(270) Stachyris nigriceps nigriceps Hodgs.
THE SIKKIM BLACK-THROATED BABBLER.
Stachyris nigriceps nigriceps, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 264.
Since Oates wrote the 2nd edition of Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs' this little Babbler has been divided into three well-marked races. The present one is found from Nepal and Sikkim all along the outer ranges of the Himalayas, together with their Terai, as far as the extreme North-East of Assam but not South of the Brahmapootra.
In Sikkim it is found from the foot-hills up to about 6,000 feet, for though, according to Oates, it ascends to 10,000, this is probably exceptional, and Stevens has no record over 6,000 feet. Gammie Masson, Inglis and others seem to have found its breeding range to run principally between 2,000 and 6,000 feet, and Osmaston took several nests between 5,000 and 6,000. It occurs in the plains, adjoining the hills, but there is no record of its breeding in them.
Gammie took many nests which he describes as domed or semi domed, but Hodgson describes the nest as “a large, deep, cup-shaped nest, either upon the ground in the midst of grass or at a short distance above the ground between five or six thin twigs.” Except for its being cup-shaped, Hodgson’s description of materials, sites etc. agrees with that of later collectors. All of these agree in saying that the neat is domed, but the bamboo-leaves forming the dome slip on one side as soon as handled and, if Hodgson’s description applies to the neats brought in to him by natives, this would quite well account for it.
The nest is, in fact, nearly always domed, made outwardly entirely of bamboo-leaves, these being placed just one on the top of the other and not even interlaced, so that they fall out of position directly they are handled. Inside these bamboo-leaves the true nest is made of bamboo-roots, fibre, moss- and fem-roots, with a few bamboo and other dead leaves, fern-fronds sometimes forming the major portion of those used. These inner materials are quite well interlaced and are further lined with finer moss and fern- roots. The outside of the nest may be anything between 4.1/2 and inches by 3.1/2 to 4.1/2 in width, but the egg-cavity is seldom more than about 2.1/2 inches, both in diameter and depth.
Nearly always it is placed on the ground but, generally, on a sloping bank to ensure good drainage, and nearly always well concealed in shrubs, grass or fallen debris. Rarely it is placed in a bamboo-clump six inches to two feet from the ground and completely covered by fallen bamboo-spathes and leaves. Still more seldom it may be placed low down in a bush, mass of creepers or brambles.
The Black-throated Babbler breeds in almost any kind of cover from thin open grass-land to deep tropical forest. It prefers, however, secondary growth or scrub-jungle and, after that, mixed bamboo- and bush-jungle.
They breed during April, May and June and, occasionally, into July, most birds having two broods in the year.
The number of eggs laid is almost invariably four, rarely five or three. They are pure white, short broad ovals with close, strong texture and a moderate gloss.
Fifty eggs average 18.8 x 14.4 mm. ; maxima 19.2 x 15.0 and 18.1 x 15.2 mm. ; minima 17.7 x 14.4 and 18.1 x 14.1 mm.
In the ‘Fauna,’ by a typographical error, the average size is given as 19.2 x 14.7 mm.