(1081) Carduelis caniceps caniceps Vigors.
THE SIMLA HIMALAYAN GOLDFINCH.
Carduelis caniceps caniceps, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 160.
This form of the Himalayan Goldfinch extends from Gilgit, through Kashmir, to Kuman, the Garhwal Hills and Simla States.
Occasionally this Goldfinch breeds as low down as 5,000 feet, at which level Rattray took its nest near Murree, though most birds were breeding in the Galis at 7,000 feet upwards. Round Srinagar, also, many collectors have taken nests between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, but for the most part it breeds upwards of 7,000 feet and up to nearly 14,000 feet. In Ladak Osmaston records it breeding between 9,000 and 11,000 feet.
They nest principally in Pine-woods and other forests, but some¬times in quite small spinneys and occasionally in single trees in orchards and open country, such nests having been taken by Ward, Buchanan and Rattray. Very often they breed in company. Rattray, writing to me of birds breeding in Kashmir, remarks :— “As for C. caniceps all the birds seem to collect and breed in company, sometimes two or three pairs making their nests in the same tree. I suppose 200 pairs were breeding in the Takth-i-Saliman ; this patch of trees was about three acres only in extent, while all round was bare hill-side. The place was well known to the Kashmir trappers,” Again of another place he writes : “at Srinagur all nests were in a small Pine-wood of about 5 acres, on N. side of bare hill-side of Takth-i-Saliman, while at Sonamerg also they were collected together.”
In 1903 Buchanan took many nests from these same two small Pine-woods.
The favourite site for building is undoubtedly a Pine-tree at any height from five to twenty-five feet from the ground. Rattray remarks of some nests taken by him “Sometimes the nest is placed in a tuft of pine-needles right at the end of a branch of the Pine (Pinus excelsum), but more often in a mass of twigs four or five feet from the end. When in the thick foliage they are naturally hard to see, but when placed on a thin branch free from needles, as is often the case, they are quite easy to make out.”
They do not, however, always nest in Pines, and Osmaston in Ladak found nests at 9,500 feet “in a small sapling, 7 feet from the ground,” another “in a high bush about five feet from the ground,” and others, again, “in willows 8 feet up.”
The nests are exactly like those of our English Goldfinch, beautifully made compact little cups about 3.1/2 inches across the top by about 2 deep, the egg-cavity being little more than 2 by 1.1/4 inches. The materials used vary considerably but, for the most part, moss, lichen, soft vegetable fibre and the finest of grasses and supple twigs form the body of the nest, while they are lined with a felted pad and sides of the softest vegetable down.
Osmaston describes two nests taken by him as “neatly and beautifully constructed of dry whitish fibre mixed with a little pale green vegetable matter and lined with fine white cottony down (willow down) with a little hair.”
Davidson describes others taken by him in the same wood at Takth-i-Saliman above referred to as “lovely, very solid cups of moss, with a few roots interwoven.”
In a few nests there is a good lining of hair above the pad of cotton-down, and in others the lining is of hair and cotton-down mixed together. In a few nests a little wool may be used both outwardly and inwardly, and I have seen two nests with a few tiny feathers worked into the outer walls.
The breeding season lasts from the second week in May and all through June into early July, while Osmaston took two clutches of eggs at Paskium in Ladak on the 3rd August.
The birds lay from three to five eggs, three very seldom, five quite often.
The eggs are exactly like those of an English Goldfinch, very delicate, transparent little eggs with a white ground faintly tinged with blue or blue-green or, very rarely, with pink, though this latter tint always seems to fade away very quickly. The markings consist of scanty specks or spots of light reddish to deep red-brown, confined almost entirely to the larger end. I have one clutch marked with exceptionally dark spots with which there are mixed numerous twisted lines, these also occasionally showing in smaller numbers on other eggs. Some eggs are spotless, though I have never seen a complete clutch unmarked.
Sixty eggs average 18.5 x 13.2 mm. : maxima 19.4 x 12.8 and 19.0 x 13.9 mm. ; minima 16.8 x 13.2 and 17.9 x 12.2 mm.
1081. Carduelis caniceps caniceps
(1081) Carduelis caniceps caniceps Vigors.