Part 3 out of 12
tristis_. They lay from the commencement of May to the end of June."
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall tells me that "the Streaked Laughing-Thrush is
very common at Mussoorie, where it is called by the public the Robin
of India. It breeds in July and August all about Landour. The nest is
cup-shaped, rather shallow, and loosely put together, made of grass
and fibre with some moss and a few dead leaves twisted into it; it
is placed in a low bush or else on the ground concealed among the
grass-roots on the hill-side. The eggs, three or four in number, are
oval, rather large for the bird, and of a pure light-blue colour
without spots. I took eggs on the 26th and 28th July and on the 16th
Sir E.C. Buck writes:--"At Mutianee, three marches north of Simla,
I found on the 28th June a nest in a bush on the side of a scantily
'jungled' hill. It was 2 feet from the ground, constructed of grass
and stalks externally, and lined with fibrous roots. It contained
three fresh eggs. The nest measured--exterior diameter 6 inches,
height exteriorly 4 inches; the interior diameter was 3 inches, and
the depth of the cavity 2 inches."
The late Captain Beavan tells us that "on the 16th of August, 1866, I
found a nest in the garden, in a rose-bush, with four pale blue eggs
in it, like those of _Acridotheres tristis_. The nest is a large
structure, firmly built of dry twigs, bark, sticks, ferns, and roots.
Another nest, with three eggs only, was found in a thick clump of
everlasting peas close to the ground on the 6th of September. The
female sat very close, and this may have been the second nest of the
same pair that built the nest mentioned above, as it was built not far
from the first."
Major C.T. Bingham writes:--"Being at Landour for a few days in May I
chanced on a nest of this bird, perhaps the commonest in the hills. It
was placed under an overhanging bush on the side of Lal Tiba hill, and
_on the ground_, being constructed rather loosely of pieces of
the withered stem of some creeper, intertwined with a quantity of
oak-leaves, and lined with grass-roots."
The eggs, of which I must have seen some hundreds, as this is the
commonest Laughing-Thrush about both Mussoorie and Simla, are
typically regular and moderately broad ovals. Abnormally elongated,
spherical, and pyriform varieties occur; some are nearly round like a
Kingfisher's, and I have seen one almost as slender as a Swift's, but,
as a rule, the eggs vary but little either in shape or colour. They
are perfectly spotless, moderately glossy, and of a delicate pale
greenish blue, which of course varies a little in shade and intensity
of colour, but which is very much paler on the average than those of
any of the _Crateropi_, and at the same time less glossy. I am not at
all sure whether _T. lineatum_ is rightly associated with species like
_T. cachinnans, T. variegatum_, and _T. erythrocephalum_, which all
have spotted eggs.
In length the eggs vary from 0.8 to 1.13, and in breadth from 0.63 to
0.8; but the average of fifty-eight eggs carefully measured is 1.01 by
101. Grammatoptila striata (Vig.). _The Striated Laughing-Thrush_.
Grammatoptila striata (_Vig.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii; p. 11; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 382.
The Striated Laughing-Thrush, remarks Mr. Blyth, "builds a compact
Jay-like nest. The eggs are spotless blue, as shown by one of Mr.
Hodgson's drawings in the British Museum."
A nest of this species found near Darjeeling in July was placed on the
branches of a large tree, at a height of about 12 feet.
It was a huge shallow cup, composed mainly of moss, bound together
with stems of creepers and fronds of a _Selaginella_, and lined with
coarse roots and broken pieces of dry grass. A few dead leaves were
incorporated in the body of the nest. The nest was about 8 or 9 inches
in diameter and about 2 in thickness, the broad, shallow, saucer-like
cavity being about an inch in depth.
The nest contained two nearly fresh eggs. The eggs appear to be rather
peculiarly shaped. They are moderately elongated ovals, a good deal
pinched out and pointed towards the small end, in the same manner
(though in a less degree) as those of some Plovers, Snipe, &c. I do
not know whether this is the typical shape of this egg, or whether it
is an abnormal peculiarity of the eggs of this particular nest. The
shell is fine, but the eggs have very little gloss. In colour they are
a very pale spotless blue, not much darker than those of _Zosterops
The eggs measure 1.3 and 1.32 in length, and 0.89 and 0.92 in breadth.
From Sikhim, Mr. Gammie writes:--"In the first week of May I took a
nest of the Striated Laughing-Thrush out of a small tree growing in
the forest at 5500 feet above the sea. It was fixed among spray about
10 feet up. In shape it is a shallow, broad cup, and is built in three
layers: the outer one of twining stems, which besides holding the nest
together fastened it to the spray; the middle layer is an intermixture
of green moss and fresh fern-fronds, and the inner a thick lining of
roots. Externally it measured 7.5 inches broad by 5.25 inches deep;
internally 4 inches by 2.75 inches.
"It contained two hard-set eggs."
Several nests of this species that I have now seen have all been of
the same type, large nests 9 or 10 inches in diameter, and 4 to 5 in
height, the body of the nest composed mainly of green moss interwoven
with and bound round about with the stems of creepers and a few pliant
twigs, many of which straggle away a good deal outside the limits
which I have assigned in stating the dimensions above. The cavities
are not quite hemispherical, a little shallower, say 4.5 inches in
diameter and 2 inches in depth, closely lined with fine black roots.
They have all been placed in the branches of trees at heights of from
8 to 20 feet.
Eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Gammie in May, and Mr. Mandelli
in July, are of precisely the same type. They are rather elongated
ovals, a good deal pointed towards the small end, near which they
are not unfrequently a good deal compressed, so as to render the egg
slightly pyriform. The shell is fine and smooth, but has little gloss.
The ground-colour is a very pale greenish blue or bluish green, in
some almost white; some of them are absolutely spotless, none of them
are at all well marked, but some bear from half a dozen to a dozen
tiny specks of a dark colour. On one only there is a triangular spot
about 0.05 each way, which proves on examination with a microscope
to be a deep brownish red. On the other eggs the markings are mere
The eggs vary from 1.25 to 1.35 in length, and from 0.89 to 0.92 in
104. Argya earlii (Blyth). _The Striated Babbler_.
Chatarrhaea earlii (_Blyth), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 68; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 439.
The Striated Babbler breeds in suitable localities throughout
Continental India, from Sindh to Tipperah and Assam, as also in
Burmah. Reedy-margined lakes, canals and perennial streams are its
favourite haunts, and wherever within the limits above indicated these
abound, and the locality is moist and warm, _A. earlii_ is pretty sure
to be met with.
They lay twice during the year, between the latter end of March and
the early part of September, building a neat, compact, and rather
massive cup-shaped nest, either between the close-growing reeds, to
three or more of which it is firmly bound, or in some little bush or
shrub more or less surrounded by high reed-grass. The broad leaves
and stringy roots of the reed, common grass, and grass-roots are the
materials of which it generally constructs its nest, which varies much
in size, according to the situation and fineness of the material used.
I have seen them composed almost wholly of reed-leaves, fully 7
inches in diameter and 5 in height, and again built entirely of fine
grass-stems not more than 4 inches across and 3 inches in height.
When semi-suspended between reeds, they are always smaller and more
compact, while when placed in a fork of a low bush they are larger
and more straggling. The cavity (always neatly finished off, but very
rarely regularly lined, and then only with very fine grass-stems or
roots) is usually about 3 inches in diameter by 2 inches in depth.
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall remarks:--"In the Saharunpoor District _A.
earlii_ commences building about the middle of March, and the young
are hatched towards the middle of April. The nest is usually placed
in the middle of a tuft of Sarkerry grass, and sometimes in a bush
or small tree, generally 3 or 4 feet from the ground. It is a deep
cup-shaped structure, rather neatly made of grass without lining, and
woven in with the stems if in a clump of grass, or firmly fixed in
a fork if in a bush or low tree. The interior diameter is about 3
inches, and the depth nearly 2 inches. The eggs, four in number, are
of a clear blue colour without spots of any kind. In shape they are
oval, rather thinner at one end; the shell is smooth and thin. The
eggs are of the same colour, but considerably larger than those of
_Argya caudata. Argya earlii_ breeds commonly in the Sub-Siwalik
District of the Doab; it seems fond of water, as most of the nests I
have found were close to the canal bank. It is gregarious even in the
breeding-season; small flocks of seven or eight keeping together,
fluttering in and out of the low bushes, but seldom alighting on the
ground, and occasionally making a noisy chattering cry, especially
From the Pegu District Mr. Oates writes:--"I found two nests on the
24th May, one quite empty though finished, the other containing three
"The nests were placed a few feet apart in an immensely thick patch of
elephant-grass, the undergrowth being fine, once tall, but now dead,
grass. It was upon this dead stuff, which in May is much flattened
down, that I found the nests. They were not attached to anything, but
simply laid in a depressed platform about a foot above the ground, in
among the thickest of the stalks of elephant-grass.
"The nest is a bulky structure, some 6 or 8 inches in external
diameter, and 4 inches in height, composed chiefly of coarse reeds,
becoming finer interiorly till the egg-cup is reached, where the
grasses employed are tolerably fine and neatly interwoven. The cavity
itself is more than a hemisphere, the diameter being 3 inches and the
depth about 2 inches.
"The eggs are of a beautiful blue colour, rather pointed at one end."
Colonel Tickell has the following note on the nidification of this
species in the Asiatic Society Journal, 1848, p. 301:--
"_Burra phenga_.--Nest hemispherical, of grasses rather loosely
interwoven; generally on bushes in jungle. Eggs two to four; rather
lengthened shape; clear, full, verditer blue.--June."
Mr. J.R. Cripps writes of this bird in Eastern Bengal:--"Very common,
and a permanent resident, keeping to grass-fields in small parties of
seven to ten. Very noisy. On the 2nd December, 1877, I found a nest
with three slightly-incubated eggs in a small babool bush which stood
in a 'sone' grass-field. The nest was a deep cup, whose foundation was
a few leaves over which sone-grass was woven rather loosely. Lining
of fine grass-roots. The nest was placed in amongst some coarse grass
which grew up in the centre of the bush, and was three feet from the
ground. External height 4, diameter 41/4, internal diameter 21/2, depth
21/2 inches. Both Messrs. Marshall and Hume in their works on 'Birds'
Nesting' give March and September as the two periods for these birds
to lay, but the clutch I found were exceptionally late."
Mr. J. Inglis writes from Cachar:--"The Striated Reed-Babbler is
exceedingly common during the whole year. It breeds from March
onwards, making its nest in longish grass."
The eggs closely resemble those of _A. caudata_ both in colour and
shape, but they are conspicuously larger. To judge from Hewitson's
figure, for I have never seen the egg, they in shape, size, and colour
closely resemble the eggs of _Accentor alpinus_, some I have being
very slightly larger, and others exactly the same size as the figure
In length the eggs vary from 0.78 to 1.01, and in breadth from 0.65 to
0.75, but the average of a large series is 0.88 by 0.7.
105. Argya caudata (Dumeril). _The Common Babbler_.
Chatarrhaea caudata (_Dum.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 67; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E_ no. 438.
The Common Babbler breeds throughout India, not, however, ascending
any of our many mountain-ranges to any great elevation.
They lay pretty well all the year round; at any rate from early in
March, to early in September their eggs are common. Mr. W. Blewitt
took a nest at Hansie on the 3rd January, and single nests are
recorded by others as found in October, December, and February. They
certainly have two broods a year, and perhaps more, the first being
hatched from March to May, the second from June to August.
