303. Pseudominla castaneieeps brunneicauda

(303) Pseudominla castaneiceps brunneicauda (Sharpe).
THE SHILLONG CHESTNUT-HEADED TIT-BABBLER.
Pseudominla castaneiceps brunneicauda, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 289.
This little bird is confined to the Khasia and Cachar Hills, probably occurring also in Manipur, where it is very common from about 3,000 feet to the summit of the highest hills, some¬where about 6,200 feet in the Khasia Hills and a little lower in the Barail Range in Cachar. It probably is not found far along the Naga Hills ranges to the East but I met with it in the forests on the borders of North Cachar up to 7,000 feet.
So far as I know it is, in the breeding season at all events, purely a forest bird. In the lower, hills it keeps much to the very thick forest of giant trees with an undergrowth of all kinds of bushes, creepers and brambles but, at 5,000 feet in North Cachar, it breeds freely in the rather stunted Oak forest, where the undergrowth is not nearly so dense. Here the ground is much broken up with rocks and boulders and the hills are generally very rugged. Although the bush-jungle, except in patches, is not very thick, there is everywhere bracken, ferns of all kinds, as well as an endless variety of orchids covering every tree and mingling with the long green streamers of moss which hang from every branch.
In these places the Chestnut-headed Tit-Babbler makes its nest. It may be placed on a sloping moss- and bracken-covered bank actually on the ground or in a bush or clump of creepers a few inches or even a few feet above it. Its favourite site, however, is one well hidden in creepers climbing up one of the forest trees ; in these it may be placed at any height under ten feet but, most often, it will be found four or five feet up. Sometimes but, proportionately, not nearly so often as with the Sikkim bird, the nest may be built of, and in, the long green moss hanging from the trunk of an oak. More often it is snugly hidden under a clump of ferns or orchids, hardly to be discovered unless the bird flies from it as one passes by. One very beautiful nest found by me was placed in the very heart of a great clump of Dendrobium chrysotoxicum, the great yellow blossoms hanging over it in a golden cascade. In the broken rocky hills the nests placed on the ground are sometimes found hidden in among the masses of brambles and creepers which climb over the rocks and rest as much on the creepers as on, or against, the rocks.
Three out of every four nests are domed and the fourth may be semi-domed or a very deep cup. The materials vary even more than the shape but, in almost every nest, there is a great deal of moss, dry or green, and in most nests there is a strong inner part of bamboo-leaves, dry dead leaves of trees or broad blades of grass. In the average domed-shaped nest the outer part looks far more moss than anything else but, when pulled to pieces, will be seen to consist of bamboo-leaves, bracken-fronds or broad grasses placed criss-cross over one another, with moss constantly fixed over and between these materials. Then comes a layer without moss and, finally, a lining of roots or grasses. When the nests are made in trees covered with long, dry, but green, moss the nest is sometimes made entirely of this material though most such nests still have a number of leaves and grass placed in between the lining and outer shell.
The nests are carefully hidden and, as the entrance are some¬times placed on the inner side of the nest, next to the tree rock or bank on which they are built, they are very hard to find Such nests, indeed, I seldom found unless the bird flew out when I hit the tree with a stick on passing.
They breed in May and June but I have also taken eggs in late April and up to the third week in July.
The eggs almost invariably number four, occasionally three only, and never five. In colour they are, on an average, much more like the eggs of the Dusky-green Tit-Babbler than they are those of the preceding bird, their much nearer relation. Most clutches can be absolutely duplicated with others taken from the nests of the Green Tit-Babbler, a few are intermediate between the eggs of this bird and the Sikkim Chestnut-headed bird whilst I have only one clutch, out of some dozens, which has the same chalky-white ground and bold ring of inky spots round the larger end which one nearly always finds in the eggs of that bird Sixty eggs average 18.0 x 13.5 mm. : maxima 19.0 x 14.1 mm ; minima 17.0 x 13.4 and 17.2 x 12.8 mm.
The birds are very close sitters, often refusing to leave their nests until the tree on which they are built has been struck more than once. When they are placed above one’s head they seem particularly loth to leave but, when on the ground among low rocks or in low bushes, they leave a little more readily.
Both birds incubate and I have trapped both sexes on the nest repeatedly. I do not remember ever to have watched this species building, so cannot say what part the male takes in construction

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
303. Pseudominla castaneieeps brunneicauda
Spp Author: 
Sharpe.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
303
Year: 
1932
Page No: 
264
Common name: 
Shillong Chestnut Headed Tit Babbler
M_ID: 
24433
M_CN: 
Brown Fulvetta
M_SN: 
Alcippe brunneicauda
Volume: 
Vol. 1
id: 
13503

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