(475) Tesia cyaniventer cyaniventer Hodgs.
THE NEPAL SLATY-BELLIED WHEN.
Tesia cyaniventer cyaniventer, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 463.
Garhwal is about the Western limit of the Slaty-bellied Wren, whilst it is found East along the Himalayas to the Chin and Kachin Hills and possibly Annam.
Normally this little Wren breeds at all elevations from about 3,000 up to 7,000 feet and has been said to occur in Sikkim up to 10,000 feet, though Stevens gives 6,000 feet as its limit. Osmaston, however, found nests higher than this and took two near Darjiling at 6,500 and 7,000 feet. In the Assam Hills it certainly breeds up to 7,000 but is more common between 3,500 and 5,000 feet. Here it keeps almost entirely to evergreen forest, frequenting those where there is ample undergrowth of bracken, ferns, weeds and moss, as well as bushes. Above all other places it seems to love tiny streamlets which work their way over slabs of rock and moss-covered boulders, through dense growth down steep and broken hill-sides. Here the shrill call of the male often drew one’s attention to some particularly thick and uninviting spot, stumbling about in which one sometimes had the luck to disturb the sitting female from her nest.
The nest varies greatly, but more in position than construction. Nearly always it is a beautiful ball of vivid green moss, sometimes nearly spherical, at others time oval. The measurements of the former are some 5 inches in diameter and of the latter about 7 x 5, according to Hodgson, though rather smaller in most of those I have found. Except moss, I have seen no material used beyond such tiny scraps of bracken, grass or broken bits of leaf probably caught up by, and incorporated with, the moss. The lining is generally of moss-roots, sometimes of moss and roots combined, and sometimes just the green moss itself quilted into a little pad separate from the outer walls of the nest. The cavity is very small, little more than an inch in width or depth and some¬times even less. Hodgson says that it builds as its nest a huge globular affair of green moss and black moss-roots, “which it fixes in any dense dry shrub or clump of shoots, many of which it incorporates in the sides of the nest.”
Both the nests found by Osmaston “were placed in low brushwood in rather open high forest about one foot from the ground, and were made entirely of moss and moss-roots, being domed, 7" high and 5" wide, and lined with a compact pad of fine moss.”
Among the various situations in which the nest has been taken in Assam the following may be mentioned :—
In creepers or in the long streamers of moss growing against tree-trunks or, less often, against rocks. In these cases the nests are built in among the moss but not built into them, as are the nests of Pnoepyga.
In low thick bushes, fastened to several twigs, as found by Hodgson.
On steep banks among boulders and rocks, or sometimes just hidden in the moss and weeds.
The breeding season lasts throughout May, June and early July, but the latter nests are probably second broods, replacing first clutches of eggs or young that have been taken by vermin or otherwise lost.
The eggs number three to five, four being the usual full clutch.
The ground-colour is a very pale but rather bright pink, and they are stippled over profusely with tiny specks of very bright brick- red, in many eggs so densely that they look an almost uniform terra-cotta pink. In other eggs the markings are less dense and slightly larger, so that the ground-colour shows up and the eggs look equally mottled over with brick-red or, in a few cases, with a rather pinky red. Quite rarely one comes across a clutch which is boldly marked with reddish-brown, the markings always much more numerous at the larger end than elsewhere and sometimes forming a ring or cap. They are very handsome little eggs and like no others except very pale eggs of the next bird. In shape they are generally rather long but blunt ovals, a few only being broad ovals. In texture they are fine but there is no gloss, and they are fragile eggs.
Fifty eggs average 17.4 x 12.9 mm. : maxima 19.1 x 13.1 and 17.9 x 13.6 mm. ; minima 16.8 x 13.2 and 18.0 x 12.0 mm.
475. Tesia cyaniventer cyaniventer
(475) Tesia cyaniventer cyaniventer Hodgs.