THE NESTS AND EGGS OF INDIAN BIRDS, VOLUME 1
ALLAN O. HUME, C.B.
Edited by Eugene William Gates Author of "A Handbook to the Birds of British Burmah and of the Birds in the Fauna of British India,"
With Four Portraits.
I have long regretted my inability to issue a revised edition of 'Nests and Eggs.' For many years after the first Rough Draft appeared, I went on laboriously accumulating materials for a re-issue, but subsequently circumstances prevented my undertaking the work. Now, fortunately, my friend Mr. Eugene Gates has taken the matter up, and much as I may personally regret having to hand over to another a task, the performance of which I should so much have enjoyed, it is some consolation to feel that the readers, at any rate, of this work will have no cause for regret, but rather of rejoicing that the work has passed into younger and stronger hands.
One thing seems necessary to explain. The present Edition does not include quite all the materials I had accumulated for this work. Many years ago, during my absence from Simla, a servant broke into my museum and stole thence several cwts. of manuscript, which he sold as waste paper. This manuscript included more or less complete life-histories of some 700 species of birds, and also a certain number of detailed accounts of nidification. All small notes on slips of paper were left, but almost every article written on full-sized foolscap sheets was abstracted. It was not for many months that the theft was discovered, and then very little of the MSS. could be recovered.
It thus happens that in the cases of some of the most interesting species, of which I had worked up all the notes into a connected whole, nothing, or, as in the case of Argya subrufa, only a single isolated note, appears in the text. It is to be greatly regretted, for my work was imperfect enough as it was; and this 'Selection from the Records,' that my Philistine servant saw fit to permit himself, has rendered it a great deal more imperfect still; but neither Mr. Oates nor myself can be justly blamed for this.
In conclusion, I have only to say that if this compilation should find favour in any man's sight he must thank Mr. Oates for it, since not only has he undergone the labour of arranging my materials and seeing the whole work through the press—not only has he, I believe, added himself considerably to those materials—but it is solely owing to him that the work appears at all, as I know no one else to whom I could have entrusted the arduous and, I fear, thankless duty that he has so generously undertaken.
Rothney Castle, Simla, October 19th, 1889.
Mr. Hume has sufficiently explained the circumstances under which this edition of his popular work has been brought about. I have merely to add that, as I was engaged on a work on the Birds of India, I thought it would be easier for me than for anyone else to assist Mr. Hume. I was also in England, and knew that my labour would be very much lightened by passing the work through the press in this country. Another reason, perhaps the most important, was the fear that, as Mr. Hume had given up entirely and absolutely the study of birds, the valuable material he had taken such pains to accumulate for this edition might be irretrievably lost or further injured by lapse of time unless early steps were taken to utilize it.
A few words of explanation appear necessary on the subject of the arrangement of this edition. Mr. Hume is in no way responsible for this arrangement nor for the nomenclature employed. He may possibly disapprove of both. He, however, gave me his manuscript unreservedly, and left me free to deal with it as I thought best, and I have to thank him for reposing this confidence in me. Left thus to my own devices, I have considered it expedient to conform in all respects to the arrangement of my work on the Birds, which I am writing, side by side, with this work. The classification I have elaborated for my purpose is totally different to that employed by Jerdon and familiar to Indian ornithologists; but a departure from Jerdon's arrangement was merely a question of time, and no better opportunity than the present for readjusting the classification of Indian birds appeared likely to present itself. I have therefore adopted a new system, which I have fully set forth in my other work.
I take this opportunity to present the readers of Mr. Hume's work with portraits of Mr. Hume himself, of Mr. Brian Hodgson, the late Dr. Jerdon, and the late Colonel Tickell.
EUGENE W. OATES.
1. Corvus corax, Linn. 3. —— corone, Linn. 4. —— macrorhynchus, Wagler 7. —— splendens, Vieill 8. —— insulens, Hume. 9. —— monedula, Linn. 10. Pica rustica (Scop.) 12. Urocissa occipitalis (Bl.) 13. —— flaviostris (Bl.) 14. Cissa chinensis (Bodd.) 15. —— ornata (Wagler) 16. Dendrocitta rufa (Scop.) 17. —— leucogastra, Gould 18. —— himalayensis, Bl. 21. Crypsirhina varians (Lath.) 23. Platysmurus leucopterus (Temm.) 24. Garrulous lanceolatus, Vigors 25. —— leucotis, Hume 26. —— bispecularis, Vigors 27. Nucifraga hemispila, Vigors 29. Graculus eremita (Linn.)
31. Parus atriceps, Horsf. 34. —— monticola, Vigors 35. Aegithaliscus erythrocephalus Vig. 41. Machlolophus spilonotus (Bl.) 42. —— xanthogenys Vig. 43. —— haplonotus (Bl.) 44. Lophophanes melanolophus Vig. 47. —— rufinuchalis (Bl.)
50. Conostoma aemodium, Hodgs. 60. Sea orhynchus ruticeps (Bl.) 61. —— gularis Horsf.
62. Dryonastes ruticollis (J.S.S.) 65. —— caerulatus (Hodgs.) 69. Garrulax leucolophus (Hardw.) 70. —— belangeri, Lesson 72. —— pectoralis (Gould) 73. —— moniliger (Hodgs.) 76. —— albigularis Gould 78. Ianthocincla ocellata (Vig.) 80. —— rutigularis, Gould 82. Trochalopterum erythrocephalum (Vig.) 83. —— nigrimentum, Hodgs. 87. —— phaeniceum (Gould) 88. —— subunicolor, Hodgs. 90. —— variegatum (Vig.) 91. —— simile, Hume 92. —— squamatum (Gould) 93. —— cachinnans (Jerd.) 96. —— fairbanki, Blanf. 99. —— lineatum (Vig.) 101. Grammatoptila striata (Vig.) 104. Argya earlii (Bl.) 105. —— caudata (Dumeril) 107. —— malcolmi (Sykes) 108. —— subrufa (Jerd.) 110. Crateropus canorus (Linn.) 111. —— griseus (Gmel.) 112. Crateropus striatus (Swains.) 113. —— somervillii (Sykes) 114. —— rufescens (Bl.) 115. —— cinereifrons (Bl.) 116. Pomatorhinus schisticeps, Hodgs. 118. —— olivaceus, Bl. 119. —— melanurus, Bl. 120. —— horsfieldii, Sykes 122. —— ferruginosus, Bl. 125. —— ruficollis, Hodgs. 129. —— erythrogenys, Vig. 133. Xiphorhamphus superciliaris (Blyth)
134. Timelia pileata, Horsf 135. Dumetia hyperythra (Frankl.) 136. —— albigularis (Bl.) 139. Pyctorhis sinensis (Gm.) 140. —— nasalis, Legge 142. Pellorneum mandellii, Blanf. 144. —— ruficeps, Swains 145. —— subochraceum, Swinh 147. —— fuscicapillum (Bl.) 149. Drymocataphus nigricapitatus (Eyton) 151. —— tickelli (Bl.) 160. —— abbotti (Bl.) 163. Alcippe nepalensis (Hodgs.) 164. —— phaeocephala (Jerd.) 165. —— phayrii, Bl. 166. Rhopocichla atriceps (Jerd.) 167. —— nigrifrons (Bl.) 169. Stachyrhis nigriceps, Hodgs 170.—— chrysaea, Hodgs. 172. Stachyrhidopsis ruficeps(Bl.) 174. —— pyrrhops (Hodgs.) 175. Cyanoderma erythropterum (Bl.) 176. Mixornis rubricapillus (Tick.) 177. —— gularis (Raffl.) 178. Schoeniparus dubius (Hume) 182. Sittiparus castaneiceps (Hodgs.) 183. Proparus vinipectus (Hodgs.) 184. Lioparus chrysaeus (Hodgs.)
187. Myiophoneus temmincki, Vig. 188. —— eugenii, Hume. 189. —— horsfieldi, Vig 191. Larvivora brunnea, Hodgs 193. Brachypteryx albiventris (Fairbank) 194. —— rufiventris (Bl.) 197. Drymochares cruralis (Bl.) 198. —— nepalensis (Hodgs.) 200. Elaphrornis palliseri (Bl.) 201. Tesia cyaniventris, Hodgs. 203. Oligura castaneicoronata (Burt.)
203. Sibia picaoides, Hodgs. 204. Lioptila capistrata (Vig.) 205. —— gracilis (McClell.) 206. —— melanoleuca (Bl.) 211. Actinodura egertoni, Gould 213. Ixops nepalensis (Hodgs.) 219. Siva strigula, Hodgs. 221. —— cyanuroptera, Hodgs. 223. Yuhina gularis, Hodgs. 225. —— nigrimentum (Hodgs.) 226. Zosterops palpebrosa (Temm.) 229. —— ceylonensis, Holdsworth 231. Ixulus occipitalis, (Bl.) 232.—— flavicollis (Hodgs.)
235. Liothrix lutea (Scop.) 237. Pteruthius erythropterus (Vig.) 239. —— melanotis, Hodgs. 243. Aegithina tiphia (Linn.) 246. Myzornis pyrrhura, Hodgs. 252. Chloropsis jerdoni (Bl.) 254. Irena puella (Lath.) 257. Mesia argentauris, Hodgs. 258. Minla igneitincta, Hodgs. 260. Cephalopyrus flammiceps (Burt.) 261. Psaroglossa spiloptera (vig.)
263. Criniger flaveolus (Gould) 269. Hypsipetes psaroides, Vig. 271. —— ganeesa, Sykes 275. Hemixus macclellandi (Horsf.) 277. Alcurus striatus (Bl.) 278. Molpastes haemorrhous (Gm.) 279. —— burmanicus (Sharpe) 281. —— atricapillus (Vieill.) 282. —— bengalensis (Bl.) 283. —— intermedius (A. Hay) 284. —— leucogenys (Gr.) 285. —— lencotis (Gould). 288. Otocompsa emeria (Linn.) 289. —— fuscicaudata, Gould 290. —— flaviventris (Tick.) 292. Spizixus canifrons, Bl. 295. Iole icterica (Strickl.) 299. Pycnonotus finlaysoni, Strickl. 300. —— davisoni (Hume) 301. —— melanicterus (Gm.) 305. —— luteolus (Less.) 306. —— blanfordi, Jerd.
315. Sitta himalayensis, J. & S. 316. —— cinnamomeiventris, Bl. 317. —— neglecta, Walden 321. —— castaneiventris, Frankl. 323. —— leucopsis, Gould 325. —— frontalis, Horsf.
