(923) Suya Criniger Criniger Hodgs.
THE NEPAL BROWN HILL-WARBLER.
Suya Criniger Criniger, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 518.
The Nepal Brown Hill-Warbler is found throughout the Outer Himalayas from the extreme North-West Frontier to Eastern Assam, North of the Brahmapootra. It seems to be most common between 3,000 and 6,000 feet, but breeds as low as 2,000 feet and as high as 7,000 or more, as Osmaston obtained nests at Chakrata at 7,500 feet. It is common on the outer hills from Murree to Western Nepal, but in Sikkim seems to be a much rarer bird, though there is a fair series of skins thence in the British Museum. We obtained a single specimen in the Abor Hills which seems referable to this race rather than to the Assam form, but more material is required to decide this point.
They are birds of grass-lands, low scrub- and bush-jungle, or mixed grass, bush and bracken on the outskirts of forest. They have been occasionally obtained breeding in thin secondary jungle, but even this is exceptional.
Normally their nests are domed, egg-shaped a flairs, with a pro¬portionately large entrance at the upper end, but this is not always the case.
Hume gives good descriptions of two of the three types of nest which this Warbler builds. He writes:—“A nest which I took at Dilloo, in the Kangra Valley, on the 26th May, was situated near the base of a low bush on the side of a steep hill ; it was placed in the fork of several twigs near the centre of the bush, almost 2 feet from the ground. It was an excessively flimsy deep cup, about 3 inches in diameter, and 2.1/2 inches in depth internally. It was composed of downy seeds of grass held together externally by a few very fine blades of grass and irregularly and loosely lined with excessively fine grass-stems.”
Of a second nest he says :—“A nest which I found near Kotegurh is composed of fine grass very loosely and slightly put together, all the interspaces being carefully filled in with grass-down firmly felted together. The nest is nearly the shape of an egg, the entrance being on one side, and extending from about the middle to close to the top. The exterior dimensions of the nest are about 5.1/2 inches for the major axis, and 3 inches for the minor. The entrance aperture is circular, and about 2 inches in diameter. The thickness of the nest is a little over 3/8 inch ; but the lower portion, which is lined with very fine grass-stems, is somewhat thicker. The nest was in a thorny bush, partly suspended from above the entrance- apertures and partly resting against, though not attached to, some neighbouring twigs. It contained 7 eggs.”
The third type is described by Brooks :—“One nest found was suspended in a low bush, and was a very neat purse-shaped one, with an opening near the top and rather on one side. It was composed of fine soft grass of a kind which had dried green and was intermixed with the down of plants and lined with finer grass.”
It will be noticed that all three of these nests were built in bushes, but very often they are built in between a few stalks of stout grass. Hutton and Rattray both found domed nests built in tufts of grass in grass-fields near Mussoorie, and Scully gives a description of asimilar nest in a similar position in Nepal. In Sikkim Gammie says “this Suya breeds from May to June in the warmest valleys up to 3,500 feet. It affects open grassy tracts and builds its nest in a bunch of grass, within a foot or two of the ground. The nest is an extremely neat egg-shaped structure, made of fine grass-stems, thickly felted over with the white seeds of a tall flowering grass, which gives it a very pretty appearance.”
About Naini Tal Whymper took nests, in corn-fields, at about 5,000 and 5,600 feet, which he describes as deep purses made of vegetable down held together with fine grasses and, he adds, “I have never seen any variation in the nests of this bird.”
Jones and Dodsworth, who both took many nests round Simla, where the bird is very common, describe them as domed, built in grass, often between outcrops of rocks in open country.
The above lengthy descriptions of nests and sites cover well all that can be said on these points and, as will be seen later on, they apply almost equally well to the nests of all the other species and subspecies of Suya, which can be dealt with far more briefly in consequence.
The principal breeding season is May and June, but birds continue to lay until October. Jesse found them still breeding freely at Solon, in Kuman, on the 14th September, while Jones and Dodsworth took nests in Simla up to the end of August.
The number of eggs laid is most often four, rarely five, and some¬times only three. A few birds lay still larger clutches, as Hume records finding seven in a nest, but in the series taken by Whistler, Jones, Dodsworth, Osmaston and many others five is the biggest clutch I have in my collection.
The eggs vary in ground-colour from pure china-white to very pale pink. The markings consist of tiny blotches, freckles and specks of colour ranging from light reddish to deep reddish, or even purplish-brown. Almost invariably there is a conspicuous zone of spots all running into one another at the larger end. In some eggs the blotches are almost confined to these rings but, in others, there are a fair number of freckles scattered over the rest of the surface, though never very thickly. In most eggs the rings are very near the extremity of the thick end and not round the broadest part of the egg as in so many other species of birds. On the whole, for a Suya, the eggs are remarkably constant.
The texture is fine and close and the surface has a distinct gloss, sometimes highly developed. In shape they vary between short, broad ovals to very long, narrow ovals, most eggs being moderately long, but blunt, ovals.
One hundred eggs average 17.6 x 12.65 mm. : maxima 19.8 x 12.4 and 18.5 x 13.4 mm. ; minima 15.2 x 12.9 and 16.6 x 11.8 mm.
923. Suya criniger criniger
(923) Suya Criniger Criniger Hodgs.