Part 9 out of 12
[Footnote A: I reproduce this article nearly as it appears in the
'Rough Draft;' but I have great doubts as to the occurrence of this
bird in Kumaon, and I further doubt the identification of Hodgson's
notes with this species. It is quite clear, from his specimens in the
British Museum, that Hodgson confounded _S. atrigularis_ in winter
plumage with _S. crinigera_, and his plate of the former in summer
plumage contains no note on nidification.--ED.]
Suya atrogularis, _Moore, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 184; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 549.
The Black-throated Hill-Warbler breeds in Kumaon and the Himalayas
eastwards from thence, at elevations of 4000 to 6000 feet.
The breeding-season lasts from April to July, but the birds mostly lay
in May and June. Open grassy hillsides dotted about with scrub, thin
forests, or gardens are the localities it affects. The nest is placed
at times in some low bush surrounded with and grown through by grass,
more commonly in clumps of grass, and never at any great height from
the ground. It is more or less egg-shaped, and placed with the longer
diameter vertical, the entrance being on one side above the middle. It
is composed exteriorly sometimes of fine grass-roots, sometimes of the
finest possible grass, loosely but sufficiently firmly interwoven,
a little moss being often incorporated in the upper portion, and
internally always, I think, exclusively of fine grass.
Four is perhaps the usual number of the eggs, but I have found five.
Mr. Gammie, writing from Sikhim, says:--"I have found four nests of
this species this year in the Chinchona reserves, at elevations of
from 4500 to 5500 feet, during the months of May and June. The nests
were all in open grassy country, in grass by the sides of low banks,
and not above a foot off the ground. They are globular, with a lateral
entrance, composed of grass, and with a little moss about the
dome. One I measured was 5.5 high, and 4.5 in diameter externally;
internally the nest was 2.4 in diameter, and the cavity had a total
height of 3.9, of which 2 inches was below the lower edge of the
entrance. According to my experience four is the regular complement of
eggs. I have repeatedly (three times this year) shot the female off
the nest, and beyond question Jerdon is wrong about this bird's laying
According to Mr. Hodgson's notes, this species breeds in groves and
open forest in Sikhim and the central region of Nepal from April to
June, building a large globular nest in clumps of grass, of dry grass,
roots, and moss, lined with fine grass and moss-roots. The entrance,
which is circular, is at one side; the nest is egg-shaped, the longer
diameter being perpendicular, and is placed at a height of about 6
inches from the ground. A nest taken on the 30th. May measured 6.12
in height and 3.5 in diameter externally, and the circular aperture,
which was just above the middle, was 1.75 in diameter. It contained
four eggs, which are represented as ovals, a good deal pointed towards
one end, measuring 0.69 by 0.55. The ground-colour is a pale green,
and they are speckled and spotted with bright red, the markings being
most numerous towards the large end, where they have a tendency to
form a zone or cap.
Dr. Jerdon says that "it makes its nest of fine grass and withered
stalks, large, very loosely put together, globular, with a hole near
the top, and lays three or four eggs of an entirely dull Indian-red
colour." This undoubtedly is a mistake; the eggs he refers to are, I
think, those of _Neornis flavolivaceus_. He gave them to me, but was
not certain of the species they belonged to.
The eggs of the present species are of much the same shape as those
of the preceding, and there is a certain similarity in the colour of
both; but in these eggs the ground-colour instead of being pink or
pinky white, is a pale, delicate, sometimes greyish, green. Then
though there is the same kind of zone round the large end, it is a
purple or purplish, instead of a brick-red, and it is manifestly made
up of innumerable minute specks, and has not the cloudy confluent
character of the zone in _S. crinigera_. Outside the zone minute
specks of the same purplish red are scattered, in some pretty thickly,
in others sparsely, over the whole of the rest of the surface. As a
body the eggs have a faint gloss, decidedly less, however, than those
of _S. crinigera_, but some few are absolutely glossless.
In length the eggs vary from 0.63 to 0.79, and in breadth from 0.46 to
0.43; but the average of forty-five eggs is 0.68 by 0.5.
460. Suya khasiana, Godw.-Aust. _Austen's Hill-Warbler_.
Suya khasiana, _Godw.-Aust., Hume, cat._ no. 549 bis.
I found this bird high up in the eastern hills of Mauipur, frequenting
dense herbaceous undergrowth of balsams and the like in forest. On
the 11th of May I caught a female on her nest, containing four
well-incubated eggs. The nest was placed in a wild ginger-plant, about
two feet from the ground, in forest at the very summit of the Makhi
462. Prinia lepida, Blyth. _The Streaked Wren-Warbler_
Burnesia lepida (_Blyth), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 185.
Burnesia gracilis, _Ruepp., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 550.
I have never happened to meet with the nest of the Streaked
Wren-Warbler, and all the information I possess in regard to its
nidification I owe to others.
The late Mr. Anderson remarked:--"Although this species was far
from uncommon, I found it very local and confined entirely to the
tamarisk-covered islands and 'churs' along the Ganges.
"The first nest was taken on the 13th March last, and contained three
well-incubated eggs; of these I saved only one specimen, which is now
in the collection of Mr. Brooks. The second was found on the following
day, and contained two callow young and one perfectly fresh egg.
"The nest is domed over, having an entrance at the side; and the
cavity is comfortably lined, or rather felted, with the down of the
madar plant. It is fixed, somewhat after the fashion of that of the
Reed-Warbler, in the centre of a dense clump of surpat grass, about 2
feet above the ground. On the whole the structure is rather large
for so small a bird, and measures 6 inches in height by 4 inches in
"But while the _nest_ corresponds exactly with Canon Tristram's
description[A] of those taken by him in Palestine, there are
differences, oologically speaking, which induce me to hope that our
Indian bird may yet be restored to specific distinction[B]. In
the first place, my single eggs from each nest have a _green_
ground-colour, and are covered all over with reddish-brown spots. Now
Mr. Tristram describes his Palestine specimens as 'richly coloured
_pink_ eggs, with a zone of darker red near the larger end, and
in shape and colour resembling some of the _Prinia_ group.' Is it
possible for the same birds to lay such widely different eggs? If I
had taken only one specimen, it might have been looked upon as a mere
variety. Again, our Indian bird lays three eggs, and I have never
seen the parent birds feeding more than this number of young ones,
occasionally only two. Mr. Tristram, _per contra_, mentions having met
with as many as five and six. The egg is certainly the prettiest, and
one of the smallest, I have ever seen; indeed, I found it too small to
[Footnote A: Tristram on the Ornithology of Palestine, P. 2. S. 1864,
p. 437; Ibis, 865, pp. 82, 83.]
[Footnote B: The two birds are now considered distinct by all
He adds:--"Since writing the above, which appeared in 'The Ibis,' I
have discovered that this species breeds in September and October,
as well as in February and March, so some of them probably have two
broods in the year. I took a nest on the 9th October at Futtegurh,
which contained two callow young and one (_fresh_) egg, which I send
you, and which is exactly similar to all the others I have taken from
time to time."
The egg sent me by Mr. Anderson is a very broad oval in shape, a good
deal compressed however, and pointed towards the small end. The shell
is very fine and has a decided gloss. In colouring the egg is exactly
like those of some of the Blackbirds--a pale green ground, profusely
freckled and streaked with a bright, only slightly brownish, red; the
markings are densest round the large end, where they form a broad,
nearly confluent, well-marked, but imperfect and irregular, zone. It
measures 0.55 by 0.41.
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall says:--"The Streaked Wren-Warbler breeds in
great numbers near Delhi in March; Mr. C.T. Bingham has found several
of them in the clumps of surpat grass that had been cut within three
feet of the ground on the alluvial land of the Jumna. It was when out
with him in the end of March 1876 that I first saw the nest of this
species. The locality of the nest is exactly that described by Mr.
Anderson; it is oval in shape, with a large side entrance near the
top; it is built of fine grass and seed-down, no cobweb being employed
in the structure; it is loosely made, and there are always a few
feathers in the egg-cavity. The whereabouts is generally pointed out
by the cock bird, who, seated on the top of the highest blade of grass
he can find near where his hen is sitting, pours out with untiring
energy his feeble monotonous song, little knowing that by so doing he
has betrayed the spot where he has fixed his nest to the marauder.
The eggs, of which I have seen about fifteen or twenty, answer the
description given in 'Stray Feathers' exactly."
Major C.T. Bingham tells us:--"Between the 12th and 31st March this
year I found ten nests of this bird, which is very common in the
grass-covered land of the Jumna. These nests were all alike, of fine
dry grass mixed with the down of the surpat, which also thickly lined
the inside. In shape the nests are blunt ovals, with a tiny hole
for entrance a little above the centre. Seven out of the ten nests
contained four eggs each, the rest three each. The eggs in colour are
a pale yellowish white with a tinge of green, thickly speckled with
dashes rather than spots of rusty red, tending in some to form a cap,
in others a zone round the large end. The average of twenty eggs
measured is 0.53 by 0.44 inch. The nests were all, with one exception,
supported by stems of the grass being worked into the sides. The one
exception was a nest I found in the fork of a tamarisk bush. It is not
a difficult nest to find, for when you are in the vicinity of one, one
of the birds will flit about the stems of the surrounding clumps of
grass and above you freely, opening its tiny mouth absurdly wide, but
giving forth the feeblest of feeble sounds."
Writing on the Avifauna of Mt. Abu and N. Guzerat, Colonel E.A. Butler
says:--"I found a nest in a tussock of coarse grass in the sandy bed
of a river, amongst a number of tamarisk-bushes, on the 8th July,
1875, in the neighbourhood of Deesa. It was composed of fine dry
fibrous roots and grass-stems exteriorly, and lined with silky
vegetable down. It was a long bottled-shaped structure with a small
entrance on one side. The nest, eggs, situation, locality, &c. all
agree so exactly with the descriptions quoted by Dr. Jerdon and with
Mr. Anderson's note in 'Nests and Eggs,' _Rough Draft_, that I should
have found it difficult to avoid copying these two gentlemen in
describing my own nest.
"The nest contained three hard-set eggs and one young one just
Referring to its occurrence in the Eastern Narra District, Mr. Doig
tells us:--"This little Warbler is very common. I took the first nest
in March and again in May; they build in stunted tamarisk-bushes; the
nest is circular dome-shaped, with the entrance on one side the top,
the inside being very beautifully and softly lined with the pappus of
grass-seeds. Four is the usual number of eggs in one nest."
The Blackbird type of egg above described is by no means the commonest
one; the great mass of the eggs have the ground greyish, greenish,
or pinkish white, and they are very thickly and finely freckled and
speckled all over, but most densely about the large end, with a
slightly brownish, rarely a slightly purplish grey. Occasionally when
the markings are very dense in a cap at the large end there is a
distinct purplish-grey tinge there, and on the rest of the surface
of the egg the markings are somewhat less thickly set, leaving small
portions of the ground-colour clearly visible. Typically the eggs are
moderately broad ovals, a little compressed towards the small end, and
though none are very glossy, the great majority have a fair amount of
463. Prinia flaviventris (Deless.). _The Yellow-bellied
Prinia flaviventris (_Deless.) Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 169: _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 532.
Of the Yellow-bellied Wren-Warbler's nidification I know personally
Tickell describes the nest as pensile but quite open, being a
hemisphere with one side prolonged, by which it is suspended from a
twig. The eggs, he says, are bright brick-red without a spot.
Mr. H.C. Parker tells me that "this bird breeds in the Salt-Water
Lake, or rather on the swampy banks of the principal canals that
intersect it. The nest is nearly always placed on an ash-leaved
shrub-like plant growing on the banks of the canal and overhanging the
water. One taken on the 26th July, 1873, containing four nearly fresh
eggs, was almost touching the water at high tide. The male has the
habit, when the female is sitting, of hopping to the extreme point
of a tall species of cane-like grass which grows abundantly in these
swamps, whence he gives forth a rather pleasing song, erecting his
tail at the same time, after which he drops into the jungle and is
seen no more. It is almost impossible to make him show himself again."