327. Dicrurus ater (Hermann) 328. —— longicaudatus, A. Hay 329. —— nigrescens, Oates 330. —— caerulescens (Linn.) 331. —— leucopygialis, Bl. 334. Chaptia aenea (Vieill.) 335. Chibia hottentotta (Linn.) 338. Dissemurulus lophorhinus (Vieill.) 339. Bhringa remifer (Temm.) 340. Dissemurus paradiseus (Linn.)
341. Certhia himalayana, Vig. 342. —— hodgsoni, Brooks 347. Salpornis spilonota (Frankl.) 352. Anorthura neglecta (Brooks) 355. Urocichla caudata (Bl.) 350. Pnoepyga squamata (Gould)
358. Regulus cristatus, Koch.
363. Acrocephalus stentoreus (H. & E.) 366. —— dumetorum, Bl. 367. —— agricola (Jerd.) 371. Tribura thoracica (Bl.) 372. —— luteiventris, Hodgs. 374. Orthotomus sutorius (Forst.) 375. —— atrigularis, Temm. 380. Cisticola volitans (Swinhoe) 381. —— cursitans (Frankl.) 382. Franklinia gracilis (Frankl.) 383. —— rufescens (Bl.) 384. —— buchanani (Bl.) 385. —— cinereicapilla (Hodgs.) 386. Laticilla burnesi (Bl.) 388. Graminicola bengalensis, Jerd. 389. Megalurus palustris, Horsf. 390. Schoenicola platyura (Jerd.) 391. Acanthoptila nepalensis (Hodgs.) 392. Chaetornis locustelloides (Bl.) 394. Hypolais rama (Sykes) 402. Sylvia affinis (Bl.) 406. Phylloscopus tytleri, Brooks 410. —— fuscatus (Bl.) 415. —— proregulus (Pall.) 416. —— subviridis (Brooks) 418. Phylloscopus humii (Brooks) 428. Acanthopneuste occipitalis (Jerd.) 430. —— davisoni, Oates 434. Cryptolopha xanthoschista (Hodgs.) 435. —— jerdoni (Brooks) 436. —— poliogenys (Bl.) 437. —— castaneiceps (Hodgs.) 438. —— cantator (Tick.) 440. Abrornis superciliaris, Tick 441. —— schisticeps (Hodgs.) 442. —— albigularis Hodgs. 445. Scotocerca inquieta (Cretzschm.) 446. Neornis flavolivaceus (Hodgs.) 448. Horornis fortipes Hodgs. 450. —— pallidus (Brooks) 451. —— pallidipes (Blanf.) 452. —— major (Hodgs.) 454. Phyllergates coronatus (Jerd. $ Bl.) 455. Horeites brunneifrons, Hodgs. 458. Suya crinigera, Hodgs 459. —— atrigularis, Moore 460. —— khasiana, Godw.-Aust. 462. Prinia lepida, Bl 463. —— flaviventris (Deless) 464. ——socialis, Sykes 465. ——sylvatica, Jerd 466. ——inornata, Sykes 467. ——jerdoni (Bl.) 468. ——blanfordi (Walden)
469. Lanius lahtora (Sykes) 473. —— vittatus, Valenc 475. —— nigriceps (Frankl.) 476. —— erythronotus (Vig.) 477. —— tephronotus (Vig) 481. —— cristatus, Linn 484. Hemipus picatus (Sykes) 485. —— capitalis (McClell.) 480. Tephrodornis pelvicus (Hodgs) 487. —— sylvicola, Jerd 488. —— pondicerianus (Gm.) 490. Pericrocotus speciosus (Lath.) 494. Pericrocotus flammeus (Forst.) 495. —— brevirostris (Vigors) 499. —— roseus (Vieill.) 500. —— peregrinus (Linn.) 501. —— erythropygius (Jerd.) 505. Campophaga melanoschista (Hodgs.) 508. —— sykesi (Shield.) 509. —— terat (Bodd.) 510. Graucalus macii, Lesson
512. Artamus fuscus, Vieill 513. —— leucogaster (Valenc.)
518. Oriolus kundoo, Sykes 521. —— melanocephalus, Linn. 522. —— traillii (Vigors)
523. Eulabes religiosa (Linn.) 524. —— intermedia (A. Hay) 526. —— ptilogenys (Bl.) 527. Calornis chalybeius (Horsf.)
528. Pastor roseus (Linn.) 529. Sturnus humii, Brooks 531. —— minor, Hume 537. Sturnia blythii (Jerd.) 538. —— malabarica (Gm.) 539. —— nemoricola, Jerd 543. Ampeliceps coronatus, Bl 544. Temenuchus pagodarum (Gm.) 546. Graculipica nigricollis (Payk.) 549. Acridotheres tristis (Linn.) 550. —— melanosternus, Legge 551. —— ginginianus (Lath.) 552. Aethiopsar fuscus (Wayl.) 555. Sturnopastor contra (Linn.) 556. —— superciliaris, Bl
Page 103. After Drymocataphus tickelli insert (Blyth).
Page 126. For Bhringa tenuirostris read B. tectirostris.
Page 223. For Pnoepyga albiventris (Hodgs.), read Pnoepyga squamata (Gould).
Page 311. After Lanius vittatus Insert Valene.
Order PASSERES. Family CORVIDAE. Subfamily CORVINAE.
1. Corvus corax, Linn. The Raven.
Corvus corax, Linn., Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 293. Corvus lawrencii, Hume; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 657.
I separated the Punjab Raven under the name of Corvus lawrencei ('Lahore to Yarkand,' p. 83), and I then stated, what I wish now to repeat, that if we are prepared to consider C. corax, C. littoralis, C. thibetanus, and C. japonensis all as one and the same species, then C. lawrencei too must be suppressed; but if any of these are retained as distinct, then so must C. lawrencei be[A].
[Footnote A: I think it impossible to separate the Punjab Raven from the Ravens of Europe and other parts of the world, and I have therefore merged it into C. corax.—ED.]
The Punjab Raven breeds throughout the Punjab (except perhaps in the Dehra Ghazee Khan District), in Bhawulpoor, Bikaneer, and the northern portions of Jeypoor and Jodhpoor, extending rarely as far south as Sambhur. To Sindh it is merely a seasonal visitant, and I could not learn that they breed there, nor have I ever known of one breeding anywhere east of the Jumna. Even in the Delhi Division of the Punjab they breed sparingly, and one must go further north and west to find many nests.
The breeding-season lasts from early in December to quite the end of March; but this varies a little according to season and locality, though the majority of birds always, I think, lay in January.
The nest is generally placed in single trees of no great size, standing in fields or open jungle. The thorny Acacias are often selected, but I have seen them on Sisoo and other trees.
The nest, placed in a stout fork as a rule, is a large, strong, compact, stick structure, very like a Rook's nest at home, and like these is used year after year, whether by the same birds or others of the same species I cannot say. Of course they never breed in company: I never found two of their nests within 100 yards of each other, and, as a rule, they will not be found within a quarter of a mile of each other.
Five is, I think, the regular complement of eggs; very often I have only found four fully incubated eggs, and on two or three occasions six have, I know, been taken in one nest, though I never myself met with so many.
I find the following old note of the first nest of this species that I ever took:—
"At Hansie, in Skinner's Beerh, December 19, 1867, we found our first Raven's nest. It was in a solitary Keekur tree, which originally of no great size had had all but two upright branches lopped away. Between these two branches was a large compact stick nest fully 10 inches deep and 18 inches in diameter, and not more than 20 feet from the ground. It contained five slightly incubated eggs, which the old birds evinced the greatest objection to part with, not only flying at the head of the man who removed them, but some little time after they had been removed similarly attacking the man who ascended the tree to look at the nest. After the eggs were gone, they sat themselves on a small branch above the nest side by side, croaking most ominously, and shaking their heads at each other in the most amusing manner, every now and then alternately descending to the nest and scrutinizing every portion of the cavity with their heads on one side as if to make sure that the eggs were really gone."
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following note of this bird's nidification in the neighbourhood of Pind Dadan Khan and Katas in the Salt Range:—
"Lay in January and February; eggs, four only; shape, ovato-pyriform; size, 1.7 by 1.3; colour, dirty sap green, blotched with blackish brown; also pale green spotted with greenish brown and neutral; nest of sticks difficult to get at, placed in well-selected trees or holes in cliffs."
I have not verified the fact of their breeding in holes in cliffs, but it is very possible that they do. All I found near Pind Dadan Khan and in the Salt Range were doubtless in trees, but I explored a very limited portion of these hills.
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall, writing from Bhawulpoor on the 17th February, says: "I succeeded yesterday in getting four eggs of the Punjab Raven. The eggs were hard-set and very difficult to clean."
From Sambhur Mr. R.M. Adam tells us:—"This Raven is pretty common during the cold weather, but pairs are seen about here throughout the year. They are very fond of attaching themselves to the camps of the numerous parties of Banjaras who visit the lake.
"I obtained a nest at the end of January which contained three eggs, and a fourth was found in the parent bird. The nest was about 15 feet from the ground in a Kaggera tree (Acacia leucophloea) which stood on a bare sandy waste with no other tree within half a mile in any direction."
The eggs of the Punjab bird are, as might be expected, much the same as those of the European Raven. In shape they are moderately broad ovals, a good deal pointed towards the small end, but, as in the Oriole, greatly elongated varieties are very common, and short globular ones almost unknown. The texture of the egg is close and hard, but they usually exhibit little or no gloss. In the colour of the ground, as well as in the colour, extent, and character of the markings, the eggs vary surprisingly. The ground-colour is in some a clear pale greenish blue; in others pale blue; in others a dingy olive; and in others again a pale stone-colour. The markings are blackish brown, sepia and olive-brown, and rather pale inky purple. Some have the markings small, sharply defined, and thinly sprinkled: others are extensively blotched and streakily clouded; others are freckled or smeared over the entire surface, so as to leave but little, if any, of the ground-colour visible. Often several styles of marking and shades of colouring are combined in the same egg. Almost each nest of eggs exhibits some peculiarity, and varieties are endless. With sixty or seventy eggs before one, it is easy to pick out in almost every case all the eggs that belong to the same nest, and this is a peculiarity that I have observed in the eggs of many members of this family. All the eggs out of the same nest usually closely resemble each other, while almost any two eggs out of different nests are markedly dissimilar.
They vary from 1.72 to 2.25 in length, and from 1.2 to 1.37 in width; but the average of seventy-two eggs measured is 1.94 by 1.31.
Mandelli's men found four eggs of the larger Sikhim bird in Native Sikhim, high up towards the snows, where they were shooting Blood-Pheasants.
These eggs are long ovals, considerably pointed towards one end; the shell is strong and firm, and has scarcely any gloss. The ground-colour is pale bluish green, and the eggs are smudged and clouded all over with pale sepia; on the top of the eggs there are a few small spots and streaks of deep brownish black. They were found on the 5th March, and vary in length from 1.83 to 1.96, in breadth from 1.18 to 1.25.
3. Corvus corone, Linn. The Carrion-Crow.
Corvus corone, Linn., Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 295; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 659[A].
[Footnote A: Mr. Hume, at one time separated the Indian Carrion-Crow from Corvus corone under the name C. pseudo-corone. In his 'Catalogue' he re-unites them. I quite agree with him that the two birds are inseparable.—ED.]
The only Indian eggs of the Carrion-Crow which I have seen, and one of which, with the parent bird, I owe to Mr. Brooks, were taken by the latter gentleman on the 30th May at Sonamerg, Cashmere.
The eggs were broad ovals, somewhat compressed towards one end, and of the regular Corvine type—a pretty pale green ground, blotched, smeared, streaked, spotted, and clouded, nowhere very profusely but most densely about the large end, with a greenish or olive-brown and pale sepia. The brown is a brighter and greener, or duller and more olive, lighter or darker, in different eggs, and even in different parts of the same egg. The shell is fine and close, but has only a faint gloss.
The eggs only varied from 1.67 to 1.68 in length, and from 1.14 to 1.18 in breadth.
Whether this bird breeds regularly or only as a straggler in Cashmere we do not know; it is always overlooked and passed by as a "Common Crow." Future visitors to Cashmere should try and clear up both the identity of the bird and all particulars about its nidification.
4. Corvus macrorhynchus, Wagler. The Jungle-Crow.
Corvus culminatus, Sykes, Jerd. B, Ind. ii, p. 295, Corvus levaillantii; Less., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 660.
The Jungle-Crow (under which head I include[A] C. culminatus, Sykes, C. intermedius, Adams, C. andamanensis, Tytler, and each and all of the races that occur within our limits) breeds almost everywhere in India, alike in the low country and in the hills both of Southern and Northern India, to an elevation of fully 8000 feet.
[Footnote A: See 'Stray Feathers,' vol. ii. 1874, p. 243, and 'Lahore to Yarkand,' p. 85.]
March to May is, I consider, the normal breeding-season; in the plains the majority lay in April, rarely later, and in the hills in May; but in the plains a few birds lay also in February.
The nest is placed as a rule on good-sized trees and pretty near their summits. In the plains mangos and tamarinds seem to be preferred, but I have found the nests on many different kinds of trees. The nest is large, circular, and composed of moderate-sized twigs; sometimes it is thick, massive, and compact; sometimes loose and straggling; always with a considerable depression in the centre, which is smoothly lined with large quantities of horsehair, or other stiff hair, grass, grass-roots, cocoanut-fibre, &c. In the hills they use any animal's hair or fur, if the latter is pretty stiff. They do not, according to my experience, affect luxuries in the way of soft down; it is always something moderately stiff, of the coir or horsehair type; nothing soft and fluffy. Coarse human hair, such as some of our native fellow-subjects can boast of, is often taken, when it can be got, in lieu of horsehair.
They lay four or five eggs. I have quite as often found the latter as the former number. I have never myself seen six eggs in one nest, but I have heard, on good authority, of six eggs being found.
Captain Unwin writes: "I found a nest of the Bow-billed Corby in the Agrore Valley, containing four eggs, on the 30th April. It was placed in a Cheer tree about 40 feet from the ground, and was made of sticks and lined with dry grass and hair."
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following remarks on the breeding of this bird in the Valley of Cashmere:—
"Lays in the third week of April. Eggs four in number, ovato-pyriform, measuring from 1.6 to 1.7 in length and from 1.2 to 1.25 in breadth. Colour green spotted with brown; valley generally. Nest placed in Chinar and difficult trees."
Captain Hutton tells us that the Corby "occurs at Mussoorie throughout the year, and is very destructive to young fowls and pigeons; it breeds in May and June, and selects a tall tree, near a house or village, on which to build its nest, which is composed externally of dried sticks and twigs, and lined with grass and hair, which latter material it will pick from the backs of horses and cows, or from skins of animals laid out to dry. I have had skins of the Surrow (Noemorhaedus thar) nearly destroyed by their depredations. The eggs are three or four in number."
From the plains I have very few notes. I transcribe a few of my own.
"On the 11th March, near Oreyah, I found a nest of a Corby—good large stick nest, built with tamarind twigs, and placed fully 40 feet from the ground in the fork of a mango-tree standing by itself. The nest measured quite 18 inches in diameter and five in thickness. It was a nearly flat platform with a central depression 8 inches in diameter, and not more than 2 deep, but there was a solid pad of horsehair more than an inch thick below this. I took the mass out; it must have weighed half a pound. Four eggs much incubated.
"Etawah, 14th March.—Another nest at the top of one of the huge tamarind-trees behind the Asthul: could not get up to it. A boy brought the nest down; it was not above a foot across, and perhaps 3 inches deep; cavity about 6 inches in diameter, thickly lined with grass-roots, inside which again was a coating of horsehair perhaps a rupee in thickness; nest swarming with vermin. Eggs five, quite fresh; four eggs normal; one quite round, a pure pale slightly greenish blue, with only a few very minute spots and specks of brown having a tendency to form a feeble zone round the large end. Measures only 1.25 by 1.2. Neither in shape, size, nor colour is it like a Corby's egg; but it is not a Koel's, or that of any of our parasitic Cuckoos, and I have seen at home similar pale eggs of the Rook, Hooded Crow, Carrion-Crow, and Raven.
"Bareilly, May 10th.—Three fresh eggs in large nest on a mango-tree. Nest as usual, but lined with an immense quantity of horsehair. We brought this home and weighed it; it weighed six ounces, and horsehair is very light."
Major C.T. Bingham writes:—
"This Crow, so common at Allahabad, is very scarce here at Delhi. In fact I have only seen one pair.
"At Allahabad it lays in February and March. I have, however, only found one nest, a rather loose structure of twigs and a few thick branches with rather a deep depression in the centre. It was placed on the very crown of a high toddy palm (Borassus flabelliformis) and was unlined save for a wad of human hair, on which the eggs, two in number, lay; these I found hard-set (on the 13th March); in colour they were a pale greenish blue, boldly blotched, spotted, and speckled with brown."
Colonel Butler has furnished me with the following note on the breeding of the Jungle-Crow:—
"Belgaum, 12th March, 1880.—A nest containing four fresh eggs. It consisted of a loose structure of sticks lined with hair and leaves, and was placed at the top of and in the centre of a green-foliaged tree in a well-concealed situation about 30 feet from the ground. 18th March: Two nests, each containing three slightly incubated eggs; one of the nests was quite low down in the centre of an 'arbor vitae' about 12 feet from the ground. 31st March: Another nest containing four slightly incubated eggs. Some of the latter nests were very solidly built, and not so well Concealed. 11th April: Two more nests, containing five incubated and three slightly incubated eggs respectively; and on the 14th April a nest containing four slightly incubated eggs. These birds, when the eggs are at all incubated, often sit very close, especially if the nest is in an open situation, and in many instances I have thrown several stones at the nest, and made as much row as I could below without driving the old bird off, and I have seen my nest-seeker within a few yards of the nest after climbing the tree before the old bird flew off. On the 26th of April I found two more nests, one containing four young birds just hatched, the other three fresh eggs. On the 27th another nest containing three fresh eggs, and on the 28th a nest of three fresh eggs. On the 5th May two more nests containing four fresh and four incubated eggs respectively."
"In the Nilghiris," writes Mr. Davison, "the Corby builds a coarse nest of twigs, lined with cocoanut-fibre or dry grass high up in some densely-foliaged tree. The eggs are usually four, often five, in number. The birds lay in April and May."
Miss Cockburn again says:—"They build like all Crows on large trees merely by laying a few sticks together on some strong branch, generally very high up in the tree. I do not remember ever seeing more than one nest on a tree at a time, so that they differ very much from the Rook in that respect. They lay four eggs of a bluish green, with dusky blotches and spots, and nothing can exceed the care and attention they bestow on their young. Even when the latter are able to leave their nests and take long flights, the parent birds will accompany them as if to prevent their getting into mischief. The nests are found in April and May."
Mr. J. Darling, jun., writes from the Nilghiris:—"I have found the nest of this Crow pretty nearly all over the Nilghiris. The usual number of eggs laid is four, but on one occasion, near the Quinine Laboratory in the Government Gardens at Ooty, I procured six from one nest. The breeding-season is from March to May, but I have taken eggs as early as the 12th February."
From Ceylon, we hear from Mr. Layard that "about the villages the Carrion-Crow builds its nest in the cocoanut-trees. In the jungles it selects a tall tree, amid the upper branches of which it fixes a framework of sticks, and on this constructs a nest of twigs and grasses. The eggs, from three to five, are usually of a dull greenish-brown colour, thickly mottled with brown, these markings being most prevalent at the small end. They are usually laid in January and February."
Mr. J.E. Cripps informs us that in Eastern Bengal it is "common and a permanent resident. Occasionally found in the clumps of jungle that are found about the country, which the next species never affects. Breeds in the cold weather. I had noticed a pair building on a Casuarina tree in my garden, about 50 feet off the ground, and on the 18th December, 1877, I took two perfectly fresh eggs from it; and again on the 9th January, 1878, I found two callow young in this same nest, the birds never having deserted it. The lining used for this nest was principally jute-fibre—any tree is selected to build on; the nests are placed from 15 to 50 feet off the ground. Some nests are very well concealed, whereas others are quite exposed. On the 15th January I found a nest about 15 feet up a small kudum tree, standing in a large plain, and which had a lining of hair from the tail-tufts of cows. There was one fresh egg, and a week later I got another fresh egg from this very nest. From two to four eggs are in each nest."
Mr. Oates writes from Pegu:—"These birds all begin to build about the same time, and I have taken numerous nests at the end of January. At the end of February most nests contain young birds."
Mr. W. Theobald gives the following notes on the nidification of this bird in Tenasserim and near Deoghur:—
"Lays in the third week of February and fourth week of March: eggs ovato-pyriform; size 1.66 by 1.15; colour, dull sap-green much blotched with brown; nest carefully placed in tall trees."
The eggs, though smaller, closely resemble, as might have been expected, those of the Raven, but they are, I think, typically somewhat broader and shorter. Almost every variety, as far as coloration goes, to be found amongst those of the Raven, are found amongst the eggs of the present species, and vice versa; and for a description of these it is only necessary to refer to the account of the former species; but I may notice that amongst the eggs of C. macrorhynchus I have not yet noticed any so boldly blotched as is occasionally the case with some of the eggs of the Raven, which remind one not a little, so far as the character of the markings go, of eggs of Oedicnemus crepitans and Esacus recurvirostris. Like those of the Raven the eggs exhibit little gloss, though here and there a fairly glossy egg is met with. Eggs from various parts of the Himalayas, of the plains of Upper India, of the hills and plains of Southern India, do not differ in any respect. Inter se the eggs from each locality differ surprisingly in size, in tone of colour, and in character of markings; but when you compare a dozen or twenty from each locality, you find that these differences are purely individual and in no degree referable to locality.
