290. Alcippe poioicephala phayrei

(290) Alcippe poioicephala phayrei Blyth.
THE ARRAKAN QUAKER-BABBLER.
Alcippe poioicephala phayrei, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 278.
This race of Quaker-Babbler is found from Assam, through Manipur and the Chin Hills to Arrakan. Sufficient material from Arrakan is still wanting to enable the identity of the Assam bird with that of Arrakan to be confirmed or refuted.
It is extraordinarily common in the hills South of the Brahma¬pootra and Mears and Oates also record it as “common over the whole district” of the Upper Chindwin (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xviii. p. 80, 1906).
It is most common between 2,000 and 3,500 feet in both these areas but ascends to the highest hills and is also found down to the foot-hills. In Arrakan, where it was discovered, its status is not so well known.
It is less essentially a forest bird than either of the two preceding species and I often found it in bamboo-jungle or in secondary growth as well as in the deepest evergreen forest. It has a curious partiality for water and a great many of my nests have been taken from bamboos and bushes either overhanging or standing alongside streams. At other times it makes its nest just inside evergreen forest bordering on cultivation clearings. The nest is sometimes placed in a low bush, sometimes in a bamboo-clump or the small single bamboo—an unusual place for any bird’s nest—but more often in high bushes or small saplings five or six feet from the ground.
The nest is the usual cup, sometimes pendent like an Oriole’s, but generally in between upright twigs or a small fork. Outside the nest is generally built of bamboo-leaves and grass, fairly tidily bound and kept in position by a few weed-stems, long roots or grass-stems. Often a little moss, a little grass or a few leaves are incorporated in the sides and generally a good number of dead leaves are worked into the base. The lining is nearly always in two parts, first coarse roots and a few tendrils and then rather finer roots which are often bright red. In size the cups vary a good deal. Most are between 4 and 5 inches in diameter outside by about 3 to 4 in depth, the inner cavity being about 2.1/2 by 2 inches or rather less. Some nests are bigger and some smaller on the outside but the receptacle for the eggs does not vary much.
The breeding season in Assam is April, May and June but at the lowest levels a few birds breed in the end of March and a few after the middle of May. In the Chindwin all Hopwood’s and Mackenzie’s eggs were taken in April. I have seen odd nests with eggs as late as September. Three or four eggs form the normal full clutch, while in the many hundreds of nests I have seen there have been, perhaps, half a dozen containing five.
The usual type of egg is that of the species, a salmon-coloured egg with deep clouds and blotches, but in every five or six nests one comes across an example of one of the other types described in detail as occurring among the eggs of the White-eyed Quaker- Babbler, and I have all of these represented in my series, taken in North Cachar and the Khasia Hills. Two unusual clutches are : (1) white with only a tiny cap of minute freckles of lilac at the extreme larger end ; (2) creamy white with a wreath of purple hair-lines and blotches at the larger end.
One hundred and fifty eggs average 19.6 x 15.0 mm. : maxima 21.7 x 15.6 and 21.4 x 16.0 mm. ; minima 17.3 x 14.0 and 19.0 x 13.3 mm. In these measurements are included neither abnormally large nor pigmy eggs, of which I have seen several.
This is a shy, quiet little bird and, although it often makes so conspicuous a nest, it is not a close sitter, slipping quietly off into the jungle before one approaches very close to the nest,
Both sexes take part in incubation

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: 
290. Alcippe poioicephala phayrei
Spp Author: 
Blyth.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
290
Year: 
1932
Page No: 
247
Common name: 
Arrakan Quaker Babbler
M_ID: 
24440
M_SN: 
Alcippe poioicephala phayrei
Volume: 
Vol. 1
id: 
13487

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