625. Prunella immaeulata

(625) Prunella immaculata (Hodgs.).
THE MAROON-BACKED HEDGE-SPARROW.
Prunella immaculata, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 193.
This Hedge-Sparrow is found throughout the Himalayas from Nepal to Western China. It does not occur in Kashmir, but Ward had in his collection a clutch of four eggs taken near the Pangong Lake, Ladak, in June 1908. It breeds in Sikkim at elevations of 10,000 feet upwards and appears to be decidedly common in Tibet, whence I have had many skins, nests and eggs sent me. Here it appears to breed principally between 13,000 and 15,000 feet. Ludlow does not include it in his birds of the Gyantse Plain, but I have had eggs sent me labelled Gyantse but said to have come from the high ranges to the East.
Although this is one of the least well known of the Hedge-Sparrows which come into our area, it cannot be uncommon as a breeding bird in some parts of Tibet between 12,000 and 17,000 feet, as I have had many skins sent me with nests and eggs. Nor can this bird, with its maroon-coloured unstreaked back, be mistaken for any other.
It appears to breed only above the tree limit in the bleakest and barest of hill-sides, where the only vegetation is the Tibetan furze, a little stunted grass and the small thorny bush which seems to grown here and there over the whole of the Tibetan plains and pilateaus. Here the nest is built on, or nearly on, the ground, in a tussock of grass, in a bush of gorse or in one of the thorn- bushes. Generally they seem to be well concealed and the bird sits close until approached within a pace or two, sometimes until the bush is actually shaken. The nest itself is a very typical Prunella nest, rather large and bulky for the size of the bird, and strongly, though untidily, constructed. The greater part of the material consists of dead, coarse grass, but this is mixed, to a varying extent, with dead leaves, pliant twigs, roots and other oddments, these being used more often in the base of the nest than elsewhere. The outer cup may measure anything between 5 and 7 inches in diameter and between 2.1/2 and 4 inches in depth, but the cavity is about 2.3/4 x 1.1/2 inches and is neatly finished off with rather finer grass and thickly lined with fur, goats’ hair or wool.
The breeding season lasts from the end of May to the end of July but a few birds breed earlier, and I have a clutch taken as early as the 9th May and another as late as the 29th July.
The eggs in a clutch number three or four, rarely five, and are of the usual Hedge-Sparrow blue, the most noticeable character being the curious constancy in the depth of colour. In shape they are broad ovals, often slightly pointed at the smaller end. The texture is, as it always is in this genus, fine, the surface smooth and silky to the touch but never glossy.
Fifty eggs average 19.5 x 14.6 mm. : maxima 22.0 x 14.2 and 19.5 x 15.3 mm. ; minima 17.5 x 14.0 mm.
As I have had three or four males sent me said to have been shot directly off the nest, it would appear that both sexes take part in incubation.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 2. 1933.
Title in Book: 
625. Prunella immaeulata
Spp Author: 
Hodgs.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
625
Year: 
1933
Page No: 
166
Common name: 
Maroon Backed Hedge Sparrrow
M_ID: 
30292
M_CN: 
Maroon-backed Accentor
M_SN: 
Prunella immaculata
Volume: 
Vol. 2
id: 
13781

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