There are just as big eggs and just as small ones from Simla and Kotegurh, from Cashmere, from Etawah, Bareilly, Futtehgurh, from Kotagherry, and Conoor; all that one can possibly say is that perhaps the Plains birds do on the average lay a shade larger eggs than the Himalayan or Nilghiri ones.
Taking the eggs as a whole, I think that in size and shape they are about intermediate between the eggs of the European Carrion-Crow and Rook. But they vary, as I said, astonishingly in size, from 1.5 to 1.95 in length, and in breadth from 1.12 to 1.22, and I have one perfectly spherical egg, a deformity of course, which measures 1.25 by 1.2.
The average of thirty Himalayan eggs is 1.73 by 1.18, of twenty Plains eggs 1.74 by 1.2, and of fifteen Nilghiri eggs 1.7 by 1.18. I would venture to predict that with fifty of each, there would not be a hundredth of an inch between their averages.
7. Corvus splendens, Vieill. The Indian House-Crow.
Corvus splendens, Vieill. Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 298. Corvus impudicus, Hodgs., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 663.
Throughout India and Upper Burma the Common Crow resides and breeds, not ascending the hills either in Southern or Northern India to any great elevation, but breeding up to 4000 feet in the Himalayas.
The breeding-season par excellence is June and July, but occasional nests will be found earlier even in Upper India, and in Southern and Eastern India a great number lay in May. The nests are commonly placed in trees without much regard to size or kind, though densely foliaged ones are preferred, and I have just as often found several in the same tree as single ones. At times they will build in nooks of ruins or large deserted buildings, where these are in well inhabited localities, but out of many thousands I have only seen three or four nests in such abnormal positions.
The nest is placed in some fork, and is usually a ragged stick platform, with a central depression lined with grass-roots; but they are not particular as to material; I have found wool, rags, grass, and all kinds of vegetable fibre, and Mr. Blyth mentions that he has "seen several nests composed more or less, and two almost exclusively, of the wires taken from soda-water bottles, which had been purloined from the heaps of these wires commonly set aside by the native servants until they amount to a saleable quantity." Four is the normal number of eggs laid, but I often have found five, and on two occasions six. It is in this bird's nest that the Koel chiefly lays.
Writing of Nepal, Dr. Scully remarks:—"In the valley it lays in May and June; some twenty nests were once examined on the 23rd June, and half the number then contained young birds."
Major Bingham says:—"Very common, of course, both at Allahabad and at Delhi, and breeds in June, July, and beginning of August. At Allahabad it is much persecuted by the Koel (Eudynamys orientalis), every fourth or fifth nest that I found in some topes of mango-trees having one or two of the Koel's eggs."
Colonel Butler informs me that in Karachi it "begins to lay in the mangrove bushes in the harbour as early as the end of May;" and that it "breeds in the neighbourhood of Deesa in June, July, and August, commencing to build in the last week of May."
Later, he writes:—"Belgaum, 15th May, 1879. Found numerous nests in the native infantry lines in low trees, containing fresh and incubated eggs and young birds of all sizes. In the same locality, on the 30th March, 1880, I found a nest containing four young birds able to fly; the eggs must therefore have been laid quite as early as the middle of February, if not earlier."
Mr. G.W. Vidal writes:—"The Common Crow appears to have two broods in the year in our district (Ratnagiri), the first in April and May, and the second in November and December. In these four months I have found nests, eggs, and young birds in several different places in the district, and as yet at no other times. It is extremely improbable that there should be one breeding-season lasting from April to December, and I think I may State with certainty that the Crows do not breed at Ratnagiri during the months of heaviest rainfall, viz. July, August, and September. As their breeding in November and December appears to be exceptional, I subjoin a record of the few nests I examined.
"Nov. 22, 1878. Ratnagiri: One nest with 3 young birds. " " 1 fresh egg.
"Nov. 23, 1878. Ratnagiri: One nest with 1 fresh egg. " " 1 fresh egg.
"Dec. 4, 1878. Saugmeshwar.—One nest with 3 eggs hard-set; another nest probably containing young birds, but the Crows pecked so viciously at the man who was climbing the tree, that he got frightened and came down again without reaching the nest. Crows with sticks and feathers in their mouths are flying about all day.
"Dec. 5, 1878. Aroli.—Found a nest with a Crow sitting in it; no one to climb the tree."
Mr. Benjamin Aitken has favoured me with the following interesting note:—"I send you an account of a nest of the Common Crow, found in October, 1874, in the town of Madras. My attention was first directed to the remarkable pair of Crows to which the nest belonged, in the end of July, when they were determinedly and industriously attempting to fix a nest on the top ledge of a pillar in the verandah of the 'Madras Mail' office. The ledge was so narrow that one would have thought the Sparrow alone of all known birds would have selected it for a site; and even the Sparrow only under the condition of a writing or toilet-table being underneath to catch the lime, sticks, straws, rags, feathers, and other innumerable materials that commonly strew the ground below a Sparrow's nest. I was told that the Crows had been at their task for two months before I saw them, and I then watched them till nearly the end of October. The celebrated spider that taught King Bruce a lesson in patience was eager and fitful compared with this pair of Crows. I kept no account of the number of times their structure was blown down, only to be immediately begun again; but as there was a good deal of rain and wind at that season, in addition to the regular sea-breeze, it was a common thing for the sticks to be cleared off day after day. But perseverance will often achieve seeming impossibilities, and, moreover, the Crows worked more indefatigably as the season went on, and used to run up their nest with great rapidity (no doubt, also, they improved by their practice); so that several times the structure was completed, or nearly completed, before being swept to the ground, though how it remained in its place for a moment seems a mystery; and twice I saw a broken egg among the scattered debris. At length, about the middle of September, the Crows determined to try the pillar at the other end of the verandah. By this time, of course, all the Crows in Madras had long brought up their broods and sent them adrift; and what they thought to see an eccentric pair of their own species forsaking society, and building in September, may be imagined. The new site selected differed in no respect from the old one, and was no less exposed to the wind; but the birds had grown expert at building 'castles in the air,' and now met with fewer mishaps. In the first week of October the hen bird was sitting regularly, so on the 8th of the month I sent a man up by a ladder, and he held up four eggs for me to look at. It fairly seemed after this that patience was to have its reward, but on the night of the 20th there came a storm of wind and rain, and when I went to the office in the morning, the nest was lying on the ground, with two young Crows in it, with the feathers just beginning to appear. The other two, I suppose, had fallen over into the street. And thus ended one of the most persevering attempts on record to overcome a difficulty insurmountable from the first. The old birds thought it time now to stop operations, and frequented the office no more.
"I am told by a gentleman in the 'Mail' office that the Crows have built in that verandah regularly for five or six years past, but nobody seems to have watched the nests. I am, therefore, hopeful that the attempt will be repeated this year, in which case I will keep a diary of all that takes place."
He writes subsequently:—"I sent you a long story in my last batch of notes about two eccentric Crows that succeeded in building a nest upon the narrow ledge of a pillar in the verandah of my office, several months after all well-conducted Crows had sent out their progeny to battle with the world. I mentioned to you that they were said to build in that unnatural place every year, and I said that I would watch them this year.
"Well, would you believe it? on the 26th July, when every other Crow's nest in Madras had hard-set eggs, or newly-hatched young ones, these two indefatigable birds set methodically to work to construct a nest on the south pillar—the one where all their earlier efforts were made last year, but not the one on which they succeeded in fixing their nest. They worked all the 26th and 27th, putting up sticks as fast as they fell down, and then desisted till the 4th August, when they began operations on the opposite (north) pillar with redoubled energy. Meeting with no better success they left off operations after a couple of days' fruitless labour. Yesterday (after a delay of five weeks) they set to work on the south pillar again and succeeded in raising a great pile, which, however, was ignominiously blown down in the afternoon. To-day they are continuing their work indefatigably."
Mr. J.E. Cripps has the following note in his list of birds of Furreedpore, Eastern Bengal:—"Very common, and a permanent resident, affecting the haunts of man. They build and lay in May. The Koel lays its eggs in this bird's nest. In April, 1876, I saw two nests in the compound of the house in which I lived at Howrah, which were made entirely of galvanized wire, the thickest piece of which was as thick as a slate pencil. How the birds managed to bend these thick pieces of wire was a marvel to us; not a stick was incorporated with the wires, and the lining of the nest (which was of the ordinary size) was jute and a few feathers. The railway goods-yard, which was alongside the house, supplied the wire, of which there was ever so much lying about there."
Typically the eggs may, I think, be said to be rather broad ovals, a good deal pointed towards the small end; but really the eggs vary so much in shape that, even with nearly two hundred before me, it is difficult to decide what is really the most typical form. Pyriform, elongated, and globular varieties are common; long Cormorant-shaped eggs and perfect ovals are not uncommon. As regards the colour of the ground, and colour, character, and extent of marking, all that I have above said of the Raven's eggs applies to those of this species, but varieties occur amongst those of the latter which I have not observed in those of the former. In some the ground is a very pale pure bluish green, in others it is dingier and greener. All are blotched, speckled, and streaked more or less with somewhat pale sepia markings; but in some the spots and specks are a darker brown and, as a rule, well defined, and there is very little streaking, while in others the brown is pale and muddy, the markings ill-defined, and nearly the whole surface of the egg is freckled over with smudgy streaks. Sometimes the markings are most numerous at the large end, sometimes at the small; no two eggs are exactly alike, and yet they have so strong a family resemblance that there is no possibility of mistaking them. Generally the markings as a whole are less bold, and the general colour of a large body of them laid together is bluer and brighter than that of a similar drawer-full of Ravens' eggs. As a whole, too, they are more glossy. I have one egg before me bright blue and almost as glossy as a Mynah's, thickly blotched and speckled at the broad end, and thinly spotted elsewhere with olive-green, blackish-brown, and pale purple. Another egg, a pale pure blue, is spotless, except at the large end, where there is a conspicuous cap of olive-brown and olive-green spots and speckles, and there are numerous other abnormal varieties which I have not observed amongst the Ravens.
On the whole the eggs do not vary much in size; out of one hundred and ninety-seven, one hundred and ninety-five varied between 1.28 and 1.65 in length, and 0.98 and 1.15 in breadth. One egg measures only 1.2 in length, and one is only 0.96 in breadth; but the average of the whole is 1.44 by 1.06.
8. Corvus insolens, Hume. The Burmese House-Crow.
Corvus insolens; Hume; Hume, Cat. no. 663 bis.
The Burmese House-Crow breeds pretty well over the whole of Burma.
Mr. Oates, writing from Pegu, says:—"Nesting operations are commenced about the 20th March. The nest and eggs require no separate description, for both appear to be similar to those of C. splendens."
When large series of the eggs of both these species are compared, those of the Burmese Crow strike one as averaging somewhat brighter coloured, otherwise they are precisely alike and need no separate description.
9. Corvus monedula, Linn. The Jackdaw.
Colaeus monedula (Linn.), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 302. Corvus monedula, Linn., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 665.
I only know positively of Jackdaws breeding in one district within our limits, viz. Cashmere; but I have seen it in the hills in summer, as far east as the Valley of the Beas, and it must breed everywhere in suitable localities between the two.
In the cold season of course the Jackdaw descends into the plains of the North-west Punjaub, is very numerous near the foot of the hills, and has been found in cis-Indus as far east as Umballa, and south at Ferozpoor, Jhelum, and Kalabagh. In Trans-Indus it extends unto the Dehra Ghazi Khan district.
I have never taken its eggs myself.
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following remarks on its nidification in the Valley of Cashmere:—
"Lays in the first week of May; eggs four, five, and six in number, ovato-pyriform and long ovato-pyriform, measuring from 1.26, 1.45, to 1.60 in length, and from 0.9 to 1.00 in breadth; colour pale, clear bluish green, dotted and spotted with brownish black; valley generally; in holes of rocks, beneath roofs, and in tall trees."
Dr. Jerdon says:—"It builds in Cashmere in old ruined palaces, holes in rocks, beneath roofs of houses, and also in tall trees, laying four to six eggs, pale bluish green, clotted and spotted with brownish black."
Mr. Brookes writes:—"The Jackdaw breeds in Cashmere in all suitable places: holes in old Chinar (Plane) trees, and in house-walls, under the eaves of houses, &c. I did not note the materials of the nests, but these will be the same as in England."
The eggs of this species are typically rather elongated ovals, somewhat compressed towards one end. The shell is fine, but has only a faint gloss. The ground-colour is a pale greenish white, but in some eggs there is very little green, while in a very few the ground is quite a bright green. The markings, sometimes very fine and close, sometimes rather bold and thinly set, consist of specks or spots of deep blackish brown, olive-brown, and pale inky purple. In most eggs all these colours are represented, but in some eggs the olive-, in others the blackish-brown is almost entirely wanting. In some eggs the markings are very dense towards the large end, in others they are pretty uniformly distributed over the whole surface; in some they are very minute and speckly, in others they average the tenth of an inch in diameter.
The eggs that I possess vary from 1.34 to 1.52 in length, and from 0.93 to 1.02 in breadth; but the average of sixteen eggs was 1.4 by 0.98.
10. Pica rustica (Scop.). The Magpie.
Pica bactriana, Bp., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E, no. 668 bis.
The Magpie breeds, we know, in Afghanistan, and also throughout Ladak from the Zojee-la Pass right up to the Pangong Lake, but it breeds so early that one is never in time for the eggs. The passes are not open until long after they are hatched.
Captain Hutton says this bird "is found all the year round from Quettah to Girishk, and is very common. They breed in March, and the young are fledged by the end of April. The nest is like that of the European bird, and all the manners of the Afghan Magpie are precisely the same. They may be seen at all seasons."
From Afghanistan, Lieut. H.E. Barnes writes:—
"The Magpie is not uncommon in the hills wherever there are trees, but it seldom descends to the plains. They commence breeding in March, in which month and April I have examined scores of nests, which in every case were built in the 'Wun,' a species of Pistacia—the only tree found hereabouts. A stout fork near the top is usually selected.
"The nest is shallow and cup-shaped, with a superstructure of twigs, forming a canopy over the egg-cavity. The eggs, generally five in number, are of the usual corvine green, blotched, spotted, and streaked, as a rule, most densely about the large end with umber mingled with sepia-brown. The average of thirty eggs is 1.25 by .97."
Colonel Biddulph writes in 'The Ibis' that in Gilgit he took a nest with five eggs, hard set, in a mulberry-tree at Nonval (5600 feet) on the 9th May. Also another nest with three fresh eggs at Dayour(5200 feet) on the 25th May.
The eggs are typically rather elongated ovals, rather pointed towards the small end, but shorter and broader varieties, and occasionally ones with a pyriform tendency, occur. The ground is a greenish or brownish white. In some eggs it has none, in others a slight gloss. Everywhere the eggs are finely and streakly freckled with a brown that varies from olive almost to sepia; about the large end the markings are almost always most dense, forming there a more or less noticeable, but quite irregular and undefined cap or zone. In one or two eggs dull purplish-brown clouds or blotches underlie and intermingle with this cap, and occasionally a small spot of this same tint may be noticed elsewhere when the egg is closely examined.
12. Urocissa occipitalis (Bl.). The Red-billed Blue Magpie.
Urocissa sinensis (Linn.), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 309. Urocissa occipitalis (Bl.), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 671.
I have never myself found the nest of the Red-billed Blue Magpie; although it does breed sparingly as far east as Simla and Kotegurh, it is not till you cross the Jumna that it is abundant. East of the Jumna, about Mussoorie, Teeree, Grurhwal, Kumaon, and in Nepal, it is common.
From Mussoorie Captain Hutton tells us that "this species occurs at Mussoorie throughout the year. It breeds at an elevation of 5000 feet in May and June, making a loose nest of twigs externally and lined with roots. The nest is built on trees, sometimes high up, at others about 8 or 10 feet from the ground. The eggs are from three to five, of a dull greenish ash-grey, blotched and speckled with brown dashes confluent at the larger end, the ends nearly equal in size. It is very terrene in its habits, feeding almost entirely on the ground."
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall remarks:—
"The Red-billed Blue Magpie is, as far as I know, an early breeder at Naini Tal; common as the bird is I have only found one nest and that on the 24th April; it was a shallow slenderly built structure of fine roots, chiefly of maiden-hair fern, in a rough outer casing of twigs, placed on a horizontal bough overhanging a nullah about fifteen feet from the ground. The tree had moderately dense foliage, and was about twenty-five feet high in a small clump on a hillside covered with low scrub at 5000 feet elevation above the sea. Around the nest several small boughs and twigs grew out, and being very slight in structure it was not easy to see. The old bird sat very close. There were six eggs in the nest about half-incubated: in two of them the markings were densest at the small end. The egg-cavity was 6 inches in diameter by about 11/4 deep. On the 5th June I saw old birds accompanied by young ones able to fly, but without the long tails."
The eggs of this species much resemble those of the European Magpie, but are considerably smaller. They are broad, rather perfect ovals, somewhat elongated and pointed in many specimens. They exhibit but little gloss. The ground-colour varies much, but in all the examples that I possess, which I owe to Captain Hutton's kindness, it is either of a yellowish-cream, pale cafe au lait or buff colour, or pale dull greenish. The ground is profusely blotched, spotted, and streaked (the general character of the markings being striations parallel to the major axis), with various shades of reddish and yellowish, brown and pale inky purple. The markings vary much in intensity as well as in frequency, some being so closely set as to hide the greater part of the ground-colour; but in the majority of the eggs they are more or less confluent at the large end, where they form a comparatively dark, irregular blotchy zone.
The eggs vary from 1.25 to 1.4 in length, and from 0.89 to 0.96 in breadth; but the average of 11 eggs is 1.33 by 0.93.
Major Bingham, referring to the Burmese Magpie, which has been separated under by the name of U. magnirostris, says:—
"This species I have only found common in the Thoungyeen Valley. Elsewhere it seemed to me scarce. Below I give a note about its breeding.
"I have found three nests of this handsome Magpie—two on the bank of the Meplay choung on the 14th April, 1879, and 5th March, 1880, respectively, and one near Meeawuddy on the Thoungyeen river on the 19th March, 1880.
"The first contained three, the second four, and the third two eggs.
"These are all of the same type, dead white, with pale claret-coloured clashes and spots rather washed-out looking, and lying chiefly at the large end. One egg has the spots thicker at the small end. They are moderately broad ovals, and vary from 1.19 to 1.35 in length, and from 0.93 to 1.08 in breadth.
"The nests were all alike, thick solid structures of twigs and branches, lined with finer twigs about 8 or 9 inches in diameter, and placed invariably at the top of tall straight saplings of teak, pynkado (Xylia dolabriformis), and other trees at a height of about 15 feet from the ground."
All the eggs of the Burmese bird that I have seen, nine taken by Major Bingham, were of one and the same type. The eggs broad ovals, in most cases pointed towards the small end. The shell fine, but as a rule with scarcely any perceptible gloss. The ground-colour a delicate creamy white. The markings moderate-sized blotches, spots, streaks, and specks, as a rule comparatively dense about one, generally the large, end, where only as a rule any at all considerable sized blotches occur, elsewhere more or less sparsely set, and generally of a speckly character. The markings are of two colours: brown, varying in shade in different eggs, olive-yellowish, chocolate, and a grey, equally varying in different eggs from pale purple to pale sepia. None of my eggs of the Himalayan bird (I have unfortunately but few of these) correspond at all closely with these.
13. Urocissa flavirostris (Bl.). The Yellow-billed Blue Magpie.
Urocissa flavirostris (Bl.), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 310; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 672.
The Yellow-billed Blue Magpie breeds throughout the lower ranges of the Himalayas in well-wooded localities from Hazara to Bhootan, and very likely further east still, from April to August, mostly however, I think, laying in May. The nest, which is rather coarse and large, made of sticks and lined with fine grass or grass-roots, is, so far as my experience goes, commonly placed in a fork near the top of some moderate-sized but densely foliaged tree.
I have never found a nest at a lower elevation than about 5000 feet; as a rule they are a good deal higher up.
They lay from four to six eggs, but the usual number is five.
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall writes:—"The Yellow-billed Blue Magpie breeds commonly about Murree. I have never seen the bird below 6000 feet in the breeding-season. They do not commence laying till May, and I have taken eggs nearly fresh as late as the 15th August. I do not think the bird breeds twice, as the earliest eggs taken were found on the 10th May.
"They build in hill oaks as a rule, the height of the nest from the ground varying much, some being as low as 10 feet, others nearer 30 feet. The hen bird sits close, and sometimes (when the nest is high up) does not even leave the nest when the tree is struck below. The nest is a rough structure built close to the trunk, externally consisting of twigs and roots and lined with fibres. The egg-cavity is circular and shallow, not at all neatly lined. The outer part of the nest is large compared to what I should call the true nest, and consists of a heap of twigs, &c. like what is gathered together for the platform of a Crow's nest.
"The eggs, which are four in number, vary in length from 1.45 to 1.25, and in breadth from 0.9 to 0.75. The ordinary type is an egg a good deal pointed at the thinner end. The ground-colour is greenish white, blotched and freckled with ruddy brown, with a ring at the larger end of confluent spots. The young birds are of a very dull colour until after the first month. The normal number of eggs laid appears to be four."
Captain Cock wrote to me:—"U. flavirostris is common at Dhurmsala, but the nest is rather difficult to find. I have only taken six in three years. It is usually placed amongst the branches of the hill oak, where it has been polled, and the thickly growing shoots afford a good cover; but sometimes it is on the top of a small slender sapling. The nest is a good-sized structure of sticks with a rather deep cup lined with dried roots; in fact, it is very much like the nest of Garrulus lanceolatus, only larger and much deeper. They generally lay four eggs, which differ much in colour and markings."
Dr. Jerdon says:—"I had the nest and eggs brought me once. The nest was made of sticks and roots. The eggs, three in number, were of a greenish-fawn colour very faintly blotched with brown."
The eggs are of the ordinary Indian Magpie type, scarcely, if at all, smaller than those of U. occipitalis, and larger than the average of eggs of either Dendrocitta rufa or D. himalayensis. Doubtless all kinds of varieties occur, as the eggs of this family are very variable; but I have only seen two types—in the one the ground is a pale dingy yellowish stone-colour, profusely streaked, blotched, and mottled with a somewhat pale brown, more or less olivaceous in some eggs, the markings even in this type being generally densest towards the large end, where they form an irregular mottled cap: in the other type the ground is a very pale greenish-drab colour; there is a dense confluent raw-sienna-coloured zone round the large end, and only a few spots and specks of the same colour scattered about the rest of the egg. All kinds of intermediate varieties occur. The texture of the shell is fine and compact, and the eggs are mostly more or less glossy.
The eggs vary from 1.22 to 1.48 in length, and from 0.8 to 0.96 in breadth; but the average of twenty-seven eggs is 1.3 by 0.92.
14. Cissa chinensis (Bodd.). The Green Magpie.
Cissa sinensis (Briss.), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 312. Cissa speciosa (Shaw), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 673.
According to Mr. Hodgson's notes the Green Magpie breeds in Nepal in the lower valleys and in the Terai from April to July. The nest is built in clumps of bamboos and is large and cup-shaped, composed of sticks and leaves, coated externally with bamboo-leaves and vegetable fibres, and lined inside with fine roots. It lays four eggs, one of which is figured as a broad oval, a good deal pointed towards one end, with a pale stone-coloured ground freckled and mottled all over with sepia-brown, and measuring 1.27 by 0.89.
Mr. Oates writes:—"In the Pegu Hills on the 19th April I found the nest of the Green Magpie, and shot the female off it.
"The nest was placed in a small tree, about 20 feet from the ground, in a nullah and well exposed to view. The nest was neatly built, exteriorly of leaves and coarse roots, and finished off interiorly with finer fibres and roots; depth about 2 inches; inside diameter 6 inches. Contained three eggs nearly hatched; all got broken; I have the fragments of one. The ground-colour is greenish white, much spotted and freckled with pale yellowish-brown spots and dashes, more so at the larger end than elsewhere."
Sundry fragments that reached me, kindly sent to me by Mr. Oates, had a dull white ground, very thickly freckled and mottled all over, as far as I could judge, with dull, pale, yellowish brown and purplish grey, the former preponderating greatly. As to size and shape, this deponent sayeth nought.
Major Bingham writes from Tenasserim:—"On the 18th April I found a nest of this most lovely bird placed at a height of 5 feet from the ground in the fork of a bamboo-bush. It was a broad, massive, and rather shallow cup of twigs, roots, and bamboo-leaves outside, and lined with finer roots. It contained three eggs of a pale greenish stone-colour, thickly and very minutely speckled with brown, which tend to coalesce and form a cap at the larger end. I shot the female as she flew off the nest."
Major Bingham subsequently found another nest in Tenasserim, about which he says:—
"Crossing the Wananatchoung, a little tributary of the Thoungyeen, by the highroad leading from Meeawuddy to the sources of the Thoungyeen, I found in a small thorny tree on the 8th April a nest of the above bird—a great, firmly-built but shallow saucer of twigs, 6 feet or so above the ground, and lined with fine black roots. It contained three fresh eggs of a dingy greyish white, thickly speckled chiefly at the large end, where it forms a cap, with light purplish brown. The eggs measure 1.25 x 0.89, 1.18 x 0.92, and 1.20 x 0.90."
Mr. James Inglis notes from Cachar:—"This Jay is rather rare; it frequents low quiet jungle. In April last a Kuki brought me three young ones he had taken from a nest in a clump of tree-jungle; he said the nest was some 20 feet from the ground and made of bamboo-leaves and grass."
A nest of this species taken below Yendong in Native Sikhim, on the 28th April, contained four fresh eggs. It was placed on the branches of a medium-sized tree at a height of about 12 feet from the ground; it was a large oval saucer, 8 inches by 6, and about 2.5 in depth, composed mainly of dry bamboo-leaves, bound firmly together with fine stems of creepers, and was lined with moderately fine roots; the cavity was 5 inches by 4, and about 1 in depth.
The eggs received from Major Bingham, as also others received from Sikhim, where they were procured by Mr. Mandelli on the 21st and 28th of April, are rather broad ovals, somewhat pointed towards the small end. The shell is fine, but has only a little gloss. The ground-colour is white or slightly greyish white, and they are uniformly freckled all over with very pale yellowish and greyish brown. The frecklings are always somewhat densest at the large end, where in some eggs they form a dull brown cap or zone. In some eggs the markings are everywhere denser, in some sparser, so that some eggs look yellower or browner, and others paler.
The eggs are altogether of the Garruline type, not of that of the Dendrocitta or Urocissa type. I have eggs of G. lanceolatus, that but for being smaller precisely match some of the Cissa eggs. Jerdon is, I think, certainly wrong in placing Cissa between Urocissa and Dendrocitta, the eggs of which two last are of the same and quite a distinct type[A].
[Footnote A: I am responsible, and not Mr. Hume, for calling this bird a Magpie. Jerdon calls it a Jay, but places it among the Magpies, which is, I consider, its proper position, notwithstanding the colour of its eggs.—ED.]
The eggs vary from 1.15 to 1.26 in length, and from 0.9 to 0.95 in breadth, but the average of eight is 1.21 by 0.92.
15. Cissa ornata (Wagler). The Ceylonese Magpie.
Cissa ornata (Wagl.), Hume, Cat. no. 673 bis.
Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon':—"This bird breeds during the cool season. I found its nest in the Kandapolla jungles in January; it was situated in a fork of the top branch of a tall sapling, about 45 feet in height, and was a tolerably bulky structure, externally made of small sticks, in the centre of which was a deep cup 5 inches in diameter by 21/2 in depth, made entirely of fine roots; there was but one egg in the nest, which unfortunately got broken in being lowered to the ground. It was ovate and slightly pyriform, of a faded bluish-green ground thickly spotted all over with very light umber-brown, over larger spots of bluish-grey. It measured 0.98 inch in diameter by about 1.3 in length."
16. Dendrocitta rufa (Scop.). The Indian Tree-pie.
Dendrocitta rufa (Scop.), Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 314; Hume, Rough Notes N. & E. no. 674.
The Indian Tree-pie breeds throughout the continent of India, alike in the plains and in the hills, up to an elevation of 6000 or 7000 feet.
I personally have found the nest with eggs in May, June, July, and during the first week of August, in various districts in the North-West Provinces, and have had them sent me from Saugor (taken in July) and from Hansi (taken in April, May, and June); but perhaps because the bird is so common scarcely any one has sent me notes about its nidification, and I hardly know whether in other parts of India and Burma its breeding-season is the same as with us.
The nest is always placed in trees, generally in a fork, near the top of good large ones; babool and mango are very commonly chosen in the North-West Provinces, though I have also found it on neem and sisso trees. It is usually built with dry twigs as a foundation, very commonly thorny and prickly twigs being used, on which the true nest, composed of fine twigs and lined with grass-roots, is constructed. The nests vary much: some are large and loosely put together, say, fully 9 inches in diameter and 6 inches in height externally; some are smaller and more densely built, and perhaps not above 7 inches in diameter and 4 inches in depth. The egg-cavity is usually about 5 inches in diameter and 2 inches in depth, but they vary very much both in size and materials; and I see that I note of one nest taken at Agra on the 3rd August—"A very shallow saucer some 6 inches in diameter, and with a central depression not above 11/2 inch in depth. It was composed exclusively of roots; externally somewhat coarse, internally of somewhat finer ones. It was very loosely put together."
Five is the full complement of eggs, but it is very common to find only four fully incubated ones.
Mr. W. Blewitt writes that he "found several nests in the latter half of April, May, and the early part of June in the neighbourhood of Hansie.
"Four was the greatest number of eggs I found in any nest.
"The nests were placed in neem, keekur, and shishum trees, at heights of from 10 to 17 feet from the ground, and were densely built of twigs mostly of the keekur and shishum, and more or less thickly lined with fine straw and leaves. They varied from 6 to 8 inches in diameter and from 2 to 3 inches in depth."
Mr. A. Anderson writes:—"The Indian Magpie lays from April to July, and I have once actually seen a pair building in February. Their eggs are of two very distinct types,—the one which, according to my experience, is the ordinary one, is covered all over with reddish-brown spots or rather blotches, chiefly towards the big end, on a pale greenish-white ground, and is rather a handsome egg; the other is a pale green egg with faint brown markings, which are confined almost entirely to the obtuse end. I have another clutch of eggs taken at Budaon in 1865, which presents an intermediate variety between the above two extremes; these are profusely blotched with russet-brown on a dirty-white ground.
"The second and third nests above referred to contained five eggs; but the usual complement is not more than four. On the 2nd August, 1872, I made the following note relative to the breeding of this bird:—The bird flew off immediately we approached the tree, and never appeared again. The nest viewed from below looked larger; this is owing to dry babool twigs or rather small branches (some of them having thorns from an inch to 2 inches long!) having been used as a foundation, and actually encircling the nest, no doubt by way of protection against vermin; some of these thorny twigs were a foot long, and they had to be removed piecemeal before the nest proper could be got at. The egg-cavity is deep, measuring 5 inches in depth by 4 in breadth inside measurement; it is well lined with khus grass."
