(785) Dissemurulus lophorhinus Vieill.
THE CEYLON CRESTED BLACK DRONGO.
Dissemurulus lophorhinus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 373.
This fine Drongo is found only in Ceylon and Travancore, in which latter province it has been found breeding freely in great numbers by J. Stewart.
So far all that is on record about this Drongo’s breeding is Legge’s note in his ‘Birds of Ceylon,’ in which he says :—“This species breeds in the South of Ceylon in the beginning of April. I have seen the young just able to fly in the Opate forests at the end of this month, but I have not succeeded in getting any information concerning its nests and eggs.”
Wait says (‘Birds of Ceylon,’ p. 82) :—“A forest bird, which is generally met with in pairs in the heart of the jungle.
“It has recently been discovered in Travancore, where it is not uncommon. In Ceylon it is restricted to the forests of the wet zone, from the Deduru-Oya in the North to the Walawe river in the South-West. It is rarely found East of the Peak range, which, it ascends to about the height of 4,500 feet.”
Jenkins was the first to take its nest and eggs in Ceylon, on the 16th April, 1908, at Ratnapura, at about 3,000 feet elevation. This clutch fell into the hands of J. Stewart, who at once recognized them as similar to eggs of a Drongo which he had taken in Travancore and, after further investigation, he found that the bird was common in many places in that country. He later gave me from time to time a grand series of the eggs, and from the notes sent with them the following summary is compiled :—
“Dicrurus lophorhinus.—I first obtained this bird’s eggs from Jenkins, who worked for me in Ceylon, but later I found it common in parts of Travancore and took many nests and eggs. About Aneichardi and Kalthuritty it was really a common bird, but was heard far more often than seen, keeping to the depth of humid forests at all heights from 1,000 to 4,000 feet. It may have bred both higher and lower, but all my nests were taken between these levels. It occurred, so far as I know, in the area of evergreen forest and not in the dry zones, the birds keeping to high tree forest with ample undergrowth.
“The nest is built nearly always on high trees, though not always at great heights. The majority are placed somewhere about
19 to 25 feet from the ground, few, if any, below 15 feet, but some at heights over 30 and 40 feet. Most of them are difficult to get at, as the birds select branches which are too fragile for boys to climb on to, and too far on the outside of the tree to enable them to drag the branch in so as to get at the nest. The nest itself is a wide cup of grass, roots and miscellaneous vegetable fibres and leaves, rather roughly bound round and round so as to embrace in part the horizontal twigs of the fork to which they are attached. There is no lining in most nests, but in a few there are finer roots and the tendrils of plants used for the inner part. In some the outer wall is much deeper than the inner, where it is in the corner of the fork ; this, I suppose, because the pendent nest is lowest on the outside when weighted with the parent bird and young. The nests are very like those of the Racket-tailed Drongo but are, I think, more untidy and less well put together. In many nests also there are not so many cobwebs used to strengthen the materials and they are not so closely bound together.
“They breed only in March and April, and I have taken, all my eggs between the 13th of the former month and the 30th of the latter.
“The number of eggs generally laid is three but I have taken a few fours, and have also seen two incubated.”
The eggs are very like those of the Larger Racket-tailed Drongo, and I do not think they could be distinguished from one another but, on the whole, I think they are more heavily marked. The ground varies from an almost pure white with the faintest tinge of livid pink to a livid salmon-pink. The markings, consist of primary, rather large, ill-defined blotches of light pinkish-red and secondary similar blotches of grey or pinkish-grey. Both kinds of blotches are usually more numerous at the larger end but well distributed over the whole surface. A few eggs have the markings rather darker and bolder and, occasionally, a few small spots of deep purple- red are mixed with the others ; marbled eggs are not rare, and in one or two clutches the marks are longitudinal rather than round. Looking at a whole series of these eggs, I think they give the im¬pression of being a livid pink. The only really abnormal clutch I have seen is a pure white clutch of four eggs, all spotted and blotched at the extreme larger end with deep purple.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, rarely rather longer and pointed, usually quite obtuse. The texture is rather coarse and the shell fragile for the size of the egg, but the surface is smooth, yet entirely glossless, except in the one beautiful purple-marked clutch.
Fifty eggs average 27.8 x 20.1 mm. : maxima 30.3 x 21.8 and 59.1 x 22.0 mm. ; minima 25.9 x 22.1 and 27.2 x 20.0 mm.
785. Dissemurulus lophorhlnus
(785) Dissemurulus lophorhinus Vieill.