(1039) Hypaoanthis spinoides spinoides (Vigors).
THE HIMALAYAN GREENFINCH.
Hypacanthis spinoides. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 160.
This Greenfinch breeds in the Himalayas between 6,000 and 11,000 feet from the Afghan and Baluchistan boundaries to Sikkim, Bhutan, and Manipur. Magrath says that it probably breeds in the Kurram Valley and that it breeds commonly between 7,000 and 6,000 feet in the Liddar and Sind Valleys of Kashmir. Masson found it breeding in Sikkim between 8,000 and 9,000 feet, though he mistook the birds—the skins of which I later saw—for Chryso- mitris thibetana.
Dodsworth (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxi, pp. 1075¬-1080, 1913) gives a very full and interesting account of the nidi¬fication of this bird, from which I quote the following :—
“These Finches generally keep to the woody portions of the Hills and are gregarious except in the breeding season. They appear to be partial to certain localities in the stations here and are not to be seen in other parts of it at all. It seems essential for them that the hill-sides shall be fairly well wooded, those covered with Hima¬layan Cedars (C. deodara) and Blue Pines (P. excelsa) undoubtedly receiving the preference.
“This Finch breeds in July and August, but the great majority of the birds lay in the last-mentioned month. The earliest and latest dates on which I have taken eggs are the 31st July (3 fresh eggs) and the 14th Sept, (3 fresh eggs) respectively. I may, however, mention that on the 26th July this year I found a nest containing four young ones, about a week old, and the eggs in this case must have been laid about the end of the first week of that month.
“The highest altitude at which I have found these birds nesting is 7,000 ft., but by far the larger number breed at about 6,000 ft. I have never yet taken a nest below the latter elevation.
“These Finches are gregarious even to the extent of breeding in company. I remember once finding no less than halt a dozen nests within, a radius of not more than 15 yds. I have several times found two nests quite close to each other, and I once took two nests from the same tree,
“They have only one brood annually, so far as Simla is concerned, and build a fresh nest each year. I have never known them to take possession of another bird’s nest, but I once noticed a hen lining her nest with horse-hair taken from an old nest belonging to a Jungle- Crow which was close by.
“Out of a total number of 29 neats I find that the trees selected for building were as follows :—
Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodara) ..... 26 nests.
Blue Pine (Pinus excelsa) ..... 11 nests.
Kharki-trees (Celtis australis ?) ..... 2 nests.
“When a Himalayan Cedar has been chosen the nest is invariably placed on the upper surface of one of the horizontal branches, generally towards the extremity and, in the case of a Blue Pine, in one of the uppermost forks or tufts. In the ‘Kharki’-trees the two nests were built on the outer ends of the branches, where they had been pollarded for the village cattle. The nests, no matter what their position is or on what trees they are placed, are without exception well hidden ; in fact so admirably is conceal¬ment effected that, if not discovered during the process of con¬struction, it would be almost impossible to find them afterwards.
“The nest takes a, week or nine days to complete, and the hen alone, in addition to carrying the materials, is the sole architect. The cock follows her about but gives her no help whatever. The time when the hen is most active in carrying materials is from early in the morning until 10 or 11 A.M. Between 11 A.M. and 3 P.M. occasional trips are made to the nest and then only at long intervals. After 3 P.M. building operations cease for the day.
“The nests are compact, neat, cup-shaped structures, composed chiefly of stalks and roots of grasses and small plants, and other suchlike materials (one only of my nests has a thin coating of moss). It is lined interiorly with very fine grass-roots, thin fibres resembling coir, horse-hairs, and a few feathers and occasionally bits of cotton.
“The heights at which the nests were built varied from 6 to 65 feet, the average of the 29 nests being 30 feet.
“In some cases the birds commenced laying immediately the nests were built, in others a short period elapsed.
“The number of eggs varied from 3 to 5, but the normal com¬plement is 4.
“The eggs are laid one daily, and the hen usually begins to brood after the second egg has been laid.
“The hen alone performs the labour of incubation and while sitting in the nest is fed by the cock. The young are hatched in 13 days and both birds help in feeding them. They leave the nest in about a fortnight.”
Hume, who found this bird breeding as low down as 4,000 feet, says that he once took a nest “against the trunk of an aged Deodar, nearly buried in a huge clump of moss, much of which the birds had attached to the sides of the nests,” while most of the other nests taken by him had much moss on the outside. Hume gives the dimensions of these nests as about 4.5 inches in diameter, with an internal cup of about 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter and 1.1 to 1.4 inches in depth.
Hume, like Dodsworth, gives the nesting season as July and August, but some eggs taken for me by Masson near Darjiling were found in the first ten days of May.
The eggs in colour are a very pale blue, and I have seen only one clutch in which the ground is almost white, though without any of the pinky tinge found sometimes in Twites’ eggs. They are lightly speckled or spotted, generally at the larger end only, with black, occasionally with reddish. I have seen no clutch of eggs all pale, unspotted blue, such as Hodgson describes as normal, but odd eggs of this description are not rare.
In shape the eggs are rather broad ovals, but with well-defined smaller ends, The texture is very fine, smooth, and faintly glossy.
Eighty eggs average 18.7 x 13.7 mm. : maxima 20.2 x 14.1 and 19.0 x 15.0 mm. ; minima 17.2 x 13.9 and 17.3 x 13.1 mm.
Dodsworth gives the average weight of 25 eggs as 29.24 gr.
1089. Hypacanthis spinoides spinoides
(1039) Hypaoanthis spinoides spinoides (Vigors).