(443) Kelaartia penicillate (Blyth).
THE YELLOW-EARED BULBUL.
Kelaartia penicillata, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 426.
The Yellow-eared Bulbul is confined to Ceylon, where it is found in the hills above 3,000 feet.
Since the first volume of the ‘ Fauna was written, in July 1922, the intervening ten years have added much to our knowledge of the breeding of this bird, thanks chiefly to Messrs. Wait and Phillips.
Supposed eggs taken by Jenkins were exactly like those of Iole icterica. Later eggs were taken by J. Stewart’s collectors, and these merely confirmed Jenkins’s identification of his eggs.
Philips, in 1927, and then Wait took a considerable number of nests of this Bulbul and in no single instance were the eggs anything like those previously assigned to the Yellow-eared Bulbul, and now, within the last two or three years, Phillips has taken a further long series and shown above all doubt that the eggs formerly supposed to be those of Kelaartia are, in fact, the eggs of Iole icterica. Kelaartia, we can say, certainly never lays eggs like, or which could be mistaken for, those of Iole.
They are forest birds and, according to Wait, “frequent forests, patanas, woods and the outskirts of cultivation.” At the same time they are common in Rubber and Tea-plantations, in the latter frequenting and breeding freely in the seed-tea plantations, where the unpruned seed-bearing bushes may run as high as 15 to 20 feet and form very dense thick cover.
The following is a summary of Phillips’s notes on the nests:— “They are cup-shaped, well made and much more substantial than the nests of any Ceylon species of Molpastes or Otocompsa and, to me, recognizable at a glance from the nests of either of these. They are built of moss, dead leaves and rootlets, often with a mixture of thin, supple twigs and sometimes with a good deal of coarse and fine grass and at other times with a little coir-fibre, interwoven with the other materials. I think one of the distinctive features of the nest is the very constant use of green moss in the outer walls, which are invariably strong and of some thickness, never so flimsy as to be transparent, no unusual thing with the nests of the other genera. The lining, usually fairly thick and well made, occasionally rather sparse, is made with grass-bents, fine hair-like vegetable fibre, coarser fibre, which seems to be from the bark of a tree, or fine roots ; one nest had a curious lining of fern-stalks and the midribs of dead leaves.
“The inside cups of the nests, for the reception of the eggs, measure roughly inches across by about 1.1/2 inches deep.”
They are generally built in tall bushes 10 to 15 feet from the ground, occasionally in lower bushes. Phillips found a very favourite site to be in tall Tea-bushes standing close to the jungle or forest, the nests being placed near the tops 10 or 12 feet up, in upright branches. Nests with eggs have been taken by him in practically every month from the 3rd March to the 12th October, the majority of eggs being laid in August and September. The number of a full clutch seems to be invariably two.
Most eggs can be matched by eggs of Molpastes but are, on the whole, whiter in ground. In nine out of ten clutches the ground is pure white with moderate-sized blotches and spots and specks of purple-brown and secondary markings of the same character deep inky grey, always subordinate to the primary markings and sometimes practically absent. In some eggs the markings are scattered freely, but not profusely, all over the surface and not much more numerous at the larger than the smaller end. In other eggs they form zones about the larger end, and in these cases they are generally sparse, sometimes very sparse, elsewhere. I have only one set requiring a separate description ; this has a pink ground, the whole surface being profusely speckled with reddish, the marks coalescing and forming a ring round the larger end.
Thirty eggs average 23.4 x 16.7 mm. : maxima 26.1 x 16.5 and 23.2 x 17.3 mm. ; minima 21.1 x 15.5 mm. This is quite exception¬ally small. The next smallest eggs are 22.0 x 17.0 and 23.2 x 16.0 mm.
* Meinertzhagen reviewed this species in the Bull. B. O. C. vol. xlii, p. 141, 1922, and there came to the conclusion that there were three Western Himalayan races. When I wrote the ‘Fauna’ I did not accept his limes on the ground that the indefinite forms covered so vast an area that it was impossible to define it. It is true that in Turkestan we have a grey form, toeniura, and in the Outer Himalayas a rufous form, himalayana. It is equally true that over a vast area we have another (?) form which in the South is not quite so rufous as himalayana and in the North not quite so grey as toniura, although in each case many specimens are inseparable. Limes seems to be now accepted and I follow suit, though I am still very doubtful about it.
443. Kelaartia penicillata Blyth
(443) Kelaartia penicillate (Blyth).