(386) Microscelis psaroides psaroides Vigors.
THE HIMALAYAN BLACK BULBUL.
Microscelis psaroides psaroides, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 369.
The Himalayan Black Bulbul is resident and breeds on all the outer ranges of the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Bhutan. Its limits East of Bhutan are not known, but either the Dihong or Dibong River will probably prove to be its Eastern boundary, as birds in Lakhimpur are of the next race, as also was a specimen obtained by Dr. Falkiner in the Abor Hills. In elevation it may be found at any height between 2,000 and 7,000 feet, but it seldom nests under 3,000 feet. In Murree Rattray, Marshall and others obtained it breeding freely up to 6,000 feet. Brooks took a nest at Ayarpata, Naini Tal, over 7,000 feet, whilst Rattray also took one on Nangtba at about the same elevation. In Sikkim it ascends far higher ; Stevens records it up to 10,000 feet at Tonglo in January, so, presumably, it also breeds at this height in Summer.
They are forest Bulbuls frequenting and breeding in lofty trees. Preferably they like rather open forests, but are found also well into the interior of very dense ones.
The best description of the nest is that given by Hutton and quoted by Hume :—“ They breed during April, May and June, making a rather neat cup-shaped nest, which is usually placed in the bifurcation of a fork of a horizontal branch of some tall tree ; the bottom of it is composed of thin dead leaves and dried grasses, and the sides of fine woody stalks of plants, such as those used by the White-cheeked Bulbul, and they are well plastered over externally with spiders’ webs ; the lining is sometimes of very fine tendrils, at other times of dried grasses, fibrous lichen and thin shavings of the bark of trees left by the wood-cutters. I have one nest, however, which is externally formed of green moss with a few dry stalks, and the spiders’ webs, instead of being plastered all over the outside, are merely used to bind the nest to the small branches among which it is placed. The lining is of bark-shavings, dry grasses, black fibrous lichens and a few fine reed-stalks of grasses. The internal diameter of the nest is 2.1/4 inches and it is 1.1/2 inches deep.”
In regard to the measurements, Hume notes that the nests sent to him have had sides varying in thickness from one to two inches, whilst the bottom is seldom more than 1/2 to 3/4 an inch thick.
Most nests agree with the above description, though the amount of the various materials diflers greatly. In some nests green moss is used almost to the exclusion of anything else, whilst in others there is hardly any. The use of lichen varies to almost the same extent. In many nests fine elastic twigs are used in some numbers, in other nests none at all. Leaves, however, always seem to be required, while to bind these together stalks of weeds are almost invariably employed. Two rather exceptional nests mentioned by Hodgson, taken in Nepal, were “made of moss and dry fern and dry elastic twig-tops and lined with long elastic needles of Finns longifolia.”
The nests are often placed at very great heights in forest trees, but the situations vary greatly. Gammie records a nest built 50 feet from the ground, whilst Marshall took one “in a bush on the outskirts of a forest on a steep bank and about eight feet from the ground.” These probably form the two extremes, and most nests will be taken from outer branches of trees at heights from the ground between 25 and 35 feet.
The breeding season proper is during May, June and early July, but some birds breed in the latter half of April whilst others breed much later, Rattray taking a nest at Murree on the 26th Sep¬tember.
Hume says that four is the normal number of eggs but that he has more than once found three incubated eggs in a nest. Later observers—Dodsworth, Jones, Whymper, Rattray and others—all consider three to be the normal number and four to be excep¬tional. Even clutches of two eggs only seem to be not very un¬common, for I have had many such clutches sent me said to have shown signs of incubation.
Hume’s description of the two main types of eggs is as follows :— “There seem to be two leading types, with, however, almost every possible intermediate variety of markings. The one is thickly speckled over its whole surface with minute dots of reddish purple, no dot much bigger than the point of a pin, and no portion of the ground-colour more than 0.1 in diameter free from spots. In these eggs the specklings are most dense, as a rule, throughout a broad zone surrounding the large end, and this zone is thickly underlaid with irregular ill-defined streaky clouds of dull inky purple. In some eggs of this type the smaller end is comparatively free from spots. In the other type the surface of the egg is somewhat sparingly, but boldly, blotched and splashed, first with deep umber, chocolate, or purple-brown and, secondly, with spots and clouds of faint inky purple.”
Although I have had immense series of eggs through my hands, I have seen very few of the first type, and the most common one seems to be an egg with a very faint pink ground covered all over with small primary blotches of deep red-brown, chocolate-brown or purple-brown, with similar secondary small blotches of lavender and inky-grey.
Unusual clutches generally fall under the following headings :— (1) pale salmon ground with normally distributed chestnut primary and grey secondary blotches—these eggs are like very feebly- coloured eggs of Criniger ; (2) a white ground with bold richly- coloured chocolate blotches, with inky-grey secondary blotches showing up among them ; and (3) a pale salmon ground with large bold blotches of purple-brown and lavender-grey scattered freely over the whole surface. This third type, like the first, is not unlike some aberrant eggs of Criniger.
The average of sixty-two eggs is 26.2 x 19.1 mm. : maxima 29.1 x 18.2 and 28.2 x 20.0 mm ; minima 23.8 x 18.7 and 25.2 x 18.1 mm.
386. Microscelis psaroides psaroides
(386) Microscelis psaroides psaroides Vigors.