(565) Turdus merula maximus Seebohm.
THE CENTRAL ASIAN BLACKBIRD.
Turdus merula maximus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 123.
As Meinertzhagen’s T. m. buddoe seems to be quite indistin¬guishable from this race I include Ladak in its range. It is found from Garhwal to the extreme North-East Frontier, where White-head found it common near the head of the Khagan Valley between 12,000 and 13,500 feet. It occurs and breeds in Ladak and Tibet, nesting up to 14,000 feet.
Ward (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xvii, p. 482, 1906) records the fact that this fine Blackbird breeds at high levels in Kashmir, where Buchanan found a nest with three eggs above Apharwat on the 5th July 1903, which may be the instance Ward refers to, for there were no eggs of this Blackbird in his own collec¬tion. In 1909 Whitehead in the Kurram Valley, North-West Frontier, and Whymper, in the Nila Valley, Garhwal, both took several nests, whilst Whymper again took others in 1910 in the same valley.
In ‘The Ibis’ (1909, p. 221) Whitehead writes:—“In July 1908 I found this fine bird fairly common outside our limits near the head of the Khagan Valley (Hazara, N.W.F.P.) between 12,000 and 13,500 feet, either in parties of from three to ten, or occasionally alone. It was very wild and it was with difficulty I procured three examples.” In 1909 he took three nests in the Kurram Valley on the 5th, 21st and 24th June. Of these three nests, one was under an overhanging bank and the other two in low Cypress bushes.
Whymper says (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xx, p. 1158, 1910) : —“Several pairs were seen at 12,000 feet and over, and several nests with young ; the eggs must have been laid early in May, when the whole place was under deep snow. However, I was lucky enough to find one pair building in June and on the 27th got a fine clutch of four eggs from the nest, securing the birds. All the nests seen were massive structures of dry herbage and grass with a little earth on the foundation and very thickly lined with fine grass. They were all placed on ledges of rock, sometimes quite unconcealed, but the birds were very wary in approaching them. It is curious that the existence of this bird should have been overlooked in these parts, as it is fairly common and much in evidence, both from its frequenting the open and from its rattling alarm call.”
In his note-book on some eggs taken by him Whitehead remarks that the nest “was made of moss and grass with the mud attached. Mud cup, only a fine grass lining, 11,000 feet.” Whitehead also notes that in one case he found the breeding male to be still in the red or juvenile plumage.
The breeding season is May and June, and all eggs taken so far have been in these two months, with the exception of the three taken by Buchanan on the 5th July.
The number of eggs in a clutch is three or four, generally the latter. In colour they are like large eggs of the common English Blackbird but with rather larger and more definite blotching, while, very frequently, one egg in the clutch has the blotches larger and much less numerous, standing out boldly on the pale blue or grey-blue ground-colour, very much like the eggs of the Missel-Thrush. In all eggs the ground-colour is pale and in some has a distinct yellow-grey tinge, whilst the primary markings are red-brown, so that the dominating colour is red-brown and not greenish, as in the common Blackbird. The secondary markings are of lavender or grey, less numerous than the primary and never prominent enough to dominate the tint.
In shape the eggs are long ovals, the texture rather coarse, the surface smooth but glossless, or very nearly so. A few eggs are shorter, stouter ovals.
Twenty-seven eggs average 33.05 x 23.45 mm. : maxima 34.9 x 23.7 and 34.5 x 24.2 mm. ; minima 30.2 x 22.8 and 32.0 x 22.1 mm.
565. Turdus merula maximus
(565) Turdus merula maximus Seebohm.