(505) Oenanthe alboniger Hume.
THE LARGE BLACK-AND-WHITE CHAT.
Oenanthe alboniger, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 40.
This fine Chat is found from Persia to Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Kashmir and Sind.
Its breeding in India has never been proved, but Ticehurst found two nests occupied by these birds for roosting purposes, which, presumably, must have been their own. He says (Ibis, 1922, p. 632):— Hume’s Chat is confined to the higher hills of the Khirthar ; the most easily accessible place is in the limestone hills of Laki (2,000 feet), which here abut on the Indus and the N.W. Railway. I visited these hills on the 9th February and 2nd March. The nullahs here have a dried-up water-course and scattered bushes and trees manage to exist ; the sides are steep, boulder-strewn slopes, the tops of which meet the sheer cliff-face, and here, where the largest rocks broken off from the cliff have come to rest in the top of the slopes, is the home of this bird.
“From the state of the organs of those obtained in March I should say they would probably breed early in April, Close to where I foundtwo pairs I found two apparently old nests, identical in construction and situation. They were placed in weather-worn cups in the face of huge limestone rocks lying on the slopes and some 20 feet up from the boulder’s base. They were composed of a twig foundation, the outside of which was well plastered with mud into which chips of limestone were incorporated ; the lining was soft grass.”
Currie found them breeding in some numbers near Kerman, building their nests inside holes in mud ruins, anything from a few inches to two feet in. One such nest, found in April with five fresh eggs, was taken from two feet down in a hole, the nest made of little bits of stone with a rather poor lining of grass, feathers and hair. In front of this was a barricade of stones, highest next the nest and then shelving off towards the entrance of the hole. This particular barricade weighed two pounds. A second clutch of three eggs was taken from the same nest on the 24th May.
Currie writes me, re the nests of this bird:—“They generally select a site for their nest in a crevice or hole in a rock, sometimes so high up in the faces of crumbling cliffs as to be quite inaccessible without ropes ; at other times quite low down, yet equally impossible to get at without blasting-powder, being so far inside, narrow crevices into which the arm cannot enter. The barricade of small flat stones always shows where there is a nest. About Kerman the nests were easier to get, many being built in deserted mud buildings, some in accidental holes in the walls, others in holes in which rafters had been inserted. Even here the usual barricade of small stones was always built up in front of the nest. They begin to breed early, many in April or even March, and they have second broods in the end of May. They lay four or five eggs.”
The few eggs I have seen have all been a very pale skim-milk blue ; some are quite spotless, others have a few speckles of pale red, while a few others have the markings rather more distinct and forming a ring round the larger end. One egg generally seems to be better marked than the rest in each clutch. In shape the eggs are broad ovals, some distinctly pointed at the small end, others quite obtuse.
Twenty eggs average 22.5 x 16.8 mm. : maxima 25.0 x 17.1 mm. ; minima 20.3 x 16.5 and 22.3 x 16.1 mm.
505. Cenanthe alboniger
(505) Oenanthe alboniger Hume.