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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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Page 3

Order PASSERES     Family CORVIDAE     Subfamily CORVINAE

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1. Corvus corax, Linn.  Raven

Corvus corax, (Linn.), Jerdon 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*.

*[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, Bikaner, and the northern portions of Jaipur and Jodhpur, 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 Hansi (Haryana), in Skinner's Beerh, December 19, 1867, we found our first Raven's nest. It was in a solitary Kikar 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 neighborhood of Pind Dadan Khan and Katas in the Salt Range:

"Lay in January and February; eggs, four only; shape, ovato-pyriform; size, 17 by 13; 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 coloring 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 172 to 225 in length, and from 12 to 137 in width; but the average of seventy-two eggs measured is 194 by 131.

Mandelli's men found four eggs of the larger Sikkim bird in Native Sikkim, 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 183 to 196, in breadth from 118 to 125.

3. Corvus corone, Linn. Carrion Crow

Corvus corone, (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 295; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 659*

*[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, Kashmir.

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 167 to 168 in length, and from 114 to 118 in breadth.

Whether this bird breeds regularly or only as a straggler in Kashmir we do not know; it is always overlooked and passed by as a "Common Crow." Future visitors to Kashmir should try and clear up both the identity of the bird and all particulars about its nidification.

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