464. Spelaeornis longicaudatus longicaudatus

(464) Spelaeornis longicaudatus longicaudatus (Moore).
Speloeornis longicaudatus longicaudatus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 452.
This is a very local little Wren, being only found in the hills South of the Brahmapootra in Assam. It has not been found in Manipur, and neither Coltart nor I ever met with it in the Eastern Naga Hills.
It is a very sedentary bird and, breeding and non-breeding seasons alike, seems only to be found between about 3,500 and 6,500 feet, keeping invariably to the deepest evergreen forest and preferring those in which, though the trees may not be very dense, there is ample undergrowth. Even in these it keeps to rocky ravines or to the steeper hill-sides where rocks and boulders, often of great size, crop up all over the ground, just as densely covered with long green moss, ferns and orchids as are the trees around them.
In these forests, tucked away between two boulders, nearly hidden by the roots of some stunted Oak, or just snuggling among the weeds and ferns on a steeply sloping bank, it builds its very com¬fortable though rather shabby-looking nest. This is one which can never be mistaken for that of any other genus breeding within our Indian limits.
In shape it is generally domed or egg-shaped but, occasionally, it is a very deep cup with some very definite natural protection overhead to take the place of the usual roof. The outer part of the nest is made almost entirely of dead leaves, rather loosely put together and mixed with a few roots and scraps of grass or, sometimes, a bamboo-leaf or two or bits of bracken. All these materials are dead, dark in colour, very rotten and almost always soaked through, so that as one picks up, or tries to pick up, the nest they all fall to pieces in one’s hands. Inside all this rotten stuff is built a compact, well put together structure of roots, leaves and grass, all dead but not rotten, so that, even when damp, as it generally is, it holds together when handled. Finally, inside this again comes the lining, which distinguishes the nest at a glance from all others. To look at this is a papier mache material, about one- eighth to one-quarter of an inch in thickness, covering the whole of the bottom of the nest and the greater part of the sides. It is laid on perfectly smoothly, evidently whilst in a wet and pulpy condition, for it fits into the crevices of the surrounding material and holds it together. What all its component parts are I do not know, for I have never had it analysed but, among them, are skeleton leaves and a very soft fibrous material, almost certainly the inner bark of a tree. When placed in position the pulp hardens and forms an absolutely damp-proof lining to the nest, so that even when placed in sites which drip moisture the eggs and young are kept dry and warm.
Roughly speaking, the nests measure about 5 inches by 4, but it is generally impossible to get at them to measure properly and, as I have already said, once handled they disintegrate and fall to pieces. The inner papier mache cup is about 2 to 2.1/2 inches across and rises 2 inches up the sides at least, sometimes working into the top.
The nest is always placed on the ground, though between the ground and the nest there may be debris of all kinds ; or it may be placed in among or on boulders which keep it from actual contact with the earth. Always, too, it is built in evergreen forest. In North Cachar it kept principally to the Oak forests, but in the Khasia Hills it preferred a very dense forest of mixed Oak and Rhododendron with a few odd Pines. This forest was just as wet and just as broken up with rocks and boulders, whilst the green undergrowth and moss were just as luxuriant as in the Oak forests of Cachar.
Most eggs are laid in May and June but many birds breed in April, and I have taken full clutches as early as the 4th of that month. I have no notes of any clutches taken in July. The full clutch of eggs is four but three only are often laid ; I have never taken five.
The ground of the eggs is normally white but, very rarely, there is just the faintest tinge of cream or pink. The white is almost, but not quite, a china-white, though it is never the more chalky white of Pnoepyga or Troglodytes eggs. The markings consist of spots or small blotches of reddish-pink to reddish-brown, usually quite small and most often scattered freely, but not densely, over the whole surface, though always a little more numerous at the larger end than elsewhere. In some eggs the spots are decidedly more numerous at the big end and in a few form indefinite zones. In one or two clutches the markings are larger and fewer, and I have one clutch in which they are nearly all concentrated at the large end and yet another clutch in which one egg is pure white, the other three being normally spotted.
The texture is fine, hard and close, the majority of eggs having a fair gloss, whilst in a few the gloss is highly developed. In shape they are broad obtuse ovals and are very consistent.
Fifty eggs average 18.4 x 14.9 mm. : maxima 19.9 x 15.0 and 18.6 x 15.9 mm. ; minima 18.0 x 15.0 and 18.4.x 14.5 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: 
464. Spelaeornis longicaudatus longicaudatus
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Assam Long Tailed Wren
Tawny-breasted Wren-Babbler
Spelaeornis longicaudatus
Vol. 1

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