nest with three eggs hard-set, taken 8th of June; several other
nests taken later on."
Writing from near Rohtuk, Mr. F.R. Blewitt says:--"The breeding-season
is from the middle of May to July. The nest is made on large trees,
and always suspended between the fork of a branch. I have certainly
obtained more nests from the tamarind than any other kind of tree.
"The nest is cup-shaped, light, neat, and compact. The average outer
diameter is 4.8 inches; the inner or cup-cavity about 3.6. Hemp-like
fibre is almost exclusively used in the exterior structure of the
nest, and by this it is firmly secured to the two limbs of the fork.
Cleverly indeed is this work performed, the hemp being well wrapped
round the stems and then brought again into the outer framework.
Occasionally bits of cloth, thread pieces, vegetable fibres, &c. are
introduced. On one occasion I got a nest with a cast-off snake-skin
neatly worked into the outer material.
"The lining of the egg-cavity is simply fine grass, if we except the
occasional capricious addition of a feather or two, an odd piece of
cotton or rag, &c. Three appears to be the regular number of eggs.
This bird is to be found in small numbers all over the country here;
its habits are well described by Jerdon. It is, as I have observed,
hard to please in its choice of a nest site. I have watched it for
days going backwards and forwards, from tree to tree and from fork to
fork, before it made up its mind where to commence work."
Capt. Hutton records that "this is a common bird in the Dhoon, and
arrives at Jerripanee, elevation 4500 feet, in the summer months to
breed. Its beautiful cradle-like nest was taken in the Dhoon on
the 29th of May, at which time it contained three pure white
eggs, sparingly sprinkled over with variously sized spots of deep
purplish-brown, giving the egg the appearance of having been splashed
with dark mud. The spots are chiefly at the larger end, but there is
no indication of a ring. The nest is a slight, somewhat cup-shaped
cradle, rather longer than wide, and is so placed, between the fork
of a thin branch, as to be suspended between the limbs by having the
materials of the two sides bound round them. It is composed of fine
dry grasses, both blade and stalk, intermixed with silky and cottony
seed-down, especially at that part where the materials are wound round
the two supporting twigs; and in the specimen before me there are
several small silky cocoons of a diminutive _Bombyx_ attached to the
outside, the silk of which has been interwoven with the fibres of the
external nest. It is so slightly constructed as to be seen through,
and it appears quite surprising that so large a bird, to say nothing
of the weight of the three or four young ones, does not entirely
From Futtehgurh, the late Mr. A. Anderson remarked:--"The nest and
eggs of this bird so closely resemble those of its European congener
(_O. galbula_) that little or no description is necessary. The
Mango-bird lays throughout the rains, July being the principal month.
One very beautifully constructed nest was taken by me on the 9th July,
1872, containing four eggs, which, according to my experience, is in
excess of the number usually laid. I have frequently taken only a pair
of well-incubated eggs.
"Two of the four eggs above alluded to were quite fresh, while the
other two were tolerably well incubated. The nest is fitted outwardly
with tow, which I have never before seen. One of the pieces of cloth
used in the construction of this nest was 6 inches long."
"At Lucknow," writes Mr. R.M. Adam, "I found this species on the 20th
May building a nest in a neem-tree, and on the 24th I took two eggs
from the nest. On the 10th June I saw another pair, only making love,
so they probably did not lay till the end of that month."
Dr. Jerdon notes that he "procured a nest at Saugor from a high branch
of a banian tree in cantonments. It was situated between the forks of
a branch, made of fine roots and grass, with some hair and a feather
or two internally, and suspended by a long roll of cloth about
three quarters of an inch wide, which it must have pilfered from a
neighbouring verandah where a tailor worked. This strip was wound
round each limb of the fork, then passed round the nest beneath, fixed
to the other limb, and again brought round the nest to the opposite
side; there were four or five of these supports on either side. It was
indeed a most curious nest, and so securely fixed that it could not
have been removed till the supporting bands had been cut or rotted
away. The eggs were white, with a few dark claret-coloured spots."
Major Wardlaw Ramsay says, writing from Afghanistan:--"At Shalofyan,
in the Kurrum valley, in June, I found them in great numbers: some
were breeding; but as I saw quite young birds, it is probable that the
nesting-season was nearly over."
Colonel Butler contributes the following note:--"The Indian Oriole
breeds in the neighbourhood of Deesa in the months of May, June, and
July. I took nests on the following dates:--
"24th May, 1876. A nest containing 1 fresh egg.
29th " " " " 3 fresh eggs.
12th June " " " 2 much incubated eggs.
12th " " " " 3 fresh eggs.
