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The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds - A. O. Hume

The Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds  (Volume 1) Second Edition 1889  -  by  Allan O. Hume

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523. Eulabes religiosa (Linn.). Jerdon B. Southern Grackle

Eulabes religiosa (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 337; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 692.

The Southern Grackle breeds in Southern India and Ceylon from March to October.

Mr. Frank Bourdillon, writing from Travancore, gives me the following account of the eggs. He says: "This bird, an abundant resident, lays a blue egg pretty evenly marked with brown spots, some light and some darkish, in a nest of straw and feathers in a hole of a tree generally a considerable height from the ground.

"I have only taken one nest, which contained a single egg slightly set, on 23rd March, 1873, the egg measuring 1·37 long and 0·87 broad."

Later Mr. Bourdillon says: "Since writing the foregoing I took on 21st April two fresh eggs from the nest of a Southern Hill-Mynah (Eulabes religiosa). The nest was of grass, feathers, and odds and ends in a hole in a nanga (Mesua coromandeliana) stump, about 25 feet from the ground. The eggs of this Mynah are blue, with purplish and more decided brown spots.

"I am positive as to the identity of the egg. Both the eggs taken last year and the two taken the other day were obtained under my personal supervision. In both instances I watched the birds building, and when we robbed the nests saw the female fly off them."

These two eggs sent me by Mr. Bourdillon are very beautiful. In shape they are very gracefully elongated ovals; the shell is very fine and smooth, but has only a rather faint gloss. The ground-colour is a delicate pale sea-green or greenish blue, and the eggs are more or less profusely spotted or splashed with purplish, or, in some spots, chocolate-brown and a very pale purple, which looks more like the stain that might be supposed to be left by one of the more decided colored markings that had been partially washed out than anything else.

The eggs measure 1·37 by 0·9 and 1·35 by 0·87.

Mr. J. Darling, junior, writes: "The Southern Grackle breeds in the S. Wynaad rather plentifully, and I have had numbers of tame ones brought up from the nest, but have never succeeded in getting a perfect egg owing to my having found all the nests in very hard places to get at.

"I cut down a tree containing a nest and broke all the eggs, which must have been very pretty - blue ground, very regularly marked with purplish-brown spots. The nest was composed of sticks, twigs, feathers, and some snake-skin. I have found them in March, April, September, and October. I hope this year to get a number of eggs, as Culputty is a very good place for them."

Mr. C. J. W. Taylor notes from Manzeerabad in Mysore:

"Common up in the wooded portions of the district. Breeding in April and May."

Mr. T. Fulton Bourdillon, speaking of this Grackle in Travancore, says: "This bird lays one or two light blue eggs beautifully blotched with purple in the holes of trees. It does not like heavy jungle, but after a clearing has been felled and burnt it is sure to appear. During the fine weather it is very abundant on the hills, descending to the low country at the foot when the rains have fairly set in. The nest scarcely deserves the name, being only a few dead leaves or some powdered wood at the bottom of the hole, and there about the end of March the egg or eggs are laid. The young birds, which can be taught to speak and become very tame, are often taken by the natives, as they can sell them in the low country. I have obtained on the following dates eggs and young birds:

"March 29th. One egg slightly set.
April 20th. Two young birds.
April 22nd. " "
April 25th. Two eggs slightly set.
May 2nd. One young bird.

"I also had three eggs, slightly set, brought me on May 21. They are rather smaller and a deeper blue than the ones obtained before, being 1·25 x 1, 1·19 x ·95, 1·21 x ·97 inch. They were all out of the same nest, so that the bird sometimes lays three eggs, though the usual number is two."

Colonel Legge writes in the 'Birds of Ceylon': "The Black Myna was breeding in the Pasdun Korale on the occasion of a visit I made to that part in August, but I did not procure its eggs."

Other eggs subsequently sent me by Mr. Bourdillon from Mynall, in Southern Travancore, taken on the 9th and 13th April, 1875, are precisely similar to those already described. The eggs that I have measured have only varied from 1·22 to 1·37 in length, and from 0·86 to 0·9 in width.

524. Eulabes intermedia* (A. Hay). Indian Grackle

*[Mr. Hume does not recognize E. javanensis and E. intermedia as distinct. The following account refers to the nidification of the latter, except perhaps Major Bingham's later note, in which he states that he procured two distinct sizes of eggs in the Meplay valley (Thoungyeen). It is very probable that Major Bingham found the nests of both species on this occasion. I have seen no specimen of E. javanensis from the Thoungyeen valley, but at Malewun, further south, it occurs along with E. intermedia. - ED.]

Eulabes intermedia (A. Hay), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 339.
Eulabes javanensis (Osbeck), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 693.

The Indian Grackle, under which name I include E. andamanensis, Tytler, breeds, I know, in the Nepal Terai and in the Kumaon Bhabur; and many are the young birds that I have seen extracted by the natives out of holes, high up in large trees, in the old anti-mutiny days when we used to go tiger-shooting in these grand jungles. I never saw the eggs however, which, I think, must have all been hatched off in May, when we used to be out.

"In the Andamans," writes Davison, "they breed in April and May, building a nest of grass, dried leaves, etc. in holes of trees." He also, however, never took the eggs.

Mr. J. R. Cripps tells us that this species is "common during March to October in Dibrugarh, after which it retires to the hills which border the east and south of the district. About the tea-gardens of Dibrugarh there are always a number of dead trees standing, and in these the Grackles nest, choosing those that are rotten, in which they excavate a hole. I have seen numbers of nests, but as these were so high up and the tree so long dead and rotten, no native would risk going up."

Mr. J. Inglis notes from Cachar: "This Hill-Mynah is common in the hilly district. It breeds in the holes of trees during April, May, and June."

Major C. T. Bingham writes from Tenasserim: "I saw several nest-holes of this bird, which was very common in the Reserve, but none of them were accessible; and it wasn't till the 18th April that I chanced on one in a low tree, the nest being in the hollow of a stump of a broken branch. It was composed and loosely put together of grass, leaves, and twigs, and contained three half-fledged young and one addled egg of a light blue colour, spotted, chiefly at the large end with purplish brown."

The eggs very similar to those of E. religiosa, but, what is very surprising, it is very considerably smaller.

Of E. religiosa the eggs vary from 1·2 to 1·37 in length, and from 0·86 to 0·9 in breadth, and the average of eight is 1·31 by 0·88.

This present egg only measures 1·12 by 0·8, and it must, I should fancy, be abnormally small.

In shape it is an extremely regular oval. The ground is a pale greenish blue, and it is spotted and blotched pretty thickly at the large end (where all the larger markings are) and very thinly at the smaller end with purple and two shades (a darker and lighter one) of chocolate-brown, the latter colour much predominating. The shell is very fine and close, but has but little gloss.

And later on Major Bingham again wrote: "One of the commonest and most widely spread birds in the province. The following is an account of its nidification:

"This bird lays two distinct sizes of eggs, all, however, of the same type and coloration. Out of holes in neighboring trees, on the bank of the Meplay, on the 13th March, 1880, I took two nests, one containing three, and the other two eggs. The first lot of eggs measured respectively 1·15 x 0·77, 1·15 x 0·80, and 1·16 x 0·79 inch; while those in the second nest 1·30 x 0·95, and 1·27 x 0·93 inch respectively. All the eggs, however, are a pale blue, spotted chiefly at the larger end with light chocolate. The nests were in natural hollows in the trees, and lined with grass and leaves loosely put together."

The eggs apparently vary extraordinarily in size; they are generally more or less elongated ovals, some slightly pyriform and slightly obtuse at both ends, some rather pointed towards the small end. The shell in all is very fine and compact and smooth, but some have scarcely any appreciable gloss, while others have a really fine gloss. The ground-colour is pretty uniform in all, a delicate pale greenish blue. The markings are always chiefly confined to one end, usually the broad end; even about the large end they are never very dense, and elsewhere they are commonly very sparse or almost or altogether wanting. In some eggs the markings are pretty large irregular blotches mingled with small spots and specks, but in many eggs again the largest spot does not exceed one twelfth of an inch in diameter. In colour these markings are normally a chocolate, often with more or less of a brown tinge, in some of the small spots so thickly laid on as to be almost black, in many of the larger blotches becoming only a pale reddish purple, or here and there a pale purplish grey. In some eggs all the markings are pale and washed out, in others all are sharply defined and intense in colour. Occasionally some of the smaller spots become almost a yellowish brown.

