Monday, May 16, 2011

What-is-it bird

Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1851
One of the joys of working on Wikipedia is the way one stumbles on material. One of the foremost scientific illustrators of the Victorian Age was Joseph Wolf who made chromolithographs for many publications. T. C. Jerdon thought it must be a Sibia = Heterophasia . Dr Nicholson who proposes the bird as a new species does not even indicate the part of India where it was found (although a preceding note suggests he lived mainly in Surat, Kutch and nearabouts) ! He however notes the peculiar habit of using rodent holes :
These birds are only found in very thick jungles among the brushwood, where they are always moving about, and are shot with great difficulty, and even then, if not killed outright, they are so tenacious of life, that they creep into the first hole or crevice they come to. The only note I ever heard was like 'chick, chick.' I think they are residents, but the few I have seen just appear and are lost in a moment, so that I know little of their habits; the one figured here had one leg and both wings broken, and still crept into the hole of a jerboa-rat, from which I dug it out dead.
Length from bill to tip of tail 7 2/8 inches. Alar extent 10 inches. Head large. Bill strong, narrow and sharp, gently arched on the culmen; a distinct notch near the tip of upper mandible; gape wide. Tongue horny and divided at the point. Nostrils basal, small. Eye rather small. Iris of a silvery colour, tinged with yellow. Wings rounded; first quill very short; third longest; second, third and fourth quills emarginate on outer web.
Tail short, and nearly even at the end, of twelve feathers, 2 3/4 inches long.
Tarsus strong. Hallux and claw stronger than the other toes, and as long as the inner toe, and has a large pad at its base; the outer toe is shortest; the claws are much hooked. 
 Dr Nicholson (1851) Notes on a new species of Artamus, from India. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. June 1851:195-196.


According to another editor on Wikipedia, the bird is the Orphean Warbler, Sylvia hortensis crassirostris. So do Orphean Warblers use rodent holes ?


  1. Very intriguing. What do you think it is? Probably the Orphean Warbler?

  2. @Beej Orphean Warbler certainly seems right but the rodent like behaviour mentioned is odd.