(1278) Leptocoma asiatica asiatica (Lath.).
THE INDIAN PURPLE SUNBIRD.
Leptocoma asiatica asiatica, Fauna B. I., Birds., 2nd ed. vol. iii, p, 396.
This pretty little bird is one of the best known of our Indian avifauna, being found over the whole of India excluding Sind and the North-West Provinces and extreme Eastern Bengal and Assam, It is equally common all over the plains and on the hills of Southern India to their summits, while in the Himalayas they breed commonly up to 5,000 feet and less often up to 7,000 feet. It is a bird of civilization, frequenting gardens, parks, the surroundings of towns and villages and even the verandahs of inhabited houses. On the other hand, some birds may be found breeding in forest and scrub-jungle and in the cane-brakes and swamps of the Himalayan Terai. In the jungle, however, it is a shy rare bird, while in gardens it is one of the most common and familiar.
As regards its nest, it is difficult to find anything not included in Hume’s exhaustive account. He writes :—“The nest is pendent and composed of all kinds of materials beautifully woven together with the silkiest fibres and cobwebs ; hair, fine grass, pieces of decayed wood, lichens, rags, thorns, etc. are all pressed into the service. The body of the nest is oval, generally, with all sorts of little pendent pieces of wood etc. hanging below, as ornaments apparently, while the apex of the oval is prolonged into a cone meeting the point of support. A little above the centre of the oval a small circular aperture is worked, and just above it a projecting cornice, 1 to 1.1/2 inches wide, is extended ; then on the opposite side of the oval, the wall of the nest, which is ready some days before the eggs are laid, is pushed out or bulged out a little so as to give room for the sitting bird’s tail. The bulging out of the hack of the nest is one of the last portions of the work, and the female may be seen going in and out, trying the fit, over and over again. When sitting, the little head is just peeping out of the hole under the awning, I remember seeing a nest suspended to a punkah-cane, which was stretched across Brook’s verandah at Etawah. This nest was founded on two or three strips of gun rag which had been left hanging across the cane, black and smelling of gunpowder. Yet with these unpromising materials and plenty of silky grass etc. it made a pretty little pendent home.
“As regards the portico, this, though general, is not universal, and I have seen many nests in which it was entirely wanting.”
Curious nests are often met with. Adam speaks of one ornamented outside with all sorts of feathers, while, in another nest, Rhodes Morgan found that bits of blotting paper, twine and old service stamps adorned the exterior walls. I have myself seen a nest which externally was composed almost entirely of very small scraps of white calico, cotton and flannel, taken from a verandah where a native tailor sat daily at his work. Many nests, also, are attached to spiders’ webs, or the webs are made use of to such an extent to bind the various materials together that they appeal to he mostly web.
The site chosen for the nest varies greatly. Normally the nest is built pendent to a small drooping twig of a bush between 18 inches and 5 feet from the ground. I have been told of nests in Banyan and Pepul-trees 20 feet from the ground, and once saw one in a Casuarina-tree on the banks of the Hoogli quite as high as this. Above all, however, the little birds love bushes in gardens, arbours, flower-arches, trellis-work over verandahs and even the insides of verandahs where suitable places exist on which to hang the nests ; occasionally they are even built in long grass, and I have seen a nest attached to two or three stems of Pampas-grass, Bushes round tanks seem to be specially favoured, and in such places I have several times Been hornets’ nests and Sunbirds’ nests on the same bush and within a very few inches of one another.
It is difficult to say what constitutes the principal breeding season for this little bird but probably in the plains there are two main periods, March and April in before the Rains break and then the end of June, after they have broken, to the end of August. In the hills they breed from the middle of April to the end of June, those birds which have second broods laying as late as the end of July,
In the plains, however, eggs may be found in every month of the year and most birds have two broods and many have three. These they bring up all in the same nest unless it gets worn out and too damaged for further use.
The eggs number two or three in a clutch and I have no record of four.
In appearance they are like those of the preceding species but the markings are rather larger, consisting of definite freckles and tiny blotches, and unicoloured eggs are quite exceptional. The most common type is one with a grey ground, almost white, with numerous little blotches of darker grey over the whole surface and still more numerous at the larger end, where they often form rings or caps. The next most common is a type with the markings more brown hut otherwise similar.
One hundred eggs average 16.3 x 11.6 mm. : maxima 19.3 x 12.4 mm. (Blewitt) ; minima 14.1 x 11.0 and 15.1 x 10.9 mm. My own measurements give the maxima as 17.9 x 11.8 and 16.9 x 12.3 mm. Perhaps that measured by Blewitt was a double-yolked egg.
1278. Leptoeoma asiatiea asiatica
(1278) Leptocoma asiatica asiatica (Lath.).