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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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528. Pastor roseus (Linn.). Rose-colored Starling

Pastor roseus (Linn.), Jerdon. B. Ind. ii, p. 333; Hume, cat. no. 690.

The Rose-colored Starling has not yet been discovered breeding in India, but Mr. Doig has written the following note on the subject, which is one of great interest. He writes from the Eastern Narra, in Sind:

"Though I have not as yet discovered the breeding-place of this bird, I think it as well to put on record what little I have noticed, in the hope that it may be of assistance in eventually finding out where it goes to breed. I began watching the birds in the middle of April, and every week shot one or two and dissected them, but did not perceive any decisive signs of their breeding until the 10th May, when I shot two males, both of which showed signs of being about to breed at an early date. Again, on the 15th May, out of seven that I shot in a flock, six were males with the generative organs fully developed; the seventh was a young female in immature plumage, the ovaries being quite undeveloped. The birds were feeding in the bed of a dried-up swamp, along with flocks of Sturnus minor, and were constantly flying in flocks, backwards and forwards, in one direction. Unfortunately, important work called me to another part of the district, and when I returned in a fortnight's time I could not see one. Where can they have gone? And they remain away such a short time! I have seen the old birds return as early as the 7th July, accompanied by young birds barely fledged, and I should not be at all surprised if these birds are found to breed in some of the Native States on the east of Sind. That they could find time to migrate to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to breed, and return again by the middle of July, I cannot believe, especially after having found them so thoroughly in breeding-time, while still in the east of Sind. Another suspicious circumstance is the absence of females in the flocks I met with. Perhaps some of my readers may have an opportunity of finding out whether Pastor roseus occurs in the districts lying to the east of Sind in the month of June, as there is no doubt that the breeding-time lies between the 20th May and the commencement of July."

529. Sturnus humii, Brooks. Himalayan Starling

Sturnus unicolor, (Marm.), apud Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 322.
Sturnus nitens, (Hume); Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 682.

The Himalayan Starling breeds in Candahar, Kashmir, and the extreme north-west of the Punjab. It is the bird which Dr. Jerdon includes in his work as S. unicolor (a very different bird, which does not occur within our limits), and which Mr. Theobald referred to as breeding in Kashmir as Sturnus vulgaris, which bird does not, as far as I can learn, occur in the Valley of Kashmir, though it may in Yarkand.

This Starling lays towards the end of April at Peshawar, where I found it nesting in holes in willow-trees in the cantonment compounds. In Candahar it lays somewhat earlier, and in the Valley of Kashmir somewhat later, viz. in the month of May. It builds in holes of trees, in river-banks, and in old buildings and bridges, constructing a loose nest of grass and grass-roots, with sometimes a few thin sticks; it is perhaps more of a lining to the hole than a true nest. It lays five or six eggs.

Mr. Brooks says: "It is like S. unicolor, but smaller, with shorter wing and more beautiful reflections. It is excessively abundant in Kashmir, at moderate elevations, and in the Valley, and breeds in holes of trees and in river-banks. The eggs are like those of S. vulgaris, but rather smaller. The latter bird* occurs plentifully in the plains of India in the cold weather, and is as profusely spotted as English specimens. The bills vary in length, and are not longer, as a rule, than those of British birds. I did not meet with S. vulgaris in Kashmir. It appears to migrate more to the west, for it is said to be common in Afghanistan. S. nitens also occurs in the plains in the cold season. I have Etawah specimens. They are at that time slightly spotted, but can always be very easily distinguished from S. vulgaris."

*[Mr. Brooks here refers to S. menzbieri - ED.]

Mr. W. Theobald makes the following remark on its nidification in the Valley of Kashmir: "Lays in the second and third weeks of May; eggs ovato-pyriform; size 115 by 085; colour, pale clear bluish green; valley generally, in holes of bridges, tall trees, etc., in company with Corvus monedula."

Captain Hutton records that "S. vulgaris remains only during the coldest months, and departs as spring approaches: whereas the present species builds in the spring at Candahar, laying seven or eight blue eggs, and the young are fledged about the first week in May."

