(403) Molpastes cafer bengalensis Blyth.
THE BENGAL RED-VENTED BULBUL.
Molpastes hoemorrhous bengalensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 387.
Molpastes cafer bengalensis, ibid. vol. viii, p. 613.
The Bengal Red-vented Bulbul is found throughout the Outer Himalayas and Sub-Himalayan Terai from Kuman to Eastern Assam. It occurs South through Oudh, Northern Behar and Eastern Bengal from about Chota Nagpore, as soon as one gets into the wetter districts, and extends through the Khasia and Naga Hills to Lakhimpur, where the bird is typical bengalensis. In Cachar, although the vast majority of birds, certainly the plains birds, are bengalensis, many others closely approach burmanicus, and in Eastern North Cachar, on the borders of Manipur, more birds are nearer the Burmese than to the Bengal form. It is a curious fact, however, that even as far West as Kamroop individual birds crop up which are practically purely Burmese in coloration.
This Bulbul, over the greater part of its range, is a bird of human habitations, gardens and cultivated country and, whenever fresh country is opened up, the Bulbul follows mankind into it and estab¬lishes himself as one of the family. It breeds all round villages and often in the centre of them, provided there are a few bushes available, a few Guava or Custard-apple trees or other suitable building-sites. It is common in Mango and other orchards, breeding Both low down in the bigger trees and in brambles, canes or bushes under them. Occasionally it will even build a nest in the weeds and coarse grass-tufts within a few inches of the ground and in the higher parts of its habitat Raspberry and Blackberry canes form very favourite building-sites. On the outskirts of its habitat it may sometimes be found nesting in thin scrub- and bush-jungle or in light forest. This I found to be the case in both North Cachar and the Khasia Hills but, even here, they preferred to build their nests in gardens and round villages.
They ascend to considerable elevations in opened up country. In Sikkim. generally, Stevens discredits its burring much over 4,500 feet, but it is common and breeds free all round Darjiling to over 7,000 feet, though it is still more common at 4,000 feet downwards. In Nepal it breeds up to some 3,000 feet near villages and Scully reports it as breeding in the Residency grounds, “the nests being commonly placed in small Pine-trees (Pinus longifolia).”
The nests are built in all sorts of queer places other than bushes and trees. I have myself known nests built in verandah shrubs and trellis-work, on an old post in an outhouse and on a Date-palm.
They also nest on big and fairly lofty trees far more often than the Southern birds do, and nests quite high up in Mango-trees are not uncommon, in some instances as much as twenty feet from the ground.
Hume thus sums up descriptions of the nests:—They “were very compact and rather deep cups about inches in diameter and 2 inches in height, very firmly woven of moss and grass-roots, with a certain quantity of dry and dead leaves, and here and there a little cobweb worked into the outer surface. Sometimes a little fine grass was used as a lining ; but generally there was no lining, only the roots that were used in finishing off the interior of the nests were rather finer than those employed elsewhere. The egg-cavity is very large for the size of the nest, the sides, though very firm and compact, being scarcely above half an inch in thickness. The nests differ very much in appearance, owing to the fact that in some all the roots are black, in others pale brown.”
To the above little can be added. Where bamboo-leaves are easily obtainable these seem to be constantly used in the con¬struction of the walls and base of the nest, being held in their places by long roots, creepers and stalks of weeds. Some nests are made principally of grass, others almost entirely of leaves, other materials being used only to hold these together. In some nests, not many, tiny twigs are used, in others fibres are entensively employed and in a great many nests there are good well-made linings of either fine grass-stems or fine roots.
The breeding season is principally April, May and June but eggs may be taken in the end of March and also in July.
Both sexes incubate and both take part in the actual construction of the nest, the male not only bringing material but actually working it into the nest.
His courtship flight is very pretty, little hoverings in the air with tail widely spread, plumage fluffed out and wings, beating rapidly for a few moments before he perches alongside his mate on some small twig and makes love to her with his bill, which he places against hers or with which he gently nibbles the feathers of her neck and head.
Incubation takes thirteen days.
The eggs number three or four, each about equally often ; two are sometimes incubated and I have seen a few clutches of five.
They form, as a series, the most handsome of all the Molpastes cafer group. All the types described under the other races are also to be found in this, but the finest coloured eggs in the others are represented by still finer and richer specimens in the present subspecies. A few are worthy of a brief description. A clutch of five has the ground a pale pink ; this is smudged, blotched and speckled with deep brownish-red, the blotches very large, one or two covering nearly half the larger end. Another clutch of four is pale bright salmon-pink with great clouds of inky purple, through which show up deep blackish-red spots and blotches. Other clutches are densely speckled and mottled with deep red all over and are very like miniature eggs of the Finch-billed Bulbul.
In texture and shape they are quite normal ; a few eggs show a slight amount of gloss.
One hundred eggs average 22.9 x 16.9 mm. : maxima 25.3 x 17.3 and 24.9 x 17.6 mm. ; minima 20.9 x 17.5 and 21.8 x 15.3 mm.
403. Molpastes cafer bengalensis
(403) Molpastes cafer bengalensis Blyth.