They build in low thorny bushes, and occasionally in clumps of high
grass, the nest being rarely more than 3 feet from the ground. The
nest itself is cup-shaped, and composed of grass and roots, often
unlined, at times lined with very fine grass-stems or horse-hair. As a
rule, it is neatly and compactly built, with a deep cavity some 2 to
3 inches in diameter, and 1.75 to 2.25 in depth, but I have seen
straggling, ragged, and comparatively shallow nests of this species,
having an external diameter of fully 7 inches. Three is the normal
number of the eggs, but four are occasionally met with.
Mr. Brooks says:--"This species builds in much the same sort of places
as _A. malcolmi_, but it chooses a low thick bush, the nest not being
more than 3 feet from the ground. Nest neatly built of grass, roots,
hair, &c., and the eggs bright bluish green, very glossy, and much
resembling those of _Accentor modularis_."
Mr. R.M. Adam remarks:--"I took a nest of this bird in Oudh on the
22nd April. It contained a young bird and one unhatched egg. The nest
was made of grass not well worked together, and had a lining of finer
grass. The ground-work was composed of twigs and stems of creepers
interlaced. The exterior diameter of the nest measured 5 inches, and
the egg-cavity was 2 inches deep. In one case this bird did not lay
till the fifth day after the nest was finished. About Agra this bird
breeds during July and August.
"This Bush-Babbler is very common about the Sambhur lake. I have noted
it breeding from the beginning of March till the beginning of July.
Although this species generally prefers building in the hedges of
prickly-pear, I have taken the nests in orange-trees, the karounda,
the babool, &c."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden state that in the Deccan it is "very
common and breeds."
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"This bird, uncommon at Allahabad, is
plentiful here at Delhi. I found several nests between March and June,
all of the Babbler type, deep cups, rather more firmly built than
those of the preceding bird, but constructed like them of coarse roots
of grass, with finer ones for the inside. They are never placed at any
great height from the ground, and generally in some thorny bush. I
have found mostly three, rarely four eggs in any one nest."
Mr. Benjamin Aitken writes:--"I never saw the Common Babbler in Poona,
and it certainly does not occur in Bombay. But it is very abundant on
the arid plains of Berar, breeding in the low babool-bushes, where
large numbers of its eggs are destroyed by lizards. I have found four
eggs in a nest oftener than three."
Colonel Butler writes:--"The Common Babbler breeds in the
neighbourhood of Deesa principally during the monsoon; but I have
found nests occasionally at other seasons of the year, as the
following table of dates will show:--
"April 29, 1876. A nest containing 3 fresh eggs.
"May 16, 1876. " " 3 fresh eggs.
"May 21, 1876. " " 2 fresh eggs.
"Nov. 15, 1876. " " 4 young birds.
"I found numerous nests from the middle of July to the beginning of
September. On the 26th July, 1876, I saw upwards of a dozen nests,
some containing fresh eggs, and others incubated. In many instances
they contained eggs of _Coccystes jacobinus_. The nest is usually
placed 3 or 4 feet from the ground in low thorny bashes (_Zizyphus
jujuba_ preferred) or in a tussock of sarpat grass. It is built of
twigs, roots, grass, &c., loosely put together exteriorly but closely
woven interiorly, the lining being composed of fine roots and
grass-stems. The eggs vary in number from three to five."
Lieut. H.E. Barnes, writing of Rajputana, says:--"The Striated
Bush-Babbler breeds from March to July. The nest is usually placed in
a low thorny bush, and is composed of grass-roots and stems; it is
deep cup-shaped, neatly and compactly built."
The eggs are typically of a moderately elongated oval shape, slightly
compressed towards one end, but more or less spherical and pyriform
varieties occur; and I have one specimen, a very long pointed egg,
which, so far as size and shape go, might pass for an egg of _Cypselus
affinis_; and though this is a peculiarly abnormal shape, I have
others which somewhat approach it in form. The eggs are glossy, often
brilliantly so, and of a delicate, pure, spotless, somewhat pale blue.
The shade of colour in this egg varies very little, and I have never
met with either the very pale or very dark varieties common amongst
the eggs of _C. canorus_ and occasionally found amongst those of _A.
malcolmi_. In colour, size, and shape they are not very unlike those
of our English Hedge-Sparrow, whose early eggs formed the prize of our
first boyish nesting-expeditions, but they are slightly larger and
typically somewhat more elongated.
In length they vary from 0.75 to 0.92, and in breadth from 0.6 to 0.7;
but the average of one hundred and fifteen eggs measured was 0.82 by
107. Argya malcolmi (Sykes). _The Large Grey Babbler_.
Malacocercus malcolmi (_Sykes_), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 64.
Argya malcolmi (_Sykes_), _Hume_, _Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 436.
The Large Grey Babbler breeds throughout the central portions of both
the Peninsula and Continent of India from the Nilghiris to the Dhoon.
It does not extend westwards to Sindh or the North-West Punjab, or
eastwards far into Bengal Proper. In the Central and North-West
Provinces it lays from early in March well into September, having at
least two and, as I believe, often three broods.
It builds on low branches of small trees or in thick shrubs, at no
great elevation from the ground, say at heights of from 4 to 10 feet,
a somewhat loosely woven, but yet generally neat, cup-shaped nest,
composed, as a rule, chiefly of grass-roots, but often with an
admixture of thin sticks and grass. Generally there is no lining,
but I have found nests scantily lined with very fine grass and even
horse-hair. Even when, as is the rule, entirely unlined, the inside is
finished off very nicely and smoothly. I have often seen ragged and
untidy nests, but these are the exception. Externally the nest is some
5 or 6 inches in diameter and 3 or 4 inches in height; the cavity is
from 3 to 4 inches across and from 2 to nearly 3 inches in depth.
Four is the normal number of the eggs laid, but I have several notes
of finding five.
Mr. Brooks says:--"This species breeds in waste lands overgrown with
scanty jungle. The nest is made of sticks, roots, grass, &c., is
rather bulky, and is placed in some moderate-sized bush about 7 or 8
feet from the ground. The eggs are greenish blue, bluer and not so
brightly coloured as those of _C. terricolor_."
Mr. R.M. Adam remarks:--"Near Muttra, on the 31st October, I found a
pair of birds busy lining the interior of a nest which they had built
in a plum-tree. At the Sambhur lake it is very common, and commences
to breed about the end of March."
Writing from Kotagherry (Nilghiris), Miss Cockburn remarks:--"Their
nests are built of a few twigs and roots, very loosely put together
(on some low branch of a tree), and so few of even these as hardly to
keep the eggs from falling through. These Babblers lay four oval eggs
of a greenish-blue colour, but I once saw a nest with eight, and as
there were several of these birds close to it, I have no doubt two or
three shared it together, perhaps to avoid the necessity of each pair
building for itself. Their nests are found in the months of March and
"It is in the nests of this species and our Common Laughing-Thrush
(_T. cachinnans_) that I have chiefly found the eggs of the Pied
Of this species Colonel G.F.L. Marshall remarks:--"I have taken eggs
on the 20th June in Cawnpoor, the 31st July in Bolundshuhur, and the
25th August in Allyghur. The nest is almost always in a keekur tree in
a fork about halfway up, and near the end of a branch. It is composed
of keekur-twigs and lined with roots. It is thinner in structure than
that of _M. terricolor_, but has an outer casing of thorns which the
latter wants. They lay four blue eggs, larger and paler than those of
Lieut. H.E. Barnes writes that in Rajputana the Large Grey Babbler
is "very common. I have found nests in each month from January to
December. They have, I believe, several broods in the year; and even
when nesting associate in small parties of seven or eight."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden say:--"Common, and breeds in the Deccan."
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"Breeds both at Allahabad and at Delhi from
March to quite the end of August, placing its loosely constructed
(rarely firmly built) nest of twigs and fine grass-roots generally at
no great height in babool-trees. Twice only I have found them in dense
mango-trees at about thirty feet from the ground. The nests are not, I
think, as a rule, so deep as those of _Crateropus terricolor_; once
or twice I have found the soft down of the Madar (_Catatropes
hamiltonii_) incorporated into the lining of grass-roots. The eggs are
generally three or four in number."
Mr. Benjamin Aitken writes:--"All the nests which I have seen of the
Large Grey Babbler have been on babool-trees. At Akola (Berar) in
1870, a great many had their nests during the month of July. I have
recorded two instances of nests placed at a height above the ground of
15 feet and 20 feet. These were at Poona, one on the 21st April, and
the other on the 10th May. I could not go up to the nests, but the
birds in both cases were sitting closely. I have twice found nests
with only three newly-hatched young ones."
Colonel Butler informs us that "the Large Grey Babbler breeds in
the neighbourhood of Deesa during the rains. Both the nest and eggs
closely resemble those of _C. terricolor_, but the latter differ
slightly in being less elongated, not so pointed at the small end,
rounder at the large end, and somewhat paler in colour. I have taken
nests on the following dates:--
"July 19, 1875. A nest containing 4 fresh eggs.
"June 30, 1876. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"July 15, 1876. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"July 20, 1876. " " 3 fresh eggs.
"The nest in every instance was similar to that described by Jerdon,
viz.:--a loose structure of dead roots, twigs, and grass, the interior
being neatly lined with closely-woven roots of 'khus-khus.' The old
birds generally select some thorny tree (_Mimosa_ &c.) to build on,
and the nest is usually from 8 feet to 20 feet from the ground.
"Even in the nesting-season these birds are gregarious, joining a
flock generally as soon as they leave the nest."
The eggs of this species do not appear to me to differ perceptibly
from, those of _Crateropus canorus_. When one first takes a nest or
two of each of them, one is apt to draw distinctions and fancy that
the eggs of the two species can be discriminated; but after taking
forty or fifty nests of each species, it becomes obvious that there is
no variety of the one in either colour, shape, or size that cannot be
paralleled in the other. All I have said of the eggs of _C. canorus_
is applicable to the eggs of this species, and the only difference
that, with a huge series of each before me, I can discover is that, as
a body, there is less variation in the colour of the eggs of _Argya
malcolmi_ than in those of _C. canorus_.
In length they vary from 0.88 to 1.1, and in breadth from 0.73 to
0.85; but the average of fifty eggs measured is 0.99 by 0.77.
108. Argya subrufa (Jerd.)[A]. _The Large Rufous Babbler_.
[Footnote A: The accompanying incomplete account of the nidification
of this bird is all I can find among Mr. Hume's notes. I cannot
ascertain who was the discoverer of the nest and eggs described.--ED.]
Layardia subrufa (_Jerd._), _Hume, Cat._ no. 437.
The nest is a deep massive cup placed in the fork of twigs, coarsely
and roughly but still strongly built. The body of the nest is chiefly
composed of leaves, some of which must have been green when used.
Outside, the leaves are held in position by blades of grass, creepers,
and stems of herbaceous plants, carelessly and roughly wound about the
exterior. The cavity is rather more neatly lined with tolerably fine
grass-bents. Exteriorly the nest is about 7 inches in height and 5 in
diameter. The cavity is about 31/2 inches deep by 3 in diameter.
The eggs are precisely like those of the several species of _Argya_,
moderately broad ovals rather obtuse at both ends, often with a
pyriform tendency. The colour is a uniform spotless clear blue with a
faint greenish tinge, and the eggs have usually a fine gloss. The eggs
measure 0.98 by 0.75.
110. Crateropus canorus (Linn.)[A]. _The Jungle Babbler_.
[Footnote A: In the 'Birds of India,' I have united _C. malabaricus_
and _C. terricolor_. Mr. Hume probably still considers these two
races distinct, and others may agree with him. To avoid confusion,
therefore, I have kept the notes appertaining to these two races
distinct from each other.--ED.]
Malacocercus terricolor (_Hodgs._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p.
59; _Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 432.