The nest, which I owe to Mr. Parker, and which was found in the
neighbourhood of the Salt-Water Lake, Calcutta, on the 26th July, is
of an oval shape, very obtuse at both ends, measuring externally 4
inches in length and about 23/4 inches in diameter. The aperture, which
is near the top of the nest, is oval, and measures about 1 inch by 11/2
inch. The nest is fixed against the side of two or three tiny leafy
twigs, to which it is bound lightly in one or two places with grass
and vegetable fibre; and two or three leafy lateral twiglets are
incorporated into the sides of the nest, so that when fresh it must
have been entirely hidden by leaves. The nest was in an upright
position, the major axis perpendicular to the horizon. It is a very
thin, firm, close basket-work of fine grass, flower-stalks, and
vegetable fibre, and has no lining, though the interior surface of
the nest is more closely woven and of still finer materials than the
outside. The cavity is nearly 21/2 inches deep, measuring from the lower
edge of the entrance, and is about 2 inches in diameter.
During this present year (1874) Mr. Parker obtained several more
nests of this species, all built in the low jungle that fringes the
mud-banks of the congeries of channels and creeks that are known in
Calcutta by the name of the "Salt Lake."
This jungle consists chiefly of the blue-flowered holly-leaved
_Acanthus ilicifolia_ and of the trailing semi-creeper-like _Derris
scandens_. It is in amongst the drooping twigs of the latter that the
nest is invariably made.
The nests vary a good deal in shape; some are regular cylinders
rounded off at both ends, with the aperture on one side above the
centre--a small oval entrance neatly worked. Such a nest is about 4.5
inches in length externally from top to bottom, and 2.75 in diameter;
the aperture 1.3 in height, and barely 1.0 in width.
Others are still more egg-shaped, with a similar aperture near the
top, and others are more purse-like. The material used appears to be
always much the same--fine grass-stems intermingled with blades of
grass, and here and there dry leaves of some rush, a little seed-down,
scraps of herbaceous plants, and the like; the interior, always of the
finest grass-stems, neatly arranged and curved to the shape of the
cavity. The nests are firmly attached to the drooping twigs, to and
between which they are suspended, sometimes by line vegetable fibre,
but more commonly by cobwebs and silk from cocoons, a good deal of
both of which are generally to be seen wound about the surface of the
nest near the points of suspension or attachment.
Four appears to be the full number of the eggs. Mr. Doig, writing from
Sind, says:--"This bird is tolerably common all along the Narra, but
as it keeps in very thick jungle it is not often seen unless looked
for. I took my first nest on the 12th, and my second on the 17th of
May. This evidently is the second brood, as I noticed on the same day
a lot of young birds which must have been fully six weeks old. One
nest was lined with horsehair and fine grasses. Four was the normal
number of eggs."
Mr. Gates writes:--"The Yellow-bellied Wren-Warbler is very abundant
throughout Lower Pegu in suitable localities. In the plains between
the Sittang and Pegu rivers they are constant residents, breeding
freely from May to August and September. In Rangoon also, all round
the Timber Depot at Kemandine, and in the low-lying land between the
town proper and Monkey Point, they are very numerous."
The eggs are of the well-known _Prinia_ type--broad regular ovals, of
a nearly uniform mahogany-red, and very glossy. To judge from the
few specimens I have seen, they average a good deal smaller, and are
somewhat less deeply coloured, than those of _P. socialis_. They vary
from 0.52 to 0.6 in length, and from 0.43 to 0.48 in breadth.
464. Prinia socialis, Sykes. _The Ashy Wren-Warbler_.
Prinia socialis, _Sykes, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii. p. 170: _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 534.
Prinia stewarti, _Blyth, Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 171; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 535.
The Ashy Wren-Warbler breeds throughout the southern portion of the
Peninsula and Ceylon, alike in the low country and in the hills, up to
all elevation of nearly 7000 feet.
The breeding-season extends from March to September, but I am
uncertain whether they have more than one brood.
Dr. Jerdon says:--"Colonel Sykes remarks that this species has the
same ingenious nest as _O. longicauda_. I have found the nest on
several occasions, and verified Colonel Sykes's observations; but it
is not so neatly sewn together as the nest of the true Tailor-bird,
and there is generally more grass and other vegetable fibres used in
the construction. The eggs are usually reddish white, with numerous
darker red dots at the large end often coalescing, and sometimes the
eggs are uniform brick-red throughout."
Now, first, as regards the eggs, it is clearly wrong to say that the
eggs are usually reddish white; that such eggs, as exceptions, may
have occurred I do not doubt, but I have seen more than fifty eggs
of this bird taken by Miss Cockburn, Messrs. Carter, Davison, Wait,
Theobald, and others, and all were without exception mahogany- or
brick-red, at times mottled, somewhat paler and darker here and there,
but making no approach, even the most distant, to what Dr. Jerdon says
is the _usual_ type. Moreover, I have taken _many hundreds_ of the
eggs of _stewarti_ (the northern, rather smaller form), which is not
only _most_ closely allied but really _very_ doubtfully distinct, and
yet I never met with one single egg of this type. At the same time
Mr. Swinhoe ('Ibis,' 1860, p. 50) tells us that _P. sonitans_ also at
times exhibits a reddish-white egg; so I do not for a moment question
that Dr. Jerdon had seen such eggs, only it must be understood that,
so far from constituting the _usual type_, it is in reality a most
abnormal and rare variety. Out of eight correspondents who have
collected for me in Southern India, I cannot learn that any one has
ever yet even seen an egg of this type.
As regards the nest, this species often constructs a Tailor-bird nest,
the true nest being filled in between two or more leaves carefully
stitched together to the nest; but it also, like that species, often
builds a very different structure.
A nest now before me, sent from Conoor, is a loosely-made cup--a very
slight fabric of grass-stems, matted with a quantity of the downy seed
of some flowering grass and with a lining of fine grass-roots. It is
an irregular cup about 21/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches in depth.
Four seems to be the regular number of the eggs.
From Kotagherry Miss Cockburn writes that "the Ashy Wren-Warbler
builds a neat little hanging nest very much in the Tailor-bird style,
for it draws the leaves of the branch on which the nest is constructed
close together, and sews them so tightly as sometimes to make them
nearly touch each other, while a small quantity of fine grass, wool,
and the down of seed-pods is used as a lining and also placed between
the leaves. These nests are built very low, and contain three
_beautiful_ little bright red eggs, a shade darker at the thick end.
They are easily discovered; for the birds get so agitated if any one
approaches the bush on which they have built that they invariably
attract one to the very spot they most wish to conceal. They build in
the months of June and July."
Mr. Davison says:--"This bird breeds on the Nilghiris in March, April,
and May, and sometimes as late as the earlier part of June. The nest
is generally placed low down near the roots of a bush or tuft of
grass. It is made of grass beautifully and closely woven, domed, and
with the entrance near the top. The eggs, three or four in number,
are of a deep brick-red, darker at the larger end, where there is
generally a zone, and are very glossy. I once obtained a nest made
of grass and bits of cotton, but instead of being built as above
described it was placed between, and sewn to, two leaves of the
_Datura stramonium_. It contained three eggs of a deep brick-red; in
fact, precisely like those described above."
Mr. Wait tells us that "in September I found two nests, the one deeply
cup-shaped, the other domed, both constructed of similar materials.
The latter of the two was placed at the bottom of a large bunch of
lemon-grass, and was constructed of root-fibre and grass, grass-bents,
and down of thistle and hawkweed, all intermixed. Exteriorly it
measured between 3 and 4 inches in diameter. The nests contained three
and five eggs, all highly glossy and of a deep brownish-red, deeper
than brick-red, mottled with a still deeper shade."
Colonel "W.Y. Legge, writing from Ceylon, tells us that "_P. socialis_
breeds with us in the commencement of the S.W. monsoon during the
months of May, June, and July. It nests in long grass on the Patnas in
the Central Province, in guinea-grass fields, and in sugarcane-brakes
where these exist, as in the Galle District for instance. I can
scarcely imagine that Jerdon is correct about this Warbler's nesting.
"Nothing can be more un-Tailor-bird-like than the nest which it builds
in _this_ country, and this led me to think that ours was a different
species until my specimens were identified by Lord Walden. In May 1870
a pair resorted to a large guinea-grass field attached to my bungalow
at Colombo, for the purpose of breeding. I soon found the nest, which
was the most peculiarly constructed one I have ever seen. It was, in
fact, an almost shapeless ball of guinea-grass roots, _thrown_ as it
were between the upright stalks of the plant at about 2 feet from
the ground: I say 'thrown,' because it was scarcely attached to the
supporting stalks at all. It was formed entirely of the roots of the
plant, which, when it is old, crop out of the ground and are easily
plucked up by the bird, the bottom or more solid part being interwoven
with cotton and such-like substances to impart additional strength.
The entrance was at the side in the upper half, and was tolerably
neatly made; it was about an inch in diameter, the whole structure
measuring about 6 inches in depth by 5 inches in breadth. I found the
nest in a partial state of completion on the 10th of May; by the 19th
it was finished and the first of a clutch of three eggs laid. The nest
and eggs were both taken on the evening of the 24th, and the following
day another was commenced close at hand. This was somewhat smaller,
but constructed in the same peculiar manner as the first. This was
completed, and the first of another clutch laid. The eggs are somewhat
pointed at the smaller end, and of an almost uniform dull mahogany
ground-colour, showing indications of a paler underground at the
Birds like these, that build half-a-dozen different kinds of nests,
ought to be abolished; they lead to all kinds of mistakes and
differences of opinion, and are more trouble than they are worth.
Colonel E.A. Butler writes:--"Found numerous nests of this species at
Belgaum on the following dates:--
"July 13. A nest containing 4 fresh eggs.
" 22. " " " 3 "
" 25. " " " 4 "
" 26. " " " 3 "
" 26. " " " 3 "
" 28. " " " 2 slightly incubated eggs.
Aug. 5. " " " 4 fresh eggs.
" 6. " " " 4 "
"All of the above nests were built in sugarcane-fields or in
corn-fields; and most of them were stitched up in leaves of various
plants after the fashion of Tailor-birds' nests; but in some instances
they were of the other type, simply supported by the blades of
sugar-cane or corn they were built in. In addition to the above I
found numerous other nests all through August, many of which were
destroyed by something or other--what, I do not know! In fact, it has
always been a puzzle to me what it is that takes the eggs of these
small birds: three out of four nests, when visited a second time, are
either empty, gone altogether, or pulled down; and how the birds ever
manage to hatch off a brood at all with so many enemies I do not know.
"I found a nest of the Ashy Wren-Warbler at Deesa on the 21st July,
containing three fresh eggs, of a highly polished deep mahogany-red
colour, with an almost invisible cap of the same colour a shade darker
at the large end. The nest, which was placed in the centre of a low
bush and fixed to a few small twigs, was oval in shape, measuring 33/4
inches in length exteriorly and 2-5/8 in width, with a small round
entrance near the top about 11/4 inch in diameter. It was composed
of fine dry fibrous grass, with silky vegetable down (_Calotropis
giganten_) and cobwebs smeared over the exterior. The walls were very
thin, but the bottom of the nest somewhat solid. The whole well woven
and compactly built. Later on I got nests on the following dates:--
"Aug. 1. A nest containing 3 fresh eggs.
" 1. " " 2 "
" 5. " " 4 "
" 5. " " 4 "
" 8. " " 3 "
" 9. " " 4 "
" 26. " " 3 "
"In addition to the above, I found nests containing young birds on the
15th, 17th, and 23rd August.
