(413) Otocompsa flaviventris flaviventris (Tickell).
THE HIMALAYAN BLACK-CRESTED YELLOW BULBUL.
Otocompsa flaviventris flaviventris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 397.
This handsome Bulbul occurs as far West as the Sutlej Valley and all along the Outer Himalayas to the East of Assam. It is also found in the forests of the Central Provinces, Orissa, South of the Mahanadi, Eastern Bengal, the hills and plains South of the Brahmapootra, all Burma South to Tenasserim, Siam, Shan States and Yunnan.
The Yellow Bulbuls are birds both of the forest—the thicker the better so long as they have ample undergrowth—and of open country, the vicinity of villages and, sometimes, even of gardens. They are also often found breeding in secondary growth and some¬times, but not often, in mixed scrub- and bamboo-jungle. Occasionally they breed round villages in the half-grazed and trampled-down grass where the buffaloes feed but, in these cases, the grass has to be well mixed with bushes and odd trees standing here and there either singly or in clumps. They ascend the Assam Hills up to 4,000 feet and rarely for 1,000 feet higher, but their favourite breeding range is between 1,500 and 2,500 feet. Whymper obtained them up to about this elevation in the Nepal Terai, whilst Stevens says that they are widely distributed in Sikkim from low levels up to 5,000 feet.
They nest low down, 2 to 4 feet from the ground, almost invariably in low bushes, brambles creepers etc. ; occasionally a nest may be found in a small sapling or in creepers growing over a tree as much as 6 or 8 feet up. A very favourite situation with this, as with so many other birds, is a tangle of Raspberry or Blackberry vines.
The breeding season is from the end of April to the end of June, but so very few nests have been taken outside the Assam Hills that it is difficult to generalize.
The earliest eggs taken by myself were on the 24th March, the latest on 3rd September, but it is very rare to find any after June. Some birds may have two broods.
In the Chin Hills most birds seem to breed in April, whilst in Assam most lay in May.
A nest taken on the Great Rungeet River by a native for Captain Bulgar, and said to have been of this species, may or may not have been correctly identified ; the eggs are not typical and I pass them over.
Wardlaw Ramsay says that he “found a nest containing two eggs in April at the foot of the Karen Hills.”
In Assam this Bulbul is very common and I have taken numerous nests. During the breeding season they are quite common in the foot-hills and broken ground adjoining them, nesting in Tea-gardens and other suitable places, and I have seen nests from these levels up to 5,000 feet.
I can add little to my original description of this bird’s nidification (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. 1892, p. 2)
“The first nest I ever saw was built in an old orange-tree in my garden. When found it contained an egg, so that I cannot tell what time was taken in its construction, beyond the fact that it took under twenty-five days, that being the time I had been away in camp, as, when I went out, it had not been commenced. It was a very neat nest and, for the size of the bird, very small. The outer part of the walls was composed entirely of dead orange leaves, all these being of different tints of olive-yellow and bright olive-brown, much the same colour, as a whole, as the upper plumage of the bird. These leaves were wound round and interlaced by rather thick shreds of bark, one or two elastic twigs and a single stalk of some weed ; in addition, it was further strengthened by cobwebs here and there all round. Inside this outer wall was a rough lining of coarse grass-stems, fine twigs and fern-roots, and within this again was the true lining, consisting entirely of mithna hair, easily recognized by its deep purple tint. This nest was in every way but one quite a typical specimen, the exception being in the lining. This is, in nine cases out of ten, composed only of the finer stems of tan-coloured grasses, whilst in the tenth case it may be of fine moss-roots or some other vegetable fibre.
“The nest, rather smaller than usual, measured :—Diameter at the broadest part 4" ; at the top, where there are no leaves, just under 3" ; in depth about 1.1/2" and, internally, 1.3/4" by 3/4". The contrast of the bright yellow leaves with the green of the bush was very marked and the nest could be seen from a long way off, looking like an orange. A few nests are made chiefly of coarse grass and twigs, only a few leaves being worked into the base, while one or two other nests, taken by me, have differed from the nests of Molpastes bengalensis only in their smaller size, though even in these the major part of the materials were light- coloured. The lining is generally very neatly made, the grass- ends being carefully tucked in, whereas in the nests of Blyth’s Bulbul the ends always project from the nest for a good distance.
“The internal measurements of ten nests average 2.2" x .94".
“An extraordinary nest found by me in 1888 was a broad shallow cup, not half an inch deep, with the whole lining and a great part of the outer walls as well, made out of white goat’s hair. This was built in a bush, the leaves of which had white under sides, so that the nest was not conspicuous.
“The site selected. is, so far as I am aware, never one in dense jungle ; the bird prefers thin scrub jungle, scattered bushes, and even the outskirts of villages and rice-fields.”
Since this was written I have taken several nests in evergreen forest, but I can add nothing further to the descriptions of the nests.
Both birds take part in incubation, which, I believe, takes thirteen days.
They lay three or four eggs, never five, and sometimes only two. The ground-colour is a faint pinkish-white, varying little in depth but occasionally a deep pink ; typically they are covered with numerous freckles of dull lilac-pink, dull reddish or a reddish- pink, with other secondary freckles of pale grey, giving a lilac tinge to many eggs. Both primary and secondary markings are usually numerous over the whole egg but, in many eggs, they form pronounced rings round the larger end or, less often, caps. In some eggs there are a few exceedingly fine lines, the colour of clotted blood, which are always confined to the larger end.
Unusual types of eggs are (1) ground-colour pale pink, the whole almost obliterated by innumerable freckles of pinky red ; (2) the same, but the specks of deep red.
The markings are always small and I have seen no eggs in which they could justly be dignified by being called blotches.
One hundred eggs average 22.3 x 16.5 mm. : maxima 24.2 x 16.4 and 21.9 x 17.2 mm. ; minima 20.5 x 16.8 and 23.1 x 15.3 mm.
413. Otocompsa flaviventris flaviventris
(413) Otocompsa flaviventris flaviventris (Tickell).