Malacocercus malabaricus, _Jerd., Jerd. t.c._ p. 62; _Hume,
t.c._ no. 434.
The Bengal Babbler breeds throughout the plains of the Bengal
Presidency (including Bengal, North-Western Provinces, Central
Provinces, Oudh, and the Punjab), and I may add in the less desert
portions of Sindh, although the race found in that province is not
exactly identical with the Bengal bird, and in some respects closely
approaches the Malabar race. In Northern Rajpootana it is rare, and
further south in the quasi-desert tracts of Central and Western
Rajpootana it disappears according to my experience.
Eastward in Cachar and Assam it appears to occur as a mere straggler,
but I have no record of its having bred there. It lays from the latter
half of March until the close of July, but the great majority lay
during the first week after the setting in of the rains, which varies
according to locality and season, from the 1st of June to the 15th of
They build very commonly in gardens, in thick orange-, citron-, or
lime-shrubs, but their nests may be found almost anywhere, in thick
shrubs or small trees of any kind, or in thick hedges, at heights of
from 4 to 10 feet from the ground, always placed in some fork
towards the centre of the shrub or hedge. The nests are rather
loosely-put-together cups, composed of grass-stems and roots varying
in fineness, and often lined with horse-hair. Some are deep and neatly
constructed, others loose, straggling, and shallow, the cavity varying
from 3 to more than 4 inches in diameter and from less than 2 to
nearly 3 inches in depth.
Three is the normal number of the eggs, but I have repeatedly found
Captain Hutton writes to me:--"A nest of this bird was taken in the
Dehra Dhoon on the 14th May, and was composed entirely of fine roots,
the thinnest being placed within as a lining. Subsequently three
others were procured, one of which was externally composed of coarse
dry grasses and leaves, with a scanty lining of fine roots; the other
two were constructed of the fine woody tendrils of climbing-plants
and lined like the others with fine roots. These latter had a strong
resemblance to some of the nests of _Garrulax albogularis_, while the
difference exhibited in the nature of the materials used arises from
the various character of the localities in which the bird may choose
to build. Each nest contained four beautiful eggs of a full bright
turquoise-green, shining as if varnished. The eggs were nearly all
hard-set. This species does not ascend the hills, but appears to
be confined to the Dhoon, where it may be seen in small parties in
gardens, hedgerows, and low brushwood, turning over the dead leaves in
search of seeds and insects. Its flight is low, short, and apparently
laboured, from the shortness and rounded form of the wing, but on the
ground it hops along with speed. The note is clamorous and chuckling
and uttered in concert."
The late Mr. A. Anderson remarked:--"Although one of the most common
birds in the North-West Provinces, and in fact verging on a nuisance,
its nidification is interesting, inasmuch as its nest (in common
with that of _A. malcolmi_) is used as a nursery for the young of
_Hierococcyx varius_ and _Coccystes melanoleucus_.
"This Babbler builds, as a general rule, during the early part of the
rains (June to August), laying usually three or four eggs of a bright
greenish-blue colour. The nest itself recalls that of the Blackbird,
but it is frequently very clumsily made. On the 21st June last a boy
brought me a nest of this species containing _eight_ eggs. Two, if not
three, of this clutch are easily separable from the others, being more
oval and somewhat smaller, and are unquestionably parasitical eggs;
but it is quite impossible to say whether they belong to _H. varius_
or _C. melanoleucus_.
"Again, on the 9th July, I took a nest in person, which also contained
eight eggs. Seven of these are all alike and are well incubated, while
the eighth is quite fresh, and doubtless owes its parentage to one of
the above-mentioned Cuckoos.
"Strange to say I have now another nest marked down, which in like
manner contains the same number of callow young. It is just possible
that the foster-parents may have to perform double duty in this case.
"From the foregoing it may be inferred that _M. canorus_ does
occasionally lay more than four eggs, or as the birds are gregarious
even during the breeding-season, it is possible enough that two birds
may occasionally deposit eggs in the same nest.
"I should not think that _H. varius_ (the "Brain-fever and
Delirium-tremens Bird" as it is frequently called) had much difficulty
in depositing her eggs in the nest of the _Malacocerci_, for I have
frequently noticed that all the Babblers in the neighbourhood make a
clean bolt of it immediately this Cuckoo puts in an appearance, no
doubt owing to its great similarity to the Indian Sparrow-Hawk (_M.
"During the months of September and October I have observed several
Babblers in the act of feeding one young _H. varius_, following the
bird from tree to tree, and being most assiduous in their attentions
to the young interloper."
Mr. H.M. Adam remarks:--"I took a nest of this bird in Agra on the
17th July. It contained five eggs, all of which were nearly hatched.
Again on the 21st I took another nest containing only one hard-set
Writing from Calcutta, Mr. J.C. Parker says:--"I found a nest of this
bird, near my house in Garden Reach, on the 23rd June. It contained
four fresh eggs."
Colonel Butler observes:--"The Bengal Babbler breeds in the
neighbourhood of Deesa as a rule, I think, during the rains and in the
cold weather, but I have found nests as late as March. The nest is
usually placed on the outside branch of some moderate-sized tree
(neem &c.). It is a somewhat solidly built structure composed almost
entirely of dead twigs, stems of dead leaves, and stalks of coarse dry
grass, being lined with a few fine fibrous roots or stems of grass. I
found nests on the following dates:--
"July 16, 1875. A nest containing 4 fresh eggs.
"March 20, 1876. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"May 29, 1876. " " 3 fresh eggs.
"June 17, 1876. " " 3 fresh eggs.
"June 17, 1876. " " 4 young birds.
"Oct. 15, 1876. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"Nov. 3, 1876. " " 4 slightly incubated.
"In some nests I have noticed a breach upon one side of the nest as if
intended for the convenience of the bird's tail. It is not unusual to
find an egg of _C. jacobinus_ in the nest."
Major C.T. Bingham writes:--"Common both at Allahabad and at Delhi; I
have found this bird breeding from April to the end of July. All nests
that I have found have, with the exception of one, been placed in low
babool bushes; once only I found a nest near Delhi in the fork of a
low bough of a mango-tree, this was on the 31st July. The nests are
more or less loosely constructed cups of slender twigs and grass-roots
Mr. J.R. Cripps writing from Eastern Bengal says:--"On the 15th April
I found a nest on the very top of a mango-tree about 30 feet off the
ground, shooting the male as it flew off the nest."
The eggs of this species are very variable in colour, shape, and size.
Typically they are rather broad ovals, somewhat compressed towards one
end, and much the shape of, though a good deal smaller than, those
of our English Song-Thrush. Some are, however, long and cylindrical;
others more or less spherical. The colour varies from a pale blue,
like that of _Trochalopterum lineatum_, to a deep dull blue,
recalling, but yet not so dark as, that of _Garrulax albigularis_. The
eggs are typically glossy, but it is remarkable that in a large series
the deepest coloured are always far the most glossy. Some deep blue
eggs of this species are most intensely glossy, more so than almost
any other of our Indian eggs, except those of _Metopidius indicus_. I
need scarcely say that the eggs are entirely spotless and devoid of
all markings, but I may note that each egg is invariably the same
colour throughout, and that I have never met with a specimen in which
the shade of colour varied in the same egg.
In length the eggs vary from 0.88 to 1.15, and in breadth from 0.75 to
0.82; but the average of fifty-one eggs measured is 1.01 by 0.78.
The Jungle Babbler, like the White-headed one, breeds pretty well over
the whole of Southern India, but while the latter is chiefly confined
to the more open plain country, the former is the bird of the uplands,
hills, and forests. Still the Jungle Babbler is found at times in the
same localities as the White-headed one, and what is more, specimens
occur, as in Cochin, which partake of the distinctive characters of
both. A great deal still remains to be done in working out properly
this group; both in Sindh on the west and the Tributary Mehals on the
east, and again in some parts of the Nilghiris, races occur quite
intermediate between typical _C. terricolor_ and typical _C.
malabaricus_, while in the south, as already mentioned, forms
intermediate between this latter and _C. griseus_ seem common. Three
distinguishable races again of _C. griseus_ are met with, but running
the one into the other, while intermediate forms between this species
and _C. somervillii_ (Sykes) are also met with.
Mr. Davison remarks:--"This bird seems to be very irregular in its
time of breeding. I have taken the nest in May, June, October, and
December. The nest is rather a loose structure of dry grass and
leaves, lined with fine dry grass; it is generally placed in the
middle of some thick thorny bush, and cannot generally be got at
without paying the penalty of well scratched hands. The eggs,
generally five in number, are of a very deep blue with a tinge of
green, but of not so decided a tinge as in the eggs of _M. griseus_.
It breeds on the slopes of the Nilghiris, not ascending to more than
about 6000 feet."
Mr. Wait, writing from Coonoor, says:--"_C. malabaricus_ builds a
cup-shaped nest in small trees and bushes, and lays from three to five
very round oval verditer-blue eggs."
Captain Horace Terry says of this species:--"Rather rare at Pulungi,
but very common lower down on the slopes and in the Pittur valley. I
got a nest on April 5th at Pulungi with three incubated eggs, and on
the 6th one with two incubated eggs, in the Pittur valley. The last
was built in a hollow in the top of a stump of a tree that had been
broken off some ten feet from the ground."
Mr. I. Macpherson writes from Mysore:--"This bird is occasionally
found with _C. griseus_ in the bigger scrub forests, but its chief
habitat is the larger forests. Its breeding-season is much the same
as _C. griseus_ but unlike it, it does not select thorny bushes
for building in, its nests being generally found in small trees or
bamboo-clumps. Four is the usual number of eggs laid, but five
are often found, and the fifth I expect is frequently that of _H.
Three eggs sent me by Mr. Carter from Coonoor, in the Nilghiries, are
absolutely undistinguishable from those of _Argya malcolmi_. Like
these they are a uniform, rather deep greenish blue, devoid of spots
or markings, and very glossy. I do not think that, if the eggs of _A.
malcolmi, C. malabaricus_, and _C. terricolor_ were once mixed, it
would be possible to separate them with certainty. Other eggs taken by
Mr. Davison are similar but slightly smaller, and, taking them as
a whole, I think they average rather darker than those of the two
species just mentioned.
The eggs vary in length from 0.93 to 1.02, and in breadth from 0.71 to
0.82; but the average of nine eggs is 0.97 by nearly 0.77.
111. Crateropus griseus (Gm.). _The White-headed Babbler_.
Malacocercus griseus (_Gm._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 60; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 433.
I should say that the White-headed Babbler breeds all over the plain
country of Southern India, not ascending the hills to any great
elevation. At the same time, many people would very likely separate
the Madras, Mangalore, and Anjango birds, and insist on their being
different species; but for my part, seeing how the birds vary in each
locality and what a perfect and unbroken chain of intermediate forms
connects the most different-looking examples, and that all the several
races are separable from the other species of this group by their more
or less conspicuously pale heads, I prefer to keep them all as _C.
This species, thus considered, breeds apparently twice a year from
April to June, and again in October and even later.
About Madras the nest is commonly placed in thick thorny hedges of a
shrub locally known as "Kurka-puli," said by Balfour to be _Garcinia
cambogia_, but which does not look like a _Garcinia_ at all. The nest
is a loosely-made cup, composed of grass-stems and roots, and the eggs
vary from three to five in number.
Dr. Jerdon says:--"I have often found the nest of this bird, which
is composed of small twigs and roots, carelessly and loosely put
together, in general at no great height from the ground. It lays three
or four blue eggs."
