601. Oreocincla mollissima simlaensis

(601) Oreocincla mollissima simlaensis Stuart Baker.
Oreocincla mollissima simlaensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 164.
This Thrush is found from Chamba to the Simla States and Garhwal Hills, breeding from 9,000 to 14,000 feet. Its favourite breeding haunts in the Garhwal Hills, where nests were taken by Whymper, R. E. Skinner and Osmaston, seem to have been on the meeting-line of the tree-forest with the open country. The two first-named collecters obtained all their nests at or above 13,000 feet in the Nila and Dundar Valleys but Osmaston took his a good deal lower down, between 9,000 and 10,500 feet, in mixed forest of Oak and Fir etc. Nine out of ten nests are placed in trees or bushes of some kind but, occasionally, they are built on a rock, in a cleft or on a ledge, or on some projection on the face of a boulder.
Whymper, writing to me about this bird under the name of dixoni, remarks :—“I took the nest of this bird in the Dundar Nulla in Garhwal on June the 22nd, 1906, at 13,000 feet. The late P. W. Mackinnon had told me to look out for this Thrush, as Hume had founded his species on birds (or a bird) from these parts, and it was rather a doubtful species. I afterwards found the bird nesting in the Nila Valley, Garhwal, but it is not a common bird in these parts. All the nests (4) were placed in willows broken down by the snow and were ordinary Blackbird-like nests, though I did not see any mud in them. The eggs were always three in number, of the Merula type, not in the least like the eggs of dauma.”
Osmaston’s nests, with the exception of one built on a boulder, were all placed in trees, either Fir, Silver Fir or Karshu Oaks, the latter being the favourite, at heights between 6 and 12 feet from the ground.
The outer part of the nest seems nearly always to consist principally of green moss, but this may be mixed to some extent with weed-stems, small twigs and bits of sticks ; sometimes a few of all, sometimes only one or two, of these materials. The lining is always of dried grass, which Osmaston says is sometimes rather striking from its pale yellow colour.
At the lower levels it breeds from the last week in April to the end of May or early June but, above 10,000 feet, no eggs have been taken before the 28th May, and most are laid in the middle and end of June.
The full clutch of eggs seems to be invariably three and, as Whymper notes, they are Meruline in appearance and not like those of Oreocincla dauma. Typically they are very like large, handsomely marked eggs of the common Blackbird, though they have a character of their own, hard to describe, yet enough to distinguish them, beyond their bolder marking. The ground-colour is a darker, duller greenish, as a rule, than it is in a Blackbird’s egg and, inter se, the markings differ considerably. On the whole they are more brown, less reddish than they are in a Blackbird’s egg. In a few the markings consist of the finest stippling, in others of small, rather longitudinal blotching, and in others of quite bold blotching. In all three types they are numerous everywhere, but the bolder blotches are often more numerous at the larger end, where they may form caps or zones. I have one clutch of the erythristic type laid by the two preceding races and I have one large single egg which really might be taken for that of Oreocincla dauma, but it is marked at the larger end with a cap of rich brown with a very few spots close to the cap.
In shape the eggs are long, pointed ovals, the texture fine and close but the surface glossless or nearly so.
Twenty-two eggs average 30.5 x 21.6 mm. : maxima 34.4 x 24.3 mm. ; minima 28.1 x 21.3 and 30.1 x 20.8 mm.
The birds are shy and wild at all times and difficult to approach but, when breeding, are extra cautious. It is only when they have young that they become bolder and allow of closer observation. As soon as the young can look after themselves the parents become as wild as ever.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 2. 1933.
Title in Book: 
601. Oreocincla mollissima simlaensis
Spp Author: 
Stuart baker.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Simla Plain Backed Thrush
Zoothera mollissima whiteheadi
Vol. 2

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