« AnteriorContinuar »
HE Orphean Warbler, as its name implies, is another noted song bird; but, though not uncommon in some parts of Europe and Asia, its claim to be included amongst our British warblers rests on very slender grounds. So long ago as July, 1848, a pair of this species were observed in a small plantation near Wetherby, and the hen bird was shot and forwarded to Sir William Milner, who informed Mr. Yarrell of the fact. On this single instance it was included by the last-named naturalist in his “History of British Birds.” Since the last edition of that work was published (1856), there is reason to believe that the Orphean Warbler has occurred again at least on two occasions in England. In June, 1866, the late Sergeant-Major Hanley, of the 1st Life Guards,
well known as a bird fancier, purchased a young warbler, which had been chased and caught by a boy near Holloway. Mr. Blyth, who saw it in the following December, pronounced it to be without doubt a female Orphean Warbler. As the bird when caught was unable to fly, it is evident that a pair must have nested in the neighbourhood. I have seen a nest and eggs which were taken in Notton Wood, near Wakefield, in June, 1864, which certainly appertained to none of our common warblers, and the eggs could not be distinguished from well-authenticated eggs of Sylvia orphea." Mr. Howard Saunders has reported a similar nest and eggs from East Grinstead. The eggs differ from those of the Blackcap and Garden Warbler in being white, spotted, chiefly at the larger end, with ash-grey. The bird may be briefly described as a large form of the Blackcap, exceeding it by half an inch in total length, and by a quarter of an inch in length of wing, the
male having the black crown which characterizes our well-known songster, and resembling it generally in appearance. It differs, however, in having the bill shining black instead of horn colour, the under parts white instead of grey, the legs brown instead of slate colour, and the outer tail feathers margined with white instead of being uniformly grey. In habits and mode of life it assimilates, as might be expected, very much to the species with which we are so familiar. Those who have seen the nest, state that it is large for the size of the bird—a loose and open structure, rather shallow, and generally placed in a low bush near the ground. Mr. Yarrell has given very scanty information about this species, particularly as regards its geographical distribution, from which it might be inferred that very little is known of it. This, however, is not the case. While the Blackcap migrates almost due north and south, the Orphean Warbler migrates westwards and northwards from the east and southeast, and vice versä. In North-west India, par
* Cf. “Handbook of British Birds,” p. 106.
ticularly in the neighbourhood of Umballah, it is tolerably common. The Rev. Canon Tristram found it numerous in Palestine, and especially abundant under Mount Hermon. Messrs. Elwes and Buckley include it in their list of the birds of Turkey (“Ibis,” 1870, p. 19), and Lord Lilford has noted its occasional occurrence in spring in the Ionian Isles. Rüppell includes it amongst the birds of Arabia and Egypt," but either it is not very common in Egypt, or it has escaped the searching eyes of many English ornithologists in that country. Mr. O. Salvin found it tolerably common in the Eastern Atlas, and it has also been met with in Tripoli (cf. Chambers, “Ibis,” 1867, p. 104). As it is thus found in North Africa, and, according to Professor Savi, is a summer visitant to Italy, one would naturally expect to find it in Malta; but Mr. C. A. Wright, who has paid great attention to Maltese ornithology for many years, states that he has never met with it himself, and that
only one instance of its occurrence in Malta is known to him. In Spain it has been observed as a summer visitant both by Lord Lilford and Mr. Howard Saunders. The last-named naturalist says (“Ibis,” 1871, p. 212) that it nests there in May, and refers to the frequent inequality in the size of eggs in the same nest—a peculiarity which does not seem to have been previously noticed. In Portugal it appears to be only an occasional summer visitant, apparently not straying so far westward as a rule I am not aware that it has been found further to the south-west than Morocco. Mr. Tyrwhitt Drake met with it in this country in 1867, but considered it rare.
* “Syst. Uebers. d. Vögel Nord-Ost Afrika's,” p. 57.
According to the observations of Von der Mühle, in his “Monograph of the European Sylviidae,” and of Captain Beavan on various birds in India (“Ibis,” 1868, pp. 73, 74), there is good reason to believe that both the Blackcap and the Orphean Warbler completely lose the black crown in winter, and reassume it at the approach of the breeding SeaSOI).