(870) Phylloscopus inornatus humii Blyth.
THE INDIAN PALE-BREASTED WILLOW-WARBLER.
Phylloscopus humii humii, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 469.
Hume’s Willow-Warbler, as this little bird has hitherto been called, breeds from Turkestan, Tianschan, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, throughout Kashmir to the Simla States, Garhwal Hills and Murree Hills.
* Ticehurst has recently shown that, although Blyth himself repeatedly stated that his name “inornatus” did not apply to Phylloscopus superciliosus but was a synonym of modestus, it can, in fact, be applied to no other form of Indian Phylloscopus. He shows that there are details in the description which make it inapplicable to any other species and so by the process of elimination, reduces the number to the present species. The Nomenclatorial Committee of the B. O. U. has accepted inornatus.
PHYLLOSCOPUS INORNATUS HUMII.
The Indian Pale-breasted Willow-Warbler. (Sonamurg, Kashmir, 1931.)
It would be quite impossible to improve upon Brooks’s account of the nidification of this Warbler and his beautiful description of Goolmurg, so often referred to in these volumes as the nesting, haunt of many species of birds. In Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs,’ p. 264, he writes :— “Goolmerg is one of those mountain downs, or extensive pasture lands, which are numerous on the top of the range of hills immediately below the Pir-Panjal Range, which is the first snowy range. It is a beautiful mountain common, about 3,000 feet above the level of Srinagger, which latter place has an elevation of 5,235 feet. This common is about 3 miles long and about a couple of miles wide, but of very irregular shape. On all sides the undulating grass-land is surrounded by pine-clad hills, and on one side the pine-slopes are surmounted by snowy mountains. The whole hill-side is intersected by small ravines, and each ravine has its stream of pure cold water,—water so different to the tepid fluid which we drink in the plains. In such places where there were water and old pines P. humii was very abundant : every few yards was the domain of a pair. The males were very noisy and continually uttering their song ; this song is a loud double chirp or call, hardly worthy of being called by the name of song at all. While the female was sitting, the male continued vigorously to utter his double note as he fed from tree to tree. To this note I and my native assistants paid but little attention ; but when the female, being off the nest, uttered her well known ‘tiss-yip,’ we repaired rapidly to the spot and kept her in view. In every instance, before an hour had passed, she went into her nest, first making a few impatient dashes at the place where it was, as much as to say—‘There it is, but I dont want you to see me go in.’
"The nest of P. humii is always, so far as my observation goes, placed on the ground on some sloping bank or ravine-side. The situation preferred is the lower slope near the edge of the wood, and at the root of some very small bush or tree ; often, however, on quite open ground, where the newly growing herbage was so short that it only partially concealed it. In form it is a true Willow- Wren’s nest—a rather large globular structure with the entrance at one side. Regarding the first nest taken, I have noted that it was placed on a sloping bank on the ground, among some low ferns and other plants, and close to the roots of a small broken fir tree, which, being somewhat inclined over the nest, prevented it from being trodden upon. It was composed of coarse dry grass and moss, and lined with finer grass and a few black hairs. The cavity was about 2 inches, and the entrance about 1.1/2 inches in diameter. About 20 yards from the nest was a large, old, hollow fir tree, and in this I sat till the female returned to her nest. My attendant then quietly approached the spot, when she flew out of the nest and sat on a low bank two or three yards from it : then she uttered her ‘tiss-yip,' which I knew so well, and darted away among the pines.
“My second nest was placed on the side of a steep bank on the ground. The third was similarly placed, and composed of coarse grass and moss and lined with black horse-hair. In each of their nests the number of eggs was five.”
Many other nests are thus described, all placed in the same kind of situations and all made of coarse grass and lined with hair, one nest having a few feathers incorporated with the other materials outside. One nest was being built “among the branches of a shrub, right in the centre of the bush and on the ground, which was sloping as usual.”
Blyth says that sometimes the nest is “artfully concealed, but at other times there it was—the round green ball with an opening on one side.”
The lining seems to be nearly always of hair. Brooks and Cock generally found it to be horse hair in Kashmir, but in Garhwal Whymper says:—“This bird seems, wherever I have found it, to use musk-deer hair, which is very quill-like, in preference to any other.”
In the Kurram Valley two nests out of three taken by Whitehead were lined with fine grass only, and such nests are referred to by others as also occurring rarely in Kashmir.
The specific characteristics of the nest are :—
Built of grass, or grass and moss, lined with hair and placed on ground.
Untidy and poorly finished off.
They breed throughout May and June and I have eggs taken from the 5th May to the 30th June.
The full complement of eggs is four or five, three eggs being very seldom incubated.
They are extremely like those of P. proregulus—indeed I do not think they can in any way be differentiated from them except that they have not, as a series, nearly so well-defined rings as the eggs of proregulus so often have.
In shape and texture, as in colour, they are just like those of proregulus but I do not think they are quite so fragile.
One hundred eggs average 14.6 x 11.4 mm. : maxima 16.5 x 12.3 mm. ; minima 13.0 x 11.0 and 13.1 x 10.4 mm.
870. Phylloseopus inornatus humii
(870) Phylloscopus inornatus humii Blyth.