"The nests are of two distinct types. One as above described; the
other, which is the commoner of the two, a regular Tailor-bird's nest
stitched between two leaves but without any lining. The eggs vary a
good deal in shade, some being paler than others. Some eggs I have
look almost like little balls of red carnelian. Creepers (convolvulus
&c.) growing up low thorny bushes in grass-beerhs are a favourite
place for the nest."
Lieut. H.E. Barnes informs us that in Rajputana this Warbler breeds
from July to September.
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden state that this bird is common in the
Deccan and breeds in August.
Mr. Rhodes W. Morgan, writing from South India, says:--"It builds
in March, constructing a very neat pendent nest, which is artfully
concealed, and supported by sewing one or two leaves round it. This
is very neatly done with the fine silk which surrounds the eggs of a
small brown spider. The nest is generally built of fine grass, and
contains three eggs of a bright brick-colour with a high polish. The
entrance to the nest is at the top and a little on one side. An egg
measured 0.7 inch in length by 0.48 in breadth."
As for the eggs, it is unnecessary to describe them; they are
precisely similar to those of _P. stewarti_, fully described below.
All that can be said is that as a body they are slightly larger, and
_possibly_, as a _whole_, the least shade less dark. In length they
vary from 0.52 to 0.72, and in breadth from 0.45 to 0.52; but the
average of twenty-one eggs measured is 0.64 by rather more than
[Footnote A: As a matter of convenience I keep the notes on _P.
socialis_ and _P. stewarti_ separate, as is done in the 'Rough Draft';
but there is no doubt whatever now that the two birds are the same
Stewart's Wren-Warbler is one of those forms in regard to which at
present great difference of opinion prevails as to whether or no they
merit specific separation. _P. stewarti_ from the N.W. Provinces and
_P. socialis_ from the Nilghiris differ only in size; the latter is
somewhat more robust, and probably weighs one fifth more than the
former. But then in the Central Provinces you meet with intermediate
sizes, and I have plenty of birds which might be assigned
indifferently to either race as a rather small example of the one or
rather large one of the other. I myself consider all to belong to one
species, but as this is not the general view I have kept my notes on
their nidification separate.
This species or race breeds almost throughout the plains of Upper
India and in the Sub-Himalayan ranges to an elevation of 3000 or
4000 feet. In the plains the breeding-season extends from the first
downfall of rain in June (I have never found them earlier) to quite
the end of August. In the moist Sub-Himalayan region, the Terais,
Doons, Bhaburs, and the low hills, they commence laying nearly a month
This species often constructs as neatly sewn a nest as does the
_Orthotomus_; in fact, many of the nests built by these two species so
closely resemble each other that it would be difficult to distinguish
them were there not very generally a difference in the lining. With
few exceptions all the innumerable nests of _O. sutorius_ that I have
seen were lined with some soft substance--cotton-wool, the silky down
of the cotton-tree(_Bomlax heptaphyllum_) grass-down, soft horsehair,
or even human hair, while the nests of _P. stewarti_ are almost
without exception _lined_ with fine grass-roots.
Our present bird does not, however, invariably construct a "tailored"
nest. When it does, like _O. sittorius_, it sews two, three, four,
or five leaves together, as may be most convenient, filling the
intervening space with down, fine grass, vegetable fibre, or wool,
held firmly into its place by cross-threads, sometimes composed of
cobwebs, sometimes made by the bird itself of cotton, and sometimes
apparently derived from unravelled rags. It also, however, often
makes a nest entirely composed of fine vegetable fibre, cotton, and
grass-down, and lined as usual with fine grass-roots. Sometimes these
nests are long and purse-like, and sometimes globular, either attached
to, or pendent from, two or more twigs. One nest before me, a sort of
deep watch-pocket, suspended from five twigs of the jhao (_Tamarix
dioica_), measures externally 2.75 inches in diameter, is a good deal
longer at what may be called the back than the front, and at the back
fully 5.5 long. Internally the diameter is about 1.5, and the cavity,
measuring from the lowest portion of the external rim, is 2.5. This
is a _very_ large nest. Another, built between three leaves, has an
external diameter of about 21/2 inches, and is externally not above 3
inches long. It is unnecessary here to describe the beautiful manner
in which, when it makes use of leaves, this bird sews them together,
as this has already been well described by others where _O. sutorius_
is concerned, and _P. stewarti_ is, in some cases, when forming a nest
with leaves, fully as neat a workman.
The nests vary so much, and I have heard so much, discussion about
them, that having seen at least a hundred and having taken full notes
of some twenty of them, I shall reproduce a few of these notes:--
"_Agra, July 17th_.--Two nests--one nearly globular, composed entirely
of fibrous roots, hair, wool, and thread, and lined with fine grass,
suspended by a few fibres and hairs between the fork of a branchlet
in a little dense bush of Indian box; the other, suspended from the
tendril of an elephant creeper, was principally formed by one of the
leaves of this, to which, to form the remaining third of the exterior,
a second leaf of the same plant was carefully sewn. Interiorly there
was a little wool, and at the bottom fine grass.
"_July 20th_.--On a furash-tree (_Tamarix furas_), beautifully made
of fine soft wool, shreds of tow and string, very fine grass and
grass-roots, and the bottom neatly lined with very fine grass-roots.
In shape the nest is like one half of a long old-fashioned silk purse,
round-bottomed and very compact, with a long slit-like opening on one
side towards the top. It contained five eggs.
"_July 26th_.--Two nests, one formed almost entirely in a single
mango-leaf, the sides of which are curled round so as nearly to meet,
and then laced by a succession of cross-threads of cobweb, carefully
knotted at each place where the margin of the leaf is pierced. The
intervening space is closed by fine tow, wool, and the silky down of
the cotton-tree, with just the top of a small mango-leaf caught in
from above so as to form an arched roof. The other nest was rounder in
form, having less of a leafy structure. It had, however, the leaf of
the _Phalsa_ forming the back and sides (partly), whilst the whole of
the front was composed of soft wool, tow, dry grass-roots, thread, and
a few pieces of the soft tree-cotton. It had a neighbouring leaf just
caught in on one side. This contained four fresh eggs.
"_July 30th_.--A beautiful nest between three twigs, several of the
leaves of each of which had been tacked on to the outside of the nest.
The nest itself was firmly put together with fine grass-roots, and was
nearly globular in shape, with one side continued upwards into a sort
of hood overhanging the greater portion of the aperture. It contained
four eggs of the usual deep red colour.
"_August 8th_.--At Bichpoori found a number of nests, and some of them
of a strangely different type. One was inside a tiny hut on the line,
about 3 feet above the head of the chaprassie's bed. It had no leaves
about it, and was composed of thread, wool, and a few very fine
grass-stems, and lined thinly with fine grass-stems and a little black
horsehair. It was about two thirds of a sphere, the external diameter
of which was about 31/4 inches, and the internal 21/2 inches. The bird was
on the nest, so that there could be no mistake, otherwise it would
have been impossible to believe that it belonged to _P. stewarti_,
of which we have taken so many sewn in leaves. A little further on
another nest of the same species, built in the ragged eaves of a
thatch, externally composed almost entirely of cotton-wool, with a
little tow-fibre binding the structure together, internally as usual
lined with very fine grass-roots with a few horsehairs. Another nest
of the _Prinia_ was in one respect even more remarkable. It was
built in the usual situation in a low herbaceous plant, sewn to and
suspended from two leaves, and two or three others worked into its
sides. It was constructed almost entirely of fine grass-roots and
fibres, with a few tiny tufts of cotton-wool, and the leaves as usual
firmly tacked on with threads and cobweb fibres. It would seem that,
after constructing the nest, but before laying, a large female spider
took possession of the bottom of the nest, and shut herself in by
constructing a diaphragm of web horizontally across the nest, thus
occupying the whole of the cavity of the nest. The little bird
accepted this change of circumstances, built the nest a little higher
at the sides, and over the spider's web placed a false bottom of
fine grass-roots, on which she laid her four eggs, and there she was
sitting when the nest was taken, the spider, alive and apparently
happy in the cell below, plainly visible through the interstices of
the grass, with a huge sac of eggs which she was incubating. Her
chamber is fully one half of the nest."
I may add that this latter nest, with the _now_ dead spider, _in
situ_, is still in our museum.
In number the eggs are sometimes four, sometimes five, and I have
_heard_ of six being found.
They rear usually two broods; if their eggs are taken they will lay
three or four sets; sometimes they use the same nest twice; sometimes,
directly the first brood is at all able to shift for themselves, the
parents leave them in the old nest, and commence building a new one at
no great distance.
The late Mr. A. Anderson remarked:--"Owing to the inclemency of the
weather (August) the geranium-pots in the garden were placed in the
verandah of the house I am at present living in, and, strange to say,
a pair of these Warblers commenced building in the leaves of one of
the plants immediately under my window.
"When the nest was about half-finished the birds' forsook it without
apparently any reason, as they were never molested in any way. On
examining the nest, however, the cause was evident, and afforded a
remarkable instance of instinct on the part of the little architects.
The leaves that had been pierced and sewn together had actually
commenced to _wither_, and in the course of a few days later the whole
structure came down bodily.
"This is the only _Prinia_ to be found at Futtehgurh, and they are one
of our most common garden-birds. Their beautiful brick-red eggs and
neatly-sewn nests are too well known to require description.
"Four generally, and five frequently, is the number of eggs they lay.
I have _one_ record of _six_ on the 17th August, 1873; in this case
one egg was laid daily, the first having been laid on the 12th, and
the sixth on the 17th."
Captain Hutton remarks:--"This is a true Tailor-bird in respect to
the construction of the nest, which is composed of one leaf as a
supporting base stitched to two others meeting it perpendicularly, the
apices of all three being neatly sewn together with threads roughly
spun from the cottony down of seeds. Between or within these leaves is
placed the nest, very slightly and loosely constructed of fine roots,
grass-stalks, and seed-down, the latter material being interwoven to
hold the coarser fibres of the nest together. There is no finer lining
within, and the edges of the exterior leaves are drawn together round
the nest and held there partly by roughly-spun threads of down, and
partly by the ends of the stiff fibres being thrust through them. The
whole forms a very light and graceful fabric. Within this nest were
four beautiful and highly polished eggs of a deep brick-red colour,
darkest at the larger end, faint specks and blotches of a deeper
colour being indistinctly discernible beneath the surface of the
shell, which shines as if it had been varnished. The nest is not
closed above, but is open and deeply cup-shaped. This was taken in the
Dhoon on the 30th May."
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"Breeds at Allahabad in June, July, and
August. At Delhi I have not yet found its nest. I once found in July
three nests all attached together in a sort of triangle, but whether
built by separate pairs of birds I cannot say. Only one nest contained
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall writes:--"A nest found in July in the Cawnpoor
district was built of grass, a deep oblong domed nest with the
entrance at the side near the top. It was placed close to the ground
in a tuft of surkerry grass sloping rather backwards. The position is,
I believe, unusual. The old birds were still putting finishing touches
to the building when I found it."
The eggs are ovals, as a rule, neither very broad nor much elongated.
Pyriform examples occur, but a somewhat perfect oval is the usual
type, and the examination of a large series shows that the tendency
is to vary to a globular and not to an elongated shape. The eggs
are brilliantly glossy, and, though considerably smaller, strongly
resemble, as is well known, those of the little short-tailed Cetti's
In colour they are brick-red, some, however, being paler and yellower,
others deeper and more mahogany-coloured. There is a strong tendency
to exhibit all ill-defined cloudy cap or zone, of far greater
intensity than the colour of the rest of the egg, at or towards the
In length the eggs vary from 0.6 to 0.68, and in breadth from 0.45 to
0.5; but the average of seventy eggs measured is 0.62 by 0.46.
