(1195) Anthus richardi rufulus Vieill.
THE INDIAN PIPIT.
Anthus richardi rufulus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 290.
This Pipit is found over the whole of India and Ceylon and all Burma as far South as, but not including, Tenasserim. Ceylon birds are small and rather dark, and with more material might possibly be divided from the Indian bird. Ticehurst thinks this form is nearer the Malayan than the Indian bird, Ticehurst also says it is fairly common in Southern Sind and that he has had specimens sent, him from the North. It ascends the Western Himalayas to 6,000 feet, but in the Assam Hills seldom occurs much over 4,000 feet, though I have known odd pairs breed up to 5,000 feet.
The Indian Pipit breeds always in the open, but otherwise the situation varies greatly. Apparently my own experiences cover all that is to be said on this point, so that it is needless to quote others. I have personally taken nests in the following types of places :—
1. In wide stretches of sun-grass land, where the grass was any¬thing from 2 to 5 feet high, but in such places the birds always selected the lowest patches of grass, and preferred building their nests at the edges of these or beside tracks, both human and animal, running through them.
2. Open country covered with short grass, scrub and, sometimes, with quite bare patches of ground, either muddy or stony.
3. On the dividing banks of rice cultivation which are well covered with grass and weeds.
4. On the grass verges of roads, main, medium or small.
5. In cultivated tracts bearing low dry crops.
Nine nests out of ten will be found placed in among the roots of grass-tufts, large enough and tall enough to give them complete concealment. Generally a hollow, sometimes quite a deep one, is scratched out by the birds to receive the nest but, at other times, they are satisfied with placing their nests as low down in among the roots as possible without any prior scratching out. Other nests are placed in tangles of weeds and briars, at the foot of bushes or, less often, hidden or half hidden under logs, clods of earth or even under stones and rocks, though this is very exceptional, They do not seek seclusion, and I have frequently seen the nest built within a few feet of where passers by are continuous. One nest I saw was built by a main road and within 2 feet of stables holding ponies for a tonga service. The female was, in fact, dis¬turbed from her nest by ill-mannered tonga ponies pushing the tonga almost on to it. Other nests I have seen beside footpaths constantly used by the villagers, who passed within inches of them.
The normal nest is a cup, generally fairly deep, made of grass, grass-roots and fibre, the inside neatly lined with fine stems of grass, but never very thick. Barely in the lining there may be placed a few horse or cattle-hairs, though never in any great quantity. Some¬times, as in nests found in Ceylon by Phillips, most of the material consists of fine scraps of paddy-straw gleaned from the adjoining fields. In many nests fine grass-roots alone are used, these nests being generally very compact and well made. In others grass-blades predominate, and these are often rather loosely put together. Most nests measure somewhere between 3.3/4 and 4.1/4 inches across the upper diameter and are about 2 inches in external depth. The egg-cavity is about 2.1/2 inches in diameter and varies from less than 1/2 inch to over 1.1/2. Some nests are protected by a canopy, which is raised up on either side of the nest or, more rarely, brought right overhead, the grasses bent into proper position but not inter¬laced. Occasionally this canopy seems to be the result more or less of accident, the grass being pushed into place as the birds construct their nests but, sometimes at all events, the canopy is obviously built by the birds. Building, as the birds do, often in very exposed positions, it is noticeable that the majority of nests are so placed that they get all the protection possible from wind and driving rain and also from the hottest sun. This is not so obvious where the nests are built in fairly thick cover, but is more so when the nests are built in scanty grass or under clods of earth in cultivated fields.
Some nests are approached by a tunnel in the grass, a charac¬teristic of this bird referred to by Colonel Butler and one I have often seen myself. Sometimes in beaten-down grass the tunnel may be over a foot in length, while I have seen one nearly 2 feet long which led to a nest so completely enclosed that there were no other means by which the bird could have entered or left it.
The breeding season everywhere seems to be April, May and June, but a good many birds breed in the end of March and few others up to the end of July. Inglis has taken nests with eggs in September, but these are exceptional and were probably second broods, though, normally, I do not think the birds are double¬brooded.
The eggs number three or four, very rarely five or two only. Up to 1906 I had a record of 300 nests containing eggs or chicks, and of these nearly 200 contained three eggs or young, four con¬tained five eggs, two contained only two young and one two eggs, and the rest held four.
The eggs vary greatly. The most common type has a pale grey or buff ground or, much more rarely, a pale greenish ground. The markings consist of fine primary speckles of blackish-brown with secondary ones of grey. In eggs with a buff ground the spots are generally browner and more blurred. In some eggs the markings are numerous everywhere, and in some more so at the larger end, where they may form indefinite caps.
I have seen only one clutch in which, the markings are sufficiently blurred and numerous to give the impression of almost unicoloured eggs, and this one is so pale and grey that it is more like the eggs of the Grey Wagtails. Occasional clutches are very deeply and handsomely marked, and I have one which has a white ground with numerous big and small blotches of red-brown.
The typical shape is a broad oval, blunt at the smaller end, while some eggs tend to be moderate ovals and others to be exceptionally broad.
On. hundred and. twenty-five eggs average 20.2 x 15.4 mm, : maxima 21.8 x 15.1 and 19.9 x 16.4 mm. ; minima 18.0 x 15.0 and 19.0 x 14.3 mm.
1195. Anthus richardi rufulus
(1195) Anthus richardi rufulus Vieill.