(472) Pnoepyga pusilla pusilla (Hodgs.).
THE HIMALAYAN BROWN WREN.
Pnoepyga pusilla pusilla, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 459.
The Brown Wren is found from Nepal and Sikkim to Eastern Assam, extending through the Chin, Kachin and Bhamo Hills to the Shan States and Karenni.
In Sikkim Stevens gives its range from the lower hills up to 6.000 feet, but a specimen was obtained by Inglis on Tonglo at 10,000 feet. In Assam it occurs from about 3,000 feet up to the higher hills to at least 7,000 feet and possibly higher.
It haunts very much the same kind of country as its larger relative—wet green forest, grown over with mosses, orchids and creepers, the ground broken up by ravines, rocks and boulders, where it scuttles restlessly backwards and forwards like a little mouse.
I can add nothing to my original description of its nidification given in ‘The Ibis’ (1895, p. 322)
“This little Wren constructs two types of nests, very different from one another in character, so much so that one would almost imagine them to be built by birds of different species. Perhaps the most common position selected is one on the trunk of some tree that is covered with long pendent moss, a description of any one of which would do almost equally well for the rest.
“Wandering along a track cut through heavy evergreen forest, the trees on either side covered with the most luxuriant growths of all kinds, I was attracted by the unusual heaviness and length of the brilliant green moss which covered the whole surface of the trunk of a large tree that grew beside and hung over the path. Going close to examine it, I saw a small bird fly from out of the moss at about the level of my head and, putting in my fingers whence it had flown, I discovered a nest with three eggs.
“The first work of the bird seems to be to attach some of the loose lower ends of the moss to small rough projections on the bark of the tree, so as to form a rough loop beside it. It then works more and more moss into the loop, not tearing it from the tree, but using it as it grows, until it has a firm basis to work on. As soon as this is obtained, it collects quantities of the fine black roots of the same moss and works these in with the lining material already used, so that finally it has a beautiful little pad securely fastened inside the living green moss on the tree. The depression, in the pad for the eggs to lie on is rather shallow, about half an inch, while it may be about 2 inches across. Eventually, of course, the size much depends on the luxuriance of the moss in which it is placed, but the comparatively solid base is generally somewhere between 2.1/2 and 3 inches in diameter, its depth seldom exceeding an inch and, often, being considerably less. No artificial entrance is required, as the birds can easily slip in and out between the tree and the moss.
“Most nests which I have found built thus against the sides of trees have not been very low down on them, the majority being placed at a height of from 4 to 6 feet from the ground, while I have taken others at heights of from 10 to 12 feet from it, and one fully 20 feet from the ground.
“The other type of nest is not quite so commonly found as the last and I should think that the kind already described numbers about 3 in 5.
“The nest I am about to describe was found in the same evergreen forest as the others, but whereas that was taken on a lofty peak, over 4,300 feet higher, the present one was taken in a valley at the foot of the peak and a thousand feet lower.
“In this valley, in a rank tangle of grass and bushes, lay the remains of a once mighty tree, its rapidly decaying trunk obliterated with dense masses of ferns, mosses and orchids of all kinds, among them the most prominent being the sweet-scented Celogyne ocellata and Dendrobium densiflorum. Stepping on this trunk, and clutching for assistance at the plants as I climbed, I disturbed a pair of Brown Wrens, so at once slipped quietly down again and, leaning against a tree close by, waited until they should return. In a very few minutes back they both came and, after bustling about for a short time in a very consequential manner, disappeared into what looked like a ball of live moss, tucked away among a mass of yellow-flowering orchids. On approaching nearer, however, I found that the seeming lump of moss was in reality a most beautiful little globular nest, made with the brightest and freshest moss and lined with the finest roots of the same. It was wedged in well under the orchid and rested on the remains of a small branch which still jutted out from the trunk. The leaves and flowers of the orchid hanging over the entrance concealed it from any but the most careful search, while the brilliantly green moss which the bird had selected was exactly like that growing in luxuriant clumps around it. Altogether it was, both in itself and in its surroundings, one of the most beautiful little bird residences I have ever seen. Horizontally it was about 3" in diameter and about an inch more in height. The cavity measured about 2" or rather less, while the entrance was about an inch wide.”
Nearly all Osmaston’s nests were found by him built in the moss hanging down the face of vertical rocks in damp shady forest at about 6,000 feet elevation. These in construction were like the nest first described above. No nest contained more than three eggs.
In Assam they breed from April to June, most eggs being laid in early May ; in Darjiling Osmaston took nests in June and July.
In Assam I think four was generally the full complement but often three only, while I have found two incubated.
They are pure white and are of fine close texture but have little or no gloss and are very fragile. In shape they are rather broad ovals but vary much, and fairly long pointed ovals are quite common.
If one judged by the size of the eggs one would imagine there must be two races of this little Wren, for the eggs of birds from South of the Assam Valley are much smaller than those from the North.
Fifty Cachar and Khasia Hills eggs average 17.1 x 13.1 mm. : maxima 18.9 x 13.0 and 18.3 x 14.0 mm. ; minima 15.4 x 12.6 and 17.9 x 12.1 mm.
Twenty-five Sikkim eggs average 18.3 x 13.8 mm. : maxima 19.8 x 13.9 and 19.4 x 14.5 mm.
472. Pnoepyga pusilla pusilla
(472) Pnoepyga pusilla pusilla (Hodgs.).