Major Bingham says:—
"Common as is this bird I have only found one nest, and that was at Allahabad on the 9th July, and contained one half-fledged young one and an addled egg. The nest, which was placed at the very top of a large mango-tree, was constructed of branches and twigs of the same lined with fine grass-roots. The egg is a yellowish white, thickly speckled, chiefly at the large end, with rusty. Length 1.10 by 0.82 in breadth."
Colonel Butler tells us that it "breeds in Sind, in the hot weather. Mr. Doig took a nest containing three fresh eggs on the 1st May, 1878. The eggs, which seem to me to be remarkably small for the size of the bird, are of the first type mentioned in Rough Draft of 'Nests and Eggs,' p. 422."
Lieut. H.E. Barnes says in his 'Birds of Bombay:'—"In Sind they breed during May and June, always choosing babool trees, placing the nest in a stoutish fork near the top; they are composed at the bottom of thorny twigs, which form a sort of foundation upon which the true nest is built; the latter consists of fine twigs lined with grass-roots; the nest is frequently of large size."
Mr. G.W. Vidal, writing of the South Konkan, says:—"Common about all well-wooded villages from coast to Ghats. Breeds in April."
With regard to Cachar Mr. Inglis writes:—"This Magpie is very common in all the neighbouring villages, but I have not often seen it in the jungles. It remains all the year and breeds during April and May."
The eggs are typically somewhat elongated ovals, a good deal pointed towards the small end. They vary extraordinarily in colour and character, as well as extent of markings, but, as remarked when speaking of the Raven, all the eggs out of the same nest closely resemble each other, while the eggs of different nests are almost invariably markedly distinct. There are, however, two leading types—the one in which the markings are bright red, brownish red, or pale pinkish purple; and the other in which they are olive-brown and pale purplish brown. In the first type the ground-colour is either pale salmon, or else very pale greenish white, and the markings are either bold blotches, more or less confluent at the large end, where they are far most numerous, and only a few specks and spots towards the smaller end, or they are spots and small blotches thickly distributed over the whole surface, or they are streaky smudges forming a mottled ill-defined cap at the large end, and running down thence in streaks and spots longitudinally; in the other type the ground-colour is greenish white or pale yellowish stone-colour, and the character of the markings varies as in the preceding type. Besides these there are a few eggs with a dingy greyish-white ground, with very faint, cloudy, ill-defined spots of pale yellowish brown pretty uniformly distributed over the whole surface. In nine eggs out of ten, the markings are most dense at the large end, where they form irregular, more or less imperfect caps or zones. A few of the eggs are slightly glossy.
Of the salmon-pink type some specimens in their coloration resemble eggs of Dicrurus longicaudatus and some of our Goatsuckers, while of those with the greenish-white ground-colour some strongly recall the eggs of Lanius lahtora.
In length the eggs vary from 1.0 to 1.3, and in breadth from 0.78 to 0.95; but the average of forty-four eggs is 1.17 by 0.87.
17. Dendrocitta leucogastra, Gould. The Southern Tree-pie.
Dendrocitta leucogastra, Gould, Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 317; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 678.
From Travancore Mr. Bourdillon has kindly sent me an egg and the following note on the nidification of the Southern Tree-pie:—
"Three eggs, very hard-set, of an ashy-white colour, marked with ashy and greenish-brown blotches, 1.12 long and 0.87 broad, were taken on 9th March, 1873, from a nest in a bush 8 or 10 feet from the ground. The nest of twigs was built after the style of the English Magpie's nest, minus the dome. It consisted of a large platform 6 inches deep and 8 or 10 inches broad, supporting a nest 11/2 inch deep and 31/2 inches broad. The bird is not at all uncommon on the Assamboo Hills between the elevations of 1500 and 3000 feet above the sea, seeming to prefer the smaller jungle and more open parts of the heavy forest."
Later he writes:—"On the 8th April I found another nest containing three half-fledged Magpies (D. leucogastra). The nest was entirely composed of twigs, roughly but securely put together; interior diameter 3 inches and depth 2 inches, though there was a good-sized base or platform, say, 5 inches in diameter. The nest was situated on the top fork of a sapling about 12 feet from the ground. I tried to rear the young birds, but they all died within a week."
The egg is very like that of our other Indian Tree-pies. It is in shape a broad and regular oval, only slightly compressed towards one end. The shell is fine and compact and is moderately glossy. The ground is a creamy stone-colour. It is profusely blotched and streaked with a somewhat pale yellowish brown, these markings being most numerous and darkest in a broad, irregular, imperfect zone round the large end, and it exhibits further a number of pale inky-purple clouds and blotches, which seem to underlie the brown markings, and which are chiefly confined to the broader half of the egg. The latter measures 1.13 by 0.86.
18. Dendrocitta himalayensis, Bl. The Himalayan Tree-pie.
Dendrocitta sinensis (Lath.) Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 316. Dendrocitta himalayensis, Bl., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 676.
Common as is the Himalayan Tree-pie throughout the lower ranges of those mountains from which it derives its name, I personally have never taken a nest.
It breeds, I know, at elevations of from 2000 to 6000 feet, during the latter half of May, June, July, and probably the first half of August.
A nest in my museum taken by Mr. Gammie in Sikhim, at an elevation of about 2500 feet, out of a small tree, on the 30th of July, contained two fresh eggs. It was a very shallow cup, composed entirely of fine stems, apparently of some kind of creeper, strongly but not at all compactly interwoven; in fact, though the nest holds together firmly, you can see through it everywhere. It is about 6 inches in external diameter, and has an egg-cavity of about 4 inches wide and 1.5 deep. It has no pretence for lining of any kind.
Of another nest which he took Mr. Gammie says:—"I found a nest containing three fresh eggs in a bush, at a height of about 10 feet from the ground. The nest was a very loose, shallow, saucer-like affair, some 6 or 7 inches in diameter and an inch or so in thickness, composed entirely of the dry stems and tendrils of creepers. This was at Labdah, in Sikhim, at an elevation of about 3000 feet, and the date the 14th May, 1873." Later he writes:—
"This Magpie breeds in the Darjeeling District in May, June, and July, most commonly at elevations between 2000 and 4000 feet. It affects clear cultivated tracts interspersed with a few standing shrubs and bamboos, in which it builds. The nest is generally placed from 6 to 12 feet from the ground in the inner part of the shrubs, and is made of pieces of creeper stems intermixed with a few small twigs loosely put together without any lining. There is scarcely any cup, merely a depression towards the centre for the eggs to rest in. Internally it measures about 4.8 in breadth by 1.5 in depth. The eggs are three or four in number.
"This is a very common and abundant bird between 2000 and 4000 feet, but is rarely found far from cultivated fields. It seems to be exceedingly fond of chestnuts, and, in autumn, when they are ripe, lives almost entirely on them; but at other times is a great pest in the grain-fields, devouring large quantities of the grain and being held in detestation by the natives in consequence. Jerdon says 'it usually feeds on trees,' but I have seen it quite as frequently feeding on the ground as on trees."
Mr. Hodgson has two notes on the nidification of this species in Nepal:—"May 18th.—Nest, two eggs and two young; nest on the fork of a small tree, saucer-shaped, made of slender twigs twisted circularly and without lining; cavity 3.5 in diameter by 0.5 deep; eggs yellowish, white, blotched with pale olive chiefly at the larger end; young just born.
"Jaha Powah, 6th June.—Female and nest in forest on a largish tree placed on the fork of a branch; a mere bunch of sticks like a Crow's nest; three eggs, short and thick, fawny white blotched with fawn-brown chiefly at the thick end."
Dr. Jerdon says:—"I have had the nest and eggs brought me at Darjeeling frequently. The nest is made of sticks and roots, and the eggs, three or four in number, are of a pale dull greenish-fawn colour, with a few pale reddish-brown spots and blotches, sometimes very indistinct."
Captain Hutton tells us that this species "occurs abundantly at Mussoorie, at about 5000 feet elevation, during summer, and more sparingly at greater elevations. In the winter it leaves the mountains for the Dhoon.
"It breeds in May, on the 27th of which month I took a nest with three eggs and another with three young ones. The nest is like that of Urocissa occipitalis, being composed externally of twigs and lined with finer materials, according to the situation; one nest, taken in a deep glen by the side of a stream, was lined with the long fibrous leaves of the Mare's tail (Equisetum) which grew abundantly by the water's edge; another, taken much higher on the hillside and away from the water, was lined with tendrils and fine roots. The nest is placed rather low, generally about 8 or 10 feet from the ground, sometimes at the extremity of a horizontal branch, sometimes in the forks of young bushy oaks. The eggs somewhat resemble those of U. occipitalis, but are paler and less spotted, being of a dull greenish ash with brown blotches and spots, somewhat thickly clustered at the larger end."
Mr. J.R. Cripps says:—"On the 15th June, 1880, I found a nest [in the Dibrugarh District] with three fresh eggs. It was fixed in the middle branches of a sapling, about ten feet off the ground, in dense forest, and was built of twigs, presenting a fragile appearance; the egg-cavity was 41/2 inches [in diameter] and 1 inch deep, and lined with fine twigs and grass-roots."
Captain Wardlaw Ramsay writes:—"I obtained two eggs of this species at an elevation of 4200 feet in the Karen hills east of Toungngoo on the 16th April, 1875."
Taking the eggs as a body they are rather regular, somewhat elongated ovals, but broader and again more pointed varieties occur. The ground-colour varies a great deal: in a few it is nearly pure white, generally it has a dull greenish or yellowish-brown tinge, in some it is creamy, in some it has a decided pinky tinge. The markings are large irregular blotches and streaks, almost always most dense at the large end, where they are often more or less confluent, forming an irregular mottled cap, and not unfrequently very thinly set over the rest of the surface of the egg. In one egg, however, the zone is about the thick end, and there are scarcely any markings elsewhere. As a rule the markings are of an olive-brown of one shade or another; but when the ground is at all pinkish then the markings are more or less of a reddish brown. Besides these primary markings, all the eggs exhibit a greater or smaller number of faint lilac or purple spots or blotches, which chiefly occur where the other markings are most dense. In length they vary from 1.06 to 1.22, and in breadth from 0.8 to 1.0, but the average of 34 eggs is 1.14 by 0.85.
21. Crypsirhina varians (Lath.). The Black Racket-tailed Magpie.
Crypsirhina varians (Lath.), Hume, Cat. no. 678 quat.
This Magpie is very common in Lower Pegu, where Mr. Oates found many nests. He says:—
"This bird appears to lay from the 1st of June to the 15th of July; most of my nests were taken in the latter month. It selects either one of the outer branches of a very leafy thorny bush, or perhaps more commonly a branch of a bamboo, at heights varying from 5 to 20 feet.
