(191) Argya earlii (Blyth).
THE STRIATED BABBLER.
Argya earlii, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 197.
This is the most widely distributed of all the Babblers of the genera Turdoides and Argya, breeding throughout Sind, the North of India, at the base of the Himalayas wherever there is suitable country, through Eastern Bengal and Assam and down Western Burma to Pegu. It is common in Gurdaspur and other suitable places in the Central Provinces. In Sind Ticehurst gives Jhangshahi, 70 miles East of Karachi, as the Western limit of this Babbler.
The birds breed almost entirely in grass fields, rush- and reed- covered swamps and in elephant-grass, water seeming to be a necessity, few nests being built at any great distance from it, and many actually in the swamps. Now and then a nest may be built in a bush or small tree standing in dry grass-land but such are quite exceptional. Hume’s description of the nest is excellent and I quote it in full:—
“They lay twice during the year, between the latter end of March and early part of September, building a neat, compact and rather massive cup-shaped nest, either between the close-growing reeds, to three or more of which it is firmly bound, or in some little bush or shrub, more or less surrounded by high reed-grass. The broad leaves and stringy roots of the reeds, common grass and grass¬roots are the materials of which it generally constructs its nest, which varies much in size, according to the situation and the fineness of the material used. I have seen them composed almost entirely of reed-leaves, fully seven inches in diameter and five in height, and again built entirely of fine grass-stems and not more than 4 inches across and 3 inches in height. When semi-suspended between reeds, they are always smaller and more compact, while when placed in a fork of a small bush they are larger and more straggling. The cavity (always neatly finished off, but very rarely regularly lined, and then only with very fine grass-stems or roots) is usually about 3 inches in diameter by 2 inches in-depth.”
Col. G. F. L. Marshall gives a similar description of nests found by him during March in the Saharanpur and Sub-Siwalik Districts and remarks on their partiality for water, nearly all those found in the last-mentioned district being close to the canal.
In Ferozepore, Punjab, they are very common and Betham observed them breeding in great numbers in the “Sarkuri” grass fields on the banks of the Sutlej during March and April.
This Babbler is even more constantly gregarious than its relations, consorting together in small parties when breeding as well as at other times, and sometimes several nests may be found within a very small area.
Hopwood and Mackenzie obtained nests in Pegu in July, where they were breeding in extensive beds of elephant-grass in swampy land. In Assam Stevens ascertained that they were nesting in reed-beds and grass-lands on the banks of the Diju and took one nest with three eggs on the 17th May.
The eggs are of the usual blue but, perhaps, a little paler than those of the other species of the genus. They are, however, similar in shape and have the same intense gloss.
Sixty eggs average 22.8 x 17.6 mm. : maxima 26.0 x 19.7 mm. ; minima 19.7 x 16.9 and 25.1 x 16.1 mm.
It is difficult to define the breeding season of the striated Babbler. Doig and Barnes give an “all in” season lasting from March to October, which suffices, roughly, for the whole of its range, but in different areas the birds select different times according to the food- supply available. Thus in the immense stretches of grass in Eastern Bengal and Assam they seem to breed from October to December, after the cessation of the rains. In the Surrma Valley, however, the districts of Assam adjoining those of Eastern Bengal, they lay between March and June before the Rains start.
191. Argya earlii
(191) Argya earlii (Blyth).