(481) Brachypteryx major major (Jerdon).
The RUFOUS-BELLIED Short-WING.
Brachypteryx major major, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 10.
This handsome Short-wing is found in the Nilgiris from about 5,000 feet to almost the highest hills. It occurs also in the Brama-hagiris and adjoining hills.
It keeps to the well-wooded sholas in between the hills all over the Nilgiris, breeding, apparently, both on the ground in hollows in banks and in holes in trees, while Davison also took nests from crevices in rocks. Undoubtedly, however, holes in trees are much the most often selected as sites for the nest.
Hume, referring to the nests found by Carter, writes of them as follows :—“Mr. Carter took them from holes or depressions in banks in the Nilghiris in April and May. They closely resemble nests of Niltava macgrigorioe from Darjeeling. They are soft masses of green moss, some 4 or 5 inches in diameter externally, with more or less of a depression towards one side, lined with very fine dark moss-roots. This depression may average about 2.1/2 inches across and 3/4 in depth but they vary a good deal. Mr. Carter says :—‘I have found the nests of this species about sholas (i.e., jungles not amounting to forests). The old birds are very shy about returning to the nest when watched.'"
Davison found it breeding in the Nilgiris during the same months (April and May) in holes of trees and crevices in rocks.
Betham, also writing of the Nilgiris (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xiv, p. 620, 1902) says it “is fairly common but requires looking for ; it is of a retiring nature and loves deep shade but not thick jungle. I obtained three nests, on the 4th, 15th, and 29th May, the two first each contained two callow young and the last two fresh eggs, so that two would seem to be the full complement. The sites chosen were natural holes or hollows in trees, a few feet from the ground ; these are filled up with a mass of green moss and finished off in a neat cup, lined with fine black moss-roots, and are very pretty. The nests were not difficult to see as no attempt is made to conceal them, and the trees selected were free from moss, lichen or any sort of parasitic growth.”
Bates gives an exactly similar description of a nest found by him. This was in a natural cavity in a tree “at the edge of a tiny glade through which flowed a small stream. All round this open patch the wood was particularly thick, rendering this quite a secluded spot, although, in reality, the path ran within thirty yards of it.” The owner of the nest was very shy.
Cardew, Howard Campbell and others all describe the nest as being nearly always built in holes of trees quite low down, though Cardew did take one or two in holes of banks.
The breeding season extends from the middle of March to early June, but May is the chief breeding month. Capt. H. Packard took one nest as early as the 17th March close to Ootacamund, whilst Cardew took others in April.
The eggs are invariably two only in number.
The ground-colour is a very pale olive-brown, but the whole surface is so completely covered with minute freckling of reddish- brown that, unless looked into carefully, the eggs appear to be uniform rather dark olive-brown, in some cases the olive tint being almost extinguished by the freckles, so that the egg is quite brown. In one or two of Hume’s eggs, now in the British Museum, the markings are rather more definite blotches, which are more numerous at the larger end, forming ill-defined caps. In one pair in my series the brown freckles are almost obsolete and these two eggs appear to be unicoloured olive-green.
In another pair the freckles form quite a well-defined ring round the larger end, being as usual elsewhere.
In shape the eggs are long ovals, tending towards elliptical ; a very few are shorter ovals and less elliptical. The texture is fine, close and strong, always with a slight gloss, sometimes rather strong in fresh eggs.
Fifteen eggs average 23.7 x 16.5 mm. : maxima 25.9 x 16.4 and 23.1 x 17.3 mm. ; minima 22.0 x 16.0 and 24.0 x 15.9 mm.
481. BraChypteryx major major
(481) Brachypteryx major major (Jerdon).