(937) Prinia sylvatica sylvatica Jerdon.
THE NILGIRI JUNGLE WREN-WARBLER.
Prinia sylvatica sylvatica, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 532.
This Jungle Wren-Warbler is found over practically the whole -of India, extending from the Simla Hills on the North-West, South to Travancore and East to Assam, Manipur and the Lushai Hills. It is, however, very rare anywhere East of Western Bengal.
This bird, as its name implies, is one of jungles rather than of cultivated fields, villages and gardens. At the same time it does not frequent true forest but breeds in low scrub, grass blurs” and patches of grass and bushes in waste lands or on the Outskirts of cultivations away from villages.
Blewitt took many nests in the Raipoor District and MacArthur made a wonderful series of selected clutches in the Bilaspur and Bhandara Districts in the Central Provinces, in both of which this little Warbler is very numerous. It is a bird of the plains, seldom wandering up the hills above 2,000 feet, though Rattray took several nests round Dehra Dun at 2,500 to 3,000 feet.
The nest may be placed either in a low bush, preferably a thorny one, or in a clump of grass. Normally the nest is a round ball or oval of grasses, completely domed. Butler, who took many nests round Deesa between the 28th July and 3rd September, thus describes a nest taken by him :—“It was placed in the middle of a tussock of coarse grass on the side of a nullah on a bank over¬grown with grass and bushes. The nest was dome-shaped, with an entrance upon one side, composed exteriorly of blades of rather coarse, dry grass (green, however, as a rule when the nest is first built) and, interiorly, of similar but finer material. It is an easy nest to find when once the locality in which the birds breed is discovered, as it is a conspicuous ball of grass, smeared over, often more or less, exteriorly with a silky white vegetable-down or cob¬web, and many of the blades of the tussock in which it is placed are often drawn down and woven into the nests, which at once attracts attention. Then again the cock bird is always to be found on the top of some low tree near the nest, uttering his queer ventriloquistic note, tissip, tissip, tissip etc. All the above nests [twelve] were alike and in similar positions in deep nullahs running through a large grass ‘beerh.’ ”
Blewitt describes a rather different nest taken by him. He says:— “On the 1st July this year I found a nest of this species in the centre of a low thorny bush, growing in rocky ground, about two miles North of Doongargurh in the Raipur District.
“The nest was about 4 feet from the ground, firmly attached to and supported by the branches. It was of a deep cup shape, 3.6 in diameter and 4.9 in height, composed of coarser and finer grasses interwoven.”
Another nest is described as similar, but a little larger.
All my other correspondents describe the nest as similar to those taken by Butler—rough, rather loosely put together balls or ovals of coarse grasses, lined with finer grass and placed quite low down, 6 to 24 inches from the ground.
A curious nest was found by MacArthur near Khamta. Central Provinces —“Nest, two leaves of a Brinjal plant sewn together with cotton and lined inside with fine roots of grass and thin strips of dry bark.”
MacArthur also says that the domed nests are often partly con¬structed of dry grass-roots, and the lining in those found in the Central Provinces was of the finest grass-roots more often than anything else.
In Wellington Wilhams took a nest with four eggs on the 26th March, and in Dehra Dun Rattray took two nests in June, but the real breeding season does not commence until July, when the rainy season is well advanced. Laying continues from then until early October.
In about two nests out of three, four eggs will be found, but three only are often incubated, while I have had a few fives and one six sent to me.
The variation in colour is very great. Most eggs have a pale, rather dull grey-green ground, faintly speckled with light reddish to deep reddish-brown. At the larger end, in the great majority of cases, the marks coalesce to form a definite ring. Other eggs have a more buffy ground, similarly marked, while a few others are truly erythristic, with pink or creamy ground-colour and reddish freckles and zones. Every intermediate form is to be found and rarely the obsolete frecklings become well-defined small blotches. Abnormal clutches are comparatively common and, in my series, there is one clutch of bright pale blue, completely unspotted, and two of white, one of which has a few very faint red specks.
The shape is a long but obtuse oval, the texture hard, close and fine, the surface nearly always showing a fine gloss.
One hundred eggs average 17.5 x 12.8 mm. : maxima 19.0 x 14.0 and 18.2 x 14.6 mm. ; minima 15.2 x 12.2 and 15.8 x 12.0 mm.
937. Prinia sylvatiea sylvatiea
(937) Prinia sylvatica sylvatica Jerdon.