(678) Ochromela nigrorufa (Jerdon).
THE BLACK-AND-ORANGE FLYCATCHER.
Ochromela nigrorufa, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 253.
As regards its breeding distribution, there is nothing to add to that given in the ‘Fauna’ :—“The hill-ranges of South India from Cape Cormorin to the Wynaard at 2,500 feet upwards. It is very common in the Nilgiris, Palni and Travancore Hills. Neither Col. McMaster’s record of its occurrence in the Berars nor Mr. Mitford’s in regard to Ceylon have ever been confirmed.”
This beautiful little Flycatcher breeds in well-wooded valleys in the Wynaard and Nilgiri Hills and in the larger woods of the Palni Hills, whilst in Travancore both Bourdillon and Stewart say that it frequents the interior of dense forest. In the Nilgiris it is numerous anywhere above 4,000 feet, but still more so above 5,000, and in Travancore up to the highest valleys. It comes also lower down for breeding purposes, for Bourdillon has taken nests at 3,000 feet and Stewart at 3,500. Both these gentlemen, however, say that it is a bird of rather curious distribution, very common in some places, equally rare in others which appear to be much the same.
The site selected for the nest is usually low down in a clump of weeds, ferns, brambles or bracken, at any height from a few inches off the ground up to about 4 feet. Perhaps 2 to 3 feet is the height most often chosen. Darling noted that “the bird is fond of building in the cluster of new shoots that rise, from the stump of a tree that has been felled. Usually the nests are at heights of from 1 to 3 feet from the ground, but I have found one placed actually on the ground.”
Bourdillon found one nest placed as high as eight feet from the ground but, in a letter to me, he says that most nests are “in weeds less than three feet above the ground.”
Bates, writing of this bird, remarks of two nests found by him :— “Both occupying the entire top of short, straight-stemmed, large- leafed plants—a common feature of the sholah’s undergrowth.” Of others he writes :—“All were in very shaded positions, three anchored in ferns where a number of fronds crossed, one in gorse and two in other bushes.” Miss Cockburn also found one nest in the Nilgiris built in a clump of reeds.
In Travancore the breeding season seems to be March and April but, in the Nilgiris and more Northern hills, most birds lay between the end of April and the end of May. Bates found two newly-hatched young in a nest on the 18th July, so that some birds, at least, must lay as late as the first week of that month.
The nest is very like that of Anthipes monileger, an untidy ball made of sedge-blades, coarse grass or rush-leaves, sometimes unlined, at other times lined with finer grass-blades and grass-stems. The materials are generally rather loosely and roughly put together and come to pieces when the nest is removed from the site. Bamboo-leaves occasionally take the place of other broad leaves and grasses on the outside of the nest whilst, in Travancore, Bourdillon says that the nests are nearly always composed of the coarse blades of the reed known locally as “eerul” (Beesha travancorica). Many nests are built on a sort of foundation of dead leaves.
In size the nests vary greatly. Two found by Bates were each “more or less domed structures some six or eight inches in width and a little more than this in depth.” Others “were mostly of small dimensions, being about four inches across and six inches in length.” Hume gives the internal dimensions of the egg-cavity as being about 2.1/2 inches in diameter and fully 2.1/4 in depth.
The full clutch of eggs seems to be almost invariably two, though Davison said that he had sometimes taken three. I have, personally, never seen a three, and Messrs. Darling, Cardew, Packard, Rhodes, Morgan, Bourdillon and others all say that more than two eggs are never laid.
The eggs are more like small eggs of the Verditer Flycatcher than any others of the family. Most eggs have a pale greyish-white or buffy-white ground, faintly but profusely freckled all over with pale pinky grey or reddish ; in many of these they are most numerous and confluent at the larger end, where they form very indistinct, ill-defined caps or, still more rarely, zones.
Occasionally one comes across a pair, or one of a pair, which has a white ground, prettily freckled with bright, but pale, pinkish- red, and I have one such pair with deep red caps at the extreme larger end. In two other pairs in my series there is one egg of the normal type and one which has a very pale grey-green ground, with a fine bold cap of deep red at the big end. Another pair has a warm buff ground, densely freckled all over with light red and with still denser rings of deep red at the larger extremity.
In shape the eggs are long ovals, very little compressed towards the smaller end, many eggs being almost ellipses.
The texture is very fine and close and, though Hume says they have a shght gloss, this is very seldom the case, in the great majority the surface being quite dull.
Thirty eggs average 18.4 x 13.1 mm. : maxima 19.2 x 13.2 and 18.9 x 13.4 mm. ; minima 17.2 x 13.0 mm.
678. Ochromela nigrorufa
(678) Ochromela nigrorufa (Jerdon).