(853) Phylloscopus tytleri Brooks.
THE PALE-BELLIED, or TYTLER’S, WILLOW-WARBLER.
Phylloscopus tytleri, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 455.
This Willow-Warbler breeds in the Western Himalayas from the Afghan boundary as far as Garhwal East. It is common in. Kashmir from 8,000 feet up to the tree-limit, and its nest has been taken at about 9,000 feet in Apharwat, near Rupal, Astore, at 10,000, and in Kishtwar. Lower still, around Sonamurg, about 8,000 feet, Rattray took many nests in 1906. On the North-West frontier Whitehead took one nest at about 11,500 feet at Poorbiat, in the Khagan Valley.
This is essentially a forest Warbler, breeding almost entirely in Pine forests or in those which are mixed with some kind of coniferous tree. Brooks, who discovered and described this Warbler, says :— “P. tytleri is exclusively a pine-forest Phylloscopus ; our new species builds, 40 feet up a pine-tree, a compact half-domed nest on the side of a branch.”
Cock, who took nests and obtained the birds which he sent to Brooks, writes about one “One day in the forests at Sonamerg, Cashmere, I noticed a Warbler fly into a high pine with a feather in its bill. I watched with the glasses and saw that it was constructing a nest, so allowing a reasonable time to elapse (9 days or so), I went and took the nest. It was placed on the outer end of a bough, about 40 feet up a high pine, and I had to take the nest by means of a spar lashed at right angles to the tree, the outer end of which was supported by a rope fastened to the top of the pine. The nest was a very solid deep cup of grass, fibres and lichen externally and lined with hair and feathers. It contained four white eggs, measuring 0.58 by 0.48.”
The female off this nest, taken in early June, was identified by Brooks.
Rattray describes the positions of the nests of this species taken by him in Sonamurg as built in similar places between 20 and 40 feet from the ground. The nests, however, he says, are domed, though of the same materials —grass, lichen, moss, roots and fibre, all densely lined with feathers.
A. E. Osmaston also found domed nests. Of the birds and their nidification he writes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxxi, p. 990, 1927) :—“This species is found in the Silver-fir forest of Kashmir between about 8,000 and 10,000 feet, especially where there are small sunny openings in such forests with shrubby under¬growth of viburnum etc.
“Nidification commences early in June. Nests are small and globular, resembling those of P. proregulus, and are constructed of lichens, moss etc. and lined with feathers. They are well con-cealed in the leafy boughs of Silver-firs, generally at some considerable height above the ground, rarely within 20 ft. of it.”
Whitehead describes a very unusual nest taken in the Khagan Valley off which the male was shot : —“It was of the usual domed type but very frail, composed of grass and lined with feathers and hair.” This nest was taken at 9,800 feet, 30 feet up in a Blue Pine. The female is in the British Museum.
The characteristics of this Warbler’s nidification are the moss-and lichen-made domed nests, lined with feathers and placed high up in Pines. The eggs are white, or nearly so, and not in the least like those of P. proregulus, which makes a somewhat similar nest in similar positions.
The breeding season is from the last few days of May to the middle of July.
The number of eggs laid varies from three to five, the latter being quite exceptional.
They are pure unspotted white, an occasional egg being very faintly speckled with red, whilst I have one clutch taken by White¬head in which all three eggs are lightly freckled with tiny pin-points of red.
In shape the eggs are generally normal ovals, but long, pointed ovals and short, broad ones occur.
The texture is less fine than in the eggs of P. affinis and, though the surface is smooth, there is rarely much or any gloss.
Thirty-six eggs average 16.0 x 12.2 mm. : maxima 17.2 x 12.2 and 17.0 x 13.0 mm. ; minima 14.3 x 12.1 and 15.3 x 11.5 mm.
853. Phylloscopus tytleri
(853) Phylloscopus tytleri Brooks.