(595) Oreocincla dauma dauma (Lath.).
THE HIMALAYAN SMALL-BILLED MOUNTAIN-THRUSH.
Oreocincla dauma dauma, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 158.
This handsome Thrush breeds in the Himalayas from Hazara to Assam at elevations of 7,000 feet upwards. It also occurs in the higher hills of North and North-East Burma, down the hills of Central West Burma to Tenasserim, though it has never been found actually breeding in these hills.
It ascends to very high levels for nesting purposes, Whymper taking its nest at 11,000 feet, while it has been observed in Summer up to 12,000, or the limit of tree-forest. This is one of the few Indian birds of whose habitat we have a pen-picture given, illustrated in this case with charming photos of the nest. Bates (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxviii, p. 99, 1925) describes the Lalab, Kashmir, as follows :—“A more charming spot I have never found. On one side the ground slopes abruptly for about 1,500 feet to the tiny land-locked Rampur Valley, a vale of enormous chenars, walnuts and fruit-trees, over whose further boundary a wonderful panorama of the whole happy valley still further below one, and of its surrounding mountain ranges, is obtained. The slopes on this side are not very thickly wooded. In fact there are few deodars, and but straggling patches of rhododendrons and other bushes. Though a wonderful prospect to the Pir Panjal themselves is obtained, it is nothing when compared with the surpassing beauty of the view into the Lolab and of the mountains which enclose it, with Nanga Parbat some 50 miles distant, yet dominating every intermediate range. My little marg, christened on my first visit the ‘Saddleback,’ cannot be much more than thirty yards across, and on this, the Lolab side, it dips most abruptly in one great sweep of unbroken forest to the hamlet-studded vale beneath, so far beneath that the whole has the appearance of a wonderful landscape painting of tiny green fields, the vivid green of the early rice, and orchards, woods and villages, with silvery streams winding amongst them, occasionally spreading into little glass-like lakes.”
Then Bates goes on to narrate how in this country he found the nest of this Thrush :—“I was soon rewarded by my attention being drawn to a Small-billed Mountain-Thrush sitting tightly on its nest under a rotten stump surrounded by wild strawberries. It was in a beautiful situation a few yards down the hill on the Lolab side, and so among the thick deodar forest I have alluded to. As usual, she sat very close and allowed me to have a good look at her. The nest was made entirely of pine-needles. The only other nest of this species which I have found was lined with pine-needles but had an outer shell of bents and roots.”
Bates’s nest of pine-needles was extraordinary in composition but the site, in dense Deodar forest, was very typical and just the kind of forest in which it breeds in Naini Tal, in the ravines of Murree, the Galis or Mussoorie, or, again, in the Garhwal Hills.
Usually the nest is, however, built in a fork of a tree, preferentially a Deodar, and sometimes, as with one taken by Whymper, a full 20 feet up. Occasionally, however, it is placed on banks in tangles of bush and brambles and then nearly always under the protection of a fallen tree or log.
The normal nest is as described by Marshall:—“A wide cup, not deep, built of moss rather substantially and neatly lined with stalks of maidenhair fern, still bearing a few of their leaves, and a few bents of grass. Its position was in the fork of a moss-covered rhododendron and beautifully concealed.”
Most nests have some twigs, grass, leaves or other oddments mixed with the grass. The dimensions of the nests on the outside are, roughly, 7 to 8 inches across by about half these in depth.
The breeding season lasts from the end of April to about the third week in June.
Three or four eggs are laid in a clutch.
In colour the eggs vary from a pale yellowish-grey or grey faintly tinged with green to a darkish clay-buff. In many eggs the tiny freckles and pin-points of dark clay-red markings are so numerous that the eggs look unicoloured clay or buff. Some eggs are more definitely speckled lightly with pale reddish, whilst rarely they are blotched all over with comparatively dark reddish. Very often one egg in a clutch differs greatly from the others, being boldly and clearly blotched, whilst the others look unicoloured. I have one genuine clutch of four in which each egg differs from the rest. One is uniform pale clay ; a second looks uniform rich reddish-buff ; a third is pale clay-grey finely but sparsely marked with reddish specks, whilst the fourth is pale buff-clay freckled all over with light red.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, generally blunt, though rather long and pointed ovals are not rare. The texture is hard, closer and finer than the eggs of Turdus, and there is always a distinct gloss.
Twenty-five eggs average 30.5 x 22.3 mm. : maxima 33.0 x 22.1 and 31.3 x 23.6 mm. ; minima 29.0 x 23.4 and 29.3 x 20.8 mm.
595. Oreocincla dauma dauma
(595) Oreocincla dauma dauma (Lath.).