526. Eulabes ptilogenys (Blyth). Ceylon Grackle

Eulabes ptilogenys (Blyth), Hume, cat. no. 693 bis.

Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon': "This species breeds in June, July, and August, laying its eggs in a hole of a tree, or in one which has been previously excavated by the Yellow-fronted Barbet or Red Woodpecker. It often nests in the sugar- or kitool-palm, and in one of these trees in the Peak forest I took its eggs in the month of August. There was an absence of all nest or lining at the bottom of the hole, the eggs, which were two in number, being deposited on the bare wood. The female was sitting at the time, and was being brought fruit and berries by the male bird. While the eggs were being taken the birds flew round repeatedly, and settled on an adjacent tree, keeping up a loud whistling. The eggs are obtuse-ended ovals, of a pale greenish-blue ground-colour (one being much paler than the other), sparingly spotted with large and small spots of lilac-grey, and blotched over this with a few neutral-brown and sepia blots. They measure from 1·3 to 1·32 inch in length by 0·96 to 0·99 in breadth."

527. Calornis chalybeďus (Horsf.). Glossy Calornis

Calornis chalybaeus* (Horsf.), Hume, cat. no. 690 bis.

*[Mr. Hume considers the Andaman Calornis distinct from the Calornis inhabiting Cachar, Tenasserim, etc. I have united them in the 'Birds of India.'--Ed.]

Of the Glossy Calornis Mr. Davison remarks that "it is a permanent resident at the Nicobars, breeding in holes in trees and in the decayed stumps of old cocoanut-palms, apparently from December to March. At the Andamans it is much less numerous, and is only met with in pairs or in small parties, frequenting the same situations as it does in the Nicobars."

Mr. J. Inglis writes from Cachar: "This Tree-Stare is rather rare. It breeds about April in the holes of dead trees; when the young are able to fly it departs. It again returns about the middle of February."

In Tenasserim this species was observed nesting by Mr. J. Darling, junior, who says: "22nd March. Noticed several pairs of Calornis, with nests, in the big wooden bridge over the Kyouk-tyne Creek about 1˝ mile out of Tavoy, and also a great number of their nests in the old wooden posts of an old bridge further down the Creek."

Mr. W. Davison, when in the Malay peninsula, took the eggs of this bird. He remarks: "I found a few pairs frequenting some areca-palms at Laugat, and breeding in them, but only one nest contained eggs, three in number. The nest was a loose structure almost globular, but open at the top, composed externally of very coarse dry grass (lallung or elephant-grass), and lined with green durian leaves cut into small bits. The nest was too lightly put together to preserve. This nest and several other empty ones were placed at the base of the leaves where they meet the trunk.

"The three eggs obtained were slightly set, so that three is probably the normal number laid.

"I noticed several other pairs breeding at the same time in holes of a huge dead tree on Jugra Hill at Laugat, but I was unable to get at the nests."

The eggs are quite of the Eulabes type, moderately broad ovals, more or less compressed towards the small end, occasionally pyriform. The shell firm and strong, though fine, smooth to the touch in some cases, with but little, but generally with a fair amount of gloss. The ground is a very pale greenish blue. A number of fairly large spots and blotches, intermingled with smaller specks and spots, are scattered about the large end, often forming an imperfect irregular zone, and a few similar specks and spots are scattered thinly about the central portion of the egg, occasionally extending to the small end. The colour of these spots varies; they are generally a brownish-reddish purple and a paler greyer purple, but in some eggs the spots are so thick in colour that they seem almost black. In some they are almost purely reddish brown without any purplish tinge, and some again, lying deep in the shell, are pale grey.

Six eggs measure from 0·92 to 1·1 in length, and from 0·71 to 0·76 in breadth, but the average of six eggs is 1 by 0·74.

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