376. Mesia argentauris argentauris

(376) Mesia argentauris argentauris Hodgs.
THE INDIAN SILVER-EARED MESIA.
Mesia argentauris argentauris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 354.
This handsome little Babbler is exceptionally common in Assam between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, sometimes ascending a couple of thousand feet higher. From Assam it extends all along the Outer Himalayas, West to Garhwal and East to the Shan States and Siam, whilst South, in Burma, it reaches as far as, and including, the Malay States. In Sikkim Stevens says it nests from 3,000 to 7,000 feet, though it has been found as low as 1,500 feet in Winter. It frequents evergreen forest, especially the outskirts and more open portions, but prefers scrub-jungle, bush-clad open spaces, or where the bushes have grown in deserted cultivation. It does breed in Pine forest, but not in preference to other forest, as does the Red-billed Leiothrix and, when it does, it chooses spots in which the Pines are mixed with other trees.
Hodgson says that in Nepal “the Silver-eared Mesia breeds in the lowlands of Nepal, laying in May and June. The nest is placed in a bushy tree, between two or three thin twigs, to which it is attached. It is composed of dry bamboo and other leaves, then grass and moss, and is lined inside with fine roots.”
In Sikkim Gammie says of the nests : "they closely resemble those of Leiothrix lutea in size and structure and are similarly situated, but instead of having the egg-cavity lined with dark coloured material, all I found had light coloured linings ; such was even the case with one nest I found within three or four yards of a nest of the other species.”
Stevens found that it “utilized the tea bushes for nesting purposes” in Sikkim and around Darjiling where there are Tea Estates.
Personally, although I have seen hundreds of nests now of both species, I certainly could never tell one from the other unless I actually saw the bird on the nest, though I might know that in some places one or the other bird bred and not the other.
As regards the eggs of the two genera, they are equally similar, and all I can say is that, in proportion, eggs with a white ground are more often found among those of Mesia than among those of Leiothrix. Otherwise the eggs go through the same depth of ground-colour, from the palest bluish-white to a deeper clear blue, and the markings of chestnut, red-brown or brown are the same in character and distribution.
They lay four eggs, sometimes three only, and very rarely five.
Two hundred eggs average 20.9 x 16.1 mm. : maxima 23.4 x 16.0 and 22.8 x 17.0 mm. ; minima 19.4 x 16.0 and 21.0 x 15.0 mm.
Like so many other common birds, their breeding season is very extended. The favourite months are May and June but they breed commonly from April to August, and it is possible have two broods.
Both birds assist in incubation and both birds take part in building the nests, the male actually doing part of the building as well as bringing materials. They sit pretty closely but, even if not seen leaving the nest, soon give the site away by their fussiness and demonstrations if anyone goes near it.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
376. Mesia argentauris argentauris
Spp Author: 
Hodgs.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
376
Year: 
1932
Page No: 
329
Common name: 
Silver Eared Mesia
M_ID: 
25056
M_SN: 
Leiothrix argentauris argentauris
Volume: 
Vol. 1
id: 
13564

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