(322) Actinodura egertoni khasiana Godw.-Aust.
THE SHILLONG BAR-WING.
Actinodura egertoni khasiana, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 304.
The Shillong Bar-wing is found only in the hills of Assam South of the Brahmapootra and in Manipur. It occurs in the Western Naga Hills but does not extend far along the Naga Ranges East and North, nor does it seem to be found in the Patkoi-Naga Ranges nor among the Trans-Dikku Hills.
Unlike the preceding bird, the present race, for breeding purposes, keeps almost entirely to humid evergreen forest between 3,000 and 6,000 or 7,000 feet. It is true that in Winter it may sometimes be found feeding on the ground in thin deciduous forest or even in scrub-jungle and deserted cultivation, but I have never found its nest outside forest. In the Khasia Hills it certainly breeds sometimes in Pine forests but, when it does so, it places its nest in a sapling or high bush in some ravine where other trees besides Pine are growing and where there is ample undergrowth. It never nests, so far as I am aware, in the Pine forests among the Pine- trees, where these trees kill all undergrowth except Daphne-bushes and bracken. In North Cachar most of my nests were taken from small saplings in very dense forest with fairly thick under-growth, and the birds seemed to prefer steep hill-sides, ravines- or broken rocky ground to any other. In the Khasia Hills they seldom bred except between 5,500 and 6,000 feet in the very thick evergreen forests above Shillong ; here they had all their favourite conditions, dense Oak and Rhododendron forest growing on steep boulder and rock-strewn hill-sides, with a wealth of ever wet and green undergrowth of all kinds. Every tree and rock was covered with orchids or with long streamers of the bright green moss they used for their nests, whilst bracken, grass and roots were all just at hand to furnish the rest of the materials necessary. A few birds bred at Cherrapoongi, at about 4,000 feet, in equally humid evergreen forest and on almost equally precipitous and broken hill-sides.
In spite, however, of its predilection for dense cover, the birds make little or no attempt to conceal their nests. Occasionally one finds a nest in a dense mass of creepers growing up a tree- trunk ; rarely it is placed in a thick bush, whilst more often it is built in among the foliage of a Rhododendron thick enough to conceal it really effectually. Still, the majority of nests will be found, quite conspicuous, built in a branch of some small, rather bare sapling between 10 and 20 feet from the ground. In these all the concealment effected is that given by its moss-covered outer walls blending with the moss amongst which it is so often found.
The nests are rather large for the size of the bird, generally measuring about five inches across from edge to edge and very nearly as much in depth. Other nests may be nearly an inch less in both measurements but more exceed them. They are very well and strongly built, all the materials being strongly interlaced and the edges and outside neatly finished off. They seem invariably to be constructed in three distinct parts or layers. The main walls and base are built of leaves, very often chiefly bamboo-leaves, mixed with roots, grass-blades, a little dry moss and fibre from the inner bark of a tree. All these materials are tightly fastened to¬gether and more or less interlaced, but they are further strengthened and bound by long tendrils, weed-stems or long coarse roots. Out¬side the nest, but well fixed into the other materials, is an outer layer of green moss generally covering the whole of the bottom or sides but, sometimes, only partially doing so. The true lining is of coarse and fine roots, sometimes mixed with grass-stems, fern-rachides or rhizomorph and, in a few instances, made solely of this latter material.
They breed during May and June, a few birds commencing to Jay in the last few days of April and a fair number still laying in early July.
Three is the normal full clutch of eggs but many birds lay two only, whilst others lay four.
The eggs, of course, are as a series indistinguishable from those of the preceding bird but, being so much more common in its own peculiar localities, and so many more eggs available for examination in consequence, there are a few clutches which call for further description.
One clutch of three has the ground-colour a very dull pale green, whilst the markings consists of smears and fine streaks of pale washed-out reddish with a few still paler ones of grey. Another set has the usual deeper blue ground but, in two eggs, there is a pale purple patch covering half the egg, over which there are one or two large blotches of purple-brown ; one egg has a long line composed of fine intertwisted lines, running unevenly nearly round the egg. Yet a third clutch is exceptionally bright blue with numerous small spots of deep brownish-black besides a few very fine lines of reddish.
In shape and texture the eggs of the Shillong bird are like those of the Nepal race, but I have one or two clutches which show quite a respectable gloss.
The shell is much harder and stouter than it is in the eggs of the Leioptila group.
One hundred eggs average 23.4 x 17.7 mm. : maxima 25.0 x 18.4 mm. ; minima 21.7 x 17.4 and 22.0 x 17.0 mm.
322. Actinodura egertoni khasiana
(322) Actinodura egertoni khasiana Godw.-Aust.