(724) Hemipus picatus picatus (Sykes).
THE BLACK-BACKED PIED SHRIKE.
Hemipus picatus picatus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 306.
This quaint little Shrike is found in Ceylon and over practically the whole of India South of Bombay, thence through the Deccan to Bengal, Behar, Eastern Bengal in the Chittagong and Tippera Districts, and thence again over the whole of Burma from the South Chin Hills and Arrakan to Tenasserim, the Malay States, Borneo, Java and Sumatra. East it occurs as far as Siam and ? Annam.
The only record of this bird’s breeding in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ is Davison’s, for that given by Terry is undoubtedly wrong.
Davison writes —“About the first week in March 1871 I found at Ootacamund a nest of this bird placed in the fork of one of the topmost branches of a rather tall Berberis leschenaulti. For the size of the bird this was an exceedingly small shallow ; nest, and from its position between the fork, its size, and the materials of which it was composed externally might very easily have passed unnoticed ; the hen bird sitting on it appeared to be sitting only on a small lump of moss and lichen, the whole of the bird’s tail, and as low down as the lower part of the breast, were visible. The nest was composed of grass and fine roots, covered externally with cobweb and pieces of a grey lichen, and bits of moss taken apparently from the same tree on which the nest was built ; the eggs were three in number. The tree on which this nest was built was opposite my window, and I watched the birds building for nearly a week ; and again, when having the nest taken, the bird sat until the native lad I had sent up put out his hand to take the nest.”
In 1895 Cardew again took nests of this bird, recording the same as follows (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. x, p. 148, 1896) :— “I have found three nests, but have only once succeeded in securing the eggs. The nests, which answer closely to Mr. Davison’s description (supra) are beautiful structures, completely coated on the outside with pieces of greenish-white lichen, and lined with the finest fibre. They are very minute, the egg-cavity measuring 1-5" across, and but little more than half an inch in depth inside. The nests I found were in each case placed high up on a bare branch of a Blue-Gum at Ootacamund, and were most difficult to see. One nest taken on the 24th March contained three eggs, which measured 0.6" by 0.45" each. Another nest was found on the 27th May, and also contained eggs, but it was fully 50 feet from the ground, at the far end of a branch, and the eggs were broken. In this case, after the female was shot, the male took her place on the nest.”
Davidson gives a short note of its breeding (op. cit. vol. xi, p. 665, 1898) :—“Noticed occasionally in the forests of Kumta and Karwar, but not noticed at Karwar in the rains. Above Ghats it is generally distributed, and is no doubt a permanent resident. I have taken its nest only three times in Kanara. In all cases it was placed on silk-cotton trees, at that time devoid of leaves, and was almost quite invisible, as the moss and lichens composing it exactly corre¬sponded with the colour of the bark. The nests are very minute and shallow. I have never seen more than two eggs or young in any nest ; but, as I have seen flocks of five and six, I have no doubt they occasionally lay more. The eggs I have were taken in March and May, and were greenish, mottled with darker green and brown ; they are broad ovals and very Shrike-like.”
In a letter to me Davidson adds to the above :—"The Danj clutch was taken in very high tree-jungle, but the Kanara ones taken by myself were in mixed low jungle, in one or two cases almost scrub. All were in secluded places far from houses.”
T. R. Bell took clutches of three in Kanara, and the normal clutch seems to be three nearly as often as two. Some of Bell’s were taken in the month of April. The only eggs I have seen, a clutch taken by Bell and those in Davidson’s collection, have a dead white ground, in one case faintly washed with green, and they are densely marked all over with very dark brown primary blotches and inky grey secondary blotches.
Those in my collection measure 14.0 x 11.9, 14.2 x 12.0 and 14.3 x 12.0 mm. Some of Davison’s are much bigger.
724. Hemipus pieatus pieatus
(724) Hemipus picatus picatus (Sykes).