(1105) Passer rutilans cinnamomeus Gould.
THE BHUTAN CINNAMON SPARROW.
Passer rutilans cinnamomeus, Fauna B. I,, Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 180.
For the present I retain the three races of this Sparrow as divided in the ‘Fauna,’ though I find the small, dark bird from Sylhet, Cachar and Manipur difficult to absorb in any of them, Rothschild’s intermor from Yunnan is still darker and richer in colour and much bigger, so that these birds, as well as those from Western Burma, cannot be relegated to that race. It may be that with material available the species should be still further split up. Until that is done I maintain the breeding range of this bird as “Eastern Hima¬layas, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Eastern Assam, North and South of the Brahmapootra ; Manipur and Northern Burma West of the Irrawaddy.”
* Ticehurst has an interesting note on this Sparrow (Journ, Bomb. Nat, Hist. Soc, vol. xxxii, p, 347, 1927), but the question is more complicated than, he thinks. Even in 1881, when I first went to India, there was a regular trade in bird-skins in the Darjiling bazaar, the skins coming across from Native Sikkim, S. Tibet and Bhutan, and I have no doubt that Gould and many others obtained some of their skins in this way.
Over most of its range the Cinnamon Sparrow is resident, but in Summer many birds move to very great elevations for breeding purposes. Ludlow (Ibis, 1928, p. 66) says that it arrives at Gyantse early in April and leaves in October. “It breeds in May and June in holes in banks, old mud 'chortens,’ between the stones in bridges and in similar situations. Nests are made of grass and straw and are lined with feathers and hair. One nest I found was lined with the highly aromatic green leaves of a species of Artemisia. ”
There are no records of the breeding of this form in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs,’ but I found it fairly common in North Cachar and very common in the Khasia Hills. In North Cachar it is purely a jungle-bird, nesting always in holes in trees or dead stumps, some¬times making use of small natural hollows, at other times occupying the deserted nesting holes of Barbets and Woodpeckers. They seemed to have no preference for low or high situations for, though
I have never seen a nest below about 6 feet from the ground, many other nests were over 20 feet and some over 60 feet up in large trees. Nor do the birds seem very particular as to what kind of country the trees stand in. I have found nests in stumps in ravines in scrub-jungle, in lofty trees in high dense forest and, perhaps, more often than anywhere else, in dead trees standing in cultivation patches surrounded by jungle of some kind. The nest is similar to that of the Tree-Sparrow, a mass of oddments of all kinds, thickly lined with feathers. I have seen nests composed of many handfuls of dead leaves, grass, small twigs, roots, moss and lichen ; others of half this bulk and mostly grass and roots, while, in a few oases, I have found merely a little grass or a few bamboo leaves, just enough to form a basis for the feather lining, which never varies.
In the Khasia Hills, when I first knew this District in 1886, the Cinnamon Sparrow was the common form of Sparrow and the House-Sparrow a rarity ; the former was then a builder in the thatch roofs of the houses of Shillong and all villages, only quite exceptionally breeding in holes in trees close to gardens. In 1900 the House- Sparrow was everywhere numerous, and though the Cinnamon Sparrow still bred in buildings it was almost as often found nesting in holes in trees. Finally in 1917 my Shillong corre¬spondents told me that it no longer bred at all in that town and had become almost a rare bird elsewhere, though I understand it is still to be found quite commonly in remote villages.
When nesting in roofs it bores a hole in the thatch, often to a depth of three or even four feet, and then makes in it a nest similar to that made in holes in trees but, usually, not so bulky.
The breeding season is from early April to August, and most birds have two broods, but very seldom three.
The eggs in a full clutch number four to six and cannot be dis¬tinguished individually from those of Tree-Sparrows, Examined as a series they are, perhaps, more richly coloured and have a shght gloss. In shape also they are rather more obtuse ovals and so appear to be broader. I have several clutches of which the eggs are all, or with, one exception, coloured brown, of a rather rich tint, which loots uni coloured unless carefully examined, when the eggs are seen to have a buff ground almost obliterated with fine freckling of red-brown. The variation among eggs of the same clutch is not so great as in those of other Sparrows, though one egg is often in great contrast to the rest.
One hundred eggs average 19.2 x 14.2 mm. : maxima 21.1 x 14.1 and 10. 0 x 14.8 mm. ; minima 17.0 x 13.0 mm.
Both birds assist in building the nest, the female directing work and seeing that the male does as he is told. Both birds also incubate and very often remain in the nest-hole together. Incubation takes 12 (rarely) to 13 days. Sometimes while the hen is sitting the male perches on the roof just above the nest and sings—at least it is to be presumed he thinks he does—uttering a constant sweet little twittering note which he keeps on for some minutes at a time.
1105. Passer rutilans cinnamomeus
(1105) Passer rutilans cinnamomeus Gould.