(301) Pseudominla cinerea (Blyth).
THE DUSKY-GREEN TIT-BABBLER.
Pseudominla cinerea, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 287.
So far as I know there is nothing recorded as regards the breeding haunts of this Tit-Babbler but it is known to be resident and must breed over the outer Himalayan ranges from Nepal to Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra. In Sikkim Stevens says that it is very locally distributed in the valleys of the outer ranges up to about 4,000 feet, whilst in the Dafla, Abor and Miri Hills he did not meet with it in the lower outside hills below 3,000 and observed it up to 5,000 feet.
In South Assam it was common from about 3,500 feet to the tops of the highest hills provided there was fairly open forest with undergrowth. In the Naga Hills it certainly sometimes breeds up to 7,000 feet.
Most nests are placed on the ground only, yet well concealed by their resemblance to their surroundings. Some are placed in bamboo-clumps growing in forest- and bamboo-jungle, whilst others again we found on the ground between boulders and well hidden in ferns and bracken or by overhanging plants and orchids. This was especially the case in the wet humid valley of Laisung at 3,000 to 4,000 feet and the equally humid Rhododendron forest on the Shillong Peak at 6,000 feet. They were common in both these places but I have never seen a nest in Pine forest.
The nests are of rather varying type, but I can add little to my description given in ‘The Ibis’ (1895, p. 62) :—
“Three nests take in July were all shaped differently and show well the forms to be met with and the materials used in their construction. One was a very deep cup about 4 inches deep by 2.5 in diameter externally, the cavity measuring about 2.5 by 1.5 across at the widest part, and about 1.2 at the top, where the materials were drawn closer together by the weeds and roots used to bind them. The whole of the nest was of bamboo-leaves and fern-fronds, all dry and dark coloured, bound together with fern- roots and weed-stems and lined with very fine shreds of grass and a few fine fern-roots.
“The next nest was like the common form, already described, of Schoeniparus, but the side which was prolonged was more bulky, and even more brought forward and downward, so that the nest was almost more than semi-domed. The materials employed were much the same as in the last, but no fern-roots were used in the lining. The nest measured about 5" in height by about 1.8", the entrance being 1.2".
“The third nest was completely domed, but otherwise differed in construction from the other two merely in having no grass in the lining, this being of fern- and moss-roots only. It measured 5.2" high by 2.8" broad, the inner diameter being about 1.7".
“Many nests have the dark damp appearance of the nests of Schoeniparus, but others are quite light-coloured, the bamboo- leaves being of the usual yellow colour and not in a damp rotten stage of decomposition. They are generally placed in bamboo- clumps either low down or some two or three feet from the ground in the thick bunches of twigs which grow out of the first few nodes. I, however, took two nests in evergreen forest which were both placed in among the roots of a thick cluster of plants, though not resting actually on the ground.”
The breeding season is May and June, it being quite exceptional to find nests earlier or later, so they cannot have two broods in the year.
The full clutch of eggs is four and they are remarkably consistent little birds in this also. I have never seen a five, while three only is not common.
The eggs vary a good deal. The most common type has the ground-colour a pale buff to rather warm buff, the whole surface being stippled with reddish-brown, these stipplings coalescing to form a dense well-defined ring round the larger end. In some eggs the buff ground is replaced by very pale cream-white or greyish-white ; the stipplings have no red tint but are distributed in the same way. I have one clutch which may be considered an extreme type, pure white with fine rings of dark brown freckles which are sparse elsewhere. Intermediate between these every shade of ground-colour and stipplings occurs but the rings are constant in this type. Rarely the stipplings are replaced with larger markings, almost blotches, and still more rarely they are more like ill-defined mottlings, making the eggs look like miniatures of those of Schoeniparus.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, often compressed towards the smaller end but very seldom at all pointed. The texture is fine and close but more fragile in proportion to their size than those of Schoeniparus. As a rule there is no gloss yet, in one or two clutches in my collection, it is well developed.
Sixty eggs average 18.3 x 14.3 mm. : maxima 19.0 x 14.3 mm. minima 17.4 x 14.1 and 17.9 x 13.0 mm.
301. Pseudominla cinerea Blyth
(301) Pseudominla cinerea (Blyth).