(838) Chaetornis striatus (Jerdon).
THE BRISTLED GRASS-WARBLER.
Choetornis locustelloides, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 438.
Choetornis striatus, ibid. vol. viii, p. 640.
I can add nothing to the distribution of this bird as given in the ‘Fauna’: “Nellore, Mysore, Deccan, Rajputana, Central Provinces, Punjab, United Provinces, Bengal, Behar and Assam. Jerdon records it from the Nilgiris and there is a specimens in the Natural History Museum labelled ‘Darjeeling.’ It does not occur in the Khasia and Cachar Hills of Assam except at the foot of these hills in the plains, certainly never occurring as high up as Darjeeling and probably not in the Nilgiris. General Betham found it common in Guzerat, while Ticehurst thought he saw it near Karachi.”
This curious Warbler probably moves about locally a great deal, as Currie found them breeding in a recently enclosed and watered grass ‘rakh’ belonging to the Forest Department at Lahore during July-September, yet when he visited, in the winter, this same place it was entirely deserted. Betham had previously seen this bird near Lahore during the breeding season but had failed to find the nest, and was possibly a little too early.
Butler found it breeding not uncommonly about Deesa in the rains and obtained a nest on the 18th August. He describes it thus :—“It consisted of a round ball of dry grass with a circular entrance on one side, near the top, was placed on the ground in the centre of a low scrubby bush in a grass ‘Beerh,’ and when the hen flew off I mistook her for Argya caudata. On looking, however, into the bush, I saw at once by the eggs it was a species now to me. I have invariably found it during the rains in grass ‘Beerhs’ over¬grown with low thorny bushes (Zizyphus jujuba etc.).”
Cripps, writing from Fureedpore, says :—“Very common in long grass fields. Permanent resident. It utters its soft notes while on the wing, not only in the cold season but the year through ; it is very noisy during the breeding time. Breeds in clumps of grass a few inches above as well as on the ground. I found five nests in the month of May from 23rd to 28th ; one was on the ground in a field of indigo ; the rest were in clumps of ‘sone’ grass and from the same field composed of this grass. One nest contained three half-fledged young, and the rest had four eggs slightly incubated in each. Although they nest in ‘sone’ grass which is rarely over three feet high, it is very difficult to find the nest, as the grass over¬hangs and hides it. Only when the bird rises almost from your feet are you able to discover its whereabouts.” ;
Betham says that the bird was fairly common round Baroda, where he took a nest with five fresh eggs on the 29th of August. The nest was "situated on the ground in grass about 2 feet high and was well concealed. It was slightly domed, composed on the outside of dried grass and lined with fine roots. It was a most flimsy structure and fell to pieces on my trying to remove it. I have seen this bird both in Belgaum and near Lahore.”
Betham thus describes its nuptial flight:—“It makes itself very conspicuous in the breeding season by the curious flight indulged in by the male, which rises in the air very frequently, and flies round a sort of parallelogram uttering a song, presumably over the place where the hen is sitting, and then drops down into the grass.”
Like Currie, he observes that it frequents grass ‘bhirs’ in which there is water standing about.”
From the above it will be seen that except in Fureedpore, where Cripps obtained young and eggs in May, it breeds about August, after the rains are well advanced. Inglis and Coltart, however, found one nest with three eggs in Somastipore on the 12th July. A second nest was found in the same grass-field with no eggs.
The eggs, four or five in number, are like those of Schoenicola platyura, but the clutch of five taken by Betham are paler and brighter than any of this bird that I have seen, and are very lightly speckled.
Twenty-two eggs (including Hume’s) average 20.4 x 15.2 mm. : maxima 22.0 x 15.9 mm. ; minima 19.0 x 14.6 mm.
Apparently the female alone is responsible for the incubation, as the male may be seen and heard at all hours of the day, soaring and singing round his wife and home.
838. Chsetornis striatus
(838) Chaetornis striatus (Jerdon).