(711) Lanius collurioides collurioides Less.
THE BURMESE CHESTNUT-RUMPED SHRIKE.
Lanius collurioides*, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 291.
The Burmese form of Chestnut-rumped Shrike breeds from Assam, South of the Brahmapootra, where it is very rare, Manipur and the whole of Burma, East to North-West and Central Annam and South to Tenasserim.
* As Delacour has separated the birds from South Annam and Laos (Bull. B. O. C. vol. xlvii, p. 13, 1925), our bird must now have a trinomial.
I first obtained this Shrike nesting in North Cachar in 1891 at Guilang, on the Barail Range, at an elevation of about 4,000 feet, but the bird was very rare, probably a straggler only into this district, and but little more common even in Manipur, though quite common in the adjoining Chin Hills.
This nest was exactly like those of the Black-headed Shrike, as built in North Cachar, but smaller. The only material used in bulk was the fine fluffy ends of flowering grasses, the flowering ends outside and the stems very strongly bound round and round inside, so that the nest looked like a soft ball of white fluff. The lining was of grass, also very neatly and firmly arranged, and with a few fine roots worked in with the grass. It measured about 5 inches in depth by about the same in width, with a cavity about 3 inches each way. The walls were rather more compact outside than are those of the Black-headed Shrike, for round and over the flowering ends a good many stems of grass had been bound, so that the feathery heads did not stick out all round to the same extent.
The nest was built in a fork of a tall straggling bush or small tree, about 6 feet from the ground, which grew on the outskirts of ever¬green forest at the edge of some hill-side cultivation. The cock bird was singing loudly and very sweetly within a few feet of the nest and attracted my attention to it.
In 1901-2 Harington took many nests of this Shrike in the Southern Shan States at and around Myingyan. About these he writes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xiv, p. 598, 1903) :— “It is a wonder this bird’s nest has not been described before, as it is very common up here, especially during the breeding season, which is from April to the beginning of June. All the young birds have left their nests now (23rd June) and everywhere one goes you are greeted with the angry chatter of the old birds. Whilst they had eggs in their nest they were very silent and generally kept out of sight. The nest is usually placed on the top of small saplings against the trunks of trees and between the forks of good¬sized branches at 5 to 12 feet from the ground. The nest is neatly made of leaves, lichen, feathers etc. covered with cobwebs, and lined with fine grass. The size of the nest varies a good deal ; if placed in between branches it is much smaller and matches the tree-trunk, if concealed by leaves it is much larger.”
In a letter to me, sent with some eggs from Maymyio, he describes the nests as varying more than those of the Red-backed Shrike ; he writes :—“The nests are all very deep cups, well made, with very thick walls and cups [? bases]. They are made principally of grass, often with the seeds or flowering ends on them, but they are mixed with all sorts of other materials, small twigs, thorny or plain, roots, odd dead leaves, and sometimes scraps of moss, lichen, or wool. Nearly always they are placed in thorny bushes, less often in highthin bushes or in low saplings. They breed in March, April and May.”
Cook describes a nest taken by him near Maymyio in April as exactly like that taken by me in Cachar.
Mackenzie and Hopwood found them breeding freely in the Chin Hills and Upper Chindwin between 4,000 and 7,000 feet. The nests taken by them agreed well with Harington's second description, but one nest taken by Mackenzie was decorated externally with yellow flowers. Wickham took other nests at Taunggyi in early April in open grass and tree country.
The breeding season seems to be March to early June, most birds laying in April and the first half of May.
The eggs number four to six, five being that most often laid.
They vary to an extraordinary extent in colour, possibly even more than do those of our common English Red-backed Shrike. The ground may be really white, though this is most exceptional, and from this it grades through very pale grey-green to a warmer, rather brownish-green, or from the palest creamy, sometimes tinged with buff or yellow, to a warm salmon. The markings consist of freckles of pale grey in some specimens, in others of blotches and spots of dark brown, olive-brown, or grey-brown, whilst in yet others with creamy or salmon ground they may be blotches or spots of reddish-brown, light red, or deep blood-red. In practically every egg these markings, whatever their colour, are most numerous at the larger end, where they form a dense zone, and sparse elsewhere. In this species the blotches are often very big and, as they coalesce and run into one another in the zone, this becomes occasionally a blurred and indefinite mass of colour. A few eggs have the markings, especially when they are very large, more or less scattered over the whole surface. The secondary markings of lavender, inky grey and, in the red eggs, lilac-grey are distributed in the same way as the primary and are often numerous enough to give a grey or purple tint to the massed markings as a whole. Red eggs are quite common among those of this species and occur in about one in every three clutches. Between the various extremes, the very pale grey and the deep red, the creamy yellow and the deep buffy brown, there is every possible link represented. Taken as a series they are very handsome and. boldly marked but, compared with the eggs of many other Shrikes, they give one the impression of being marked in a rather blurred or smudgy manner.
In shape they vary from long, pointed ovals to short, broad ones, with the smaller end blunt and very little compressed. The texture is close and fine but quite glossless.
Two hundred eggs average 21.36 x 16.48 mm. : maxima 25.0 x 17.1 and 21.2 x 18.9 mm. ; minima 18.3 x 15.3 and 19.8 x 15.0 mm. The maxima are both almost abnormally large eggs but not double yolked.
711. Lanius cllurioides cllurioides
(711) Lanius collurioides collurioides Less.