(846) Sylvia hortensis jerdoni Blyth.
THE INDIAN ORPHEAN WARBLER.
Sylvia hortensis crassirostris, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 448. Sylvia hortensis jerdoni, ibid. vol. viii, p. 641.
The distribution of the bird Which breeds on our Baluchistan frontier has never been fully worked out but, so far as I have been able to examine specimens, the following may be taken roughly as its breeding range Turkestan, Transcaspia to Mesopotamia, Baluchistan, Afghanistan and Persia.
The Indian Orphean Warbler breeds freely on our North-West Frontier and in Baluchistan.
This bird frequents, and breeds in, scrub- and bush-jungle on more or less open hill-sides round Quetta between 6,000 and 8,000 feet, but at Cherat, on the North-West Frontier, Jones found it breeding at 4,500 feet.
Betham was the first person, apparently, to take its nest near Quetta and he says (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xvii, p. 631, 1907) :—“I found this bird very common round Quetta in the spring, more especially from 7,000 feet upwards. Unfortunately I made the discovery too late, otherwise I could have got many clutches. The first nest I came on was on the 13th May; to my great dis¬appointment it contained three young just hatched and one egg hatching. However, my mourning was soon turned to joy, as I came on another nest, shortly after, containing four fresh eggs. In the same locality, on the 20th May, I found a nest with three young and one addled egg, and in another locality, much higher, I took four incubated eggs on the 18th June and four fresh eggs on the 27th idem, besides finding many nests with young. The nest is placed in a low bush and is not difficult to see. It consists of bents and twigs and is lined with hair and fine material, cobwebs being used outside. It is a compact neat cup, well made. This bird is a close sitter.”
Williams writes of the nests found by him (ibid. vol. xxxiii, p. 601, 1929) :—“The bird appears to be confined to certain localities only in the hills (Quetta) where there is a fair amount of bush and not too far from water, though they are sometimes met with in very arid regions.
“Generally speaking, in the better watered and bushed localities these birds are fairly common. When I first noticed them I was not certain to what species they belonged, so, to make certain, I shot one as it flew out of a bush, and on examination found that I had obtained a specimen of Sylvia hortensis crassirostris. I at once searched for its nest, which was found near the top of the bush from which the bird had flown. It contained three incubated eggs.
“The earliest date on which a nest was found was the 9th May, after which many more nests were found, the last being taken on the 9th June. The nest is a neat cup of grass-bents and the dead leaves of bulbous plants, and is well lined with fine grass stems.”
Jones describes the nest taken by him as rather different (ibid. vol. xxvii, p. 630, 1921) :— "The materials used are grass-bents, (stem and blade) ; which were green when the nest was newly built, and very fine fibres, the whole being profusely decorated with white vegetable down.”
This nest contained four eggs on the 28th May and was built 5 feet from the ground in a scrubby bush.
Nests taken by Betham and Williams were generally 2 to 4 feet from the ground in “thorny bushes,” “sage bushes,” or “wild almond bushes,” and were not very well concealed. The birds sat very close, not leaving the nest until the bush was touched.
As will be seen from the notes given, the breeding season lasts from the end of April to the end of June, most eggs being laid in early May.
The full clutch of eggs varies from three to five.
The ground-colour is an excessively pale greenish-white, very rarely quite white. The markings consist of specks or small blotches of blackish-brown and secondary ones of pale grey, fairly numerous at the larger end, but scanty elsewhere. One clutch taken by Betham has the markings more numerous, rather large and much paler, while in yet another they are mostly inky and very sparse, except in a thin ring round the larger end.
The texture is hard, close and fine, many eggs having a considerable gloss. The shape varies from a broad, rather pointed oval to a long oval.
Thirty-one eggs taken in India average 20.6 x 15.5 mm. : maxima 21.9 x 16.3 mm, ; minima 19.1 x 15.4 and 19.3 x 15.0 mm.
846.Sylvia hortensis jerdoni
(846) Sylvia hortensis jerdoni Blyth.