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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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544. Temenuchus pagodarum (Gm.). Black-headed Myna

Temenuchus pagodarum (Gm.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 329; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 687.

The Pagoda or Black-headed Myna breeds throughout the more open, dry, and well-wooded or cultivated portions of India. In Sindh and in the more arid and barren parts of the Punjab and Rajpootana on the one hand, or in the more humid and jungly localities of Lower Bengal on the other, it occurs, if at all, merely as a seasonal straggler. How Adams, quoted by Jerdon (vol. ii, p. 330), could say that he never saw it in the plains of the North-West Provinces (where, as a matter of fact, it is one of our commonest resident species), altogether puzzles me.

Neither in the north nor in the south does it appear to ascend the hills or breed in them at any elevations exceeding 3000 or 4000 feet. The breeding-season lasts from May to August, but in Upper India the great majority lay in June.

According to my experience in Northern India it nests exclusively in holes in trees. Dr. Jerdon says that "at Madras it breeds about large buildings, pagodas, houses, etc." This is doubtless correct, but has not been confirmed as yet by any of my Southern Indian correspondents, who all talk of finding its nest in holes of trees.

The whole is thinly lined with a few dead leaves, a little grass, and a few feathers, and occasionally with a few small scraps of some other soft material. They lay from three to five eggs.

From Hansi (Haryana) Mr. W. Blewitt writes: "During June and the early part of July I found numerous nests of this species in holes of Shisham, Peepal, Neem, and siriss trees situated on the bank of the Hissar Canal. The holes where at heights of from 12 to 15 feet from the ground, and in each a few leaves or feathers were laid under the eggs. Five was the greatest number found in any one hole."

Recording his experience in the Delhi, Jhansi, and Saugor Divisions, Mr. F. R. Blewitt tells us that the Pagoda Myna breeds from May to July, building its nest in holes of trees, selecting where possible those most inaccessible. I have always found the nest in the holes of mango, tamarind, and high-growing Jamun trees. Feathers and grass, sometimes an odd piece of rag, are loosely placed at the bottom of the hole, and on these the eggs repose.

"The eggs are pale bluish green, and from four to five form the regular number. I may add that only on one occasion did I obtain five eggs in a nest."

"In Oudh," writes Mr. R. M. Adam, "I took one nest of this species, in a hole in a mango-tree, on the 5th May, containing five eggs."

Major C. T. Bingham remarks: "All nests I have found at Allahabad and Delhi have been in holes in trees, in the end of May, June, and July. Nest strictly speaking there is none, but the holes are lined with feathers and straw, in which the eggs, four in number, are generally half buried."

Lieut. H. E. Barnes tells us that this Myna breeds in Rajpootana in June, and that he found one nest in that month in a hole of a tree with three eggs.

Colonel E. A. Butler records the following notes: "The Black-headed Myna breeds plentifully in the neighborhood of Deesa in June, July, and August, but somehow or other I was unlucky this year (1876) in procuring eggs. On the 30th July I found a nest containing four young birds and another containing four eggs about to hatch. On the 2nd of August I found three nests, all containing young birds. On the 20th August I found four more nests; three contained young birds and the fourth four fresh eggs. All of these nests were in holes of trees, in most instances only just large enough at the entrance for the bird to pass through. In some cases there was no lining at all except wood dust, in others a small quantity of dry grass and a few feathers. The average height from the ground was about 8 or 10 feet; some nests were, however, not more than 4 or 5 feet high.

"Belgaum, 21st May, 1879. A nest in the roof of a house under the tiles; three fresh eggs. Another nest on the same date in a hole of a tree, containing one fresh egg. The hole appeared to be an old nest-hole of a Barbet. Other nests observed later on, in June and July, in the roofs of houses under the tiles. Another nest in the hole of a tree, 27th April, containing four fresh eggs. Three more nests, 4th May, containing three incubated eggs, three fresh eggs, and three young birds respectively. Two of the nests were in the nest-holes of Barbets, from which I had taken eggs the month previous. 7th May, another nest containing four fresh eggs.

"I can confirm Dr. Jerdon's statement, quoted in the Rough Draft of 'Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds,' relative to this species breeding in large buildings, having observed several nests myself this season at Belgaum on the roofs of bungalows. In one bungalow, the mess-house of the 83rd Regt., there were no less than three nests at one time built under the eaves of the roof."

Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, writing of the Deccan, say: "Not quite so common as Acridotheres tristis. Breeds at Satara in May."

Mr. Benjamin Aitken remarks: "In Nests and Eggs, p. 433, you write: 'Dr. Jerdon says that at Madras it breeds about large buildings, pagodas, houses, etc.' This is doubtless correct, but has not been confirmed as yet by any of my Southern Indian correspondents, who all talk of finding its nest in holes of trees.' On the 29th June last year I was at the Anniversary Meeting of the Medical College, and the proceedings were disturbed by the incessant clatter of two broods of young of this species. The nests were in holes in the wall near the roof, and the two pairs of old birds, which were feeding their young, kept coming and going the whole time, flying in at the windows and popping into the holes over the peoples' heads. In the following month a nest of young were taken out of a hole in the outer wall of a house I was staying at, and the birds laid again and hatched another brood.

"I very rarely saw the Black-headed Myna in Bombay, Poona, or Berar, but here, in Madras, it is, if anything, commoner than A. tristis."

And Mr. J. Davidson, writing from Mysore, also confirms Jerdon's statement; he says: "T. pagodarum breeds here in holes in the roofs of houses as well as in trees."

Of the breeding of this Myna in Ceylon, Colonel Legge says: "In the northern part of Ceylon this Myna breeds in July and August, and nests, I am informed, in the holes of trees."

Mr. A. G. R. Theobald notes that "early in August I found a nest of T. pagodarum at Ahtoor, the hill-station of the Shevaroys. It was down in the inside of a partly hollow nut-tree log, attached to a scaffolding, about 2 1/2 feet down and, say, 35 feet from the ground, and was composed of dry leaves and a few feathers. It contained three fresh eggs."

The eggs of this Myna are, of course, glossy and spotless, and the colour varies from very pale bluish white to pale blue or greenish blue. I have never seen an egg of this species of the full clear sky-blue often exhibited by those of A. tristis, S. contra, and A. giuginianus.

The eggs vary in length from 086 to 115, and in breadth from 066 to 08; but the average of fifty-four eggs is 097 by 075.

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