354. Pteruthius erythropterus

(354) Pteruthius erythropterus (Vigors).
THE RED-WINGED SHRIKE-BABBLER.
Pteruthius erythropterus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 331.
This very handsome Babbler occurs on the Outer Himalayas from Hazara to E. Assam, Manipur and the Chin Hills ; wherever found it is resident, breeding between about 3,500 and 9,000 feet. It probably, however, ascends and nests a good deal higher still than this, for Stevens records it at 9,500 feet in Winter and at 9,600 feet in March in Sikkim.
They breed in thick forest of Fir, Deodar or of mixed Chestnut, Oak etc., often selecting sites deep in the interior and, as they build their nests at great heights from the ground, they are most difficult to find, even after one has located the birds and ascertained that they are breeding.
Nearly every collector refers to the difficulty of finding their nests. Marshall and Cock, who took them near Murree, remark:—
Its nest is exceedingly difficult to find and it was only by long and careful watching that Captain Cock discovered that there was a nest at the top of a very high Chestnut-tree, more than. 60 feet from the ground.”
Then Rattray, who took three nests in the same place, writes:— “ The nest is, without exception, the most difficult to find. It is a strong neat cradle suspended between two twigs always high up near the top of the tallest trees.”
The nest taken by Marshall and Cock is described three times in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs,’ but the following is Hume’s own summary with the nest in front of him :— *
“The nest is a moderately deep cup, suspended between two prongs of a horizontal fork. Externally it is about 4 inches in diameter and about 3 inches in depth. The egg-cavity is very nearly hemi¬spherical, 3 inches in diameter and 1.5 in depth. It is a very loosely made structure, composed internally of not very fine roots and externally coated with green moss. Along the lines of suspension a good deal of wool is incorporated in the structure, and it is chiefly by this wool that the nest is suspended. The fork is a slender one, the prongs being 0.3 to 0.4 in diameter.”
The above description would have done for the only nest I have seen except that tiny twigs had been mixed with the roots and two or three dead leaves had also been added. Many cobwebs were on the outer walls, and a few very fine tendrils were in the inner portion of the nest—one could hardly call it a lining.
Rattray gives practically no description of the nest in his article in the Journal, but in epistola he says that they were just as described by Hume. His nests were taken at an elevation of about 8,000 feet and Cock’s at 7,000 feet, whilst one taken by Whymper was at about 5,500 feet.
So few eggs have been taken that it is difficult to say exactly how long the season lasts. Cock’s nest was taken on the 30th May, Rattray found them up to the 10th of June and Whymper took his nest on the 15th April.
Two or three eggs evidently form the full clutch.
In appearance the eggs are very like those of the Himalayan Black Bulbul. The ground is white, with a faint tinge of lilac in one clutch taken by Rattray and an equally faint tint of pink in the one taken by Whymper. In the first there are numerous tiny flecks and spots of purple-brown, forming broad rings at the larger end and much thinner elsewhere. This clutch is exactly like the single egg taken by Cock. In Whymper’s clutch the spots are more reddish-brown but the same in character and distribution.
The eggs are, as Whymper says, in many ways very like large eggs of Molpastes, yet they have a character of their own which is very hard to express, yet does differentiate them.
In shape the eggs are broad, blunt ovals, fairly fine in texture but glossless. They are very fragile eggs in proportion to their size. They vary in size between 24.3 x 18.9 mm. and 21.2 x 16.0 mm.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
354. Pteruthius erythropterus
Spp Author: 
Vigors.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
354
Year: 
1932
Page No: 
309
Common name: 
Red Winged Shrike Babbler
M_ID: 
19386
M_CN: 
Pied Shrike-babbler
M_SN: 
Pteruthius flaviscapis
Volume: 
Vol. 1
id: 
13543

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