(910) Homochlamys fortipes fortipes (Hodgs.).
THE SIKKIM STRONG-FOOTED BUSH-WARBLER.
Horornis fortipes fortipes, Fauna B. I.. Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 506.
Homochlamys fortipes fortipes, ibid. vol. viii, p. 645.
This quaint little Warbler is found from Garhwal and Western Nepal to Assam East of the Dibong, the Surrma Valley and through¬out the hills of Northern Burma to Karenni. It occurs in the Shan States but has not been recorded further East. There are also specimens from “N.W. India” and “Kashmir” in the British Museum.
It is a bird of open country with ample scrub and patches of heavier forest over a great part of its range, but in Assam we found it, during the breeding season, frequenting Pine forests with an ample undergrowth of Daphne-bushes or with open glades of bracken and brambles. It was also often to be met with in thin mixed forest with a tangled undergrowth of bushes, grass, bracken and brambles. I never saw it in actually open country but, occasionally, it might be seen in the thick fringe of grass and bracken on the outskirts of Pine forest. On the other hand I never saw it in the dense wet forests of Oak and Rhododendron. In Sikkim Stevens records it as not wandering much beyond 5,500 feet and common at 3,500 in dense bamboo-jungle, but Osmaston took several nests at 6,500 feet, while in the Khasia Hills it was common between 4,000 and 6,200 feet. The sites selected for the nest do not vary much, all being placed in thickly foliaged low bushes, or in tangles of brambles, at heights between one and two feet from the ground or rarely up to four feet.
In the Pine woods a dense Daphne-bush was undoubtedly the favourite position for the nest, which usually was placed well down among the lower twigs, though, now and then, I have seen one perched almost on the top of the bush, the roof of the nest and the highest leaves being flush with one another.
Mandelli and others sent nests to Hume, taken in Sikkim between 5,000 and 5,500 feet, which he describes as “small massive cups, composed exteriorly of dry blades of grass and leaves and lined internally with fine grass and a few feathers.” Later he adds :— “Examining the nests carefully, it will be seen that they are com¬posed of three layers—exteriorly everywhere coarse blades of grass and straw, put together carelessly, inside this a mass of extremely fine panicle-stems of flowering grasses, and then inside this the lining of moderately fine grass, mingled with feathers. The nests vary a good deal in size, but they seem to be generally 4 to 5 inches in diameter, and 2.5 in height.”
Now except that the nests found by myself—dozens of them— and by Osmaston were domed or very deep cups, the above des¬cription of their make-up would do well for those we found except that the external walls were often quite compact, if not really neat. A feature, however, of the nests found by myself was the invariably very thick lining of feathers, so plentiful and soft that one had always to feel very carefully if the nest contained eggs or not.
Roughly, the nests taken by myself measured outwardly as follows :—The domed nests about 6 inches vertical by 5 horizontal, with an egg-cavity of about 3 inches deep by 2 or a little over across. The deep cup-shaped nests were about 4.1/2 to 5 inches deep and well under 4 in diameter externally, and about 3 inches deep and 2 wide internally.
The lining often projected from the top of the nest, or out of the entrance of the domed nest. The entrance was always rather large and untidy and in a few nests was placed at the extreme top, making a shape like an egg with a bit sliced off the small end.
They are rather late breeders ; a few birds breed in the first week in May and then more and more all through June, lessening again in July, though I have taken eggs up to the 29th of that month.
The number of eggs laid varies from three to five, two clutches out of every three being of four eggs.
The eggs of this genus, Homochlamys (Horornis auct.), are very distinctive, being in colour a very deep chestnut-chocolate.
The eggs of the Strong-footed Warbler vary very little in colour, but in some the chestnut tint is rather higher than in others, and in a very few the tint is paler and more purple. If examined very closely they will generally be seen to have a cloudy ring or, less often, a cap of a still deeper, almost purple black, colour at the larger end.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, blunt and very little compressed at the smaller end, sometimes really broad ellipses. The texture is exceptionally fine and clear and the eggs have a fine gloss, but are intensely brittle.
Sixty eggs average 17.3 x 13.4 mm. : maxima 18.9 x 14.1 mm. ; minima 15.5 x 12.5 mm.
Both birds incubate, for we have trapped both sexes on the nest, but I have no information as to the building of the nest. It is also almost impossible to ascertain the period of incubation, as one cannot find out the number of eggs laid without feeling in the lining, and then the birds desert unless the eggs are on the point of hatching.
910. Homochlamys fortipes fortipes
(910) Homochlamys fortipes fortipes (Hodgs.).