(896) Abroscopus superciliaris superciliaris Tickell.
THE BURMESE YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER-WARBLER.
Abrornis superciliaris superciliaris, Fauna, B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 494.
Abroscopus superciliaris superciliaris, ibid. vol. viii, p. 643.
This tiny butterfly of a bird is found from the hills of Assam, South of the Brahmapootra, through the whole of Burma, in suitable places, as far South as about 14°. Here the birds are intermediate but, in the extreme South, approach schwaneri, the Bornean form, and must, in my opinion, come under that name.
Unlike the species belonging to the genus Seicercus, this little bird frequents bamboo-jungle, it does not matter much of what kind, mixed bamboo, and scrub-jungle, as well as secondary jungle on deserted cultivation, especially such as contains here and there clumps of the small or giant bamboo. Probably its favourite resort is in long strips of bamboo-jungle growing on the banks of streams and between the streams and evergreen forest. Bingham took its nest on Zammee (Zami) River practically in the plains but, in North Cachar, I found it breeding between 3,000 and 6,000 feet. In Lakkimpur Coltart and I both found a nest in the plains, here something under 1,000 feet above sea-level.
In the Khasia Hills we found it up to nearly 6,000 feet, so long as water and bamboos were both present.
The greater number of its nests are made in the hollows of bamboos. Sometimes the entrance is through a hole which has rotted away and sometimes I have known it make use of the tiny entrance-hole to an old nest of the little Orange Woodpecker, Sasia. Very often, however, it makes use of a bamboo which has been cut down from the clump but still stands upright against it, and these it enters by the hole made by a chance cut of the woodman’s “dao” (axe).
The first nest ever taken of this species was by Bingham in Tenasserim, who says :—“Khasat village—Khasat choung, Zammee river, 9th March, 1878.—My camp to-day was pitched in the midst of a dense bamboo-break, close to a path leading to a village.
“About 10 feet from my tent on this path, passers-by had cut one of the bamboos in a clump and had left it leaning up against the clump ; between two knots of this a rough hack had broken an irregular hole into a joint.
“My attention was attracted by what I took to be a leaf flutter down close to the above-mentioned bamboo, and to my surprise disappear before it reached the ground. Wondering at this, I got up and approached the place, when from the hole in the bamboo out darted a little bird ; and looking in I saw a neat little nest of fibres, placed on the lower knot, with three eggs.”
* In the ‘Fauna’ I quoted this account as referring to the nest of schwaneri, but the Zammee River, I now find, is a tributary of the Ataran River, South of Moulmein but North of the range of schwaneri. It is, therefore, applicable to the present bird.
Most of my nests in North Cachar were found in similar situations to the above. Little bridges across ravines and small streams were made by the hill-tribes by throwing two or three tree-trunks across, and then making a footway of interwoven split bamboos. These bamboos were cut from clumps close by, and many were left lying about against the original clumps from which they had been cut. In some cases mishits had made a hole in the node below the place aimed at, and these made convenient entrances for the birds. Sometimes the nest might be in a standing bamboo in which a mishit had made a suitable hole and, at other times, rain and weather had rotted a weak spot and so rendered a bamboo suitable for nesting purposes. The nest itself varied much. Often a basis was made with a few small bamboo-leaves curled round the bottom of the hollow ; on this was placed a pad of fibre, fine roots, or moss. In most of the few nests I have seen the top pad of moss was well matted together and formed a neat little saucer for the reception of the eggs.
I have twice seen Cuckoo’s (Cuculus canorus bakeri) eggs in these nests, both in very small bamboos in which the young Cuckoo could never have lived more than a few days and from which it could never have escaped by the tiny entrance available.
They are early breeders, many birds laying in April, some in May and a few in June.
The eggs number three to five and I have taken three hard set more than once, and have seen three young in a nest.
They are of two types. The first has a white ground, more or less tinted with pink and covered with small blotches, freely distributed everywhere, of reddish-brown or red, with numerous underlying blotches of grey which give a purplish tinge to the eggs. Most eggs have indications of a ring at the larger end where the markings coalesce and, in others, form small caps. Occasionally the spots are more scanty.
The second type has the ground pale pink to a salmon-pink, covered so densely with the finest freckles of pink or red that the eggs look unicoloured pink, terra-cotta, or rich red. In these eggs, also, the eggs are often zoned or capped.
The first type are glossless, or nearly so, the second generally well glossed.
In shape the eggs are moderate, rather pointed ovals, the texture fine and close.
Thirty-six eggs average 15.2 x 11.6 mm. : maxima 16.3 x 11.5 and 16.0 x 12.2 mm. ; minima 14.1 x 11.0 and 15.4 x 10.5 mm.
Both birds incubate and both birds bring the material to the nest-hole, but whether both, or only the female, place the materials into position I cannot say.
They are bold, fearless little birds and flutter about like butter¬flies as one watches them, or will fly in and out of their nest when the watcher is within full view so long as he is still and silent.
I believe incubation only takes nine days but cannot be certain. Eggs laid, three, by the 19th April were all hatched, plus a fourth, on the 1st May, when the young looked about 24 hours old.
896. Abroscopus superciliaris superciliaris
(896) Abroscopus superciliaris superciliaris Tickell.