(584) Geokichla wardii Blyth.
THE PIED GROUND-THRUSH.
Geocichla wardi, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 145.
Geokichla wardii, ibid. vol. viii, p. 624.
The breeding range of this Ground-Thrush extends from the Sutlej Valley in the Himalayas to the extreme East of Assam North of the Brahmapootra, and it occurs, though very rarely, on the hills South of that river. East of Sikkim it is a rare bird but I have seen specimens from the mountains North of Darrang and Sibsagar and one from the Abor Hills North of Sadiya. It also straggles into the higher ranges South of the Brahmapootra and I took its nest on the Barail Range in North Cachar at about 4,000 feet. Their breeding range of elevation seems to be extra¬ordinarily constant and every record seems to be between 4,000 and 6,000 feet, most of them being something very near 5,000 feet. In Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ there are recorded nests taken by Hutton at Jeripanee, near Mussoorie, at 5,500 feet ; Jaharpowah, in Nepal, where Hodgson took his nest, was about 4,500 feet, whilst Marshall (G. F. L.) took a nest near Nynee Tal at 5,000 feet. At this same place, Nynee Tal, and at other places round about, Whymper took many nests, all at about 5,000 feet, and Mackinnon took others again round about Mussoorie between 4,500 and 5,000 feet.
For breeding purposes the Pied Ground-Thrush frequents well-wooded ravines and nullahs and smaller patches of forest and jungle in open country, while it also breeds by roadsides and in gardens. In Whymper’s garden at Nynee Tal these birds bred every year, and when their eggs were taken and the exactly similar eggs of the much more common Orange-breasted Ground-Thrush were sub¬stituted, the birds incubated, hatched and reared the chicks. In this garden the nests were placed in small Deodars, Mulberry or Orange-trees at heights between 5 and 15 feet. In ravines and other places any tree may be selected and similar heights made use of for nesting purposes, but they are usually built in fairly stout forks, clusters of twigs or strong horizontal branches close to the bole of the tree. The nest taken by myself in North Cachar was in rather thin mixed evergreen and bamboo-jungle, in a ravine on the out¬skirts of dense evergreen forest. This was in a small, rather densely foliaged sapling at about 8 feet from the ground.
The nest is distinctly typical of the Thrush family. In shape it is a deep compact cup made of green moss exteriorly ; inside this there is a thick layer of coarse roots, sometimes mixed with grass, then finer roots, and again sometimes grass-stems forming a neat well-finished-off lining. In the nest taken by me there was no mud lining between the inner and outer layers of roots, nor do any of my correspondents mention any mud lining. On the other hand, Marshall says that the nest found by him was “built of moss and dead leaves and a little mud cemented together and lined with roots.” Hodgson gives the external measurements of a nest as 6.25 inches across by 2.5 deep, whilst internally the cup was 3.5 x 2 inches. The nest taken by me was about the same, though if the loose ends of the outer moss were taken into con¬sideration it would have been fully 8 inches across.
The breeding season seems to be late. Whymper took nests between the 5th of May and 17th July but more eggs were taken in July than in any other month. According to him, also, this species is never double-brooded, while he states that both sexes take part in incubation, as well as in the construction of the nest.
The number of eggs laid is three or four, the former number much the most often. In appearance all eggs of this genus, though decidedly Thrush-like, are very pale when considered as series, though exceptional eggs may be matched by certain eggs of the genus Turdus. The ground-colour is usually a very pale bluish or creamy white, lightly speckled, blotched or freckled with pale reddish, sometimes rather thinly scattered over the whole surface, sometimes collected chiefly at the larger end, where rarely they may form a cap or zone. Occasionally a clutch or a single egg in a clutch may be rather more boldly spotted with darker red-brown, such eggs generally also having secondary marks of lavender. Exceptional clutches may have a buff ground freckled with light brick-red, or a pale greenish ground, mottled or blotched with reddish-brown.
The texture is exceptionally hard and close, with a very fine gloss.
In shape the eggs are broad to fairly long ovals, always, however, blunt at the smaller end.
Thirty eggs average 26.3 x 19.4 mm. : maxima 27.2 x 19.9 and 27.0 x 24.0 mm. ; minima 25.3 x 19.0 and 26.6 x 18.0 mm.
584. Geokichia wardii
(584) Geokichla wardii Blyth.