200. Pomatorhinus schisticeps cryptanthus

(200) Pomatorhinus schisticeps cryptanthus Hartert.
THE SURRMA VALLEY SLATY-HEADED SCIMITAE-BABBLER.
Pomatorhinus schisticeps cryptanthus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 207.
This Scimitar-Babbler breeds throughout the hills of the Surrma Valley and South of the Brahmapootra River from the Mikir Hills to North Lakhimpur. Its principal breeding range is between 2,000 and 4,000 feet but it ascends certainly 1,000 feet higher, and probably up to 6,000 in the Naga Hills. In Lakhimpur, on the contrary, it is found right, down to the plains, which are here about 700 feet above sea-level.
Its favourite haunts are bamboo, or bamboo- and grass-jungle, thin scrub-jungle or the dense secondary growth which grows in two or three years in abandoned cultivation, or Tea clearings. It is also occasionally found in quite deep evergreen forest, but such forest certainly does not form its normal habitats.
This Scimitar-Babbler is said to sometimes build an ordinary cup-shaped nest but I have never seen such, though I have examined a great many. Most nests are shaped like a Rugby football lying on its side with the entrance at the smaller end. Less often it is like an egg standing on its broader end with the small end sliced off at an angle. The materials used are bamboo-leaves and grass- blades very loosely interlaced with a scanty lining of roots, smaller blades of grasses and, perhaps, a few bents. At the same time the materials vary greatly and, though about three out of four are built more or less completely of the above articles, others may be built of leaves, roots, a few creepers or tendrils and strips of fibre and bark. I have seen one nest made almost entirely of dead bracken-fronds lined with bracken-roots ; another very extra¬ordinary nest was constructed outwardly of green bracken, the tops of the bracken-leaves drawn together and just leaving room for an entrance. Very rarely even twigs are used, but these would not appear in one nest in ten. The materials, whatever they may be, are very carelessly put together and the nest will never bear removal or much handling. The position chosen in which to place the nest varies almost as much as the nest itself. The site most often selected is undoubtedly either in a bamboo-clump quite low down or else at its base, in among the mass of debris which almost conceals it. One nest I found was placed on the very top of a bush about four feet high, on a platform of tangled creepers, looking just like a wind-gathered mass of bamboo-leaves and grasses. So unlike a nest was it as I looked down on it from higher up the hill that I would have passed on without further inspection had not the bird left it as I was looking. Sometimes it is placed low down in clumps of grass ; often in low thick bushes between two and four feet from the ground and, occasionally, on a bank at the foot of some forest-tree.
The eggs number four in a full clutch but I have seen one or two fives and many threes, showing by their state of incubation that no more would have been laid. They cannot, of course, be distin¬guished from those of the preceding subspecies.
One hundred eggs average 26.6 x 19.2 mm. : maxima 28.2 x 19.3 and 26.8 x 20.0 mm. ; minima 24.4 x 19.0 and 26.1 x 17.9 mm.
The birds lay in April, May and June but, in the foot-hills and the plains about Margherita, a few individuals lay every year as early as the last week in March.
They sit fairly close but never risk handling and, when disturbed, tumble out of their nests to the ground and at once seek refuge in the undergrowth, proceeding by long hops and looking more like rats than birds. They never go far and, within a very few moments of being disturbed, their low “hoot-hoot” will be heard not far from the nest. Both birds take part in incubation, for we have repeatedly caught both sexes on the nest ; both, also, help in the construction of the nest. This is a lengthy job, though the result is so poor, and the builders seem to work at it only for an hour or so in the evenings and mornings. From start to finish the making of the nest probably averages a good ten days.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
200. Pomatorhinus schisticeps cryptanthus
Spp Author: 
Hartert.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
200
Year: 
1932
Page No: 
166
Common name: 
Coltarts Scimitar Babbler
M_ID: 
24193
M_SN: 
Pomatorhinus schisticeps cryptanthus
Volume: 
Vol. 1
id: 
13405

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