(445) Certhia himalayana himalayana Vigors.
THE SIMLA HIMALAYAN TREE-CREEPER.
Certhia himalayana himalayana, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 430.
Accepting Meinertzhagen’s division of this species into three- Western races, the distribution of the present form must be restricted to “Himalayas about Simla, Garhwal, Kuman, and East to Sikkim.” It certainly extends into Western Nepal (it is common in Chakrata) and there is a specimen from Sikkim in the British Museum from Darjiling, but no recent ornithologist has come across it again, and there may be some mistake as to the locality where this skin was obtained. The Bhutan record is also open to doubt. The Murree bird Meinertzhagen considers to be his limes.
Curiously enough, there is no record of the breeding of the typical bird in Hume’s 'Nests and Eggs,’ and only one of the form now to be known as limes.
An excellent account of this Tree-Creeper by P. Dodsworth came out in the Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xx, pp. 463-71, 1910, from which I extract the following :—
“They are common birds, by no means shy, and visit the com¬pounds and gardens here [Simla] freely.
“In the neighbourhood of Simla and adjacent ranges courting and building operations commence about the middle or third week in March.
“They lay from about the last week in March to the first week in May, but most eggs are to be taken during the early part of April. The earliest date on which I have found eggs is the 27th March, and the latest the 3rd May. Most of the nests examined towards the latter end of April had young.
“They have only one brood annually.
“Four is the normal number of eggs, but on three occasions I have taken five and, in one instance, I found a nest containing only three young ones, half fledged.
“The nests were invariably situated on trees and were placed, sometimes in holes belonging to other birds, but usually in chinks and crevices formed by thick branches shooting upwards from the main trunks. I have never found their nests on oaks, but have no doubt whatever that they build on these. Their favourite trees here are the Himalayan Cedars (Cedrus deodara) and Rhodo¬dendrons (Rhododendron arboreum). The same sites appear fre¬quently to be used year after year, but whether by the same birds or not it is impossible to say. When the eggs are once removed the nest is deserted for that year. In one instance only I succeeded in taking an egg from a nest that I had robbed, a few days previously, of four eggs.
“The heights of the nests varied from 2.1/2 to 20 feet, but the majority were less than 4.1/2 feet from the ground. One nest was placed in a crevice formed by the thick upper roots of a Cedrus deodara which had got exposed and was actually below the level of the ground.
“The eggs were not laid on the bare wood but the crevices or holes were lined with thick masses of small feathers, in which a few pieces of dry grass and straw were occasionally intermingled. In some cases the nests were mere pads of feathers on which the eggs reposed ; in others the pads were more substantial and the egg-cavities somewhat deeper.
“The nests take roughly a week to a fortnight to complete, and both the birds help, not only in carrying the material, but also in the building operations. As the sexes are alike it is difficult to make accurate observations but, so far as my experience goes, the hen bird alone appears to perform the labours of incubation. She generally begins to brood after the first or second egg is laid and the cock bird feeds her on the nest. The eggs appear to take 13 to 14 days to hatch. Both the old birds help in feeding the young, which leave their home in about three weeks.
“Four fresh eggs weighed, 2 at 18 grs. each, 2 at 20 grs. each ; three semi-incubated eggs weighed, 2 at 18 grs. each, 1 at 19.1/2 grs.”
There is little one can add to this exhaustive description but, probably, taking everyone’s experience into consideration, it will be found that more nests are built in crevices in bark rather than in the little opening between big boughs and branches.
Osmaston, who, during April and May, took several nests of this Tree-Creeper in the Tons Valley, Garhwal Hills, at 8,000 and 9,000 feet, gives a rather different description of the nest itself, which I quote :—“ The nests of this Creeper were all very similar in structure. They consisted first of an irregular mass of spruce- twigs, above which was a more or less distinct layer of dry rotten wood (touch-wood) the cavity being lined with fur and feathers. The whole of the nest, except the lining, was studded with the silky egg-cocoons of some spider, some of which were red and others green. These served to bind the nest together and to attach it to the bark and wood of the tree. The first two nests were placed between the semi-detached bark and the wood of large Spruce-firs, at heights of about 4 and 7 feet respectively from the ground, and the third was in a narrow rift in the wood of a Karshu-oak, about 4 feet from the ground.”
The eggs vary in colour from pure white to a pale pink profusely speckled with light reddish-brown. In size these specks range from very minute, almost pin-point, to tiny blotches and in nearly all eggs they are more numerous at the larger ends, where they often form rings or indefinite caps. The depth of colour of the markings does not vary much ; the lightest are a pinky red-brown, the darkest a fairly dark red-brown and, in these, the darkest eggs, there are often distinct secondary markings of inky grey showing here and there, especially in the ring or cap.
Abnormal clutches are often very like the eggs of Titmice. The blotches in these are larger, more sparse and sometimes a more red-brown than usual. This variety seems to occur occasionally in nearly all Tree-Creepers’ eggs, in the European as well as the Oriental.
In shape the eggs are longish ovals, slightly compressed but not pointed at the smaller end. The texture is rather close but not very fine, and there is no gloss.
Thirty-five eggs average 16.3 x 12.25 mm. : maxima 17.6 x 12.4 and 17.0 x 13.0 mm. ; minima 14.6 x 11.3 mm.
445. Certhia himalayana himalayana
(445) Certhia himalayana himalayana Vigors.