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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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546. Graculipica nigricollis (Payk.). Black-necked Myna

All that we know of the nidification of this species is contained in the following brief note by Dr. John Anderson:

"It has much the same habits as Sturnopastor contra var. superciliaris. I found it breeding in the month of May in one of the few clumps of trees at Muangla."

Muangla lies to the east of Bhamo.

549. Acridotheres tristis (Linn.). Common Myna

Acridotheres tristis (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 325; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 684.

The Common Myna breeds throughout the Indian Empire, alike in the plains and in the hills. A pair breed yearly in the roof of my verandah at Shimla, at an elevation of 7800 feet. They are very domestic birds, and greatly affect the habitations of man and their immediate neighborhood. They build in roofs of houses, holes in walls, trees, and even old wells, in the earthen chatties that in some parts the natives hang out for their use and, though very rarely, once in a way on the branches of trees.

Captain Hutton says: "This is a summer visitor in the hills, and arrives at Mussoorie with the A. fuscus, (Wagl). It builds in the hole of a tree, which is lined with dry grass and feathers, and on no occasion have I ever seen a nest made on the branches of a tree composed of twigs and grass as stated by Captain Tickell."

But in this instance Captain Tickell may have been right, for I have once seen such a nest myself, and Mr. H. M. Adam writes: "Near Sambhur, on the 7th July, I saw a pair of this species building a large cup-shaped nest in a babul tree;" while Colonel G. F. L. Marshall affirms that this species "frequently lays in cup-shaped nests of sticks placed in trees, like small Crows' nests." And he subsequently writes: "I can distinctly reaffirm, what I said as to this species building a nest in the fork of a tree. In the compound of Kalunder gari choki, in the Bolundshahr district, I found no less than five of these nests on one day; the compound is densely planted with Sheesham trees, which were there about twenty feet high, and the nests were near the tops of these trees. I found several other similar nests on the canal-bank, one with young on the 11th September."

Also writing in this connection from Allahabad, Major C. T. Bingham says:

"Twice I have found the nest of this bird in trees, but it generally builds in holes, both in trees and walls, and commonly in the thatch of houses. Once I got a couple of eggs from a nest made amidst a thick-growing creeper."

Neglecting exceptional cases like these, the nest is a shapeless but warm lining to the hole, composed chiefly of straw and feathers, but in which fine twigs, bits of cotton, strips of rags, bits of old rope, and all kinds of odds and ends may at times be found incorporated.

The normal breeding-season lasts from June to August, during which period they rear two broods; but in Ross Island (Andamans), where they were introduced some years ago, they seem to breed all-through the year. Captain Wimberley, who sent me some of their eggs thence, remarks: "The bird is now very common here. As soon as it has cleared out one young brood, it commences building and laying again. This continues all the year round."

I think this great prolificness may be connected with the uniformly warm temperature of these islands and the great heat of the sun there all through the year rendering much incubation unnecessary. Even in the plains of Northern India in the hot weather when they breed these birds do not sit close, and since at the Andamans the weather is such all the year round that the eggs almost hatch themselves this may be partly the reason why these birds have so many more broods there than with us, where, for at least half the year, constant incubation would be necessary. I particularly noticed when at Bareilly how very little trouble these Mynas sometimes took in hatching their eggs, and I may quote what I then recorded about the matter:

