(1335) Psarisomus dalhousiae (Jameson).
THE LONG-TAILED BROADBILL.
Psarisomus dalhousiae, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 472.
This, perhaps the most beautiful of the Broadbills, has also the widest range. It is found in the Himalayas from Kuman and Mussoorie to Eastern Assam. From that Province it extends East through the Hill districts of Eastern Bengal and through the whole of Burma and the Malay States, where, however, Robinson calls it a rare bird, not found below 2,700 feet. East it occurs in Siam and Annam and it is also a resident of Sumatra and Borneo.
During the breeding season it is a frequenter of evergreen tree- forest at all heights from the foot-hills up to 6,000 feet, breeding in greatest numbers between 2,000 and 4,000 feet. Its favourite resorts are undoubtedly ravines running through high tree-forest which have not much undergrowth but which have a stream down the centre or casual pools of water over which they can build their nests.
Hodgson gives a correct account of the breeding of this bird, but gives very small measurements for the nest, i, e., 9 inches long by 5 broad, Gammie took several nests similar to those taken by Hodgson but with the length and breadth 11 inches and 7 inches respectively, which is nearer the size of the very numerous nests I have taken myself. Again, Hume, who gives a detailed description of these same nests, says that they are devoid of all externa) decorations and streamers, whereas all that I have seen have been extravagantly decorated.
The nest is attached to a pendent branch of some email or big tree or the end of a drooping bamboo, where such a clump grows in what is otherwise evergreen-jungle. It may be at any height from the ground between 6 and 30 feet or even more, Gammie says that all the nests he found were built on trees so slender as to be unclimbable, but I have often found them on thin outer branches of immense trees. Even on these, however, the nests often cannot be taken except by cutting off the branch to which they are attached. Sometimes the nests are placed in curious positions, and H. D. Peile (Journ. Bomb, Nat, Hist, Soc, vol. xxiii, p. 361, 1915) records two attached to telegraph-wires stretched across nullahs, apparently in jungle. He comments on the fact that these nests were attached to the wire far more firmly than is shown in the text-figure which appeared in both editions of the 'Fauna' (Birds), and notes the attachment “consists of many more twigs and fibres.” At the same time I should myself add that in some instances, most I think, the attachment is very like that given in the text-figure.
The nests vary extraordinarily in size ; the ball which contains the egg-chamber may be anything from 9 x 5 inches (Hodgson), which is quite exceptional, to 14 x 8 inches. The whole nest is pear-shaped, and the neck may be long and thin or short and stumpy, and I have seen, one nest in which the branch went practically through the roof of the chamber, with no neck at all. Generally the neck is 4 to 6 inches long. The nest itself is very well and strongly made of all kinds of material, such as leaves, bamboo- spathes, grass, roots, moss, lichen, tendrils, stems of plants and bits of creeper etc., etc. These are well interlaced and it takes much force to tear them apart, but outside the true nest the birds add alt sorts of articles which stick out in every direction and often hang many inches below the nest in a ragged tail. Including this tail most nests measure over 3 feet from branch to end of tail, and I have notes of one which was 4 feet 6 inches. At the other extreme I have a note of one “more like a Serilophus nest, no tail and measuring under a foot.” For decorative purposes the birds are very fond of silk-cocoons, spiders’ egg-bags, bright red or bright green leaves, scraps of vivid green moss, lichen and similar bits but, with these, are added long streamers of creeping plants, grass and roots. Spiders’ webs are used in great quantities to assist in sticking on the decorations, while the longer bits are often woven into the fabric of the true nest.
The egg-chamber averages about 4 inches or rather more each way and is neatly lined with grass-blades, bamboo-leaves or roots, over which green leaves are often but not always laid. Sometimes I think the green leaves must be renewed again and again, as I have seen eggs which were almost hatching lying on perfectly fresh leaves.
In some suitable forests the birds are very numerous, and in 1909 I saw seven nests in a strip about 3 miles long and less than 1 wide, with a hill-stream rushing down the centre.
May and June are the two principal breeding months, but I have taken fresh eggs as early as 3rd April and as late as 24th August. This last was certainly a second brood, the first having probably been destroyed, for they are not usually double brooded. They breed yearly in much the same spot, and I have more than once found the remains of old nests quite close to the one occupied.
The number of eggs laid in a full clutch varies from four to eight, five or six being the most usual. They go through a very wide range of colour and, curiously, through almost exactly the same range as do the eggs of the common Black Drongo. Some eggs are pure spotless white, in others the ground ranges from white to a beautiful deep salmon-pink. In colour the markings consist of blotches of pale brick-red or brick-pink to a rich deep red-brown. On most eggs the blotches are of some size and are most numerous at the larger end and sparse elsewhere ; in a few clutches the blotches are still bigger, more scanty and very irregular in shape. The secondary markings are of grey, lilac-grey or washed-out pinkish ; as a rule they are not prominent, but I have seen a few eggs in which they strike the dominant tone. As a series they probably form as handsome a collection as can be obtained from any one species.
The shape is a rather long oval, slightly compressed at the smaller end but never really pointed. The texture is fine—for Broadbills’ eggs—with a smooth surface generally slightly and sometimes highly glossed, more especially in pure white eggs.
Two hundred eggs average 27.4 x 19.4 mm. : maxima 29.6 x 10.5 and 29.2 x 20.5 mm. ; minima 25.0 x 18.8 and 27.0 x 17.0 mm.
Both birds incubate and both share in nest-building. They take a very long time to build the nest and I have seen one half built and returned a fortnight later in time to see the final decorations added. I think as long as three weeks are often taken in its con¬struction, sometimes even more. I cannot say how long the eggs take to incubate, but it is over fourteen days, as a clutch of five complete on the 1st June had not hatched on the 14th of that month, none of the eggs being chipped.
1335. Psarisomus dalhousiee
(1335) Psarisomus dalhousiae (Jameson).