(335) Siva cyanuroptera cyanuroptera Hodgs.
THE NEPAL BLUE-WINGED SIVA.
Siva cyanuroptera cyanuroptera, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 314.
The Blue-winged Siva has been recorded from Naini Tal, whence it extends through Nepal, Sikkim and the Outer Himalayas to Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra Manipur, Looshai and Chittagong hill-tracts to the Chin Hills.
This beautiful little Babbler breeds between 3,000 and 8,000 feet, but principally over 5,000. This is another nest and egg described by Hodgson about which there is some doubt. The description is either very bad or refers to some other bird. Under the circum¬stances I give descriptions of nests and eggs taken by myself, in many cases the birds being trapped on them in horse-hair nooses. These are, however, multiplied many times by nests and eggs, all exactly similar, sent me by my own collectors since I left India.
All the nests I have seen have been built in either very thick evergreen forest of Rhododendron and Oak, with a few Khasia Pines mixed with the others, or in Pine forest where some stream or ravine, with water in it, attracted other vegetation and other trees. Once or twice only have I known the nest to be built in the sombre Pine forests of Shillong, where there are no other trees and the undergrowth consists of a few tangles of Raspberry and Blackberry canes and numerous Daphne-bushes growing every few yards almost with the precision and regularity of the Tea-bushes in a Tea¬garden. Two nests of this Siva were built low down in these tangles, only a few inches off the ground, and extremely well hidden from view.
Undoubtedly their favourite haunt for breeding purposes is the bank of some stream where a few trees mix with the Pines or exclude them altogether, and where there is a miscellaneous thick undergrowth of bracken, bush, creepers and vines. Sometimes a bush is selected some four or five feet high as a site for the nest or, more rarely still, a small moss-covered sapling. In the latter case the nest is wedged into a fork or several twigs, and is made outwardly of the moss growing on the tree, so is very hard to see— in fact can hardly be detected until the bird is disturbed. Most nests, however, are built very low down in small bushes and matted canes, often within a foot of the ground and seldom over three feet. They are always most carefully hidden and, in addition, always assimilate so well with their surroundings that I know of few Babblers’ nests which are harder to find. It is curious that in the Khasia Hills, where Leiothrox lutea and Siva cyanuroptera are almost equally common and which make rather similar nests, one can easily find twenty of the former to one of the latter, even when one is well acquainted with the birds and their habits. The nests themselves are not unlike those of the Red-billed Leiothrix, but are smaller, neater and much more compact. They are made of leaves, roots, bamboo-leaves and dried moss, very tightly put together and further compacted with tendrils and creeper-stems. Outside this there is generally a good deal of green moss, often the whole outer nest is completely covered with it but, sometimes, there is only a little and, occasionally, none at all. This is especially the case when the nest is built in brambles in Pine forest. The lining is sometimes of buffalo-hair but, generally I think, of the finest black fibres or roots. One nest taken in the Khasia Hills was lined entirely with very thin red roots.
Whymper, who found one nest near Naini-Tal at about 5,000 feet, on 19th June, describes the nest as being very similar to those found in the Khasia Hills.
Nearly all my nests were taken in June but I have one taken as early as the 16th May and another taken on the 19th of that month.
The number of eggs laid is two to four, the first seldom, though I have known of two eggs being incubated and of two young in a nest.
The eggs are the rather deep Thrush-egg blue of all the Sivas, whilst the markings consist of a few small black spots and specks at the larger end, generally absent elsewhere. Sometimes the black spots are replaced by tiny reddish specks and freckles, and I have one clutch in which these form a thin indefinite ring at the larger end. Mandelli’s eggs agree fairly well with this last type but are a different blue in the ground-colour.
In shape most eggs are a rather broad oval, somewhat pointed at the smaller end. A good many eggs are, however, a true oval, whilst a few are rather narrow. The texture is, as usual, fine and close but glossless.
Twenty-four eggs average 18.4 x 14.1 mm. : maxima 30.0 x 15.0 and 19.6 x 15.2 mm. ; minima 17.0 x 13.9 and 18.3 x 13.2 mm.
335. Siva cyanuroptera cyanuroptera
(335) Siva cyanuroptera cyanuroptera Hodgs.