1604. Hirundapus caudacutus cochinchinensis

(1604) Hirundapus caudacutus cochinchinensis (Oust.).
THE COCHIN CHINA SPINETAIL.
Hirundapus caudacutus cochinchinensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iv. p. 342.
This race of Spinetail occurs from Assam South of the Brahma¬pootra through Burma and the Malay States, South to Sumatra and East to Cochin China.
It is extremely common in the Assam hills below 4,000 feet, and I obtained one oviduct egg from a female shot on the 26th May.
I described the breeding of this bird in 1896 (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. x, p. 547) but, beyond this, nothing is known about it. In the North Cachar Hills, during their occupation by the Khasias, limestone was worked in the North of the district in the superficial lime which there covers a vast area. Trenches, sometimes over 20 feet deep, were dug parallel with one another and, between these, communicating passages were cut underground. In course of time the sides of the trenches have much crumbled and have become overgrown with trees and other cover, but the connecting passages have remained clear, owing to their being closed overhead. These passages, or caves, were, and doubtless still are, a favourite haunt of bears, and one day, while tracking one of these, I noticed the Spinetails flying in and out of the caves. A search revealed what looked like a nest up on the roof of a cave and, though this was inaccessible, we found two others which, with a little trouble, we were able to reach. They were empty, but a third nest in another cave held three young birds of the present species, while old birds were flying about the cave. Besides this nest there were two or three others, all empty. The nests were fastened to the sides of the caves, nearly all rather high up, but those we could get at and pull down were all alike, heavy, strongly made half-cups, composed almost entirely of dried moss which the bears had collected for beds, and with numerous long hairs of the bears mixed with it. The whole had been matted together with the birds’ saliva and a great deal of mud or earth. The nests were very massive, measuring about 6 inches in their Jong diameter, some a little more, others a little less ; the breadth was about 3.3/4 inches and the depth 2.1/2 to 2.7/8 inches. The interior measurements were 1.1/2 inch less every way. There was no lining, but a few pieces of moss lay here and there stuck to the saliva which formed the greater part of the bottom of the nest. A fragment of egg picked up, which measured about .61 inch (= 15.9 mm.) in diameter, was possibly of this bird, but seems too small, and now that we know so much more about the breeding and the nesting of the Brown-throated Spinetail, I am inclined to think that the nests I found were those of Micropus subfurcatus and the egg also one of that bird, the Spinetails having taken possession of old nests of the smaller Swifts. These latter birds were common in the vicinity.
As the young Swifts found on the 28th April were ready to fly, while the oviduct egg was extracted on the 26th of May, it would appear that the breeding season may last from February to June.
The oviduct egg measures 28.1 x 21.0 mm.
I think it is probable that the above instance of the Spinetails breeding in a cave may be exceptional, as I never got others, though we worked very hard for them. The whole of this country for miles upon miles was open park-land dotted over with great black Oaks, a very large percentage of which were hollow, so it seems most probable that such trees formed the normal breeding places for the Spinetails.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 3. 1934.
Title in Book: 
1604. Hirundapus caudacutus cochinchinensis
Spp Author: 
Oust.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
1604
Year: 
1934
Page No: 
464
Common name: 
Cochin China Spinetail
M_ID: 
7627
M_CN: 
Silver-backed Needletail
M_SN: 
Hirundapus cochinchinensis
Volume: 
Vol. 3
id: 
14758

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith