(868) Phylloscopus proregulus simlaensis Ticehurst.
THE SIMLA YELLOW-RUMPED CROWNED WARBLER.
Phylloscopus proregulus simlaensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 467.
Ticehurst’s form of this Warbler is found from Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Gilgit throughout Kashmir, at suitable elevations, to Murree, Garhwal and Simla States.
This little Warbler is a bird of the forest, breeding at all heights from 7,000 up to 12,000 feet. The lowest elevation recorded is in Murree, where Rattray, Buchanan and others took its nest at about the former height. In Garhwal Whymper took nests between 9,000 and 12,000 feet and never saw it breeding below the former height. On the Safed Koh Whitehead noticed the birds in the breeding season at 8,500 feet but it was not common, while Harington obtained one nest in the Khagan Valley at 10,000 feet on the 11th June. In Kashmir Cock first and, later, Davidson and many others have taken the nests round about Sonamurg at 8,000 feet upwards, and a little higher than this it is very common.
It breeds in all sorts of forest so long as they contain Firs, Pines, Deodars or other trees upon which they are accustomed to nest. Their favourite forests seem to be mixed Birch and Silver Fir, dense or comparatively open, and Deodar, generally where it is fairly open and sunny.
The nests are almost invariably built on Firs of some kind or on Deodars and may be at any height from 10 feet or so up to 40 feet or even higher. Perhaps, however, more are placed between 10 and 20 feet than above the latter height, while Cock noted it as breeding occasionally as low down as 6 feet.
As a rule the nest is fixed either on the upper surface of the branches or of the foliage but, at other times, it is pendent or semi- pendent from and in among the foliage. Occasionally, as described by Cock, the nest may be on a small bough of a Fir or Pine at its junction with the stem of the tree.
Most nests are small round balls, completely domed, but a few might be more correctly described as semi- or partially domed. They are very compact and well made, usually about 5 inches in diameter each way, with an egg-cavity of half or less than half that measurement. They are made of moss, moss and lichen mixed, and with scraps of bark, generally of Birch, added to the outside and inside ; externally grass is very seldom used but Whymper notes that in nearly every nest he saw in Garhwal there was a layer of fine grass between the outer structure and the mass of soft feathers which form the lining.
A curious nest described by A. E. Osmaston was “composed of grass and blue pine-needles with a little hair, copiously lined with feathers.” Other nests found by him were of the ordinary moss and grass with a few strips of Birch-bark.
Some nests are very carefully concealed and can only be dis¬covered, especially when they are high up, by watching the birds on to them ; others are easily spotted and can quickly be detected once the breeding tree is marked down, not a difficult thing if the actions of the birds are understood.
The characteristics one expects with this Warbler’s nest are neatness and compactness, an exterior of lichen and moss, hning of feathers and domed in shape, about 5 inches across. Built more or less high in trees and never on the ground or low down in bushes.
The birds lay all through May and June, but at the higher elevations few birds lay before the latter month. I have no records of eggs being taken either in April or in July.
The normal number of eggs laid is four and the number is very consistent, but occasionally three only are laid and incubated, and still more rarely five. Cock mentions the latter number as being laid and records taking one such clutch. The only other person to take a five, so far as I know, is Ward, who obtained one five near Sonamurg.
Some of the eggs are, except in size, as Hume says, very like those of the Crested Tit. The ground is pure white and they are freely spotted and speckled with reddish-brown or brick-red. In a few eggs these markings are more or less scattered over the whole surface but in most they form very well defined zones at the larger end and are scanty elsewhere. In one clutch taken by Whymper the spots are massed in caps at the large end. In another clutch of four taken by Ward three eggs have rings of rich deep red blotches, while the fourth has just a faint ring of tiny specks. In some of my sets the markings are very tiny and dark, almost a purple-brown, disposed in the usual manner.
In shape the eggs vary a good deal but most are a broad oval distinctly compressed at the smaller end. The texture is fine and smooth but quite glossless, and the eggs are very fragile, even for such tiny ones as these.
One hundred eggs average 14.1 x 10.9 mm. : maxima 16.0 x 11.6 and 15.2 x 11.9 mm. ; minima 12.2 x 11.0 and 13.0 x 9.9 mm.
Apparently only the female bird incubates, the male, however, keeping always on the alert not far from the nest. I have not been able to ascertain anything about the sexes responsible for building, the nest, which takes about six to eight days to construct.
868. Phylloseopus proregulus simlaensis
(868) Phylloscopus proregulus simlaensis Ticehurst.