116. Sitta tephronota iraniea

(116) Sitta tephronota iranica Buturlin *.
Sitta neumayer tephronota, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol i, p. 129.
Sitta tephronota iranica, ibid. vol. viii, p. 598.
This Rock-Nuthatch breeds from Afghanistan and Baluchistan to Turkestan and the Tianschan during the whole of April and May at all elevations from 3,000 feet up to 8,000 feet or higher.
Betham and Williams both found this Nuthatch breeding freely round Quettah and the former sent me the following interesting note together with a fine series of eggs :—
“Fairly common round Quetta during Summer. We found nests from the 2nd April onwards till the 18th May. These, the nests, are placed in crevices and holes in the face of rocks, those selected often having smooth and much worn surfaces ; sometimes they are placed under an overhanging ledge but this protection is seldom sought. The inside of the hole selected is then lined and roofed with a cement-like kind of clay and after this has been completed the bird then makes an enormous cone or inverted basin-shaped affair round and outside the hole of the same clay. Sometimes this inverted bowl projects as much as 6 or 8 inches from the face of the rock while it is even more than this in width. The entrance to this is generally near the centre and is often more or less tubular, protruding out for an inch or so. This clay is so hard that it is practically unbreakable with the hand and it must be an effective safeguard against vermin, even snakes and lizards. Whilst the mud is still more or less soft the bird decorates it with feathers and other odd scraps, the decorations often spread about the rock for some distance all round. The true nest is a mass of feathers, wool, fur or hair, often worked into a sort of felt much resembling ‘puttoo.’
“When a nest is broken open the birds will often repair it and lay in it again and, when they are sitting, it takes a great deal to make them leave.
“As a rule the nests are not built high up on the rock-face and are, more often than not, within easy hand’s reach.
“They lay six to eight eggs, possibly more, for I have twice taken full clutches from the same nest, which I had to break open each time to get at the eggs.”
Williams gives an exactly similar description and took nests with eggs up to the 20th May.
* See Stresemann, Orn. monatsb. vol. xxxiii, 4, p. 109 (1915)
Barnes took a good many nests in Afghanistan and it is curious that there he found many built against holes in trees, which were invariably furnished with the same masonry inside and outside, while often feathers were used to decorate the bark of the trunk all round the nest. In Afghanistan he found four eggs to be the normal clutch, five unusual.
The eggs of the Rock-Nuthatches differ considerably from the eggs of other Nuthatches though they have the family characteristics. The ground is pure white and they are spotted and blotched with light chestnut to chestnut-brown, sometimes equally everywhere but generally more so at the larger end. The secondary markings are of pale pinkish-lavender, sometimes absent. In shape they are broad ovals very little compressed at the smaller end. The texture is harder, closer and more glossy than in other Nuthatches’ eggs.
Fifty eggs average 21.1 x 16.1 mm. ; maxima 22.3 x 15.5 and 22.1 x 16.8 mm. ; minima 19.0 x 16.2 and 20.0 x 15.3 mm.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
116. Sitta tephronota iraniea
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Turkestan Rock Nuthatch
Sitta tephronota iranica
Vol. 1
Term name: 

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