465. Prinia sylvatica, Jerd. _The Jungle Wren-Warbler_.
Drymoipus sylvaticus, _Jerd. B. Ind_ ii, p. 181; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 545.
Drymoipus neglectus, _Jerd. R. Ind._ ii, p. 182; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 546.
Dr. Jerdon says:--"I found the nest in low jungle near Nellore, made
chiefly of grass, with a few roots and fibres, globular, large, with
a hole at one side near the top, and the eggs white, spotted very
thickly with rusty red, especially at the thick end."
Mr. Blewitt appears to have taken many eggs of this species in the
Raipoor District, and he has sent me the following notes, together
with numerous eggs. He says:--
"The Jungle Wren-Warbler breeds in the Raipoor District from about
the middle of June to the middle of August. Low thorn-bushes on rocky
ground are chiefly selected for the nest, and both parent birds assist
in building it and in hatching and rearing the young. A new nest is
made each year, and four is the maximum number of eggs.
"On the 1st July this year I found a nest of this species in the
centre of a low thorny bush, growing in rocky ground, about two miles
north of Doongurgurh in the Raipoor District.
"The nest was about 4 feet from the ground, firmly attached to and
supported by the branches. It was of a deep cup shape, 3.6 in diameter
and 4.9 in height, composed of coarser and finer grasses firmly
interwoven, and contained four fresh eggs. In the same locality we
secured a second similarly situated nest, about 21/2 feet from the
ground, and it contained a single fresh egg. It was rather more neatly
and massively made than the former. It was about 4 inches in diameter
and 5 inches in height, and the egg-cavity was nearly 3 inches deep.
The lining is of fine grass-stalks well interwoven. The exterior is
composed of coarse grass mixed with a little greyish-white fibre.
"Subsequently several other similar and similarly situated nests were
Colonel E.A. Butler writes:--"The Jungle Wren-Warbler breeds in the
neighbourhood of Deesa in the months of July, August, and September.
The following are the dates upon which I found nests this year
"July 28. A nest containing 4 young birds.
" 29. " 5 fresh eggs.
Aug. 1. " 4 "
" 5. " 5 "
Aug. 13. " 5 "
" 16. " 4 young birds fledged.
" 17. " 5 "
" " " 3 "
" 19. " 4 "
" " " 5 "
" 30. " 5 "
Sept. 3. " 5 "
"In addition to the above, I found nests in the same neighbourhood in
1875. One on the 14th August containing four young birds almost ready
to leave the nest. It was placed in the middle of a tussock of coarse
grass on the side of a nullah on a bank overgrown with grass and
bushes, and my attention was attracted first of all to the spot by the
incessant chattering and uneasiness of the two old birds, one of which
had a large grasshopper in its mouth. After hiding behind a bush for
a few minutes, I saw the hen bird fly to the nest, which led to its
discovery. The nest was dome-shaped, with an entrance upon one side,
composed exteriorly of blades of rather coarse dry grass (green,
however, as a rule when the nest is first built), and interiorly of
similar, but finer, material. It is an easy nest to find when once
the locality in which the birds breed is discovered, as it is
a conspicuous ball of grass, smeared over, often more or less,
exteriorly with a silky white vegetable-down or cobweb, and many of
the blades of the tussock in which it is placed are often drawn down
and woven into the nest, which at once attracts attention. Then,
again, the cock bird is almost always to be found on the top of some
low tree near the nest, uttering his peculiar ventriloquistic note
'_tissip, tissip, tissip_,' etc. All the above nests were exactly
alike and in similar situations, viz. fixed in the centre of a tussock
of coarse grass on the banks of some deep nullahs running through a
large grass 'Beerh.' The eggs remind me more of the English Robin's
eggs than those of any other species I know. The ground-colour is dull
white, sometimes tinted with pale green, and the markings reddish
fawn. In some cases the eggs are peppered all over with a conspicuous
zone at the large end, sometimes a dense cap instead of a zone. In
other cases the markings, though always present, are almost invisible,
as also the zone or cap. They are about the size of the eggs of the
Spotted Flycatcher. I found a few other nests besides those I have
mentioned during July and August 1875."
Captain Cock informed me that this species is "common in the jungles
around Seetapore. Nest is largish, dome-shaped, and placed low down in
a thorny bush. The bird lays in August five eggs, the _fac-simile_ of
the eggs of _Pratincola ferrea_, perhaps of a more elongated type than
the eggs of that bird."
Mr. H. Parker, writing on the birds of North-west Ceylon, refers to
this bird under the titles _D. jerdoni_ and _D. valida_, and informs
us that it breeds from January to May.
The eggs of this species are somewhat elongated ovals. The
ground-colour is a greenish or greyish stone-colour, and they are
finely and often rather sparsely freckled all over with very faint
reddish brown, or brownish pink in most eggs; these frecklings are
gathered together into a more or less dense zone round the large
end, forming a conspicuous ring there much darker-coloured than the
frecklings over the rest of the surface. The eggs have a faint gloss.
In length they vary from 0.68 to 0.75, and in breadth from 0.49 to
0.52, but the average appears to be 0.7 by 0.5.
466. Prinia inornata, Sykes. _The Indian Wren-Warbler_.
Drymoipus inornatus (_Sykes_), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii. p. 178;
_Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 543.
Drymoipus longicaudatus (_Tick._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 180.
Drymoipus terricolor, _Hume_; _Hume, Rough Draft N, & E._ no. 543 bis.
The breeding-season of this Wren-Warbler commences with the first fall
of rain, and lasts through July and August to quite the middle of
The birds construct a very elegant nest, always closely and compactly
woven, of very fine blades, or strips of blades, of grass, in no nests
exceeding one-twentieth of an inch in width, and in many of not above
half this breadth. The grass is always used when fresh and green,
so as to be easily woven in and out. Both parents work at the nest,
clinging at first to the neighbouring stems of grass or twigs, and
later to the nest itself, while they push the ends of the grass
backwards and forwards in and out; in fact, they work very much like
the Baya (_P. baya_), and the nest, though much smaller, is in texture
very like that of this latter species, the great difference being that
the Baya, with us, more often uses _stems_, and _Prinia_ strips of
_blades_ of grass. The nest varies in shape and in size, according to
its situation: a very favourite locality is in amongst clumps of the
_sarpatta_, or serpent-grass, in which case the bird builds a long
and purse-like nest, attached above and all round to the surrounding
grass-stems, with a small entrance near the top. Such nests are
often 8 or 9 inches in length, and 3 inches or even more in external
diameter, and with an internal cavity measuring 11/2 inch in diameter,
and having a depth of nearly 4 inches below the lower margin of the
entrance-hole. At other times they are hung between bare twigs, often
of some thorny bush, or are even placed in low herbaceous plants; in
these cases they are usually nearly globular, with the entrance-hole
near the top; they are then probably 31/2 inches in external diameter
in every direction. In other cases they are hung to or between two or
more leaves to which the birds attach the nest, much as a Tailor-bird
would do, using, however, fine grass instead of cobwebs or cotton-wool
for ligaments. I have never found more than five eggs in any nest, and
four is certainly the normal number.
Mr. R.M. Adam remarks:--"I had a nest brought me in Oudh on the 17th
April, containing four eggs. About Agra and Muttra, where as you know
the birds are _very_ common, I have always obtained the greatest
number of eggs during August; four is the regular number; in one taken
on the 16th August I found five eggs."
Mr. W. Blewitt writes:--"During July, August, and the early part
of September I found multitudes of nests of this species in the
neighbourhood of Hausie, almost exclusively in the Dhasapoor, Dhana,
and Secundapoor _Beerhs_ or jungle-preserves.
"The nests, of which numerous specimens were sent to you, were of the
usual type, and were nearly all found in ber (_Z. jujuba_) and hinse
(_Capparis aphylla_) bushes, at heights of from 3 to 4 feet from the
ground. I did not meet with more than four eggs in any one nest."
Colonel E.A. Butler says:--"The Indian Wren-Warbler is very common in
the plains, frequenting low scrub-jungle and long grass studied
with low bushes (_Calotropis, Zizyphus_, &c.). It breeds during the
monsoon, commencing to build in July, during which month and August
in the neighbourhood of Deesa I must have examined some three or four
dozen nests. There are two distinct types of nests, and there may be
two species of this genus in this part of the country; but I must
confess that after shooting a large number of specimens of both sexes,
and after examining an immense series of the eggs, I have failed to
make out more than one species, and that Mr. Hume informs me is his
_Drymoipus terricolor_. The nests alluded to vary as follows:--One
type is very closely and compactly woven, as described of _D.
terricolor_ ('Nests and Eggs, Rough Draft,' p. 349), with the entrance
almost at the top. The other type is built of the same material, with
the exception that the grass is rather coarser, but is more in shape
like a Wren's nest, and the grass is somewhat loosely put together
instead of being woven, and it has the entrance with a slight canopy
over it upon one side. The eggs four, and not uncommonly five, in
number, were exactly alike in both types, as also were the specimens
of the birds themselves that I obtained.
"Nearly all the nests I have seen have been built on the outside of
ber bushes (_Z. jujuba_), at heights varying from 21/2 to 5 feet from
Mr. B. Aitken says:--"I found this nest at Bombay on the 13th October,
1873, at the edge of a tank some 2 feet above the ground. I have found
four or five precisely similar ones before, generally in similar
situations. The nest was strongly attached to the stems and leaves
of four herbaceous plants growing close together. In many cases the
strips of grass had been passed through and pierced the leaves. The
nest is deep and purse-shaped; the sides were prolonged upwards,
except in front where the entrance was, and joined above so as to
form a canopy. The nest has no lining, and none of the nests of this
species that I ever saw have ever had any lining. The whole nest
inside and out is composed of fine strips of blades of grass
interwoven. The eggs, five in number, varied much in size. In colour
they were bright blue, most irregularly blotched with various shades
of purplish brown: some of the blotches very large, some mere specks.
Each egg had also washed-out stains or blotches. The smaller eggs were
by far the brighter.
"By reason of the roof and walls the entrance to the nest was at one
side, but there was nothing that could be called a hole. The roof
projected over the entrance, forming a porch.
"Six or eight nests which I have seen of this species were all over
water. But the birds are by no means confined to marshy localities.
"Even in the middle of the rains the nests are invariably made of dry
"One nest found in Berar was in a babool bush, where of course there
could have been no leaves pierced."
Mr. E. Aitken writes:--"I have found a good many nests in Bombay, and
it breeds in Poona too. My notes only mention two nests with eggs, on
the 22nd and 25th August, but I found some much later; and I am
almost certain it begins to lay much earlier, if not actually at the
beginning of the monsoon, like _Orthotomus_ and _Prinia_.
"It builds in gardens and cultivated fields, especially in the
vicinity of water, and often among plants growing in water.
"The nest is very firmly attached to the twigs of some plant where
long grass or other plants completely surround and conceal it. It
is usually about 3 foot from the ground. It varies much in size and
shape, some being much deeper than others, and some having the top
open; others an entrance somewhat to one side.
"I have always found three or four eggs--bright blue, with large
irregular purplish-brown blotches and no hair-lines. I should have
said that the nest is a bag, very uniformly woven, of fine grass, and
_never with any lining_--at any rate in none that I have ever found.
They never use the same nest twice, always building a fresh one even
if you only rob without injuring the first. I think they have only one
brood in the year, but, like _Orthotomus_ and _Prinia_, one or two
nests are generally deserted or destroyed by some accident before they
succeed in rearing a brood."
