(786) Bhringa remifer tectirostris Hodgs.
THE INDIAN LESSER RACKET-TAILED DRONGO.
Bhringa remifer tectirostris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 375.
This Drongo is found throughout the Lower Himalayas from Kuman (Thompson), Nepal, Sikkim, the hills North and South of Assam, to the Shan States and Yunnan in the East and to Tavoy, in Tenasserim, in the South.
This Drongo, also, is a bird of forest and jungle at all heights from the plains and foot-hills up to some 6,000 feet, though it is never, I believe, found breeding at any distance from the broken and forested ground next the mountain ranges. For breeding purposes we found that in Assam it was particularly fond of patches of cultivation in forest, open glades alongside rivers, or similar places when the trees spread out, letting in ample light and sunshine, with a corresponding increase in the winged insect life on which these birds feed. Some nests we took, or saw, in the densest and most humid of tropical evergreen woods, but the trees selected are nearly always those on the outskirts, close to some open place.
In Dibrugarh both Coltart and I found them nesting more in the open, nests being built in quite small trees in jungle-clad ravines surrounded by Tea and other cultivation. Some birds, also, we found breeding in bamboo- and scrub-jungle.
Hume’s description of the nests sent by Gammie and Mandelli, taken in Sikkim up to 4,800 feet, would do equally well for most of those found by myself. He writes :—They “are all precisely similar—broad saucers, suspended Oriole-like between the fork of a small branch. Exteriorly composed of moderately fine brown roots, more or less bound together, more especially those portions of them that are bound round the twigs of the fork with cobwebs, and lined interiorly with fine black horsehair-like roots. They seem to be always right up in the angle of the fork, whereas in Chaptia they are often some inches down the fork, and consequently the cavity is triangular on the one side and semicircular on the other. The cavities measure from 3 to nearly 4 inches in their greatest diameters, and vary from 1 to 1.1/2 inch in depth ; though strong and firm, and fully 1/4 inch thick at the bottom, the materials are so put together that, held up against the light, they look like a fine network.”
I have several times found nests made of fine wiry tendrils, so stiff that the birds must have had hard work to wind them round. Occasionally stiff grass-stems and broken leaves are used in small quantities and I have seen bits of dry moss, lichen and mycelae of fungus also incorporated in the nests. Many nests have no real lining at all.
The birds select the usual sort of situation chosen by Drongos but, I think, they very often place them under rather than over 20 feet from the ground, and both Coltart and I have found nests within reach of the hand.
In the Kuman Thompson says they breed in May and June, during which months Gammie and Mandelli took nests in Sikkim. In various parts of Assam I took eggs from the 4th April to the 5th July but most eggs were laid in May, whilst in Burma Mackenzie, Hopwood and others also found May to be the principal breeding month, though a few birds laid in April.
The eggs number three or four. I have once taken five and often two only showing signs of incubation.
In colour the eggs are the deepest in tint, as a series, of all the Drongos’ eggs, even than Chaptia, though many are very like huge eggs of that bird. The ground varies from a very pale pink, which is exceptional, through warm salmon-pink, to a rich salmon-pink or terra-cotta. In many eggs the markings consist of blurred blotches and freckles of darker terra-cotta, fairly dense at the large end and scantily dispersed elsewhere. Other eggs are marked with darker reddish-brown blotches and a few with deep brownish- red, a purple tinge being given by the secondary grey marks showing up through the others. In the more darkly-marked eggs the blotches are generally more numerous over the whole surface.
Of unusual clutches I have one pair with a white ground, marbled at the larger end with purple-brown and lighter lilac grey. Another clutch of two is pale dull pink, with dense rings of red-brown, purple-brown and pale grey spots and specks, while a third clutch of four is dull yellowish-pink, freckled, veined and heavily blotched with light purplish-brown and pale brick-red.
The texture is normal, without any gloss. Most eggs are in shape fairly long ovals, slightly pointed, while others are rather broader.
One hundred eggs average 25.5 x 18.4 mm. : maxima 27.3 x 19.0 and 26.1 x 20.2 mm. ; minima 23.2 x 18.7 and 24.2 x 17.9 mm.
Both sexes take part in incubation and both assist in building the nest, the male placing the materials in position as well as bringing them.
Like all their family, they are extraordinarily bold little birds in defence of nest and young, and give away the site of their nest by their noisy demonstrations when it is approached.
786. Bhringa remifer tectirostris
(786) Bhringa remifer tectirostris Hodgs.