(539) Cyanosylvia suecica abbotti Richmond.
THE EASTERN WHITE-SPOTTED BLUE-THROAT.
Cyanosylvia cyanecula abbotti, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 86.
The breeding range of this Blue-throat extends from the Pamirs, through Northern Kashmir, Baltistan and Ladak, to Western Tibet. As already mentioned, Tugarinov has reviewed the races of this bird and, according to his distributions, our subspecies is replaced by others in the country North of Baltistan.
This Blue-throat seems to be a very common breeding bird over a great part of Ladak, where nests, eggs and young were taken by Ludlow, Watken and Osmaston between 9,000 and 11,000 feet. Some of the birds obtained by Ludlow, as well as those later on shot by Osmaston off their nests, had no white on the throats, the patch being all red, this leading to the belief that both the White-spotted and Red-spotted Blue throats bred in Ladak in the same area. Many individuals, however, of the former have no white, or very little, on the throats and, when the skins were available for examination, they all proved, without exception, to belong to the White-spotted species.
The birds nest in open hill-sides covered with grass and low thorny scrub, preferring damp, or even wet, ground and the vicinity of streams. Watken (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxix, p. 699, 1927) obtained one nest “placed at the foot of, and in the middle of, a mass of young willow shoots round a willow-tree, and consisted of fibrous roots lined with much finer ones and fine dead grass leaves. The nest was 2.1/2" across the centre by 2" deep.” This was a very unusual site, apparently, and neither Ludlow nor Osmaston found one in a similar position. Ludlow (pp. cit. vol. xxvii, p. 143, 1924) found "two nests at Bhot Karbu on the 24th June, 1919 ; the first contained four very much incubated eggs, the second four newly hatched young. Nests placed on the ground amongst long grass and low bushes, cup¬shaped and built of dried grass.” Another nest found on the 25th at Mulbek, a day’s march from Bhot Karbu, was similar, and contained four slightly incubated eggs. Osmaston remarks (op. cit. vol. xxx, p. 477, 1928):—“The chief breeding place of this species is undoubtedly Ladakh, where they frequent the low thorny scrub in or near stream-beds, especially in damp or swampy spots.” In vol. xxxi, p. 983, Osmaston gives the following fuller description of other birds’ breeding habits :—“This species is fairly common in Summer in Ladakh in the Indus Valley and its tributaries between 9,000' and 11,500'. They are found chiefly along river beds and streams and they are very partial to wet ground covered with a low thorny shrub, Lonicera spinosa, in fact they are rarely or never seen except in or near this thorny scrub, and wherever a decent sized patch of this scrub occurs one may be almost sure of finding one or more pairs of this species.
“Nidification commences in May, fresh eggs being available from the last week in May throughout June. The nest is a most difficult one to locate, being placed on the ground well concealed in grass at the base of a thorn-bush. Except for the exit of the parent bird, the nest would generally escape detection. The nest is composed of dry grass only.”
Osmaston’s notes, sent me with his eggs, show that his nests were all found in wet places and practically all well hidden in grass in thorny scrub. In shape they were deep cups made only of dry grass lined with the same. They were all taken between the 26th May and 10th July, so that June seems to be the regular breeding month. Watken remarks that, though he did take one nest with incubated eggs on the 29th July, nearly all the birds he then saw were busy feeding their young.
The full clutch of eggs seems to be always four, though three only may occasionally be laid. In colour they vary from a rather dull “sage” or olive-green to a bright sage or olive-brown. When looked at casually they appear to be practically unicoloured but, when examined carefully, they are seen to have numerous pale freckles of dull light reddish scattered over the whole surface. In shape they are rather short, blunt ovals, rarely slightly pointed at the smaller end. The texture is smooth and fine, the shell rather fragile, with the surface glossless or nearly so.
Thirty-six eggs average 19.1 x 14.2 mm. : maxima 20.0 x 14.2 and 19.7 x 14.6 mm. ; minima 18.3 x 13.6 and 18.5 x 13.3 mm. A pigmy egg, not included in the above, measures only 14.0 x 11.2 mm.
539. Cyanosylvia suecica abbotti
(539) Cyanosylvia suecica abbotti Richmond.