(408) Xanthixus flavescens flavescens (Blyth).
THE ARRAKAN YELLOW-WINGED BULBUL.
Xanthixus flavescens flavescens, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 392.
The Arrakan Yellow-winged Bulbul extends from all the hill- ranges of Assam South of the Brahmapootra to Manipur, Chin Hills, Lushai Hills and Arrakan. Their breeding elevation is, roughly, between 3,000 and 7,000 feet, generally between 3,500 and 5,000 feet. The lowest elevation at which I have seen them breeding was at 2,500 feet in the North Cachar Hills, and this was but a single pair.
This Bulbul is not a bird of very dense forest, though they may occasionally be found feeding and even breeding in such. They prefer mixed scrub- and tree-jungle, secondary growth and, above all, light tree-forest with ample undergrowth, where the foliage overhead cannot shut out the sun, yet leaves a choice for the birds to hunt either the higher trees or the lower bushes for food, as they may think fit. They often breed in cultivated lands which have been deserted for a year or two only, and in which the secondary growth has not got to its thickest. Open glades and breaks in forests and the banks of wide streams are also frequented for nesting purposes.
The nest is very much like that of Molpastes but is generally rather shallower in proportion to its width. Roughly they measure between 3.1/2 and 4 inches in diameter, whilst in depth they seem to be always less than half their width. The egg-cavity measures about 3 to 3.3/4 inches by rather less than an inch in depth.
The materials used vary considerably and, some being all dark and others all light, the general appearance varies accordingly.
The first nest I ever took was composed outwardly entirely of very dark materials, the only light thing about it being one small yellow leaf woven into the base among the other materials ; these consisted of black fern-roots, fine dark brown elastic twigs and dark tendrils of climbing-plants ; the lining was composed of the ends of some grass, denuded of their seeds and bright tan in colour. Another nest obtained a little later was constructed largely of dead leaves and twigs interwoven with, and bound together by, roots and further strengthened here and there with cobwebs ; the lining was of the same flowering-grass ends as in the first nest. What the name of this grass is I do not know but, when a quantity is put together, it has exactly the appearance of “khus-khus.” Generally the bodies of the nests are dark-looking, contrasting with their linings, but some nests have dead oak-leaves and scraps of bracken incorporated with the other articles and lighting up the nest as a whole. The nests are quite well made, more compact and better put together than nine out of ten nests of Molpastes and, in con¬sequence, they are much neater and have a more finished look about them. They are nearly always placed low down in bushes, generally between two and four feet from the ground, sometimes a little higher and, more rarely, in bushy saplings ten or twelve feet up. All the nests I have seen in situ have been placed in upright forks of bushes or in between two or more vertical twigs and, so far as I know, they are never pendent nor built in horizontal forks or branches. They are invariably well concealed and, as the bird is shy and sneaks very quietly off her nest when disturbed, it is often very difficult to locate ; nor does it give away the position by fussing round when you are hunting for it. The best way to get it is to hide and then, when you think the bird has had time to return, creep carefully up to the place where you think it is and watch her slip off. You will probably not see her return, for she approaches very stealthily through the bushes and often gets on to the nest without showing herself at all.
In North Cachar the birds seemed to be very fond of Citron- bushes in deserted cultivation, and I have taken several nests in these. The few nests I have seen in evergreen forest have nearly all been built on the matted vines of wild raspberries, growing in rank profusion alongside tracks from one village to another ; one of these nests was rather exceptional in being built almost entirely of grass.
In North Cachar and the Khasia Hills they breed all through May and June and I have taken one nest as early as the 1st April and an occasional nest early in July. Hopwood took nests in the Chin Hills in April and May.
The number of eggs laid is two or three, one as often as the other, whilst I have taken three or four clutches of four from among two or three hundred nests seen. The eggs are quite typical Bulbuls’ and probably the great majority could be matched by eggs of Molpastes and Otocompsa, but they certainly have a character of their own. A very common type, though not easily matched by eggs of other genera, has the ground a pale cream, with the whole surface minutely and profusely speckled with primary markings of light reddish and equally numerous secondary freckles of lilac- grey, on some eggs forming caps at the larger end. As a whole these eggs have a strong tint of violet or lilac which is very generic. Prom this type they range through light reddish-brown, light brick-red, light purplish-red to deep purplish-red or deep Indian red-brown. Whatever the tint of the markings, however, their character is very constant, as is their distribution, though in many eggs the freckles almost coalesce to form very definite broad rings or caps. I have seen no eggs in which the freckles become blotches, and at a little distance and with only a casual glance many eggs look almost unicoloured.
I have seen only one pair of eggs with a white ground, and these are heavily freckled at the larger ends with purplish-red, forming almost unicoloured caps. Another unusual clutch has the ground pale cream stippled all over with pale pinky red. As a whole they are quite handsome eggs ; though not nearly so varied in character of marking as are the eggs of Molpastes c. bengalensis, they are almost equally striking.
In shape they are rather long ovals, generally blunt at the smaller ends but, exceptionally, rather pointed. The texture is finer than in the eggs of Molpastes but the shell is equally fragile. Some eggs have no gloss, the majority a fair gloss and a few quite a strong gloss.
One hundred and fifty eggs average 22.1 x 16.4 mm. : maxima 26.8 x 17.4 and 23.8 x 18.1 mm. ; minima 18.7 x 16.2 and 21.8 x 15.0 mm.
Both parents take part in incubation but I have never been able to watch them building to see whether both birds share in the construction of the nest. They are shy birds in the breeding season and very difficult to watch, though in Winter, when in flocks, they do not seem to resent observation so greatly.
408. Xanthixus flavescens flavescens
(408) Xanthixus flavescens flavescens (Blyth).