(1194) Anthus richardi thermophilus * Jerdon.
THE DAURIAN, or BLYTH’S, PIPIT.
Anthus richardi godlewskii, Fauna B, I., Birds, 2nd ed, vol. iii, p, 289. Anthus richardi thermophilus, ibid, vol. viii, p. 661.
Stegmann, who says that this bird is a race of campestris, not of richardi, found it breeding in Transbaikalia, and it possibly breeds, thence to Mongolia. It has been reported as breeding in the Shan States, and I have taken numerous nests and eggs in the Khasia Hills in Assam.
I found this Pipit breeding in considerable numbers on three of the highest ridges in the Khasia Hills, and nowhere else. The birds bred only between 5,600 and 6,200 feet, except on one occasion, when I took a nest, trapping both birds, at about 5,000 feet. For nesting purposes the Pipits almost invariably selected sites on the South side of the ridges, i. e., that most protected from wind and also having the most sun. The nests were built as a rule between fifty and a couple of feet from the top of the ridges, which were nowhere very steep and were covered with a dense, short, coarse grass varying from 4 to 10 inches high. The open spaces were anything from two or three hundred yards across and about the same in length, to one long stretch of nearly 3 miles which averaged from half a mile to a mile across. The birds indifferently chose big or small areas in which to breed. Most nests were well away from the Pine-forests which surrounded all the open spaces, but rarely one might be found in among the bracken growing just outside the edge of the forest.
* This bird is now often accepted as being a race of Anthus campestris. Stegmann (‘Birds of South-East Transbaikalia’) says that both Anthus r. richardi and Anthus campestris godlewskii breed in the same area, and cannot, therefore, be the same species. I do not consider the matter yet solved. The Assam breeding birds are so very closely like typical richardi and not campestris that, at any rate for the present, I retain, them as a race of richardi.
Nests were generally situated in among the roots of coarse grass where some of the tufts grew longer than usual. I do not know if the depressions were natural or not, but they gave one the impression that they had been, in part at any rate, made or improved by the birds. Sometimes a nest might be found under, or half under, some projecting ledge, root or stone, and a rather favourite site was just underneath the extreme top of the ridge, where it curled over, so to speak, forming a roof to the place in which the nest had been built.
I have often seen nests in hollows, or half hidden in holes in banks, but I have never seen one in a hole in a rock.
Most nests are very carefully concealed, but the birds sit close and the males often give away the position of the nest by their courtship display near the hen when she is sitting. The little cock, starting from some point of vantage such as a high boulder, top of a bank or some similar height, launches himself into the air, rising quickly and almost perpendicularly for about 50 feet, after which he spreads his wings stiff and wide, merely quivering the tips, and glides to the ground in a circular or zig-zag motion, his feathers, especially those of the rump, all puffed up and his tail widespread. This performance he will often carry out repeatedly, singing both white in the air and after he reaches the ground.
The breeding season is well defined, and all my eggs have been taken in May and June except a few, possibly second nests, in July.
I never found Anthus r. rufulus breeding on these high ridges, though the bird was exceedingly common on the lower hills and up to 5,000 feet.
A Pipit, which may be the present bird, is said to breed at 8,000 feet in the Naga Hills, where they have been deforested for cultivation and the abandoned cultivation has become wide stretches of grass-land.
The number of eggs laid is three or four, usually four, and I once took a clutch of five.
Normally the eggs are a pale grey or sienna-grey, with rather ill-defined blotching of grey-brown, sienna-brown or dark brown.
These markings are, as a rule, fairly well and thickly distributed over the whole surface, though the ground is never obliterated. In some eggs the blotches are reduced to freckles, but only extremely rarely do they become at all large or conspicuous. The clutch of five referred to above is very curious, and had I not found it myself and in a country where no Wagtail exists I should have taken them to be eggs of the latter bird. In colour they are a very pale French-grey marked faintly with darker grey. Another clutch of four has the ground practically pure white speckled with blackish- brown and neutral tint and with a few large blotches of the former colour. Yet another has the ground practically white with dense blotches of deep red-brown at the larger end, forming a ring in one egg and caps in the two others.
Seventy eggs average 21.0 x 16.1 mm. : maxima 22.4 x 16.1 and 21.2 x 17.5 mm. ; minima 18.0 x15.1 mm.
1194. Anthus riehardi thermophilus
(1194) Anthus richardi thermophilus * Jerdon.