Colonel Butler writes:--"A nest containing four fresh eggs apparently
of this species (it being the common Babbler in this district) was
brought to me by some wood-cutters on the 18th March, 1880. It was
taken in the jungles about six miles from Belgaum, and measured about
23/4 inches in diameter and about 2 inches deep interiorly, and was of
the usual Babbler type, consisting of dry stems loosely but neatly
constructed. The eggs were highly glossed and deep bluish green, some
people might say greenish blue."
Mr. Iver Macpherson writes of this bird from Mysore:--"I have found
their nests in every month between March and August, and they possibly
breed both earlier and later. The nests are generally fixed in thorny
bushes and at no great height off the ground. Four is the usual number
of eggs laid, but very often five are found, and I feel much inclined
to think that the fifth egg is often that of _H. varius_."
The eggs of this species that I possess were taken by Mr. Davison in
May, in the immediate neighbourhood of Madras. They are all pretty
regular, somewhat cylindrical ovals, excessively glossy, spotless, and
of a deep greenish blue, much deeper than the eggs of any of the other
_Crateropi_ are as a rule; in fact, they approach in colouring to the
eggs of _Garrulax albigularis_.
They vary in length from 0.9 to 1.0, and in breadth from 0.62 to
0.74; but I have seen too few eggs to be able to strike any reliable
112. Crateropus striatus (Sw.). _The Southern-Indian Babbler_.
Malacocercus striatus (_Sw._), _Hume, Cat._ no. 432 bis.
Colonel Legge, writing of this bird's nidification in Ceylon,
says:--"The breeding-season of the 'Seven Brothers' lasts from
(page 80 in the book.) March until July. The nest is placed in a
cinnamon-bush, shrub or bramble, at about four feet from the ground,
and is a compact cup-shaped structure, usually fixed in a fork and
made of stout grasses and plant-stalks and lined with fine grass,
which, in some instances I have observed, was plucked green. The
interior measures 21/2 inches in depth by about 3 in width. The eggs
are two or three in number, small for the size of the bird, glossy in
texture, and of a uniform opaque greenish blue. They measure from 0.91
to 1.0 in length, by 0.7 to 0.74 in breadth."
113. Crateropus somervillii (Sykes). _The Rufous-tailed Babbler_.
Malacocercus somervillei (_Sykes_), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 63; _Hume
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 435.
Of the nidification of the Rufous-tailed Babbler (which, so far as I
yet know, is confined to the narrow strip of country lying beneath the
Ghats for about 60 miles north and south of Bombay and to the hills or
ghats overlooking this), all I yet know is contained in the following
brief note by Mr. E. Aitken: he says:--
"I once found a nest of the Rufous-tailed Babbler at Khandalla, I
cannot tell the level precisely, but it cannot have been far from 2000
feet above the sea. It was at the end of May or the very beginning of
June. The nest was in a small spreading tree in level, open forest
country. The situation was just such a one as _A. malcolmi_ generally
chooses--the end of a horizontal branch with no other branches
underneath it; but it was not so high as those of _A. malcolmi_
usually are, for I could reach it from the ground. The nest was
rather flat and contained three eggs, almost hatched, of an intense
"In Bombay, where it is far more common, I once, on the 1st October,
saw a pair followed by one young one and a young _Coccystes
melanoleucus_. This was on a hill, and indeed these birds seem to
confine themselves pretty much to hilly ground."
Mr. Benjamin Aitken writes:--"With reference to your remark that, as
far as you know, the Rufous-tailed Babbler is confined to the strip of
country beneath the Ghats, I can certainly say that they are plentiful
on the slopes of Poorundhur hill, eighteen miles south of Poona. It
would be interesting to learn on which other of the Deccan hills it is
found. This species is decidedly fond of hilly country. It is common
on the two ranges of low hills that run along the east and west shores
of the island of Bombay, but never shows a feather in the gardens and
groves on the level ground. I spent the greater part of two days, when
I could ill spare the time, in searching for the nests, but the birds
breed in the date-trees, and it would be hopeless to think of finding
a nest without cutting away many of the branches or fronds. Moreover,
the bird is extremely wary, and it is by no means easy to guess on
which particular tree it has its nest."
114. Crateropus rufescens (Blyth). _The Ceylonese Babbler_.
Layardia rufescens (_Blyth_), _Hume, Cat._ no. 437 bis.
Colonel Legge writes regarding the nidification of this bird in
Ceylon:--"This bird breeds in the Western Province in March, April,
and May, and constructs a nest similar to the last [_M. striatus_],
of grass and small twigs, mixed perhaps with a few leaves, and placed
among creepers surrounding the trunks of trees or in a low fork of
a tree. It conceals its habitation, according to Layard, with great
care; and I am aware myself that very few nests have been found. It
lays two or three eggs, very similar to those of the last species, of
a deep greenish blue, and pointed ovals in shape--two which were taken
by Mr. MacVicar at Bolgodde measuring 0.95 by 0.75, and 0.92 by 0.74
115. Crateropus cinereifrons (Blyth). _The Ashy-headed Babbler_.
Garrulax cinereifrons (_Blyth_), _Hume, Cat._ no. 409 bis.
Colonel Legge, in his work on the birds of Ceylon, says:--"The
breeding-season of this bird is from April to July. Full-fledged
nestlings may be found abroad with the parent birds in August; and
from this I base my supposition, for I have never found the nest
myself. Intelligent native woodmen, in the western forests, who are
well acquainted with the bird, have informed me that it nests in
April, building a large, cup-shaped nest in the fork of a bush-branch,
and laying three or four dark blue eggs. Whether this account be
correct or not, future investigation must decide."
116. Pomatorhinus schisticeps, Hodgs. _The Slaty-headed Scimitar
Pomatorhinus schisticeps, _Hodgs., Jerd. B.I._ ii, p. 29; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 402.
Speaking of the Slaty-headed Scimitar Babbler, Dr. Jerdon says:--"A
nest made of moss and some fibres, and with four pure white eggs, was
brought to me at Darjeeling as belonging to this bird."
Two nests were sent me by Mr. Mandelli as belonging to this species,
the one found near Namtchu on the 3rd April containing four fresh
eggs, the other near Tendong on the 15th June, containing three.
Another nest which he found on the 22nd April, near the same place as
the first, contained four fresh eggs. All were placed on or very near
to the ground in brushwood and grass; all appear to have been
large, rather saucer-like nests, from 5.5 to 6.5 inches in diameter
externally, and 2.5 to 3 in height. Outside and below they are
composed chiefly of coarse grass, dead leaves, especially fern-leaves,
while interiorly they are composed of and lined with finer--in some
cases _very_ fine--grass. The cavities average, I should guess, 3.75
inches in diameter, and 1.5, or a little more perhaps, in depth.
Mr. J.R. Cripps has the following note on the breeding of this bird in
Assam:--"A nest I got was situated at the roots of a clump of bushes,
overhanging a small river. A bridge spanning this river was within ten
yards, the intervening space being open; and for such a shy bird to
have chosen such an exposed situation to build in astonished me."
From Sikhim Mr. Gammie writes:--"A nest of this Babbler taken on the
20th May much resembled that of _P. ferruginosus_, both in size and
structure. The egg-cavity had, however, a lining of at least half an
inch in thickness of soft, fibrous material extracted from the bark of
some tree, and a little fine grass for the eggs to lie on. It was on
the ground, among low jungle, in the Ryeng Valley, at 2000 feet of
elevation, and contained four eggs, two of them hatching off and
two addled. According to my experience, nests containing so large a
proportion of addled eggs are unusual."
Eggs sent by Mr. Mandelli as belonging to this species closely
resemble those of _Pomatorhinus ferruginosus_, but are somewhat
smaller; they are oval eggs a good deal pointed towards one end, pure
white, and with a high gloss. They were obtained on the 5th and 22nd
of April in the neighbourhood of Darjeeling, and measure from 0.95 to
1.04: in length, and 0.72 to 0.73 in breadth. Eggs sent by Mr. Gammie
are precisely similar.
Two other eggs of this species subsequently obtained were slightly
shorter and broader, and measured 0.95 by 0.77, and 0.98 by 0.78.
118. Pomatorhinus olivaceus, Blyth. _The Tenasserim Scimitar
Pomatorhinus olivaceus, _Blyth, Hume, Cat._ no. 403 bis.
Mr. Davison writes:--"I found a nest of this bird on the morning of
the 21st January, 1875, at Pakchan, Tenasserim Province, Burma. It was
placed on the ground at the foot of a small screw pine, growing in
thick bamboo-jungle; it was a large globular structure, composed
externally of dry bamboo-leaves, and well secreted by the mass of dry
bamboo-leaves that surrounded it; it was in fact buried in these, and
if I had not seen the bird leave it, it would most undoubtedly have
remained undiscovered. Externally it was about a foot in length by
9 inches in height, but it was impossible to take any accurate
measurement, as the nest really had no marked external definition.
Internally was a lining about half an inch thick, composed of thin
strips of dry bark, fibres, &c. The entrance was to one side,
circular, and measuring 2.5 inches in diameter; the egg-cavity
measured 4 inches deep by about 3 in height.
"In the nest were three pure white ovato-pyriform eggs, but so far
incubated that they would probably have hatched off before the day was
"The measurements of two were 1.1 and 1.09 in length by 0.75 in
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"This is the _Pomatorhinus_ of the
Thoungyeen valley, being found from the sources to the mouth of that
river. A note recorded two years ago of a nest that I found is given
below:--_4th March_.--Having to go over the ground along the southern
boundary of the proposed Meplay reserve I had to cut my way through
dense bamboo, to go through a long belt of which is hard work. To make
it worse in this case several clumps had been burnt by fire and blown
down. As I was slowly progressing along, bent almost double, out of
a little hollow at my feet a bird flew with a suddenness that nearly
knocked me down. I looked into the hollow, and there under the ledge
of the sheltering bank was a nest of dry bamboo-leaves lined with
strips of the same, shredded fine. It was cup-shaped, loosely made,
about 11/2 inches in diameter, and the same in depth, containing three
pure white eggs, perfectly fresh (measured afterwards two proved
respectively, 0.98 x 0.71, 0.99 x 0.73 inch); and gun in hand I
watched, hiding myself behind a clump of bamboos about thirty yards
off. For an hour I watched, but the bird did not return, so I marked
the spot and went on. Returning back the same way just before dusk, I
managed to start her again, and to get a hurried shot; she fell and I
secured and recognized her as _P. olivaceus_."
The eggs, which seem small for the size of the bird, are rather broad
ovals, some fairly regular, some a good deal compressed just towards
the small end, which is, however, always obtuse, never pointed; the
shell is fine, compact, and thin, smooth and satiny to the touch,
but with scarcely any perceptible gloss. The colour is pure spotless
119. Pomatorhinus melanurus, Blyth. _The Ceylonese Scimitar
Pomatorhinus melanurus, _Blyth, Hume, Cat._ no. 404 bis.
Colonel Legge writes of the nidification of this bird in
Ceylon:--"This Babbler breeds from December until February. I have
observed one collecting materials for a nest in the former month, and
at the same period Mr. Mac Vicar had the eggs brought to him; they
were taken from a nest made of leaves and grass, and placed on a bank
in jungle. Mr. Bligh has found the nest in crevices in trees, between
a projecting piece of bark and the trunk, also in a jungle-path
cutting and on a ledge of rock; it is usually composed of moss,
grass-roots, fibre, and a few dead leaves, and the structure is rather
a slovenly one. The eggs vary from three to five, and are pure white,
the shell thin and transparent, and they measure 0.96 to 0.98 in
length, by 0.7 in breadth."
120. Pomatorhinus horsfieldii, Sykes. _The Southern Scimitar
Pomatorhinus horsfieldii, _Sykes, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 31; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 404.