13th " " " " 2 "
19th " " " " 3 "
29th " " " " 2 "
29th " " " " 2 "
29th " " " " 3 "
3rd July " " " 2 "
6th " " " " 3 "
30th " " " " 2 "
"The nest found on the 24th May was suspended from a small fork of a
neem-tree about ten feet from the ground, and was very neatly built of
dry grass (fine interiorly, coarse exteriorly), old rags, and cotton
(woven, not raw). The rim was firmly bound to the branches of the fork
with rags and coarse blades of dry grass. It is an easy nest to find
when the birds are building, as both birds are always together and
keep constantly flying to and from the nest with materials for
building. The cock, as before mentioned, always accompanies the hen
to and from the nest whilst she is building; but I do not think he
assists in its construction, as I never saw him carrying any of the
materials, neither have I ever seen him on the nest. On the contrary,
whilst the hen is at the nest building he is generally waiting for
her, either on the same tree or else on another close by, occasionally
uttering his well-known rich mellow note. On the 29th May I sent a boy
up a tree to examine a nest. The hen bird had been sitting for a week,
and was on the nest when the boy ascended the tree. The cock bird flew
past, and being a brilliant specimen I shot him, thinking of course
that the nest contained a full complement of eggs. To my astonishment,
however, though the hen bird sat very close, there were no eggs in the
nest, and although she returned to it once or twice afterwards, she
eventually forsook it without laying. Possibly she may have laid, and
that the eggs were destroyed by Crows. In addition to the materials
already mentioned, this nest was also composed of tow, string, and
strips of paper, all neatly woven into the exterior, and many of the
other nests mentioned were exactly similar; sometimes I have found
pieces of snake-skin woven into the exterior.
"On the 9th of July I observed a pair of Orioles building on a
neem-tree in one of the compounds in Deesa. When the nest was nearly
finished a gale of wind rose one night and scattered it all over the
bough it was fixed to. The birds at once commenced to remove it, and
in a couple of days carried off: every particle of it to another tree
about 100 yards off, upon which they built a new nest of the materials
they had removed from the other tree. I ascended the tree on the 17th
of July, and found it contained three fresh eggs.
"The eggs are pure white, sparingly spotted with moderately-sized
blackish-looking spots, if washed the spots run. They vary a good
deal in shape and size, some being very perfect ovals, others greatly
Major C.T. Bingham writes:--"The Indian Oriole builds at Allahabad and
at Delhi from the beginning of April to the end of July. In the cold
weather this bird seems to migrate more or less, as but few are seen
and none heard during that season. The nests are built generally at
the top of mango-trees and well concealed; they are constructed of
fine grass, beautifully soft, mixed with strips of plaintain-bark,
with which, or with strips of cotton cloth purloined from somewhere,
the nest is usually bound to a fork in the branch. The egg-cavity is
pretty deep, that is to say from 11/2 to 3 inches."
Mr. George Reid records the following note from Lucknow:--"The
Mango-bird, or Indian Oriole, though a permanent resident, is never
so abundant during the cold weather as it is during the hot and rainy
seasons from about the time the mango-trees begin to bloom to the
end of September. It frequents gardens, avenues, mango-topes, and is
frequently seen in open country, taking long flights between trees,
principally the banian and other _Fici_, upon the berries and buds of
which it feeds. I have the following record of its nests:--
"June 16th. Nest and no eggs (building).
July 2nd. 2 eggs (fresh).
July 2nd. 1 egg (fresh).
July 5th. 3 eggs (fresh).
July 25th. 3 young (just hatched).
August 5th. 2 young (fledged)."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, writing of this bird in the Deccan,
say:--"Common, and breeds in June and July."
Colonel A.C. McMaster informs us that he "found several nests of this
bird at Kamptee during June and July; they corresponded exactly with
Jerdon's admirable description. Has any writer mentioned that this
bird has a faint, but very sweet and plaintive song, which he
continues for a considerable time? I have only heard it when a
family, old and young, were together, _i.e._ at the close of the
Lieut. H.E. Barnes, writing of Rajpootana in general, tells us that
this Oriole breeds during July and August.
Mr. C.J.W. Taylor, speaking of Manzeerabad in Mysore, says:--"Abundant
in the plains. Rare in the higher portions of the district. Breeding
in June and July."
The eggs are typically a moderately elongated oval, tapering a good
deal towards one end, but they vary much in shape as well as size.
Some are pyriform, and some very long and cylindrical, quite the shape
of the egg of a Cormorant or Solan Goose, or that of a Diver. They are
always of a pure excessively glossy china-white, which, when they
are fresh and unblown, appears suffused with a delicate salmon-pink,
caused by the partial translucency of the shell. Well-defined spots
and specks, typically black, are more or less thinly sprinkled over
the surface of the egg, chiefly at the large end. Normally, as I
said, the spots are black and sharply defined, and there are neither
blotches nor splashes, but numerous variations occur. Sometimes, as in
an egg sent me by Mr. Nunn, all the spots are pale yellowish brown.
Sometimes, as in an egg I took at Bareilly, a few spots of this colour
are mingled with the black ones. Deep reddish brown often takes the
place of the typical black, and the spots are not very unfrequently
surrounded by a more or less extensive brownish-pink nimbus, which in
one egg I have is so extensive that the ground-colour of the whole of
the large end appears to be a delicate pink. Occasionally several of
the clear-cut spots appear to run together and form a coarse irregular
blotch, and one egg I possess exhibits on one side a large splash. The
eggs as a body, as might have been expected, closely resemble those of
the Golden Oriole, to which the bird itself is so nearly related; and
as observed by Professor Newton in regard to the eggs of that species,
so in _my_ large series, the prevalence of greatly elongated examples