The eggs of this species are generally somewhat elongated ovals, a good deal compressed towards one end, and not uncommonly more or less pyriform. They are glossy, but in a good light have the surface a good deal pitted. They are entirely devoid of markings, and seem to have the ground one uniform very pale sea-greenish blue. They appear to vary very little in colour, and to average generally a good deal smaller than those of the Common Starling.

They vary in length from 102 to 119, and in breadth from 078 to 087; but the average of twenty eggs is 113 by 083.*

*[STURNUS PORPHYRONOTUS, (Sharpe). Central-Asian Starling

This species breeds in Kashgharia, and visits India in winter. Dr. Scully writes: "This Starling breeds in May and June, making its nest in the holes of trees and walls, and in gourds and pots placed near houses by the Yarkandis for the purpose. It seems to make only a simple lining for its hole, composed of grass and fibres. The eggs vary in shape from a broadish oval to an elongated oval compressed at one end; they are glossy and, in a strong light, the surface looks pitted. The eggs are quite spotless, but the colour seems also to vary a good deal--from a deep greenish blue to a very pale light sea-blue. In size they vary from 11 to 122 in length, and from 080 to 086 in breadth; but the average of nine eggs is 119 by 083."]

531. Sturnus minor, Hume. Small Indian Starling

Sturnus minor, (Hume); Hume, cat. no. 681 bis.

Mr. Scrope Doig furnishes us with the following interesting note on the breeding of S. minor in Sindh:

"Last year I mentioned to my friend, Captain Butler, that I had noticed Starlings going in and out of holes in trees along the 'Narra' in the month of March, and that I thought they must be breeding there; he said that I must be mistaken, as S. vulgaris never bred so far south. As it happens we were both correct - he in saying S. vulgaris did not breed here, and I in saying that Starlings did. My Starling turns out to be the species originally described from Sindh as Sturnus minor by Mr. Hume; and as I have now sent Mr. Hume a series of skins and eggs, I trust he will give us a note on the subject of our Indian Starlings. In February I shot one of these birds, and on dissection found that they were beginning to breed; later on, early in March, I again dissected one and found that there was no doubt on the subject, and so began to look for their nests; these I found in holes in kundy trees growing along the banks of the Narra, and also situated in the middle of swamps. The eggs were laid on a pad of feathers of Platalea leucorodia and Tantalus leucocephalus, which were breeding on the same trees, the young birds being nearly fledged; the greatest number of eggs in any one nest was five. The first date on which I took eggs was the 13th March, and the last was on the 15th May.

"The eggs are oval, broad at one end and elongated at the other; the texture is rather waxy, with a fine gloss, and they are of a pale delicate sea-green colour. The birds during the breeding-time confine themselves closely to their breeding-ground, so much so, that except when close to their haunts none are ever seen. The size of the eggs varies from 100 to 110 in length, and from 70 to 80 in breadth. The average of twelve eggs is 103 in length and 79 in breadth."

He subsequently wrote: "I first noticed this bird breeding on the 11th March; on the 10th, while marching, I saw some on the side of the road and shot one, and on opening it found it was breeding. Accordingly on the 11th, on searching, I found their breeding-ground, which was in the middle of a Dhund thickly studded over with kundy trees, in the holes of which they had their nests. The nest lay at the bottom of the hole, which was generally some 18 inches deep, and consists of a few bits of coarse sedge-grass and feathers of T. leucocephalus and P. leucorodia (which were breeding close by). Five was the maximum number of eggs, but four was the normal number in each nest.

"I afterwards found these birds breeding in great numbers all along the Eastern Narra wherever there were suitable trees (kundy trees). At the place I first found them in, the young ones are now many of them fledged and flying about, while in other places they are just beginning to lay.

"The total length of their breeding-ground in any district must be close on 200 miles, but entirely confined to the banks of the river. If you looked four miles from, the river, one side or the other, you would not see one. Can Pastor roseus breed in India in some similar secluded spot? I have been rather unlucky in getting their eggs, as at each place which I visited personally the birds had either young ones or were just going to lay."

The eggs of this species are moderately broad ovals, sometimes slightly elongated, always more or less appreciably pointed towards the small end. The shell is extremely smooth and has a fine gloss. The colour, which is extremely uniform in all the specimens, is an excessively delicate pale blue with a faint greenish tinge, a very beautiful colour. They vary from 1 to 118 in length, and from 071 to 082 in breadth.

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