(602) Oreocincla spiloptera Blyth.
THE SPOTTED-WING THRUSH.
Oreocincla spiloptera, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 165.
This is one of the birds peculiar to Ceylon and is confined to that island, where it is found from the foot-hills up to the highest peaks, breeding both in forest, in more open but well-wooded ravines etc. and often in Tea which has been left to grow for seed.
Legge first found its nest and writes :—“In January 1873 I discovered the Spotted-wing Thrush in the low country of the Trincomalee District at an elevation of not more than 300 feet above the sea-level. At the same time I found its nest in the fork of a straight sapling about 4 feet from the ground. The structure was similar to that of the European Blackbird, but not so massive ; it was composed of small twigs and lined with grass, and was a deep cup in shape. It contained two eggs.”
Subsequently he added the following notes :—“The breeding season extends over the first half of the year. The nest is placed in the fork of a sapling a few feet from the ground, or among the roots of a tree on a bank or little eminence, and is a loose-looking, though compactly put together structure of small twigs, moss-roots, and grass, lined with finer materials of the same, the egg-cavity being a neat cup, tolerably neatly finished off.”
A beautiful series of nine or ten nests has, since Legge’s time, been taken by Phillips and another by Tunnard.
As regards its haunts, Phillips writes, in epistola :—“The Spotted¬winged Thrush is a common resident throughout the district above 2,500 feet. It is often found in the same jungles as the Ceylon Thrush but it is also often seen in suitable cover near habitations.
A very favourite haunt, in which it often nests, is a plantation of large full-grown Tea-bushes, not far from the forest, which are being cultivated for their seed. I have examined many nests, taken during every month of the year except December, January, February and June. The most popular breeding season, however, is from March to May and then again in September. The great majority of the nests have been in low forks of bushes and saplings in the jungle and Tea-bushes in plantations, but one or two have been on ledges of moss-covered rocks in or near ravines. They are untidy nests but neatly finished off inside.”
Phillips’s nests agree well with the description given by Legge except that in every instance green moss forms the major part of the material used, whilst leaves also are frequently incorporated in the body of the nest. They were taken near Gammadawa, often in rather exposed situations, at elevations between 3,000 and 3,500 feet, whilst another nest sent me was taken at 4,500 feet, and I have had none recorded below 3,000, so that Legge’s at 300 feet must have been unusual.
March and April appear to be the two months in which most eggs are laid, but I have eggs taken in July and August and Wait says that the breeding season is from January to May. The usual clutch is two only but Phillips found one of three while, occasionally, a single egg is incubated.
The eggs are very like small eggs of the Blackbird, though a series shows far more of the red type than of the green. In the former the ground is a pale cream or pale buff, occasionally fairly warm, the whole surface being thickly covered with small, rather long blotches, freckles and specks of light reddish-brown but in no eggs dense enough to give a unicoloured impression. The secondary marks are of lavender-pink and very pale reddish but are not observable except with a magnifying glass. In the green type the ground is a pale grey-green similarly marked with reddish-brown. In two clutches taken by Phillips one egg is of one type, one of the other.
Twenty eggs average 26.8 x 19.7 mm. : maxima 29.3 x 19.9 and 27.5 x 20.8 mm. ; minima 24.5 x 19.1 and 28.5 x 18.2 mm.
602. Oreocincla spiloptera
(602) Oreocincla spiloptera Blyth.