Major C.T. Bingham informs us that this Wren-Warbler is a common
breeder both at Allahabad and at Delhi from March to September. Builds
a neat bottle-shaped nest in clumps of surpat grass, of fine strips of
the grass itself, which I have repeatedly watched the birds tearing
off. The eggs are lovely little oval fragile shells of a deep blue,
blotched and speckled and covered with fine hair-like lines, chiefly
at the large end, of a deep chocolate-brown.
The eggs are a moderately long, and generally a pretty perfect, oval,
often pointed towards one end, sometimes globular, seldom, if ever,
much elongated. The shell is fine and glossy, and comparatively thick
and strong. The ground-colour is normally a beautiful pale greenish
blue, most richly marked with various shades of deep chocolate and
reddish brown. Nothing can exceed the beauty or variety of the
markings, which are a combination of bold blotches, clouds, and spots,
with delicate, intricately interwoven lines, recalling somewhat,
but more elaborate and, I think, finer than, those of our early
favourite--the Yellow Ammer. The markings are invariably most
conspicuous at the large end, where there is very commonly a
conspicuous confluent cap, and the delicate lines are almost without
exception confined to the broader half of the egg.
Very commonly the smaller end of the egg is entirely spotless, and I
have a beautiful specimen now before me in which the only markings
consist of a ring of delicate lines round the large end. Some idea of
the delicacy and intricacy of these lines may be formed when I mention
that this zone is barely one tenth of an inch broad, and yet in a good
light between twenty and thirty interlaced lines making up this zone
may be counted.
The intricacy of the pattern is in some cases almost incredible, and,
what with the remarkable character of the patterns and the rich and
varying shades of their colours, these little eggs are, I think,
amongst the most beautiful known.
Occasionally the ground-colour of the eggs, instead of being a bright
greenish blue, is a pale, rather dull, olive-green, and still more
rarely it is a clear pinkish white. These latter eggs are so rare that
I have only seen six in about as many hundreds.
In size the eggs vary from 0.53 to 0.7 in length, and from 0.42 to 0.5
in breadth; but the average of one hundred and twenty eggs measured
was 0.61 by 0.45.
467. Prinia jerdoni (Blyth). _The Southern Wren-Warbler_.
Drymoeca jerdoni (_Blyth_), _Hume, cat._ no. 544 ter.
Mr. Davison says:--"The Southern Wren-Warbler breeds chiefly on the
slopes of the Nilgiris about the Badaga cultivation. The nest is
entirely composed of fine grass, and is generally placed about 2 or 3
feet from the ground, either in a clump of long grass or attached to
the branch of a small bush. It is often suspended, domed, and with the
opening near the top. The eggs, generally three, are blue, spotted and
lined with deep red-brown."
From Kotagherry Miss Cockburn tells us that "the Common Wren-Warbler
has no song, but is loud and frequent in its repetition of a few notes
during the breeding-season. Its nest, which is globular, is built in
the same shape as that of _P. socialis_, with the entrance at one end,
on some low bush, but it only uses _one_ material, namely fine long
grass, and does not add any soft lining. The colour of its eggs,
however, is totally different, of a light bluish green, and having
a number of spots and streaks like dark threads carried round
and through the spots, which are mostly at the thick end. The
breeding-season lasts from April to July."
Mr. C.J.W. Taylor, writing from Manzeerabad, Mysore, says:--"Fairly
common throughout the district. Eggs taken on the 15th July, 1882."
Mr. Rhodes W. Morgan, writing from South India, remarks:--"It builds a
neat pendent nest in long grass on the Nilgiris. The nest is composed
entirely of short pieces of grass fitted together, and is very
compact. The eggs are three in number, and are of a blue colour, with
large blotches and hair-like streaks of a dark reddish brown at the
upper end. An egg measured .69 inch by .5."
The eggs of this species do not differ materially in size, shape, or
markings from those of _P. inornata_ which are very fully described
468. Prinia blanfordi (Walden). _The Burmese Wren-Warbler_.
Drymoeca blanfordi, _Wald., Hume, cat._ no. 543 ter.
Mr. Oates, who found this bird very common in Pegu, writes:--"The
Burmese Wren-Warbler is perhaps the commonest bird of the Pegu plains.
From Myitkyo on the Sittang, and possibly from further north, down to
Rangoon, it is to be found in all the low tracts covered with grass.
"Where it occurs it is a constant resident and breeds from May to
August. I have found the nest in the middle of May, but it is not till
July that the bulk of the birds lay.
"The nest is never more than 4 feet from the ground, and is attached
either to two or more stalks of elephant-grass or to the stem of a low
weed, or to the blades of certain tender grasses which grow in thick
tufts. There is little or no attempt at concealment. The materials
forming the nest are entirely fine grasses, of equal coarseness or
fineness throughout, gathered green, and so beautifully woven together
that it is almost impossible to destroy a nest by tearing it asunder,
although it may be looked through. In shape it is somewhat of a
cylinder, with a tendency to swell out at the middle. Its length, or
rather height (for its longer axis, being invariably parallel to the
stalks to which the nest is attached, is generally upright), is from
6 to 8 inches, and its extreme width 4. The entrance is placed at the
top of the nest, the sides of which are produced an inch or two above
the lower edge of the entrance. The thickness of the walls is very
small, seldom reaching half, and generally being only a quarter, of an
inch. Occasionally the nest is almost globular, but the back of the
entrance is in every case produced upwards some inches. There is no
lining at all.
"The eggs never exceed four, and frequently are only three, in number,
and the female does not commence sitting till the full number is laid.
She deserts the nest on the slightest provocation; and if a nest with
only one or two eggs is found, and the fingers inserted, it is useless
to leave the eggs in hopes of getting more. She will lay no more. I
have tested this in at least ten cases."
Major C.T. Bingham tells us:--"About Kaukarit, on the Houndraw river
in Tenasserim, I found this species, in June 1878, very common.
They were then breeding, and I found several nests, all, however,
unfinished; these were, in material and make, very like the nests of
_P. inornata_ which I had taken years ago in India."
The eggs of this species recall in many respects those of _P.
inornata_, but the ground-colour is much more variable, and the
markings are more blotchy and less intricate in shape. They are pretty
regular ovals, and while some are very glossy others exhibit but
little of this. The ground-colour is perhaps typically pale greenish
blue, but in a great many specimens this is more or less obliterated
by a reddish or pinkish tinge, as if the colour of the markings had
run; in some the ground is a sort of reddish olive, in some pinky
white. The markings are large blotches and spots, often forming zones
or caps about the larger end, where they seem almost always to be most
conspicuous, as they vary in colour from an intense burnt-sienna which
is almost black, through a dingy maroon, and again to a dull, somewhat
pale reddish brown; here and there individual eggs exhibit a hair-line
or two, or a hieroglyphic-like mark, but these are the exceptions.
The eggs vary in length from 0.53 to 0.64 inch, and in breadth from
0.42 to 0.45; but the average of fourteen eggs is 0.58 by 0.44.
Very constantly smears or clouds of a paler shade than the blotches
cover large portions of the surface between these. Occasionally all
the markings are smeared and ill-defined, and in some eggs they are
almost entirely wanting, and nothing but a scratch or two about the
large end is to be seen.
469. Lanius lahtora(Sykes). _The Indian Grey Shrike_.
Lamus lahtora (_Sykes), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 400.
Collyrio lahtora, _Sykes, Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 256.
The Indian Grey Shrike lays from January to August, and occasionally
up to October, but the majority of my eggs have been obtained during
March or April.
It builds, generally, a very compact and heavy, deep, cup-shaped nest,
which it places at heights of from 4 to 10 or 12 feet from the ground
in a fork, towards the centre of some densely growing thorny bush
or moderate-sized tree, the various carounders, capers, plums, and
acacias being those most commonly selected.
As a rule it builds a new nest every year, but it not unfrequently
only repairs one that has served it in the previous season, and even
at times takes possession of those of other species.
The nest is composed of very various materials, so much so that it is
difficult to generalize in regard to them. I have found them built
entirely of grass-roots, with much sheep's wool, lined with hair and
feathers, or solidly woven of silky vegetable fibre, mostly that of
the putsun (_Hibiscus cannabinus_), in which were incorporated little
pieces of rag and strips of the bark of the wild plum (_Zizyphus
jujuba_); but I think that most commonly thorny twigs, coarse grass,
and grass-roots form the body of the nest, while the cavity is lined
with feathers, hair, soft grass, and the like.
Generally the nests are very compact and solid, 6 or 7 inches in
diameter, and the egg-cavity 3 to 4 in diameter, and 2 to 21/2 in depth,
but I have come across very loosely built and straggling ones.
They have at times two broods in the year (but I do not think that
this is always the case), and lay from three to six eggs, four or five
being the usual number.
Mr. F.R. Blewitt, writing from Jhansie and Saugor, and detailing his
experiences there and in the Delhi Districts, says:--
"The Common Indian Grey Shrike breeds from February to July; it builds
on trees; if it has a preference, it is for the close-growing roonj
tree (_Acacia leucophlaea_). I have particularly noticed this fact
both here and at Gurhi Hursroo. The nest in structure is neat and
compact (though I have occasionally seen some very roughly put
together), and generally-well fixed into the forks of an off-shooting
branch. In shape it is circular, varying from 5 to 71/2 inches in
diameter, and from 11/2 to 31/2 inches in thickness; thorn twigs, coarse
grass, grass-roots, old rags, &c. form the outer materials of the
nest, and closely interwoven fine grass and roots the border-rim. The
egg-cavity is deeply cup-shaped, from 31/2 to 5 inches in diameter, and
lined with fine grass and khus; exceptionally shreds of cloth are
interwoven with the khus and grass.
"On one occasion I got a nest with the cup interior entirely lined
with old cloth pieces, very cleverly and ingeniously worked into the
exterior framework. Five is the regular number of eggs, though at
times six have been obtained in one nest. The birds often make their
own nests each year, but this is not invariably the case. When at
Gurhi Hursroo in February last, I found on an isolated roonj tree four
nests within a foot of each other. The under centre one, an _old_
Shrike nest (the other three were of other birds), was occupied by
a Shrike sitting on five eggs. I very carefully examined it, and my
impression at the time was that the parent birds had returned, to rear
a second progeny, to the nest constructed by them the year previous.
"I do not know whether you have noticed the fact, but both _L.
lahtora_ and _L. erythronotus_ often lay in old nests, of which they
first carefully repair the egg-cavity with new materials. It is not
only, however, in old nests of their own species that these birds
make a home in the breeding-season. At times they take possession of
fabrics clearly not the work of any Shrike. Quite recently I found a
pair of _L. lahtora_ with four eggs in a small nest entirely woven of
hemp, the bottom of which was thickly coated with the droppings of
former occupants. Again, on the 8th June, a nest with four eggs was
found on a roonj tree. This wonderful nest, which I have kept, is
entirely composed of what I take to be old felt and feathers, the
bottom of the cavity of which, when found, was almost covered with the
dung of young birds.
"Evidently this nest was not _originally_ made by the Shrike, but, as
would appear, was taken possession of by it, after the brood of some
other species of birds had left it."
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following note of this bird's breeding
in the neighbourhood of Pind Dadan Khan and Katas in the Salt
Range:--"Lays in the last week of March to the end of April. Eggs five
only, shape ovato-pyriform, size 1.06 inch by 0.8 inch; colour pale
greenish white, blotched and tinged with yellowish grey and neutral
markings; vary much in intensity and colour. Nest of twigs, lined with
cotton or wool, and usually placed in stiff thorny bushes."
Lieut. H.E. Barnes, writing from Chaman in Southern Afghanistan,
remarks:--"The Grey-backed Shrike is extremely common, breeding about
the end of March, in much the same situations as in India. I have
collected many specimens, and failed to detect any difference between
the Indian bird and the one found here. The average of twelve eggs is
.97 by .75."
