(831) Franklinia buchanani (Blyth).
THE RUFOUS-FRONTED WREN-WARBLER.
Franklinia buchanani, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 429.
The Rufous-fronted Wren-Warbler is resident and breeds in Sind, Rajputana, the Deccan, Central India and the Central Provinces. Its distribution East of Southern India is doubtful but, in the North, it is found as far as Western Bengal and Behar as far East as Ranchi and Hazaribagh. The result of the Vernay Expedition may clear up its status in Madras and confirm or refute Jerdon’s statements in this connection.
All accounts of this bird’s breeding-haunts refer to low bush and scrub-jungle as the usual situation, in some cases the bushes being mixed with and overgrown by long grass. It is a Warbler of dry and, to some extent, desert country, though never found in desert without a certain amount of bush and scrub-cover in which it can breed. Ticehurst, writing of the country it frequents in Sind, says (Ibis, 1922, p. 553) :—“It is a bird essentially of desert scrub-jungle, where euphorbias, a few camel-thorns and acacia-bushes make up, with tussocks of desert-grass, a scanty vegetation. In thicker forest or jungle, or cultivation proper, I never saw it.” Eates found it common “in the desert-scrub on the low hills bordering the Habb River, near Band Murad Khan,” where it was breeding.
In the United Provinces Gill found it breeding near Ghazipur in grass-lands, placing its nest both in grass-tangles and in between the grass-stems. All other collectors describe the nest as being built in low bushes, often thorny ones.
Hume’s ample description of the nest cannot be improved on :— “The nests, according to my experience, are always placed at heights from a foot to 4 feet from the ground, in low scrub-jungle or bushes. They vary greatly in size and shape, according to position. Some are oblate spheroids with the aperture near the top, some are purse-like and suspended, and some are regular cups. One of the former description measured externally 5 inches in diameter one way by 3.1/4 inches the other. One of the suspended was 7 inches long by 3 wide, and one of the cup-shaped nests was nearly 4 inches in diameter and stood, perhaps, at most 2.1/2 inches high. The egg-cavity in the various nests varies from 1.3/4 to 2.1/4 inches in diameter, and from less than 2 to fully 3 inches in depth. Externally the nest is very loosely and, generally, raggedly con¬structed of very fine grass-stems and tow-like vegetable fibre, used in different proportions in different nests, those in which grass is chiefly used being most ragged and straggling, and those in which most vegetable fibre has been made use of being neatest and most compact. In all the nests that I have seen the egg-cavity has been lined with something very soft. In many nests the lining is composed of small felt-like pieces of dull salmon-coloured fungus, with which the whole interior is closely plastered ; in others there is a dense lining of soft silky vegetable down and in others the down and fungus are mingled. They lay from four to five eggs, never more than this number according to my experience.”
According to the records in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs,’ it breeds almost invariably after the rains have commenced at the end of June, and then on through July and August into September, while Bingham found several nests near Delhi in the beginning of October.
The only exception to this breeding season given by Hume is in Sambhur, where Adam says “it breeds just before the rains.” Davidson also found it breeding in May in Saugur, while Sparrow took several nests near Trimulgherry in April and May and Barnes took nests in the Central Provinces in the latter month. All the rest of my correspondents, Whistler, Betham, Eates and many others, give June to October as the breeding season.
The number of eggs laid is generally four or five, the one as often as the other, but Eates took a clutch of six in Sind and, as the eggs are all equally richly and unusually coloured, they are obviously the produce of the same bird.
Butler says :—“As a rule the eggs are almost exactly like the eggs of C. cursitans." This is true but they are, of course, much larger, and they are generally much more thickly speckled and with larger spots than are the eggs of that bird.
The ground-colour is white, faintly tinged with cream, pink or bluish, in all very faint indeed, though when placed against white eggs the tinge is quite apparent. They are almost always rather profusely speckled and finely spotted with reddish-brown, dull red, or deep chestnut or purple-red. In some the specks are so small as to make them look as if powdered on, in most they are distinct spots, and in a few larger and still more richly tinted. On the whole, however, the variation is not great.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, in a few slightly compressed at the smaller end. The texture is fine, hard and close, with a dis¬tinct gloss.
One hundred eggs average 15.9 x 12.0 mm. : maxima 17.5 x 12.0 and 16.2 x 12.5 mm. ; minima 14.2 x 11.9 and 15.1 x 11.0 mm.
831. Franklinia buchanani
(831) Franklinia buchanani (Blyth).