The Southern Scimitar Babbler breeds throughout the hilly tracts of
Southern India, up to an elevation of fully 7000 feet. They are common
in Ootacamund, and even on Dodabet as high up as it is wooded. They
seem to breed less plentifully about Kotagherry than they do at
Ootacamund itself, Coonoor, Neddivattam, &c.
They lay from February to May, building a largish globular nest of
grass, moss, and roots, placed on or very near to the ground in some
bush or clump of fern or grass. They lay five eggs.
A nest of this species which I owe to Mr. Carter, and which was found
at Coonoor on the 7th April, 1869, is a huge globular mass of moss and
fine moss-roots some 7 inches in diameter, with, on the upper side,
an entrance to a small egg-cavity some 31/2 inches in diameter, and 2
inches in depth. It is a most singular nest, a great compact ball of
soft feathery moss and very fine moss-roots, which latter predominate
in the interior of the cavity, and so form a sort of lining to it. The
great body of the nest is below the cavity, the overhanging dome-like
covering of the cavity being comparatively thin.
Mr. Davison remarks:--"The nest of this bird is very peculiar in
structure, more like the nest of a field-mouse than of a bird, being
in fact merely a ball of grass rather loosely put together, the grass
on the exterior being intermingled with dry leaves and other rubbish.
The nest is generally placed either in a clump of fern, or at the
roots of some grass-grown bush. The eggs are pure white, very
elongated, and with a remarkably thin and delicate shell. The normal
number appears to be five. The breeding-season is, I think, the latter
end of April and May."
Later, he writes:--"It must, I think, breed twice, as I found a nest
on the 10th March with fully-fledged young, and late in April another
nest with perfectly fresh eggs."
Writing of this species Dr. Jerdon says:--"I procured its nest near
Neddivattam on the Nilghiris, on a bank on the roadside, made with
moss and roots, and containing four white eggs of a very elongated
Miss Cockburn, of Kotagherry, furnishes me with the following note on
the nidification of this species:--"These birds build rather large
nests, among the _roots_ of bushes, and generally prefer those which
grow on the slopes of steep hills. Their nests are composed of coarse
grass, a few roots of the same, and the bark of a bush, which cracks
when dry and is very easily pulled off. These materials are put
together into a round nest, and also form a covering above, which
makes the inside look very snug indeed. But if any attempts are made
to remove the nest, it generally falls to pieces, the materials having
no tenacity. This bird commonly uses no lining to its nest, but lays
its eggs (three to five in number) on the coarse grass of which
the inside is composed. The eggs are pure white, particularly
thin-shelled, and consequently perfectly translucent. They are found
during the months of February and March."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, writing from the Deccan, remark:--"Very
common along tops of ghats. D. got a nest with two eggs in March."
Mr. T. Fulton Bourdillon writes from Travancore:--"I have been so
fortunate as to obtain two nests of this bird lately, though I have
never found any before. The first contained three fresh eggs on the
5th December last, and was situated in a bank on the roadside at
an elevation of about 3000 feet above sea-level. The nest was very
loosely made of grass, with finer kinds of grass for the lining. I
endeavoured to preserve it, but it fell to pieces on being taken from
its position, and I only succeeded in saving the eggs. As the bird,
usually a very shy one, flew off on my approach and remained close
by while I was examining the nest, I have no doubt of its identity.
Whether she would have laid more eggs I cannot say, but I fancy not;
three seems to be the usual number judging from the two clutches
taken. The other nest I found on the 8th of this month just completed.
It was in much the same position as the last, viz. a bank by the
roadside, and as it was near my bungalow I watched to see how the eggs
were deposited. The bird laid one egg each day on the 11th, 12th and
13th, and then began to sit, so on the 15th I took the nest. When
fresh the eggs are beautifully pink from the thinness of the shell."
Mr. J. Darling, junior, remarks:--
"Mr. Davison makes a very good remark on the nest of this bird, but I
found one once under the roots of a tree at Neddivattam, and it was
a most beautiful nest, built entirely of the fibrous bark of the
Nilghiri nettle, in the shape of an oven, with a hole to go in at one
side. It contained four pure white delicate eggs. Another one found
near the same place was of the same nature, only resting on some
fern-leaves and under a rock, and contained five eggs.
"I found a nest down at Vythery, Wynaad, in a hole in the bank of a
road, in December 1874, made entirely of broad grass, very untidy, and
containing three eggs."
Mr. Rhodes W. Morgan writing from South India, says:--"Breeds in
April, constructing a neat domed nest of leaves on the ground, at the
foot of a bush. The nest is lined with fine grasses, and almost always
contains three eggs, which, when fresh, are of a beautiful pink
colour, owing to the yolk shining through the shell, which is
exceedingly fragile. The egg, when blown, is of a very beautiful
glossy white. If suddenly approached whilst on its nest, this bird
runs out like a rat, and flies when at a distance from the nest. An
egg in my collection measures 1.04 by .7 inch."
The eggs sent me from the Nilghiris by Miss Cockburn and Mr. Carter
are nearly perfect ovals, usually much elongated, but sometimes
moderately broad, and very slightly compressed towards one end.
They are very fragile, and perfectly pure spotless white in colour.
Typically, although smooth and satiny in texture, they have but little
gloss, but occasionally a fairly glossy egg is to be met with.
In length they vary from 0.98 to 1.12, and in breadth from 0.75 to
0.79; but the average seems to be about 1.08 by 0.77.
122. Pomatorhinus ferruginosus, Blyth. _The Coral-billed Scimitar
Pomatorhinus ferruginosus, _Blyth,, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 29; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 401.
The Coral-billed Scimitar Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes,
breeds in Sikhim, at an elevation of 5000 or 6000 feet. Its nest is
placed about a foot or 2 feet above the ground, in a bamboo-clump or
some thick bush, and is firmly wedged in between the twigs and shoots.
It is composed internally of dried bamboo-leaves, grass, and vegetable
fibres, outside which bamboo-sheaths are bound on with creepers and
fibres of different kinds. The nest is more or less egg-shaped, with
the longer diameter horizontal, some 7 inches or so in length and 5
inches in height, and with the entrance at one end, measuring some
3 inches in diameter. Four or five eggs are laid, elongated ovals,
somewhat pointed towards the small end, pure white, and measuring
about 1.08 by 0.7.
From Sikhim Mr. Gammie writes:--"I took a nest of this bird on the
19th May, at an elevation of about 5000 feet. It was placed on the
ground, among low scrub, near the outskirts of a large forest, and was
neatly made, for a _Pomatorhinus_, of bamboo-leaves and long grass,
with a thin lining of fibry strips torn from old bamboo-stems. In
shape it was a cone laid on its side. Externally it measured 9 inches
in length by the same in height at front, while the egg-cavity
measured 3.5 inches across, and 1.75 in depth. The entrance, which was
at the end, measured 3 inches in diameter.
"Next to the lining was a layer of broadish grass-blades, placed
lengthways, _i.e._ from base to apex of the cone, then came a
cross layer of broad bamboo-leaves succeeded by a second layer of
bamboo-leaves placed lengthways. By this arrangement the nest was
kept perfectly water-tight. So nicely were these simple materials
put together that they held each other in their places without the
assistance of a single fibre.
"The nest contained four partially incubated eggs: three of them
pointed and exactly alike, but the fourth rounded, and apparently of a
different texture, so that it may have been introduced by a Cuckoo."
Two eggs sent by Mr. Gammie are moderately elongated ovals, somewhat
obtuse even, at the smaller end. The shell is very fine, pure white,
and has a fine gloss. They measure 1.1 by 0.83, and 1.06 by 0.78.
125. Pomatorhinus ruficollis, Hodgs. _The Rufous-necked Scimitar
Pomatorhinus ruficollis, _Hodgs., Jerd, B. Ind._ ii, p. 29; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 400.
The Rufous-necked Scimitar Babbler breeds in Nepal, the Himalayas
eastward of that State, and in the various ranges running down from
Assam to Burmah.
The breeding-season appears to be April and May. They lay five, or
sometimes only four, eggs.
From Sikhim Mr. Gammie writes:--"This species breeds, I think, from
the middle of April to the middle of May; but I have only as yet
taken a single nest, and this I found at Rishap on the 5th May, at an
elevation of about 4500 feet. The nest was placed on the ground in
open country, but partially concealed by overhanging grass and weeds,
and immediately adjoining a deep humid ravine filled with a dense
undergrowth. The nest was composed of dry grass, fern, bamboo, and
other dry leaves put loosely together and lined with a few fibres. In
shape it was domed or hooded, and exteriorly it measured 5.7 inches in
height and 5 in diameter. Interiorly the cavity was 2.6 in diameter,
and had a total depth of 3.8 measured from the roof, but of only 2
inches below the lower margin of the aperture. This nest contained
five eggs, much incubated; indeed, they would have hatched off in one
or two days."
The Rufous-necked Scimitar Babbler breeds, according to Mr. Hodgson,
in the central portion of Nepal in April and May, building a large,
coarse, globular nest of dry grass and bamboo-leaves on the ground in
some thick bush or bamboo-clump. The opening of the nest is at the
side. They lay four or five white eggs, measuring as figured 0.9 by
The eggs sent me by Mr. Gammie are rather elongated ovals, a good deal
pointed towards one end, pure white, the shells very fine and fragile,
and with a fair amount of gloss.
Ten eggs varied from 0.85 to 1.02 in length, and from 0.62 to 0.74 in
breadth, but the average was 0.95 by 0.68.
129. Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, Vigors. _The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar
Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, _Vig., Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 31; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 405.
The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler breeds from April to June in the
Himalayas, at any rate from Darjeeling to the Valley of the Beas, at
elevations of from 2000 to 6000 feet. It may be _met_ with at double
this latter altitude, but I doubt if it _nests_ higher.
As a rule, the nest is placed on the ground, in some thick clump of
dry fern or coarse grass, amongst dead leaves and moss, but at times I
have seen it placed in a thick bush 2 or 3 feet from the ground. It is
very common near Kotegurh and below Narkunda, where we found nearly a
dozen nests, almost all, however, containing young ones. Typically
the nest is domed, and is loosely constructed of the materials at
hand--coarse grass, dry fern, dead leaves, moss-roots, and the like,
some 6 or 7 inches in diameter and 5 or 6 inches high, with a broad
entrance on one side, a good deal above the middle. In some cases,
however, where a dense bunch of grass or fern completely curves over
the spot selected for the nest, the latter is a mere broad, shallow
saucer. There is no regular lining to the nests, but a good many fine
roots are at times incorporated in the interior of the cavity. All
the nests that I have seen were placed near the edges of clumps of
brushwood or scrubby jungle.
I ought here to mention that I am by no means certain that the
Nepalese and Sikhim, in fact the eastern race of this species (_P.
ferrugilatus_ Hodgs.), will not have to be separated from the more
western _P. erythrogenys_ of Gould. Long ago Blyth remarked ('Journal
Asiatic Society,' 1845, p. 598) that "there seems to be two marked
varieties of _P. erythrogenys_, one having white under-parts, with
merely faint traces of darker spots, the other with the throat and
breast densely mottled with greenish olive," or, as I should call it,
dingy olive-grey. This is perfectly true, and, as far as I can make
out, the latter variety is not one of sex or age, but is local and
confined to Kumaon (where the other form also occurs) and the hills
eastward of this province. My own remarks above given refer to the
true _P. erythrogenys_, and so do Hutton's; but Hodgson's and Mr.
Gammie's birds both appear to have been, and the latter's certainly
were, grey-throated examples. The eggs are undistinguishable, as,
indeed, though they vary somewhat in shape and size, are those of most
of the _Pomatorhini_.
