(34) Dendrocitta frontalis McClell.
THE BLACK-BROWED TREE-PIE.
Dendrocitta frontalis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 54.
The Black-browed Tree-Pie breeds from the end of April to July from Eastern Nepal to the extreme East and South of Assam into Manipur between 2,000 and 5,500 feet. Stevens found it in the Plains at the foot of the Miri Hills and also at Rangagora in the Winter, but it does not seem to breed in either place, though Coltart and I found it breeding sparingly at Margherita in Lakhimpur. Here we took two or three nests at about 1,000 feet altitude but it was much more common on the adjacent higher Patkoi hills above 3,000 feet. In the Khasia and Cachar Hills it is more common above than below 3,000 feet.
The only recorded full notes of this bird’s breeding are those of my own in ‘The Ibis’ (Jan. 1895, p. 41), and to these I can add but little:—
“This handsome Magpie breeds freely (in Assam) on all ranges over 4,000 feet high. The nest is much like that of D. himalayensis but is, on an average, somewhat smaller. It is made of fine twigs and the stems of creepers and weeds, the last less invariably used than the two former. In nine cases out of ten there is practically no hning, but in two nests I have seen a scanty amount of mithna and goat’s hair placed at the very bottom, and in a few others I have found a sort of rough lining of coarse fern-roots, the softer stems of green weeds, or the finer roots of bamboos ; always, however, the lining, if existing at all, is coarse and by no means abundant. The nest is in shape a shallow cup, rather flimsy and transparent, but more so in appearance than in reality, for, though one can always see through it, the materials are well intertwisted and stand a great deal of rough handling before coming apart. The size of the nest ranges from under 5" to 7" in diameter, and the depth from 2" to 3.5" or rather more ; nests measuring over 6.5” are rare, and the average is only about 6" outer diameter ; the inner cup averages about 5" by 1".
“The nest is seldom built at any great height from the ground, generally below six feet, and often within two or three. It is placed in the fork of a bush, or small sapling, or even in a stout weed, and the situation preferred is one in scanty forest with a thin under¬growth of weeds and scraggy bushes. In dense evergreen forest I have never found the nest, though I have seen the birds, but I have taken two or three in the outskirts of evergreen forest where the trees were few and far between and the principal growth consisted of tall bushes and thick, low lime-bushes.”
All I can now add to this account is that Dr. Coltart in Lakhimpur and I myself later on in Cachar and the Khasia Hills found a con¬siderable number of nests in really dense evergreen forest. By evergreen we mean, of course, forest and jungle that is ever green and wet though the individual trees in it may be more or less deciduous.
The eggs are the most handsome, as a series, of all the Dendrocittas, although they are never of the salmon-ground and red-blotched type found with all the races of Indian Tree-Pie. Roughly speak¬ing, they resemble thickly blotched dark eggs of the, Himalayan Tree-Pie. The ground may be pale yellowish stone-colour, sometimes with a faint tinge of blue or green, pale buff, warm yellowish-buff or comparatively dark buff. The primary markings consist of rather large blotches of pale to rich umber-brown, in the buff eggs more reddish ; the secondary markings are of pale lilac or lavender-grey. Both are numerous everywhere but more so at the larger end. A few clutches have the blotches restricted to a ring round the larger end and sparge elsewhere. The texture is strong and close but almost invariably glossless. In shape they are rather broad obtuse ovals, longer ovals with the small end somewhat compressed being not uncommon. One hundred eggs average 27.0 x 19.9 mm ; maxima 29.8 x 21.0 and 28.9 x 23.4 mm. ; minima 24.5 x 20.2 and 25.0 x 18.6 mm.
The breeding season extends from the beginning of April to the end of July and some birds may have two broods. They are not very close sitters and leave the nest some time before a human intruder gets close to it. They are also quiet undemonstrative birds near the nest and do not give it away by their noisy protests as do their nearest relatives.
34. Dendrocitta frontalis
(34) Dendrocitta frontalis McClell.