He adds subsequently:--"This is the commonest Shrike in the country;
it breeds in March and April, and the young are easily reared in
Mr. W. Blewitt says that he "took four nests of this bird near Hansee
on the 28th-30th March; they contained, one 5, two 4, and one 3
eggs; all but the latter (which, curiously enough, were a good deal
incubated) quite fresh. The nests were placed in acacia and caper
bushes, at heights of from 6 to 14 feet from the ground; they were
from 6 to 7 inches in diameter exteriorly, rather loosely constructed
of thorny twigs, with egg-cavities from 2 to 21/2 inches deep, lined
with fine straw and leaves." Again he writes: "Took numerous nests in
the neighbourhood of Hansee during the month of July; most of the eggs
were much incubated, and four was the largest number found in any one
"The nests were all placed upon keekur trees at an average height of
some 10 feet from the ground; they were composed of thorny twigs,
some with and some without a lining of fine grass and feathers, and
averaged some 5 or 6 inches in diameter by 2 to 4 inches in depth."
Major C.T. Bingham says that "this bird is excessively common about
Delhi, far more so than at Allahabad. At the latter place I only found
it breeding in March and April, but at Delhi I have found nests in
every month from March to August. One evening in June I remember
counting in my walk thirteen nests within the radius of a mile; some
of these contained fresh eggs, some hard-set, some young. One nest I
robbed in April of eggs contained young in the latter end of May, and
I believe many of them have two if not more broods in the year. All
nests that I have seen have been well made, firm, deep cups of babool
branches, lined with grass-roots, and occasionally with bits of rag
and tow. The eggs are broad ovals of a dead chalky bluish-white
colour, spotted, chiefly at the large end, with purple and brown. Five
is the greatest number of eggs I have found in a nest."
Mr. George Reid informs us that this Shrike breeds from March to
July in the Lucknow Division, making a massive nest in babool trees,
generally in solitary ones on open plains.
Colonel Butler writes:--"The Indian Grey Shrike breeds in the
neighbourhood of Deesa in February, March, April, May, June, and July.
I nave taken nests on the following dates:--
"Feb. 19. A nest containing 4 slightly incubated eggs.
March 13. " " 4 fresh eggs.
" 16. " " 4 "
" 19. " " 4 "
" 20. " " 3 "
" 20. " " 4 "
" 28. " " 4 incubated eggs.
April 9. " " 4 " "
June 1. " " 2 fresh eggs.
" 7. " " 4 young birds.
" 7. " " 2 incubated eggs.
July 9. " " 4 " "
"The nest is usually placed in some low, isolated leafless thorny tree
(_Acacia, Zizyphus_, &c.), from six to ten feet from the ground. It
is solidly built of small dry thorny twigs, old rags, &c. externally,
with a thick felt lining of the silky fibre of _Calotropis gigantea_.
The eggs vary a good deal in shape, some being much more pointed at
the small end than others; some I have are almost perfect peg-tops.
They vary in number from three to five; and as a rule the colour is a
dingy white, spotted and speckled sparingly all over with olive-brown
and inky purple, which together form a well-marked zone at the large
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden remark:--"Common, and breeds abundantly in
the Poona and Sholapoor Collectorates at the end of the hot weather.
W. has noticed it breeding at Nuluar and Raichore. Davidson observed
that it was very rare in the Satara Districts."
Mr. J. Davidson further informs us that _L. lahtora_ is a permanent
resident in Western Khandeish, and breeds in every month from January
My friend Mr. Benjamin Aitken furnishes me with the following
interesting note:--"You say that the Indian Grey Shrike lays from
February to July. Now, in Berar, where this bird is very common, I
have found their eggs frequently in the first week of January, and
on not only to July, but to September; and I once found a nest in
October. I was never able to satisfy myself that the same pair had two
broods in the year, but I scarcely think there can be any doubt about
the matter. I once found, like your correspondent Mr. Blewitt, four
nests in a small babool tree, and only one of them occupied. This was
at Poona. My brother first pointed out to me that this species affects
the dusty barren plain, whereas _L. erythronotus_ prefers the cool and
shaded country. This difference in the habits of the two birds is very
observable at Poona, where both species are exceedingly common. Where
a _jungly_ or watered piece of country borders upon the open plain,
you may see half a dozen of each kind within an area of half a mile
radius, and yet never find the one trespassing upon the domain of the
other. When you say you have never found a nest more than 1500 feet
above the level of the sea, I would remind you that although _L.
lahtora_ never ascends the hills, it is yet very abundant in the
Deccan, which is 2000 feet above the sea-level.
"I think I have written to you before that during a residence of
twelve years I never saw _L. lahtora_ in Bombay."
This Shrike is, however, essentially a plains bird, and never seems
to ascend the Himalayas to any elevation. I have never myself found a
nest more 1500 feet above the level of the sea.
Typically, the eggs are of a broad oval shape, more or less pointed
towards one end, of a delicate greenish-white ground, pretty thickly
blotched and spotted with various shades of brown and purple markings,
which, always most numerous towards the large end, exhibit a strong
tendency to form there an ill-defined zone or irregular mottled cap.
The variations, however, in shape, size, colour, extent, and intensity
of markings are very great; and yet, in the huge series before me,
there is not one that an oologist would not at once unhesitatingly
set down as a Shrike's. In some the ground-colour is a delicate pale
sea-green. In some it is pale stone-colour; in others creamy, and in a
few it has almost a pink tinge. The markings, commonly somewhat dull
and ill-defined, are occasionally bold and bright; and in colour they
vary through every shade of yellowish, reddish, olive, and purplish
brown, while subsurface-looking pale purple clouds are intermingled
with the darker and more defined markings. In one egg the markings may
be almost exclusively confined to a broad, very irregular zone of bold
blotches near the large end. In others the whole surface is more or
less thickly clotted with blotches and spots, so closely crowded
towards the large end as almost wholly to obscure the ground-colour
there. As a rule, the markings are irregular blotches of greater or
less extent, but occasionally these blotches form the exceptions, and
the majority of the markings are mere spots and specks. In some eggs
the purple cloudings greatly predominate; in others scarcely a trace
of them is observable. Some eggs are comparatively long and
narrow, while some are pyriform and blunt at both ends; and yet,
notwithstanding all these great differences, there is a strong family
likeness between all the eggs. In size they are, I think, somewhat
smaller than those of _L. excubitor_. They vary in length from 0.9 to
1.17 inch, and in width from 0.75 to 0.83 inch; but the average of
more than fifty eggs is 1.03 by 0.79 inch.
473. Lanius vittatus. _The Bay-backed Shrike_.
Lanius hardwickii (_Vigors), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 405.
Lanius vittatus, _Dum., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 260.
The Bay-backed Shrike breeds throughout the plains of India and in the
Sub-Himalayan Ranges up to an elevation of fully 4000 feet.
The laying-season lasts from April to September, but the great
majority of eggs are found during the latter half of June and July; in
fact, according to my experience, the great body of the birds do not
lay until the rains set in.
The nests are placed indifferently on all kinds of trees (I have notes
of finding them on mango, plum, orange, tamarind, toon, &c.), never at
any great elevation from the ground, and usually in _small_ trees, be
the kind chosen what it may. Sometimes a high hedgerow, such as our
great Customs hedge, is chosen, and occasionally a solitary caper or
The nests (almost invariably fixed in forks of slender boughs) are
neat, compactly and solidly built cups, the cavities being deep and
rather more than hemispherical, from 2.25 to fully 3.5 inches in
diameter, and from 1.5 to 2 inches in depth. The nest-walls vary from
0.5 to 1.25 inch in thickness. The composition of the nest is various.
The following are brief descriptions which I have noted from time to
"Compactly woven of grass-stems and a few fine twigs, but with more
or less wool, rag, cotton, or feathers incorporated; there _is no
"The nest was rather massive, externally composed of wool, rags,
cotton, thread, and feathers, and a little grass; the cavity rather
neatly lined with fine grass.
"Composed almost entirely of cobweb, with a few soft feathers, wool,
string, rags, and a few pieces of very fine twigs compactly woven. The
interior was lined with fine straw and fibrous roots."
Elsewhere I have recorded the following note on the nidification of
"This bird, or rather birds of this species, have been laying ever
since the middle of April, but nests were then few and far between,
and now in July they are common enough. The nest that we had just
found was precisely like twenty others that we had found during the
past two months. Rather deep, with a nearly hemispherical cavity; very
compactly and firmly woven of fine grass, rags, feathers, soft twine,
wool, and a few fine twigs, the whole entwined exteriorly with lots of
cobwebs; and the interior cavity about 13/4 inch deep by 21/4 in diameter,
neatly lined with very fine grass, one or two horsehairs, shreds of
string, and one or two soft feathers. The walls were a good inch in
thickness. The nest was placed in a fork of a thorny jujube or ber
tree (_Zizyphus jujuba_), near the centre of the tree, and some 15
feet from the ground. It contained four fresh eggs, feebly coloured
miniatures of the eggs of _L. lahtora_, which latter so closely
resemble those of _L. excubitor_ that if you mixed the eggs, you could
never, I think, certainly separate them again. The eggs exhibit the
zone so characteristic of those of all Shrikes. They have a dull pale
ground, not white, and yet it is difficult to say what colour it is
that tinges it; in these four eggs it is a yellowish stone-colour, but
in others it is greenish, and in some grey; near the middle, towards
the large end, there is a broad and conspicuous, but broken and
irregular zone of feeble, more or less confluent spots and small
blotches of pale yellowish brown and very pale washed-out purple.
There are a few faint specks and spots of the same colour here and
there about the rest of the egg. In some eggs previously obtained the
zone is quite in the middle, and in others close round the large end.
In some the colours of the markings are clear and bright, in others
they are as faint and feeble as one of our modern Manchester
warranted-fast-coloured muslins, after its third visit to a native
washerman. In size, too, the eggs vary a good deal.
"The little Shrike had a great mind to fight for his _penates_, and
twice made a vehement demonstration of attack; but his heart failed
him, and he retreated to a neighbouring mango branch, whence a few
minutes after we saw him making short dashes after his insect prey,
apparently oblivious of the domestic calamity that had so recently
Mr. F.R. Blewitt, then at Gurhi Hursroo, near Delhi, sent me some
years ago the following interesting note:--
"Breeds from March to at least the middle of August. It builds its
nest in low trees and high hedgerows, preferring the former.
"In shape the nest is circular, with a diameter, outside, of from 51/2
to 61/2 inches, and from 1.5 to 2 in thickness.
"For the exterior framework thorny twigs, old rags, hemp,
thread-pieces, and coarse grass are more or less used, and compactly
worked together. The egg-cavity is deep and cup-shaped, lined with
fine grass and khus; pieces of rag or cotton are sometimes worked up
with the former.
"Five to six is the regular number of eggs. In colour they are a light
greenish white, with blotches and spots generally of a light, but
sometimes of a darker, reddish brown. The spots and blotches vary much
in size, and they are mostly confined to the broad end of the eggs.
"I had frequently noticed on a tree in the garden an _old_ Shrike's
nest. It was in the beginning of May that a male bird suddenly made
his appearance and established himself in the garden, and morning and
evening without fail did he sit and alternately chatter and warble
away for hours. His perfect imitation of the notes of other birds was
"In the beginning of June his singing suddenly ceased, the secret of
which I soon discovered. He had secured a mate, and daily did I watch
for the nest, which I thought they would prepare. Late on the evening
of the 23rd June, happening to look up at the _old_ nest, to my
surprise I found it occupied by the female, the male the while sitting
on a branch near her. Next morning on searching the nest I found four
eggs. Whether this nest was prepared the year previous by these birds
or by another pair I cannot tell.