Captain Hutton says that this species is "common from 3500 feet up to
10,000 or 12,000 feet, always in pairs, turning up the dead leaves
on copsewood covered banks, uttering a loud whistle, answering and
calling each other. It breeds in April, constructing its nest on the
ground of coarse dry grasses and leaf-stalks of walnut-trees, and is
covered with a dome-shaped roof, so nicely blended with the fallen
leaves and withered grasses, among which it is placed, as to be almost
undistinguishable from them. The eggs are three in number, and pure
white; diameter 1.12 by 0.81 inches, of an ordinary oval shape. When
disturbed, the bird sprung along the ground with long bounding hops,
so quickly that, from its motions and the appearance of the nest, I
was led to believe it a species of rat. The nest is placed in a slight
hollow, probably formed by the bird itself."
According to Mr. Hodgson's notes, this species would appear to breed
at heights of from 2000 to 8000 feet. It lays in May and June. On the
20th May, and again on the 6th June, Mr. Hodgson found nests of this
species in thick bushes 3 or 4 feet above the ground. They were
broad saucer-shaped nests of coarse vegetable fibres, grass, and
grass-roots, 7 inches or so in diameter, and the cavity, which had
no lining, was about 4 inches in diameter by 2 inches in depth. They
contained three and four white eggs respectively. One figured measures
0.98 by 0.73. On June 8th he found two more nests at Jaha Powah, on
the ground, on edges of brushy slopes close to grassy open plains, the
nest a large mass of grass, oven-shaped, open at one and in one case
at both ends, protected by the root of a tree. There were two and
three white eggs in the nests respectively. The eggs of these nests
are figured as measuring 1.08 by 0.73.
Mr. Gammie remarks:--"I found a nest of this species below Rungbee, at
an elevation of about 2000 feet, on the 17th June. It was placed on,
and partially in a hole in a bank, and contained two hard-set eggs. It
was a large, loose pad of fine grass and dead fern, with a few broad
flag-like grass-leaves incorporated towards the base, and overhung by
a sort of canopy of similar materials. The basal portion was some
6 inches long and 5 inches broad, and about 2 inches thick in the
thickest part, with a broad shallow depression for the eggs of about
half that depth."
Writing again this year (1874) he says:--"I have only found two more
nests this year, and both in the last week of April; the one contained
three partially incubated eggs, the other three young birds. These
nests were at Gielle, at an elevation of about 2500 feet. As a rule,
these birds nest in open country, immediately adjoining moist thickly
wooded ravines, in which they feed, and take refuge if disturbed from
the nest. The nest is usually placed on sloping ground, more or less
concealed by overhanging herbage, and is composed, according to my
experience, of dry grass sparingly lined with fibres. It is large; one
I measured _in situ_ was 8 inches in height and 7 inches in diameter;
the vertical diameter of the cavity was 4 inches and the horizontal 31/2
inches. I have not yet found more than three eggs or young ones in any
Dr. Scully remarks of this bird in Nipal:--"It lays in May and June;
two nests, taken on the 30th May and 6th June, were large loosely-made
pads, not domed, and with the egg-cavity saucer-shaped, each nest
contained three pure white eggs."
The eggs of this species are long, and at times narrow, ovals, pure
white and fairly glossy, but occasionally almost glossless, without
any marks or spottings.
In length they vary from 1.0 to 1.2, and in breadth from 0.73 to 0.85,
but the average of twenty eggs is about 1.11 by nearly 0.8.
133. Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (Blyth). _The Slender-billed
Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (_Blyth), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 33; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 406.
The Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes,
breeds in Sikhim, at elevations of 3000 to 6000 feet, during the
months of May and June. The nest is a large globular one, composed of
dry bamboo-leaves and green grass, intermingled and lined with fine
roots and fibres. The entrance, which is about 2 to 2.5 inches in
diameter, is at one end. A nest containing four eggs, obtained on the
12th June, measured about 7 inches in diameter externally, and it
was placed in the crown of a stump from 2 to 3 feet from the ground.
Sometimes the nests are placed in tufts of high grass or in thick
bushes, but never at any great elevation above the ground. They lay
three or four eggs, which are pure white, and one of which is figured
as a broad oval, measuring 0.95 by 0.7.
From Sikhim Mr. Gammie writes:--"I took a nest of this Scimitar
Babbler on the 29th May, in the middle of the large forest on the top
of the Mahalderam ridge, at about 7000 feet elevation. It was built
on the ground, on top of a dry bank by the side of a path, and was
overhung by a few grassy weeds. In shape it was a blunt cone laid on
its side, with the entrance at the wide end. It was loosely made of
the dead leaves of a deciduous orchid (_Pleione wallichiana_), small
bamboo, chestnut, and grass, intermixed with decaying stems of small
climbing-plants. It measured externally 6 inches long, with a diameter
of 5.5 at front, and of 1.75 at back. The cavity was quite devoid of
lining and measured 3.5 in length by 2.5 wide at entrance, slightly
contracting inwards. It contained three partially incubated eggs."
Two eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Gammie are elongated ovals,
pure white, and with only a faint gloss. They measure 0.99 and 1.05 in
length, by 0.68 and 0.75 in breadth respectively.
134. Timelia pileata, Horsf. _The Red-capped Babbler_.
Timelia pileata, _Horsf., Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 24; _Hume, Rough Draft
N. & E._ no. 396.
Mr. Eugene Oates records that he "found the nest of this bird at
Thayetmyo on the 2nd June with young ones a few days old. The nest
was placed on the ground in the centre of a low but very thick thorny
Subsequently he wrote from Pegu, further south:--"The nest is placed
in the fork of a shrub, very near to, or quite on, the ground, and is
surrounded in every case by long grass. A nest found on the 4th July,
on which the female was sitting closely, contained three eggs slightly
incubated. The breeding-season seems to be in June and July.
"The nest is made entirely of bamboo-leaves and is lined sparingly
with fine grass. No other material enters into its composition. It
is oval, about 7 inches in height and 4 in diameter, with a large
entrance at the side, its lower edge being about the middle of the
"When the bird frequents elephant-grass, where there are no shrubs, it
builds on the ground at the edge of a clump of grass, and I have found
two nests in such a situation, only a few feet from each other.
"In looking for the nest a good deal of grass is necessarily trodden
down; the consequence is that if you do not find eggs, there is little
chance of their being laid later on. I have found some ten nests, more
or less completed, but only three eggs."
And again, later on:--"This bird would appear to have two broods a
year, for I procured two sittings of three eggs each this year in
April, former nests having been found in June and July. With many eggs
before me I find that the density of the markings varies considerably.
The size is very constant; for the length of numerous eggs varies only
from .75 to .72, and the breadth from .6 to .54 inch."
I was, I believe, myself the first to obtain the eggs of this species,
but the first of my contributors who sent me eggs, nest, and a note on
the nidification of this species was Mr. J.C. Parker. Writing to me in
September 1875, he said:--
"On the 14th August I took a nest of _Timelia pileata_ on my old
ground in the Salt Lakes. I discovered this by a mere accident, for I
happened to see a female _Prinia flaviventris_ (whose eggs I was in
quest of for you) perched on the top of a bush inland about 10 feet
from the bank of the canal, and from her movements I thought she must
have a nest near at hand.
"Accordingly I landed, although not in trim for wading through a
bog. Sure enough I was not mistaken; the _Prinia_ had a nest, but it
contained only _one_ egg. Close by, however, I saw a nest, from out of
which a bird flew, and although I did not shoot it I am quite sure it
was _Timelia pileata_. The jungle was particularly thick just about
where I stood, indeed impenetrable, and I could not follow the
bird, but I soon heard the male bird talking to his mate in that
extraordinary way which these birds have, and which once heard cannot
"The nest was placed on the spikes growing from the joints of a
species of grass very thick and stiff, and forming a secure foundation
for the nest. This latter is 6 inches high and 4 inches broad.
Egg-cavity 2 inches, entrance-hole 11/2 by 2. The nest itself is very
loosely put together with the dead leaves of the tiger-grass twisted
round and round, and lined roughly with coarse grass. The nest was
quite open to view and about three feet from the ground. I suppose the
birds never expected that such a wild swampy spot as they had selected
would be invaded by any oologist."
Mr. J.R. Cripps writing from Eastern Bengal says:--"Pretty common.
Permanent resident. Oftener found in the patches of cane brushwood
jungle found in and around villages than in unfrequented jungle and
thickets as Dr. Jerdon says. I have, however, once seen it in a field
of jute, which was alongside a village. Its well-known note can be
heard a long way off. I have several times found nests in course of
construction, but only once secured a clutch of eggs. When the nests
are being built, if the bush is at all disturbed the nest is deserted.
The earliest date on which I found a nest was the 1st April, 1878; it
was half finished, and as I pulled the cane-leaves asunder to see if
there were eggs, the birds deserted it. After this I found four nests
in cane-clumps on the sides of roads, but they were empty, and as the
birds abandoned them in due course I despaired of getting any eggs;
but on the 15th June, while going along a road, the edges of which
were bounded by the small embankments natives throw up round their
holdings, and which are always overgrown with 'sone' grass, I saw one
of these birds with a straw in its bill disappear at the root of a
small date-tree. The nest could be discerned from the road. On the
20th June I returned and found two fresh eggs; the nest was placed at
the junction of the frond and the stem of the date-tree about five
inches from the ground, and was an oval deep cup and measured
externally 5 inches deep by 33/4 broad. Egg-cavity 2 broad and 13/4 deep,
composed exclusively of 'sone' grass with no lining."
The eggs of this species are broad ovals with a tolerably fine gloss.
The ground-colour is pure white. The whole of the larger end of the
egg is pretty thickly speckled and spotted with brown, varying from an
olive to a burnt sienna intermingled with little spots and clouds of
pale inky purple, and similar spots and specks chiefly of the former
colour, but smaller in size, scattered thinly over the rest of the
egg. In size they vary from 0.69 to 0.75 in length, and from 0.55 to
0.6 in breadth.
135. Dumetia hyperythra (Frankl.). _The Rufous-bellied Babbler_.
Dumetia hyperythra (_Frankl.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 26; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 397.
The Rufous-bellied Babbler breeds throughout the Central Provinces,
Chota Nagpoor, Upper Bengal, the eastern portions of the North-West
Provinces, parts of Oudh, and even in the low valleys of Kumaon.
It lays from the middle of June to the middle of August, building
a globular nest of broad grass-blades or bamboo-leaves some 4 or 5
inches in diameter, sparingly lined with fine grass-roots or a little
hair, or sometimes entirely unlined. The nest is placed sometimes on
the ground amongst dead leaves, some of which are not unfrequently
incorporated in the structure; sometimes in coarse grass or some
little shrub a foot or two from the ground, but by preference,
according to my experience, in amongst the roots of a bamboo-clump.
Four is the usual number of eggs laid.
Mr. Brooks writes:--"On the 26th June, 1867, in the broken ground
above Chunar, I took two nests in the foot of a thick bamboo-bush
about 2 feet from the ground. The nests were made of bamboo-leaves
rolled into a ball with the entrance at the side, and no lining except
a few hairs. There were two eggs in one nest and three in the other.