"The nest is composed of fine dead twigs firmly woven together. The interior is lined with twisted tendrils of convolvulus and other creepers. The uniformity with which this latter material is used in all nests is remarkable. The inside diameter is 5 inches, and the depth only 1, thus making the structure very flat. The exterior dimensions are not so definite, for the twigs and creepers stick out in all directions; but making all allowances, the outside diameter may be put down at 7 or 8 inches, and the total depth at 11/2 inches.
"The eggs are usually three in number, but occasionally only two well incubated eggs may be found. In a nest from which two fresh eggs had been taken, a third was found a few days later.
"The eggs measure from 1.09 to .88 in length, and from .76 to .68 in breadth. The average of 22 eggs is .98 by .72."
In shape the eggs are typically moderately broad, rather regular ovals, but some are distinctly compressed towards the small end, some are slightly pyriform, some even pointed, though in the great majority of cases the egg is pretty obtuse at the small end; the shell is compact and tolerably fine, and has a faint gloss. The ground-colour seems to be invariably a pale yellowish stone-colour. The markings vary a good deal: in some they are more speckly, in others more streaky, but taking them as a whole they are intermediate between those of Dendrocitta and those of Garrulus, neither so bold and streaky as the former, nor so speckly as the latter. The markings are a yellowish olive-brown; they consist of spots, specks, small streaky blotches and frecklings; they are always pretty densely set over the whole surface of the egg, but they are always most dense in a zone or sometimes a cap at the large end, where they are often, to a great extent, confluent. In some eggs small dingy brownish-purple spots and little blotches are intermingled in the zone. The eggs differ in general appearance a good deal, because in some almost all the markings are fine grained and freckly, and in such eggs but little of the ground-colour is visible, while in other eggs the markings are bolder (in comparison, for they are never really bold) and thinner set, and leave a good deal of the ground-colour visible.
23. Platysmurus leucopterus (Temm.). The White-winged Jay.
Platysmurus leucopterus (Temm.), Hume, Cat. no. 678 quint.
Mr. W. Davison writes:—
"I found a nest of this bird on the 8th of April at the hot springs at Ulu Laugat. The nest was built on the frond of a Calamus, the end of which rested in the fork of a small sapling. The nest was a great coarse structure like a Crow's, but even more coarsely and irregularly built, and with the egg-cavity shallower. It was composed externally of small branches and twigs, and loosely lined with coarse fibres and strips of bark. It contained two young birds about a couple of days old. The nest was placed about 6 feet from the ground. The surrounding jungle was moderately thick, with a good deal of undergrowth."
24. Garrulus lanceolatus, Vigors. The Black-throated Jay.
Garrulus lanceolatus, Vig., Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 308; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 670.
The Black-throated Jay breeds throughout the Himalayas, at elevations of from 4000 to 8000 feet, from the Valley of Nepal to Murree.
They lay from the middle of April until the middle of June.
They build on trees or thick bushes, never at any great height from the ground, and often within reach of the hand. They always, I think, choose a densely foliaged tree, and place the nest sometimes in a main fork and sometimes on some horizontal bough supported by one or more upright shoots.
All the nests I have seen were moderately shallow cups, built with slender twigs and sticks, some 6 inches in external diameter, and from less than 3 inches to nearly 4 inches in height, with a nest-cavity some 4 inches across and 2 inches deep, lined with grass and moss-roots. Once only I found a nest almost entirely composed of grass, and with no lining but fine grass-stems.
The eggs vary from four to six, but this latter number is rarely met with.
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall writes:—"This is one of the commonest birds about Murree; we always found it well to the front during our rambles, chattering about in the trees. They breed from the middle of April till the end of June. We have taken their eggs between the 20th April and the 16th June. They keep above 5000 feet. I never observed any in the lower ranges. The nest is not a difficult one to find, being large and of loose construction; from 15 to 30 feet up a medium-sized tree close to the trunk or sometimes in a large fork. They never seem to build in the spruce firs which abound about Murree. They are by no means shy birds, and hop about the trees close by while their nest is being examined. Five is the ordinary number of eggs, which differ very much in appearance and size: the longest I have measures 1.25 and the shortest 1.1. Some are paler, some darker; some are of a uniform pale greenish-ash colour with a darker ring, while others are thickly speckled and freckled with a darker shade of the same colour. Some lack the odd ink-scratch which is so often to be seen on the larger end, and is the most peculiar feature of the egg, while a few have it at the thinner end.
"I should describe the average type as a long egg for its breadth; ground-colour greenish ashy with very thick sprinklings of spots of a darker and more greenish shade of the same colour, a ring of a darker dull olive round the large end, on which are one or two lines that look like a haphazard scratch from a fine steel pen."
From Dhurmsala Captain Cock wrote to me that this was "a most common bird at Dhurmsala; appears in large flocks during the winter, and often mixes with Garrulus bispecularis and Urocissa flavirostris. Pairs off about the end of April, when nidification begins. Builds a rather rough nest of sticks, generally placed on a tall sapling oak near the top; sometimes among the thicker branches of a pollard oak: outer nest small twigs roughly put together; inner nest dry roots and fibres, rather deep cup-shaped. Eggs number from four to five and vary in shape. I have found them sometimes nearly round, but more generally the usual shape. They vary in their colour, too, some being much lighter than others, but most of them have a few hair-like streaks on the larger end."
From Mussoorie Captain Hutton tells us that "the Black-throated Jay breeds in May and June, placing the nest sometimes on the branch of a tall oak tree (Quercus incana), at other times in a thick bush. It is composed of a foundation of twigs, and lined with fine roots of grass &c. mixed with the long black fibres of ferns and mosses, which hang upon the forest trees, and have much the appearance of black horse-hair. The nest is cup-shaped, rather shallow, loosely put together, circular, and about 41/2 inches in diameter. The eggs are sometimes three, sometimes four in number, of a greenish stone-grey, freckled, chiefly at the larger end, with dusky and a few black hair-like streaks, which are not always present; they vary also in the amount of dusky freckling at the larger end. The nestling bird is devoid of the lanceolate markings on the throat."
From Nynee Tal Colonel G.F.L. Marshall writes:—"The Black-throated Jay builds a very small cup-shaped nest of black hair-like creepers and roots, intertwined and placed in a rough irregular casing of twigs. A nest found on the 2nd June containing three hard-set eggs was placed conspicuously on the top of a young oak sapling about 7 feet high, standing alone in an open glade, in the forest on Aya Pata, which is about 7000 feet above the sea. Another nest, found at an elevation of about 4500 feet on the 9th June, contained two eggs; it was placed about 10 feet from the ground in a small tree in a hedgerow amongst cultivated fields."
Mr. Hodgson notes from Jaha Powah:—"Found five nests of this species between 18th and 30th May. Builds near the tops of moderate-sized trees in open districts, making a very shallow nest of thin elastic grasses sparingly used and without lining. The nest is placed on some horizontal branch against some upright twig, or at some horizontal fork. It is nearly round and has a diameter of about 6 inches. They lay three or four eggs of a sordid vernal green clouded with obscure brown."
The eggs are somewhat lengthened ovals, very much smaller than, though so far as coloration goes very similar to, those of G. glandarius. The ground-colour in some is a brown stone colour, in others pale greenish white, and intermediate shades occur, and they are very minutely and feebly freckled and mottled over the whole surface with a somewhat pale sepia-brown. This mottling differs much in intensity; in some few eggs indeed it is absolutely wanting, while in others, though feeble elsewhere, it forms a distinct, though undefined, brownish cap or zone at the large end. The eggs generally have little or no gloss. It is not uncommon to find a few hair-like dark brown lines, more or less zigzag, about the larger end.
In length they vary from 1.03 to 1.23, and in breadth from 0.78 to 0.88; but the average of twenty-four eggs is 1.12 by 0.85.
25. Garrulus leucotis, Hume. The Burmese Jay.
Garrulus leucotis, Hume, Hume, Cat. no. 669 bis.
The nest of this Jay has not yet been found, but Capt. Bingham writes:—
"Like Mr. Davison I have found this very handsome Jay affecting only the dry Dillenia and pine-forests so common in the Thoungyeen valley. I have seen it feeding on the ground in such places with Gecinus nigrigenys, Upupa longirostris, and other birds. I shot one specimen, a female, in April, near the Meplay river, that must have had a nest somewhere, which, however, I failed to find, for she had a full-formed but shell-less egg inside her."
26. Garrulus bispecularis, Vigors. The Himalayan Jay.
Garrulus bispecularis, Vig., Jerd. B. Ind. ii, p. 307; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 669.
The Himalayan Jay breeds pretty well throughout the lower ranges of the Himalayas. It is nowhere, that I have seen, numerically very abundant, but it is to be met with everywhere. It lays in March and April, and, though I have never taken the nest myself, I have now repeatedly had it sent me. It builds at moderate heights, rarely above 25 feet from the ground, in trees or thick shrubs, at elevations of from 3000 to 7000 feet. The nest is a moderate-sized one, 6 to 8 inches in external diameter, composed of fine twigs and grass, and lined with finer grass and roots.
The nest is usually placed in a fork.
The eggs are four to six in number.
Mr. Hodgson notes that he "found a nest" of this species "on the 20th April, in the forest of Shewpoori, at an elevation of 7000 feet. The nest was placed in the midst of a large tree in a fork. The nest was very shallow, but regularly formed and compact. It was composed of long seeding grasses wound round and round, and lined with finer and more elastic grass-stems. The nest measured about 61/2 inches in diameter, but the cavity was only about half an inch deep."
Colonel C.H.T. Marshall remarks:—"I only took one authenticated set of eggs of this species (I found several with young), as it is an early breeder—I say authenticated eggs, because I think we may have attributed some to Garrulus lanceolatus, as the nests and eggs are very similar, and having a large number of the eggs of the latter, I took some from my shikaree without verifying them.
"The nest I took on the 6th May, 1873, at Murree, was at an elevation, I should say, of between 6500 and 7000 feet (as it was near the top of the hill), in the forest. The tree selected was a horse-chestnut, about 25 feet high. The nest was near the top, which is the case with nearly all the Crows' and Magpies' nests that I have taken. It was of loose construction, made of twigs and fibres, and contained five partially incubated eggs.
"The eggs are similar to those of G. lanceolatus. I have carefully compared the five of the species which I am now describing with twenty of the other, and find that the following differences exist. The egg of G. bispecularis is more obtuse and broader, there is a brighter gloss on it, and the speckling is more marked; but with a large series of each I think the only perceptible difference would be its greater breadth, which makes the egg look larger than that of the Black-throated Jay. My four eggs measure 1.15 by 0.85 each.