(247) Pellorneum Ignotum Ignotum Hume.
THE ASSAM PLAIN BROWN BABBLER.
Pellorneum ignotum ignotum, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 243.
The Plain Brown Babbler is found throughout the hills of South Assam and, probably, also Manipur up to at least 6,000 feet. It occurs in Winter down to the foot-hills but does not, I think, ever breed in the plains or, indeed, below about 3,000 feet. It has been obtained in Sadiya and Stevens found it considerably West of this at Diju in November, so that it quite possibly extends along the unknown much farther West of this.
At the lower elevations this Babbler keeps almost entirely to bamboo-jungle, both open and dense, and to scrub- and bush- jungle or the secondary growth of old cultivation clearings. Of these three, bamboos are the favourite, and of bamboos the dense clumps of small bamboo are preferred to the others. Higher up, where there are fewer bamboos available, it breeds in secondary jungle and in thin bush-jungle on the outskirts of forest or, occasionally, actually inside the forest.
The position selected for the nest is most often in among the dense masses of small twigs growing from low down on the bamboo clumps, below where the bamboos all separate from one another. Here they are placed at any height between two and four feet from the ground, seldom lower and equally seldom higher. Some¬times they are built among the thick clusters of Raspberry and Blackberry vines, or in creepers growing over bushes and tangled herbage of all kinds. Occasionally I have found them in thick clumps of ekra, grass or weeds, and in these latter cases they are sometimes placed within a few inches of the ground. Under no circumstances, however, are they built on the ground, like those of the Spotted Babbler group. Unusual places from which I have taken nests have been from the inside of bamboo-clumps, deeply covered by all the fallen leaves and spathes ; once from a bush in thin grass and once from a Daphne-bush growing in Pine forest.
The nest is typical of the genus but is better made, the grass and bamboo-leaves being woven tighter and more neatly and the lining more copious. Moreover, the nest of this bird is not always domed. I have seen several semi-domed and a few just very deep cups, the depth greatly exceeding the width.
The little birds are very tame and confiding and quite unlike Pellorneum ruficeps in this respect. One nest we found was built beside a path leading from my camp to the river where we drew our water, and as it was a cup-shaped nest and built right on the top of some Raspberry vines, we could easily see in as we passed. At first the owner would fly off the nest if we stopped and looked at her but, after a few hours, she sat on quite happily as the coolies and others went constantly up and down for water.
The breeding season lasts from May to July, but I have taken eggs as early as the 15th May.
Both sexes assist in building the nest and both take part in incubation, as I have caught both sexes on the eggs. Incubation takes thirteen days.
The eggs, which number three or four, very rarely five, are, in shape and texture, like those of the Spotted Babblers, but in colour are very different and are much more handsome. The ground varies from a pale cream to a warm brick-colour, and this is profusely covered by speckles and tiny blotches of brick-red. In some eggs the blotches are so numerous that little of the ground-colour is to be seen and the eggs look almost uniform deep brick-red. A few eggs have the markings much more sparse and less deep in tint, sometimes with a livid tinge ; most eggs are about half way between these two extremes. There are many secondary spots and speckles of pinkish-lavender but, as a rule, these arehardly discernible without a glass. Many eggs haye a broad ring of spots, almost coalescing, at the larger end, whilst a few have caps. A very beautiful set has the markings consisting of minute speckles of lilac-red, these forming wide rings in two eggs, find in the third a lavender-pink cap at the larger end elsewhere the markings are much less numerous.
Two hundred eggs average 20.0 x 15.1 mm. : maxima 22.8 x 15.5 and 21.1 x 15.9 mm. ; minima 18.2 x 14.1 mm.
247. Pellorneum ignotum Ignotum
(247) Pellorneum Ignotum Ignotum Hume.