They were all fresh. The eggs in the two nests varied somewhat: the
ground of the one was nearly pure white, and it was finely speckled
with reddish brown, which at the large end was partly confluent: the
other nest had the eggs with a pinkish-white ground, the spots larger
and less neatly defined, and with a rather large confluent spot at the
Writing from Hoshungabad, Mr. E.C. Nunn remarks:--"I found two nests
of this species, each containing two eggs, on the 20th July and 6th
August, 1868. Both nests were ball-shaped, of coarse grass very
firmly and compactly twisted together, and with numerous dead leaves
incorporated in the body of the nest and towards the base, forming the
major portion of the material. They were thinly lined inside with fine
grass-roots. One was placed at the root of a small thorny bush: the
other on the ground in a thick clump of rank grass." The nest Mr. Nunn
sent to me was peculiarly solidly made. The cavity was small, about
2.25 inches in depth and 1.5 in diameter. The bottom of the nest was
some 2 inches and the sides 1.25 inch thick.
From Raipoor Mr. F.R. Blewitt tells us that "in July and August four
nests of this Babbler were taken; in two there were four eggs each, in
the third, three, and in the fourth, two--thirteen in all. The nests
were carefully made on the ground, at the base of clumps of long grass
growing very near to bamboo thickets. Three are made exclusively of
the dry leaves of the bamboo; the fourth of coarse grass. They were
nearly globular, about 4 inches in diameter, and without any regular
lining, although in the interior of the cavity a good deal of fine
grass-stems had been incorporated in the nest. They were well hidden
in the grass."
Mr. Henry Wenden writes:--"On July 18th, about 15 miles from Bombay,
on the line of railway, I found a nest and eggs of the following
description: nest, a rough loose ball of soft flat grasses, lined with
hard but fine grass-stems, entrance at side near top; situated in
a thorny bush in cactus-hedge, by a narrow lane, not 4 feet wide,
through which numerous people passed. The nest, about 3 feet from the
ground, was in no way concealed. On the 18th there were two eggs, and
on the 20th, when there were four eggs, the bird was snared and nest
The eggs are short, broad ovals, very slightly compressed towards one
end. The ground-colour is white or pinkish white, and it is streaked,
spotted, and speckled most thickly at the large end (where there is
a tendency to form an irregular confluent cap or zone), and thinly
towards the small end, with shades of red, brownish red, and reddish
purple, varying much in different examples. In some the markings are
pretty bold and blotchy, in others they are small and speckly; in
some they are smudgy and ill-defined, in others they are clear and
distinct. Some of the eggs are miniatures of some types of _Pyctorhis
sinensis_, but many recall the eggs of the Titmouse. They are much
about the size of those of _Parus caeruleus_ and _P. palustris_, but a
trifle less broad than either of these. The eggs have a faint gloss.
In length they vary from 0.63 to 0.7, and in breadth from 0.5 to 0.56;
but the average of twenty-four eggs now before me is 0.67 by 0.53.
136. Dumetia albigularis (Blyth). _The Small White-throated
Dumetia albogularis (_Blyth), Jerd. B. Ind_ ii, p. 26; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 398.
Miss M.B. Cockburn, writing from Kotagherry, tells me that "the
White-throated Babbler builds its nest in the month of June. One was
found by my nest-seekers on the 17th of that month in the year 1873.
It was constructed on a coffee-tree, and contained three eggs, which
were white, profusely covered with reddish spots of all sizes. The
bird was very shy, and would not return to the nest for some hours
after it had been discovered; when, however, she did so, she was shot.
This year (1874) I found another similar nest on the 9th of June, also
containing three eggs."
The nest with which she favoured me was small and nearly globular (say
at most 4 inches in external diameter), composed entirely of broad
flaggy grass without any lining or any admixture whatsoever of other
material. The nest was loosely put together, and had a comparatively
narrow circular entrance near the top.
From Mysore Mr. Iver Macpherson writes:--"This is an exceedingly
common bird in parts of this district, and their nests are so
plentiful that I never now take them.
"I send you all the eggs I have at present, but can procure you any
number more next season.
"The birds are to be found in all kinds of wooded country except the
heavy forests, and appear to breed from the middle of April to the end
of July, and possibly later.
"The nest is a largish globular structure loosely made of either
bamboo-leaves or blades of grass, and all that I have ever seen have
been lined inside with a few fine fibres.
"Four appears to be the usual number of eggs, but very often there are
"The nests are always built near the ground, sometimes almost touching
it, and are fixed in either small bushes, tufts of grass, or young
Mr. J.L. Darling, Jun., states that this bird is very common in
Culputty in the Wynaad, at an elevation of about 3000 feet, and that
he has found the nests from the end of May to the middle of October.
The nest is built in high grass nearly on the ground, or in
date-palms, or in arrowroot in the jungle up to heights of 3 feet.
The nest is built entirely of grass, lined with finer grass; a nearly
round ball 6 inches in diameter outside and 5 inside, with a hole on
the side. The eggs are laid at the rate of one a day, and three are
usually found in one nest, occasionally only two. On one occasion
after securing the female bird, he found the cock bird sitting on the
eggs and he continued to sit there for three days.
Mr. J. Davidson tells us that he found a nest of this bird on the 15th
July at Kondabhari with four fresh eggs.
Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon':--"The breeding-season
lasts from March until July, the nests being built in a low bush
sometimes only a few inches from the ground."
In shape the eggs are moderately elongated ovals. The shell is very
fine and smooth, and has in some a rather bright, in some only a very
slight gloss. The ground is a China-white. The markings consist of
a profusion of specks and spots of a very bright red, which, though
spread over the whole surface, are gathered most densely into an
imperfect, more or less confluent, cap or zone at the larger end,
where also a few purplish-grey spots and specks not usually found on
any other part of the egg, are noticeable.
In length the eggs vary from 0.66 to 0.78, and in breadth from 0.5 to
0.55. The average of 28 eggs is 0.72 by 0.53.
139. Pyctorhis sinensis (Gm.). _The Yellow-eyed Babbler_.
Pyctorhis sinensis (_Gm.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 15; _Hume, Rough
Draft N.& E._ no. 385.
The Yellow-eyed Babbler breeds throughout the plains of India, as also
in the Nilghiris, to an elevation of 5000 feet, and in the Himalayas
to perhaps 4000 feet. It lays in the latter part of June, in July,
August, and September. Gardens are the favourite localities and in
these the little bird makes its compact and solid nest, sometimes in
a fork of the fine twigs of a lime-bush, sometimes in a mangoe-,
orange-, or apple-tree, occasionally suspended between three stout
grass-stems, or even attached to a single stem of the huge grass from
which the native pens are made. I have taken a nest, hung between
three reeds, exactly resembling in shape and position the
Reed-Warbler's nest (_Salicaria arundinacea_), figured in Mr.
Yarrell's vignette at page 313, vol. i. 3rd edition.
The nest is typically cone-shaped (the apex downwards), from 5 to 6
inches in depth, and 3 or 4 in diameter at the base; but it varies of
course according to situation, the cone being often broadly truncated.
In the base of the cone (which is uppermost) is the egg-cavity,
measuring from 2 to 3 inches in diameter, and from 2 to 2.5 inches in
depth. The nest is _very_ compactly and solidly woven, of rather broad
blades of grass, and long strips of fine fibrous bark, exteriorly more
or less coated with cobwebs and gossamer-threads. Interiorly, fine
grass-stems and roots are neatly and closely interwoven. I once found
some horse-hair along with the grass-roots, but this is unusual.
The full number of eggs is, I believe, five. I have repeatedly taken
nests containing this number, and have comparatively seldom met with a
smaller number of eggs at all incubated.
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall says:--"I found a nest of this species at
Roorkee in the early part of July. It contained three eggs and was
beautifully made, a deep cup fixed on to an artichoke-stock, and at a
little distance much resembled an artichoke."
Mr. E.C. Nunn, writing from near Agra on the 26th September 1867,
says:--"I got a _Pyctorhis_' nest yesterday, suspended between two
stalks of jowar (_Holcus sorghum_), the nest firmly bound with strips
of fibrous bark, at two opposite points of its circumference, to the
two stems. This is, I imagine, something out of the usual order of
things with these birds. The nests which I have hitherto found have
been situated in young mangoe-trees, rose-bushes, or peach- and
From Futtehgurh the late Mr. A.A. Anderson sent me the following
note:--"The nest and eggs of this bird are very beautiful. A pair once
built in a pumplenose-tree (_Citrus decumana_) in my garden, laying
five long eggs. The nest, still in my collection, was placed in the
fork of _four_ small upright twigs; it was composed entirely of dry
grass-stems (no soft material inside), and laced outwardly, in and out
of the twigs, with dry fibre belonging to the plantain-tree.
"The eggs are small for the size of the bird, and scarcely so large as
those of the Hedge-Sparrow."
Captain Hutton remarks:--"This likewise is a Dhoon bird; its nest was
found there on the 1st July, when it contained four eggs of a dull
white colour, thickly speckled and blotched all over with ferruginous
spots, forming also an open darker coloured ring at the large end, and
intermixed with brown.
"The nest is a deep cup, placed in the trifurcation of the slender
upright branch of a low shrub, and is constructed externally of coarse
grass-blades held together by cobwebs and seed-down, the lining being
fine grass-seed stalks. Diameter of the top 21/2 inches; depth within 2
inches; externally 31/2 inches."
Mr. F.R. Blewitt tells us that "the Yellow-eyed Babbler breeds from
July to September, or, I should say, up to the middle of September.
Its selection of a tree for its nest is not confined to any one
species, but by preference the bird selects those of small growth,
and even frequently high-growing brushwood. The nests are very neatly
made, and what is singular is that, as regards build and shape, they
are always almost exactly alike. If I have seen one, I must have seen
at least fifty this year, all with the same exterior material of
closely interlaced vegetable fibre over grass, and the inner lining of
fine grass, deep cup-shaped, and in diameter, outer and inner, varying
but little. Where it could be effected, the nest was suspended to, or
rather fastened between, two forks; or where these were not available,
between three twigs. The outer diameters of the nests were from 2.7 to
2.9 inches, inner from 2.3 to 2.5. Four is the regular number of eggs,
though occasionally five in one nest have been obtained."
Mr. R.M. Adam remarks:--"This species builds about Agra in May, June,
and July. The nest is a beautiful deep cup-shaped structure, almost
always fastened to a branch of a low bush. The normal number of eggs
appears to be four."
From Kotagherry, near Ootacamund, Miss Cockburn records that "this
bird builds a neat cup-shaped nest, generally choosing a branch
consisting of three upright sprigs, at the bottom of which the
building is placed. The nests (one of which is now before me) are
begun with broad grass-leaves, and the inside compactly lined with
fine fibres of the same material: to render the whole firm, a few
cobwebs are added to the outside, thus fixing the nest securely to the
sprigs. These birds build in the months of June and July, and, as far
as I have observed, lay only three eggs."
Mr. Philipps, quoted by Dr. Jerdon, says that this bird "_generally_
builds on banyan-trees." This is clearly a mistake. I have known of
the taking, or have myself taken, altogether upwards of fifty nests
in the North-Western Provinces, whence Mr. Philipps was writing, and
never yet heard of or saw a nest of this species on a banyan.
Mr. H. Wenden writes:--"At Egatpoora, the top of the Thull Ghat
incline, I noticed, on 30th September, a partly-built nest of this
species. Watching for some time, I ascertained that both birds shared
in the labour of construction. It was situated in the trifurcated
stalk of that plant which bears a clover-like blossom (called
Kessara-Hind and Koordoo-Mhar), about 3 feet above the ground, the
stalks passing through the side-walls of the nest, which cannot have
a better description than that given by Mr. Hume (page 238, 'Rough
Draft'). The first egg was laid on 2nd October, and another each
succeeding day until there were five. On the 10th the hen-bird was
shot and the nest taken.
"On 30th October, in a garden near the same place, another nest was
found, on the twigs of a pangra tree, containing three young birds and
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden say:--"Tolerably common in the Sholapoor
District; more so in the better-wooded parts, and breeds."
