(90) Paradoxornis flavirostris Gould.
THE BLACK-THROATED, or GOULD’S, PARROT-BILL.
Paradoxornis flavirostris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 105.
Gould’s Parrot-Bill breeds between the foot-hills and 8,000 feet in the outer Himalayas from Nepal to Eastern Assam, Surrma Valley, Manipur, Lushai and Chin Hills.
I have not myself taken the nest over 5,000 feet but Tytler found the species breeding freely at 7,000 and 8,000 feet in the Naga Hills. The favourite height is probably 3,000 to 4,500 feet, many nests having been taken by myself in the Cachar and Khasia Hills at these elevations.
The jungle generally selected for breeding purposes is undoubtedly bamboo and next to that secondary growth, especially such as is mixed with grass and bamboos. It also haunts the immense ekra and elephant grass plains bordering the Subansiri and other rivers, where they debouch from the hills into the plains. They seem to have a predilection for wet places and, even when breeding at high elevations, select small wet patches where there is some growth of grass, cane or reeds. As a rule they are not birds of true forest but may now and then be seen in quite deep forest at 3,000 feet upwards in places where the forest opens out for a space or where long grass and bamboo have obtained a footing.
All the nests I have personally taken have been built in reeds or bamboo with very few exceptions. If in reeds the nest is affixed to three or four of the stout stems between 3 and 5 feet from the ground ; if in a bamboo it is usually built in one of the thick clusters of twigs jutting out from the lower nodes but, occasionally, it may be fixed in one of the higher branches. I have seen one or two nests built in forks of bare twigs in saplings, whilst one I took from a cane-brake. The nests are not concealed but, when placed in bamboos or ekra, are not conspicuous, as their colour blends with their surroundings, though when taken away from these the clean yellow colour is very striking. The nest is deep cup-shaped, only a few nests being broad and shallow and these latter I only saw in North Cachar and, even there, they were exceptional. They are, as are all the neats of this family, extraordinarily neat compact nests, measuring between 3.1/2 and 4 inches in external diameter and from 3 to inches in depth, whilst the inner cup would measure about an inch less each way. The external material consists of fine strips of bark of coarse grasses, ekra or bamboo, mixed with a few fine strips from the blades of the grass or the leaves of the bamboos. This is all very strongly twisted round and round and then kept firm and close with spiders’ webs. Sometimes white and yellow scraps of lichen and spiders’ webs adorn the outside of the nest but even these are well and neatly plastered down. The lining is of grass-bark, very fine grass-stems and, less often, fine strips of grass-blades. Once I found a nest lined with buffalo hair which contrasted curiously with the pale but bright yellow outer structure. Rarely reddish material may be used but all of the same nature as the yellow.
A few birds commence building in the last week of April but not many eggs are laid until May in Assam.
The latest nest with eggs I have seen was on the 18th July but very few birds lay after the middle of June.
The eggs number two or three, as often one as the other, whilst clutches of four have occasionally been taken.
The ground-colour is pure white and they are sparsely speckled at the larger end with pale reddish or, more seldom, with deep reddish-brown. In a very few eggs, perhaps one in thirty, the spots become blotches and clouds, making the eggs closely resemble those of the genus Psittiparus.
Fifty eggs average 21.9 x 16 mm. : maxima 23.1 x 16.6 and 22.1 x17.1 mm. ; minima 19.8 x 14.9 mm.
The texture is neither fine nor close, but glossless and very fragile ; the shape blunt oval, occasionally a long oval but never pointed.
90. Paradoxornis flavirostris
(90) Paradoxornis flavirostris Gould.