"That day, the day of the robbery, the female disappeared. The male
followed next day, but only to return after two or three days and
recommence with renewed energy his chattering and warbling. This
he continued daily till near the end of July, when, as before, he
suddenly ceased to sing. I then found that he had again secured a
mate, whether the old female or a new bride I am not certain; they
soon set about making a nest on a neighbouring tree, very cunningly,
as I thought, selected; and now the young birds reared are nearly
full-fledged. An old nest, evidently of last year's make, was brought
me the other day with five eggs, but the _lining_, as by the way was
done in the one in the garden, had been wholly removed and _new_ grass
and khus substituted."
Major C.T. Bingham writes:--"Breeds both at Allahabad and at Delhi in
May, June, and July. At the former place I never got the eggs, but
have seen some that were taken; but at Delhi I found numbers of their
nests in June and July, and one in May. It makes a much softer nest
than either of the two above-mentioned Shrikes. One nest I took on the
15th June was composed wholly of tow, but generally they have an outer
foundation of twigs, and are lined with tow, bits of cotton, human
hair, or rags. Some eggs are a yellow-white, with very faint marks,
others are miniatures of the eggs of _L. lahtora_.
"Five is the greatest number I have found in one nest."
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following note of this bird's breeding in
the neighbourhood of Pind Dadan Khan and Katas in the Salt Range:--
"Lays from the commencement of May to the middle of June. Eggs
three or four in number; shape varies from ovato-pyriform to blunt
ovato-pyriform, and measuring from 0.73 to 0.87 inch in length
and from 0.55 to 0.65[A] inch in breadth. Colour, same as _L.
erythronotus_, also creamy or yellowish white, spotted with darker.
Nest compact, in forks of thorny trees; outside fibrous stalks,
bound with silk or spider-web, and covered with lichens or cocoons,
imitating a weathered structure; inside lined with fine grass and
[Footnote A: I think that there must be some error in these
dimensions, for mine are taken from forty-five specimens, the largest
and smallest, out of some hundreds of eggs.--A.O.H.]
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall, writing from Murree, says:--"These little
Shrikes breed in the hills, as well as the plains, up to 5000 feet
Colonel Butler has the following notes on the breeding of this Shrike
"Kurrachi, 7th May, 1877.--I found two nests on this date, one in the
fork of a babool tree, the other on the stump of a broken-off branch
of a tree between the stump and the trunk of the tree. The former
contained four incubated eggs, exact miniatures of many eggs I have
of _L. erythronotus_, the latter two small chicks.--May 12th, same
locality, a nest containing two fresh eggs, and another containing
two fully fledged young ones.--June 20th, same locality, one nest
containing three fresh eggs, another containing four young birds. Eggs
most typical are those which have a well-marked zone near the centre."
"Hydrabad, Sind, 19th June, 1878.--A nest on the outer bough of a
babool tree about ten feet from the ground, containing three fresh
And he further notes:--"The Bay-backed Shrike breeds in the
neighbourhood of Deesa at the end of the hot weather. The nest is a
very firm and compactly built cup, usually placed in the fork of some
low thorny tree at heights varying from seven to ten feet from the
"June 15th, 1875. A nest containing 3 fresh eggs.
July 1st, 1876. " " 4 " "
July 15th, " " " 5 incubated eggs.
July 29th, " " " 4 young birds.
"These birds always retire from the more open parts of the country to
low thorny tree-jungle to breed."
Mr. R.M. Adam says:--"This species breeds about Sambhur in July. On
the 1st August I saw numbers of nests and fledglings in the Marot
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, writing of the Deccan, say:--"Abundant,
and breeds all over the Deccan."
And the former gentleman informs us that this species is also very
common in Western Khandeish, and that it breeds in the plains in June
and July, and in the Satpuras in March.
Mr. Benjamin Aitken writes:--"This is a very familiar bird, and builds
readily in some roadside tree, where men and carts are passing all day
long. I have the following notes of its nests:--
"1st-8th May, 1869. Nest and three eggs taken at Khandalla, above the
"12th May, 1871. Nest and four eggs at Poona.
"16th-18th May, 1871. Nest and four eggs at Khandalla. This nest was
in a corinda bush, placed about 11/2 feet from the ground.
"13th May, 1873. A clutch of young birds left the nest this morning at
"19th May, 1873. I found a nest of half-fledged young birds this day
at Poona. The tree was almost denuded of leaves, and the heat of the
sun being very intense, the parent bird was nevertheless sitting
close. Its eyes were closed, and it was gasping hard. One of the young
ones had crawled out from under the parent, and was sitting on the
edge of the nest, also gasping hard.
"I do not exactly gather from your notes in the 'Rough Draft' what
form the spots usually take. In my nest taken on the 12th May all
four eggs had the zone quite as distinct as the eggs of a Fan-tailed
Flycatcher. The seven eggs taken from two nests at Khandalla, on the
other hand, had not the least appearance of a zone, but were spotted,
after the manner of Sparrows' eggs. In both the latter cases I saw the
old bird fly off the nest and alight on a tree a few yards off.
"I remember one little Shrike of this species which used to come down
every day to pick up crumbs of bread and pieces of potatoe put out for
the Sparrows. (Being a true naturalist I love Sparrows.)
"My brother on one occasion saw one of these Shrikes trying to catch a
garden lizard--not a gecko.
"Of course you know that the young of this handsome and brightly
coloured Shrike have a plain and curiously marked plumage, reminding
one a little of the _pateela_ Partridge. I never saw this Shrike in
The eggs of this, the smallest of all our Indian Shrikes, differ in no
particular, so far as shape, colour, and markings go, from those of
its larger congeners; that is to say, for every egg of this species
an exactly similar one might be picked out from a large series of _L.
lahtora_ or _L. erythronotus_; but at the same time there is no doubt
that pale-creamy and pale-brownish stone-coloured grounds predominate
more amongst the eggs of this species than in those of the two
above-named. The markings are also, as a rule, more minute and less
well-defined; indeed, in the large series I possess there is not one
which exhibits the bold sharp blotches common in the eggs of _L.
lahtora_, and not uncommon in those of _L. erythronotus_.
In length they vary from 0.75 to 0.95 inch, and in breadth from 0.62
to 0.71 inch; but the average of forty-five eggs is 0.83 by 0.66 inch
475. Lanius nigriceps (Franklin). _The Black-headed Shrike_.
Lanius nigriceps (_Frankl.), Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 404.
Collyrio nigriceps, _Frankl., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 259.
I have never myself taken the eggs or nests of the Black-headed
Mr. E. Thompson says:--"This Shrike breeds all along the south-western
termination of the Kumaon and Gurhwal forests, and is usually found
in swampy, high grassy lands. It lays in July, August, and September,
building a large cup-shaped nest, composed of roots and fine grasses,
in small trees or shrubs in low, open grass-covered country.
"I found this the Common Shrike in the hilly jungly tracts in Southern
Mirzapore, but I do not know whether it breeds there. The cry is quite
like that of _L. erythronotus_.
"The southern limit of _Lanius nigriceps_ is interesting and
remarkable. It disappears after you go south-west of the Mykle Range,
and on the Range itself it is found only near marshy places. This
Mykle Range extends as far east as Ummerkuntuk, with a spur going off
north of that, and joining on with the Kymore Range, parts of which I
explored in March last in Pergunnahs Agrore and Singrowlee. Down in
those places this _Lanius_ was the Common Shrike, but south and
west of Ummerkuntuk all the Shrikes disappear more or less, and _L.
According to Mr. Hodgson's notes and figures this species breeds in
the Valley of Nepal, laying in April and May, and building in thorny
bushes, hedges, and trees, often in the immediate neighbourhood of
villages. The following are two of Mr. Hodgson's notes:--
"Valley, May 18th.--Nest near the top of a fir of mean size, fixed
securely in the midst of several diverging branches, made compactly of
dry grasses, of which the inner ones, which constitute the lining, are
hard and elastic, and well fitted to preserve the shape, which is a
deep cup with an internal cavity 3.5 inches in diameter and nearly 3
deep. It contained six eggs, milk-and-water white, with pale olive
spots, chiefly at the large end, measuring 0.95 by 0.68 inch.
"Jahar Powah, May 16th.--Ascent of Sheopoori, skirts of large forests;
nest on lateral branches of a large tree made of downy tops of plants,
of moss and thick grasses strongly compacted, and lined with fine
elastic hair-like grass; the cavity is circular, 3 inches in diameter
by more than 2 inches in depth; the whole nest is a solid deep cup; it
contained four eggs, bluish white, with grey-brown remote spots."
Of another nest he gives the dimensions as:--external diameter 4.25
inches; external height 3.87; internal diameter 2.87; depth of cavity
2.75. He figures it as a very compact and deep cup resting on a
horizontal fir branch between four or five upright sprays. He states
that the young are ready to fly towards the end of June, and that it
breeds only once a year.
Dr. Scully, also writing of Nepal, says:--"This Shrike breeds on
the hillsides of the valley, usually in places where there is no
tree-forest, and not uncommonly in the neighbourhood of hamlets.
Several nests were obtained in May and June; these were large
cup-shaped structures, composed of grass-roots, fibres, and fine
seed-down intermixed. The egg-cavity was circular, lined with fine
grass-stems, about 4 inches in diameter, and 2 inches deep in the
middle. The usual number of eggs is five; the ground-colour pale
greenish white, boldly blotched and spotted with olive marks in an
irregular zone round the large end. A clutch of five eggs taken on the
14th June gave the following dimensions:--0.94 to 0.97 in length, and
0.65 to 0.7 in breadth."
Mr. Gammie found a nest of this species on the 17th May at Mongfoo,
near Darjeeling, at an elevation of 3500 feet. The nest was placed in
a wormwood bush, and was supported between several slender upright
shoots, to which the exterior of the nest was more or less attached.
The nest was a deep compact cup, externally composed of fine twigs,
scraps of roots, and stems of herbaceous plants, intermingled with a
great deal of flowering grass. Internally it was lined with very fine
grass and moss-roots. The cavity measured about 3 inches in diameter,
and was fully 2 inches deep. The external diameter was about 5 inches,
and height 31/2 or thereabout.
Subsequently he sent me the following full account of the nidification
of this Shrike:--
"I have found this Shrike breeding abundantly in the Cinchona reserves
in May and June, at elevations of from 3000 to 4500 feet above the
sea. It affects open, cultivated places, and builds, from 6 to 20 feet
from the ground, in shrubs, bamboos, or small trees. The nest is
often suspended between several upright shoots, to which it is firmly
attached by fibres twisted round the stems and the ends worked into
the body of the nest; sometimes against a bamboo-stem seated on, and
attached to, the bunch of twigs given out at a node; or in a fork of a
small tree, or end of an upright cut branch where several shoots have
sprung away from under the cut and keep the nest in position, when it
has a large pad of an everlasting plant or of the downy heads of a
large flowering grass to rest on--when the former material is handy it
is preferred. The nest is sometimes exposed to view, but generally is
tolerably well concealed. It is of a deep cup-shape, very compactly
built of flowering grass and stems of herbaceous plants intermixed
with fibry twigs, and lined with the small fibry-looking branchlets of
grass-panicles. Externally it measures 5 inches across by 31/2 inches
in depth; internally the cavity is 31/2 inches in diameter by nearly 2
inches deep. Usually the eggs are either four or five in number. On
one occasion only have I seen so many as six. The coloration is of two
distinct types, but one type only is found in the same nest. I suspect
that the age of the bird has something to do with the variation
of colour in the eggs. In a nest containing four eggs one had the
majority of the spots collected on the small, instead of the thick end
as usual, and, strange to say, it was addled white. The other three
were hard-set. The parents get very much excited when their young are
approached, and, as long as the intruder is in the vicinity, keep up
an incessant volley of their harsh grating cries, at the same time
stretching out their necks and jerking about their tails violently."