Finally, Colonel Butler sends me the following note:--
"Belgaum, 14th September, 1880.--A nest in sugar-cane about 2 feet
from the ground, containing five fresh eggs. 17th September: another
nest in a sugar-cane field, containing five eggs about to hatch. In
both instances the nest was built, not on the blades of sugar-cane,
but on a solitary green-leaved weedy-looking plant growing amongst the
"The Yellow-eyed Babbler breeds during the rains. I have taken nests
on the following dates:--
"July 26, 1875. A nest containing 4 fresh eggs.
"July 30, 1875. " " 3 fresh eggs.
"Aug. 14, 1875. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"Aug. 21, 1875. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"July 18, 1876. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"July 20, 1876. " " 3 fresh eggs.
"July 28, 1876. " " 4 fresh eggs.
"From this date to the end of August I found any number of nests
containing eggs of both types. The nest is usually built in the fork
of some low thorny tree from 3 to 7 feet from the ground. The outside
of the nest is usually smeared over with cobwebs, reminding one of the
nest of a _Rhipidura_"
Mr. Oates writes:--"Breeds abundantly throughout Pegu in June, and
probably in the other months of the rains up to September."
The eggs vary a good deal in size and shape, and very much in
colouring. They are mostly of a very broad oval shape, very obtuse
at the smaller end. Some are, however, slightly pyriform, and some a
little elongated. There are two very distinct types of coloration: one
has a pinkish-white ground, thickly and finely mottled and streaked
over the whole surface with more or less bright and deep brick-dust
red, so that the ground-colour only faintly shows through, here and
there, as a sort of pale mottling; in the other type the ground-colour
is pinkish white, somewhat _sparingly_, but boldly, blotched with
irregular patches and eccentric hieroglyphic-like streaks, often
Bunting-like in their character, of bright blood- or brick-dust red.
The eggs of this type, besides these primary markings, generally
exhibit towards the large end a number of pale inky-purple blotches or
clouds. There is a third type somewhat intermediate between these, in
which the ground-colour, instead of being finely freckled all over
as in the former, or sparingly blotched as in the latter, is very
coarsely mottled and clouded, as if clumsily daubed over by a child,
with a red intermediate in intensity between that usually observable
in the two first-described types. Combinations of these different
types of course occur, but fully two thirds can be separated
distinctly under the first and second varieties. Though much smaller,
many of the eggs recall those of the English Robin. The eggs have
often a fine gloss. I have one or two specimens so uniformly coloured
that, though perhaps slightly shorter and broader in form, they might
almost pass for the eggs of Cetti's Warbler.
In length they vary from 0.65 to 0.8, and in breadth from 0.53 to
0.68; but the average of seventy-seven eggs measured is 0.73 by 0.59.
140. Pyctorhis nasalis, Legge. _The Ceylon Yellow-eyed Babbler_.
Pyctorhis nasalis, _Legge, Hume, Cat._ no. 385 bis.
Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon':--"In the Western
Province this Babbler commences to breed in February; but in May I
found several nests in the Uva district near Fort Macdonald; and
that month would thus seem to be the nesting-season in the Central
Province. The nest is placed in the fork of a shrub, or in a huge tuft
of maana-grass, without any attempt at concealment, about 3 or 4 feet
from the ground. It is a neatly-made compact cup, well finished off
about the top and exterior, and constructed of dry grass, adorned with
cobwebs or lichens, and lined with fine grass or roots. The exterior
is about 21/2 inches in diameter by about 2 in depth. The eggs are
usually three in number, fleshy white, boldly spotted, chiefly about
the larger end, with brownish sienna; in some these markings are
inclined to become confluent, and are at times overlaid with dark
spots oil brick-red. They are rather broad ovals, measuring, on
the average, from 0.76 to 0.79 inch in length, by 0.56 to 0.59 in
142. Pellorneum mandellii, Blanf. _Mandelli's Spotted Babbler_.
Pellorneum nipalensis (__Hodgs._), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 399
This species, originally described by Hodgson as _Hemipteron
nipalensis_, was confounded by Gray and others with _P. ruficeps_,
Swainson, and subsequently rediscriminated and described by Blanford
as _P. mandellii_.
Mandelli's Spotted Babbler, according to Mr. Hodgson's notes, begins
to lay in April, the young being ready to fly in July. They build a
large, more or less oval, globular nest, laid lengthwise on the ground
in some bush or clump of rush or reed, composed of moss, dry leaves,
and vegetable fibres, and lined with moss-roots. The entrance, which
is circular, is at one end. A nest measured by Mr. Hodgson was 6.75
inches in length and 5 in height. The aperture, at one end of the
egg-shaped nest, was about 2 inches in diameter, and the cavity was
about 2.5 in diameter and nearly 4 inches deep. The eggs are three or
four in number, and are figured as broad ovals pointed towards the
small end, measuring about 0.86 by 0.65, and having a greyish-white
ground, thickly speckled and spotted with more or less bright red or
brownish red, and most thickly so at the large end, where the markings
are nearly confluent.
A nest said to belong to this species, and found near Darjeeling in
July, at an elevation of about 4000 feet, was placed on the ground on
the side of a bank--a very dirty untidy nest, more or less cylindrical
in shape, composed of dead leaves, including a good many of those of
the bamboo, dead twigs, and old roots, and very sparsely lined with
black moss-roots. The nest is about 4 inches in diameter externally,
and the cavity about 2-5 in diameter.
It contained three fresh eggs, very regular, moderately broad, ovals;
the shell fine and compact, with a slight gloss. The ground-colour is
white, and the egg everywhere very finely speckled with chocolate- or
purplish brown, the markings being by far most dense at the large
end, where they form a more or less irregular, and more or less
conspicuous, speckly cap.
Two eggs measure 0.86 and 0.9 in length, and 0.65 and 0.66 in breadth.
Another nest, found on the 5th June in Native Sikhim, contained four
fresh eggs. It was placed on the ground, and precisely resembled that
obtained near Darjeeling in July.
In some eggs the markings are rather bolder and coarser, and in
these there are generally some few pale lilac or inky-purple spots
intermingled where the markings are densest. Closely looked into, many
of the spots in some eggs are rather a pale yellowish brown.
The eggs are clearly all of the same type, and vary very little.
Four eggs varied from 0.84 to 0.9 in length, and from 0.65 to 0.68 in
144. Pellorneum ruficeps, Swains., _The Spotted Babbler_.
Pellorneum ruficeps, _Swains., Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 27; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 399.
Writing from Kotagherry Miss Cockburn says:--"Spotted Babblers are
exceedingly shy. They associate in small flocks except during the
breeding-season, when they go about in pairs. I have only known them
to frequent small woods and brushwood, a little higher than the
elevation of the coffee-plantations.
"Three nests of these birds were found in the months of March and
April 1871. The first was placed on the ground, close against a bush.
The nest, consisting of dry leaves and grass, appeared to be merely
a canopy for the eggs, which, were almost on the bare ground, having
only a _very few_ pieces of straw under them. The eggs were three
in number, and covered profusely with innumerable small dark spots,
making it difficult to say what the ground-colour really was. The nest
was not easily found. The bird left it so quietly as not to be heard,
and dropped down the hill like a ball. When the eggs were discovered
the bird did not return to them for fully three hours, after which she
came very cautiously, but only to meet her doom, poor thing, as she
was then shot. The second nest was built in the same way under a bush,
and contained three eggs, which were put into my egg-box lined
with cotton, but were hatched on the way home. The third nest was
constructed under a large stone and with the same materials, and
contained two young ones."
An egg of this species, received from Miss Cockburn, is a moderately
broad and very regular oval. The ground-colour is a slightly greenish
white, and the whole surface of the egg is excessively finely freckled
and speckled with lilac or pale purplish grey and a more or less
rufous brown. The egg has a slight gloss.
It measures 0.88 by 0.65.
145. Pellorneum subochraceum, Swinh. _The Burmese Spotted Babbler_.
Pellorneum subochraceum, _Swinh., Hume, Cat._ no. 399 sex.
The Burmese Spotted Babbler breeds pretty well over the whole of Pegu
and Tenasserim. Mr. Oates writes:--"On the 3rd May I found a nest on
the ground near Pegu. A good many bamboo-leaves had fallen and the
nest was imbedded in these. It was formed entirely of these leaves
loosely put together, the interior only being sparingly lined with
fine grass. The structure _in situ_ was tolerably firm, but it would
not stand removal. In height it was about 7 inches, and in breadth
about 5, the longer axis being vertical. Shape cylindrical with
rounded top. Entrance 21/2 inches by 11/2, placed about the centre. The
interior of the nest was a rough sphere of 4 inches diameter.
"There were three eggs, slightly incubated. The ground-colour is pure
white, and the whole surface is minutely and thickly speckled with
reddish-brown and greyish-purple spots, more closely placed at the
thick end, where they coalesce in places and form bold patches.
"On the 29th June, I found another nest of similar construction,
placed on the ground in thick forest, at the root of a shrub."
Mr. W. Davison in 1875 gave me the following note:--"On the morning
of the 25th March I took at Bankasoon a nest of this species in thick
forest; it was placed on the ground and was composed externally
of dead leaves, with a scanty lining of fine roots and fibres.
It measured externally about 5 inches high by about 4 wide. The
egg-cavity was hardly 3 inches in diameter. The nest was only
partially domed, and was very loosely and carelessly put together.
"The nest contained three eggs, but these were so far incubated that
it was impossible to blow two of them."
The single egg of this species obtained by Mr. Davison is in shape a
moderately broad oval, a little pointed towards the small end; the
shell is fine, but has little gloss. The ground-colour, so far as this
is visible through the thickly-set markings, is white, and it is very
finely but densely stippled and freckled (most densely at the large
end, where the markings are not unfrequently confluent or nearly so)
with dull to bright reddish brown; here and there, especially about
the large end, more or less faint grey or red specks, spots, or tiny
clouds may be traced underlying as it were the brown or purplish
The egg sent me from Pegu by Mr. Oates is of precisely the same size
and type, but the markings are much less dense and are brighter
coloured. The ground-colour is white, and the egg is pretty thickly
speckled with a reddish-chocolate brown. Here and there a moderately
large irregularly-shaped spot is intermingled with the finer
specklings. The markings are rather most dense at the large end,
where there is a tendency to form a zone, and here a number of pale
purplish-grey streaks and specks are also intermingled.
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"Early on the morning of the 7th April,
moving camp from the sources of the Thoungyeen, on the side of a hill
at the foot of a bamboo-bush not two feet from the road, I flushed
and shot a female of the above species off her nest; a little
loosely-put-together round ball of dry bamboo-leaves, unlined, though
domed over, with the entrance at the side, and containing two fresh
eggs, white, thickly speckled with brick-red and obscure purple. On
the 12th of the same month, I found a second nest behind the zayat or
rest-house at Meeawuddy. This was similar to the nest above described,
and contained three similar eggs."
The eggs measure from .78 to .88 in length, and from .58 to .65 in
breadth; but the average of twelve eggs is .82 by .62.
147. Pellorneum fuscicapillum (Bl.). _The Brown-capped Babbler_.
Pellorneum fuscocapillum (_Bl), Hume, Cat._ no. 399 quint.
Captain Legge writes, in his 'Birds of Ceylon':--"The nest of this
species is exceedingly difficult to find, and scarcely anything is
known of its nidification. Mr. Blyth succeeded in finding it in
Haputale at an elevation of 5500 feet. It was placed in a bramble
about 3 feet from the ground, and was cup-shaped, loosely constructed
of moss and leaves; it contained three young."