(583) Turdus feae (Salvadori).
THE RUSSET-BACKED THRUSH.
Turdus feoe, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 143.
This very rare Thrush is found thinly scattered from the hills South of Assam and Manipur, through the hills of Central Burma, to Tenasserim. It is probably resident and breeds wherever found, though it may move vertically with the seasons. During the Summer it is found in the Assam Hills above 4,000 feet and generally above 5,000. In the North Cachar Hills it was very rare, being only found on the highest peaks of the Barail Range in the interior of evergreen forest. In the Khasia Hills it seemed to be almost common some years, whilst in other years I failed to see a single specimen. In 1909 no less than three pairs bred in one extensive evergreen and mixed forest running from about 5,200 to 6,200 feet, the nests being found between 27th May and 5th July, nor were any of these three nests second attempts at breeding. After this year (1909) only odd nests were found, probably, on an average, one in every two years. The birds were very shy and, though one could sometimes track down a male by his sweet little song, it by no means followed that this sufficed to bring the female and nest also to book. So far as my own experience goes, with one exception the nest has always been built in trees and, though at no great height from the ground, always well concealed. The one exception was a nest, also found in 1909, which was placed in a dense Azalea-bush growing among thousands of others on the high cliff-side overlooking a stream. This last-mentioned nest was not more than four feet from the ground and completely hidden from anyone passing a yard or two away, and it was only discovered when the female flew out almost at my feet. When placed in trees the nest is equally thoroughly hidden, the favourite position being in the fork of an old Rhododendron, among thick foliage or long falling moss. The birds seem to have a predilection for building near water and, in every case, the nests found by me have been in trees overhanging tiny streams or the water finding its way through ravines.
The nest is quite a typical Thrush’s ; outwardly it looks like a deep green cup of moss averaging about 6.1/2 or 7 inches in diameter by a full 4 inches in depth. The cup for the eggs is small in pro¬portion, seldom more than 3 by 2 inches. Inside the moss coarse and fine roots are well interwoven, often with quite a thick layer of dead leaves and scraps of bracken between them and the moss. Next comes a layer of mud, not nearly so well compacted as in the nest of an English Thrush, and often quite friable. The true lining is of roots, fine and coarse, fine bents and, in one instance, fine Ted tendrils from a climbing plant.
May and June are probably the normal breeding months, though, as stated above, I found one nest with two slightly incubated eggs on the 5th July.
Considering the few eggs I have seen, they show greater variety than those of any other Thrush known to me. Some eggs are just like those of the common Blackbird ; others can be matched by those of the Missel-Thrush ; one pair is an almost deep blue- green, marked at the larger end with a small cap of coalescing red-brown spots, which are absent elsewhere ; yet another clutch, this of four eggs, has a still deeper, rather greener ground, boldly blotched with deep purple-brown blotches, coalescing at the extreme large end and boldly distributed elsewhere. Finally, a pair of fresh eggs are a very pale but bright sea-green, one boldly spotted with brick-red, the other with hardly any marks beyond an irregular zone at the extreme larger end.
In shape the eggs are short to long ovals, always blunt and, in some, very little compressed at the smaller end. The texture is fine for a Thrush’s egg, the surface very smooth and with a shght gloss, more than in most eggs of the genus, but never with the hard china gloss shown by the eggs of Geokichla.
Sixteen eggs average 27.3 x 19.8 mm. : maxima 29.2 x 20.0 and 27.8 x 20.8 mm. ; minima 25.7 x 19.0 mm.
583. Turdus feae
(583) Turdus feae (Salvadori).