Mr. J.R. Cripps, writing from Furreedpore in Eastern Bengal,
says:--"Excessively common and a permanent resident. Prefers open
plains interspersed with bushes, also the small bushes on road-sides
are a favourite haunt of theirs. Breeds in the district. I took ten
nests this season from the 11th April to 4th June, with from one to
five eggs in each. Four nests were placed in bamboo clumps from 9 to
30 feet high; one 40 feet from the ground on a casuarina-tree, one 20
feet up in a but-tree, and the rest in babool-trees at from 6 to 15
feet high from the ground. There is no attempt at concealment. The
nest is a deep cup fixed in a fork, and is made of grasses with a deal
of the downy tops of the same for an outside lining; this peculiarity
at once distinguishes the nest of this species. The description given
by Mr. Hodgson of a nest found by him on the 16th May at Jahar Powah,
in 'Nests and Eggs,' p. 172, correctly describes the nests I have
found. This species imitates the call of several kinds of small birds,
as Sparrows, King-Crows, &c., and I have often been deceived by it."
The eggs of this species, of which, thanks to Mr. Gammie, I now
possess a noble series, vary very much in shape and size. Typically
they are very broad ovals, a little compressed towards one end, but
moderately elongated ovals are not uncommon. The shell is very fine
and smooth, and often has a more or less perceptible gloss; in no
case, however, very pronounced.
There are two distinct types of colouring. In the one, the
ground-colour is a delicate very pale green or greenish white, in
some few pale, still faintly greenish, stone-colour; and the markings
consist as a rule of specks and spots of brownish olive, mostly
gathered into a broad zone about the large end, intermingled with
specks and spots of pale inky purple. In some eggs the whole of
the markings are very pale and washed-out, but in the majority the
brownish-olive or olive-brown spots, as the case may be, are rather
bright, especially in the zone. In the other type (and out of 42 eggs,
12 belong to this type) the ground-colour varies from pinky white to a
warm salmon-pink, and the markings, distributed and arranged as in the
first type, are a rather dull red and pale purple. In fact the two
types differ as markedly as do those of _Dicrurus ater_; and though
I have as yet received none such, I doubt not that with a couple of
hundred eggs before one intermediate varieties, as in the case of _D.
ater_, would be found to exist--as it is, two more different looking
eggs than the two types of this species could hardly be conceived. I
may add that in eggs of both types it sometimes, though very rarely,
happens that the zone is round the small end.
In length they vary from 0.82 to 1.01, and in breadth from 0.68 to
0.79; but the average of forty-two eggs measured is 0.92 by 0.75.
476. Lanius erythronotus (Vigors). _The Rufous-backed Shrike_.
Lanius erythronotus (_Vig._); _Jerd. B. Ind._ i, p. 402.
Collyrio erythronotus, _Vigors, Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 257.
Collyrio caniceps[A] (_Blyth_), _Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._
no. 257 bis.
[Footnote A: Mr. Hume may probably still consider _L. caniceps_
separable from _L. erythronotus_. I therefore keep the notes on the
two races distinct as they appeared in the 'Rough Draft,' merely
adding a few later notes.--ED.]
The Rufous-backed Shrike lays from March to August; the first half of
this period being that in which the majority of these birds lay in
the Himalayas, which they ascend to elevations of 6000 feet: and the
latter half being that in which we find most eggs in the plains; but
in both hills and plains some eggs may be found throughout the whole
period above indicated.
The nests of this species are almost invariably placed on forks of
trees or of their branches at no great height from the ground; indeed,
of all the many nests that I have myself taken, I do not think that
one was above 15 feet from the ground. By preference they build, I
think, in thorny trees, the various species of acacia, so common
throughout the plains of India, being apparently their favourite
nesting-haunts, but I have found them breeding on toon (_Cedrela
toona_) and other trees. Internally the nest is always a deep cup,
from 3 to 31/4 inches in diameter, and from 13/4 to 2-1/8 deep. The cavity
is always circular and regular, and lined with fine grass. Externally
the nests vary greatly; they are always massive, but some are compact
and of moderate dimensions externally, say not exceeding 51/2 inches in
diameter, while others are loose and straggling, with a diameter of
fully 8 inches. Grass-stems, fine twigs, cotton-wool, old rags, dead
leaves, pieces of snake's skin, and all kinds of odds and ends are
incorporated in the structure, which is generally more or less
strongly bound together by fine tow-like vegetable fibre. Some nests
indeed are so closely put together that they might almost be rolled
about without injury, while others again are so loose that it is
scarcely possible to move them from the fork in which they are wedged
without pulling them to pieces.
I have innumerable notes about the nests of this Shrike, of which I
reproduce two or three.
"_Etawah, March 18th_.--The nest was on a babool tree, some 10 feet
from the ground, on one of the outside branches; an exterior framework
of very thorny babool twigs, and within a very warm deep circular nest
made almost entirely of sun (_Crotalaria juncea_) fibre, a sort of
fine tow, and flocks of cotton-wool, there being fully as much of this
latter as of the former; a few fine grass-stems are interwoven; there
are a few human and a few sleep's wool hairs at the bottom as a sort
of lining. The cavity of the nest is about 3 inches in diameter by 2
deep, and the side walls and bottom are from 11/2 to 2 inches thick."
"_Bareilly, May 27th_, 1867.--Found a nest containing two fresh eggs.
The nest was in a small mango tree, rather massive, nearly 2 inches in
thickness at the sides and 3 inches thick at the bottom. It was rather
stoutly and closely put together, though externally very ragged. The
interior neatly made of fine grass-stems, the exterior of coarser
grass-stems and roots, with a quantity of cotton-wool, rags, tow
string and thread intermingled. The cavity was oval, about 31/2 by 3
inches and 2 inches deep."
"_Agra, August 21st_.--Mr. Munro sent in from Bitchpoorie a beautiful
nest which he took from the fork of a mango tree about 40 feet from
the ground, a very compact and massive cup-shaped nest, not very
Mr. F.R. Blewitt records the following note:--"Breeds from March to
August, on low trees, and, as would appear, without preference for any
"The nest in shape much resembles that of _Lanius lahtora_; but
judging from the half-dozen or so I have seen, _L. erythronotus_
certainly displays more skill and ingenuity in preparing its nest,
which in structure is more neat and compact than that of _L. lahtora_.
In shape it is circular, ordinarily varying from 51/2 to 7 inches in
diameter, and from 2 to 21/2 inches in thickness. Hemp, old rags, and
thorny twigs are freely used in the formation of the outer portion of
the nest, but the Shrike shows a decided predilection for the former.
In one nest I observed the cast skin of a snake worked in with the
outer materials; in two others some kind of vegetable fibre was used
to bind and secure the thorn twigs, and one had the margin made of
fine neem-tree twigs and leaves. The egg-cavity is deeply cup-shaped,
from 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and _lined_ usually with fine grass.
Five appears to be the regular number of eggs; but on this score I
cannot be very certain, seeing that my experience is confined to some
half-dozen or so of nests.
"I have recently reared three young birds, and it is very amusing to
witness their many antics, shrewdness, and intelligence. They are very
tame, flying in and out of the bungalow at pleasure; when irritated,
which is rather a failing with them, they show every sign of
resentment. If one is inclined to be rebellious, not coming to call,
the show of a piece of meat at once secures its submission and
capture. Singular how partial they are to raw meat, and more singular
to see the expert way in which they catch up the meat with the claws
of either leg, and hold it from them while they devour it piecemeal.
I saw the other evening an old bird pounce on a field-mouse, kill it,
and then bring and cleverly fix the victim firmly between the two
forks of a branch and pull it in pieces. It consumed but a part of the
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following note on this bird's breeding
in the neighbourhood of Pind Dadan Khan and Kaias in the Salt
Range:--'"Lay in May; eggs five to six; shape blunt, ovato-pyriform;
size varies from 0.88 to 0.93 of an inch in length, and from 0.68
to 0.81 of an inch in breadth. Colour white or pale greenish white,
slightly ringed and spotted with yellowish grey and neutral tint. Nest
of roots, coarse grass, rags, cotton, &c., lined with fine grass, and
placed in forks of trees."
Captain Hutton, who recognizes the distinctions between this species
and _L. caniceps_, says:--"This is an abundant species in the Doon,
but is found also within the mountains up to about 5000 feet. In
the Doon I took a nest on the 28th June containing four eggs. It
is composed of grass and fine stalks of small plants roughly put
together, bits of rag, shreds of fine bark, and lined with very fine
grass-seed stalks; internal diameter 3 inches, external 6 inches;
depth 21/2 inches."
Sir E.C. Buck notes having taken a nest containing four hard-set eggs
on the 22nd of June, far in the interior of the Himalayas, at Niratu,
north-east of Notgurh. The nest was in a tuhar tree and was composed
externally of grass-seed ears, internally of finer grass; a very
different-looking nest from any I have elsewhere seen, but he
forwarded the bird and eggs, so that there could be no mistake.
From Murree, Colonel C.H.T. Marshall writes:--"Found numerous nests in
the valleys in May and June, between 4000 and 5000 feet up."
From four to six eggs are laid, and in regard to this Shrike I have
had no reason to think that it rears more than one brood in the year.
Major Wardlaw Ramsay say says, writing of Afghanistan:--"I found a
great many nests in May and June. The first (27th May) was situated in
the centre of a dense thorny creeper, and contained six eggs, white,
faintly washed with pale green, and spotted and blotched with purplish
stone-colour and pale brown. The nest was composed of green grass,
moss, cotton-wool, thistle-down, rags, cows' hair, mules' hair, shreds
of juniper-bark, &c., &c. Other nests were found in willows by the
river-bank and in apricot-trees. In a large orchard at Shalofyan,
in the Kurrum valley, I found three nests within a few yards of one
Major C.T. Bingham writes:--"I have only found one nest of this
Shrike, which is, however, common enough both at Allahabad and at
Delhi. This nest I found on the 3rd June in the Nicholson gardens at
Delhi. It was placed high up in the fork of a babool tree, and though
more straggling and loosely built was very like that of _L. lahtora_;
the two eggs it contained, except that they are a trifle smaller, are
very like those of _L. lahtora_"
Colonel Butler has furnished me with the following note:--The
Rufous-backed Shrike commences nidification at Mt. Aboo about the end
of May. I took a nest on the 11th June containing five fresh eggs. It
was placed in the fork of one of the outer branches of a mango-tree
about 15 feet, from the ground. The hen bird sat very close, allowing
the native I sent up the tree to put his hand almost on to her
back before she moved, and then she only flew to a bough close by,
remaining there chattering and scolding angrily the whole time the
nest was being robbed. The nest, which is coarse and somewhat large
for the size of the bird, is composed externally of dry grass-roots,
twigs, rags, raw cotton, string, and other miscellaneous articles
all woven together. The interior is neatly lined with dry grass and
horsehair. The eggs, five in number, are of a pale greenish-white
colour, spotted all over with olivaceous inky-brown spots and specks,
increasing in size and forming a zone at the large end. They vary much
in shape, some being pyriform, and others blunt and similar in shape
at both ends. I took another nest on the 19th June near the same
place containing five fresh eggs, similar in every respect to the one
already described, except that it was built on a thorn-tree about 10
feet from the ground. I took a nest at Deesa on the 8th July, 1875,
containing four fresh eggs; these eggs are smaller and rounder than
those from Aboo, and the blotches are larger and more distinct. The
same pair of birds built another nest a few days later, on 18th July,
within ten yards of the tree from which the other nest was taken,
laying five eggs.
"I found other nests at Deesa on the following dates:--
"July 2nd. A nest containing 4 incubated eggs.
" 7th. " " 2 fresh eggs.