"In a nest in the wall of our verandah we found four young ones. This was particularly noteworthy, because from my study-window the pair had been watched for the last month, first courting, then flitting in and out of the hole with straws and feathers, ever and anon clinging to the mouth of the aperture, and laboriously dislodging some projecting point of mortar; then marching up and down on the ground, the male screeching out his harsh love-song, bowing and swelling out his throat all the while, and then rushing after and soundly thrashing any chance Crow (four times his weight at least) that inadvertently passed too near him; never during the whole time had either bird been long absent, and both had been seen together daily at all hours. I made certain that they had not even begun to sit, and behold there were four fine young ones a full week old chirping in the nest! Clearly these birds are not close sitters down here; but I well remember a pair at Mussoorie, some 6000 feet above the level of the sea, the most exemplary parents, one or other being on the eggs at all hours of the day and night. The morning's sun beats full upon the wall in the inner side of which the entrance to the nest is; the nest itself is within 4 inches of the exterior surface; at 11 o'clock the thermometer gave 98 F as its temperature. I have often observed in the river Terns (Seena aurantia, Rhynchops albicollis, Sterna javanica) and Pratincoles (Glareola lactea) who lay their eggs in the bare white glittering river-sands, that so long as the sun is high and the sand hot they rarely sit upon their eggs, though one or other of the parents constantly remains beside or hovering near and over them, but in the early morning, in somewhat cold and cloudy days, and as the night draws on, they are all close sitters. I suspect that instinct teaches the birds that, when the natural temperature of the nest reaches a certain point, any addition of their body-heat is unnecessary, and this may explain why during the hot days (when we alone noticed them), in this very hot hole, the parent Mynas spent so little of their time in the nest whilst the process of hatching was going on."

They lay indifferently four or five eggs. I have just as often found the former as the latter number, but I have never yet met with more.

From Lucknow Mr. G. Reid tells us: "Generally speaking the Common Myna, like the Crow (Corvus splendens) commences to breed with the first fall of rain in June - early or late as the case may be - and has done breeding by the middle of September. It nests indiscriminately in old ruins, verandahs, walls of houses, etc., but preferentially, I think, in holes of trees, laying generally four, but sometimes five eggs."

Colonel E. A. Butler writes: "In Karachi Mynas begin to lay at the end of April. The Common Myna breeds in the neighborhood of Deesa during the monsoon, principally in the months of July and August, at which season every pair seems to be engaged in nidification. I have taken nests containing fresh eggs during the first week of September; and birds that have had their first nests robbed or young destroyed probably lay even later still."

Lieut. H. E. Barnes informs us that this Myna breeds in Rajpootana during June and July.

Mr. Benjamin Aitken has furnished me with the following interesting note: "A pair of Mynas clung tenaciously for two years, from June 1863 to August 1865, to a hole in some matting in the upper verandah of a house in Bombay. During this period they hatched six broods, one of which I took and another was destroyed, by rats perhaps. I had a strong suspicion that more than one set of eggs were destroyed besides.

"The remarkable thing I wish to note is that every alternate brood of young contained an albino, pure white and with pink eyes; being three in all. Every time a new set of eggs was to be laid, a new nest was built on the top of the old one. I once tore down the whole pile, as it was infested with vermin, and found that seven nests had been made, one upon another, showing that the Mynas must have occupied the hole long before I noticed them. Each nest was complete in itself and well lined, and as Mynas are not sparing of their materials, the accumulated heap was nearly two feet deep. Every separate nest contained a piece of a snake's skin, and with reference to your remark on this point I may say that every Myna's nest that I have ever examined has had a piece of snake-skin in it. This may, I think, be simply accounted for by the fact of snake-skin lying about plentifully in those places where Mynas mostly pick up their building-materials. The breeding-season extends into September in Bombay; and though it usually begins in June, I found a nest of half-fledged young at Khandalla on the 31st May, 1871.

"With reference to your remarks in 'Nests and Eggs,' that you have never met with more than five eggs in a nest, I would mention that I took six eggs from a nest in the roof of a house I occupied at Akola, on the 20th June, 1870.

"At the same station in August 1869 a nest of young Mynas was reared above the hinge of the semaphore signal at the railway-station. One or other arm of the signal must have risen and fallen every time a train passed, but the motion neither alarmed the birds nor disarranged the nest."

Messrs. Davidson and Wenden remark of this Myna in the Deccan: "Common, and breeds in May and June."

Mr. J. Inglis, writing from Cachar, says: "The commonest of all birds here. Breeds throughout the summer months. It makes its nest generally in the roofs of houses or in holes in trees. It lays about five eggs of a very pale blue colour."

Finally, Mr. Oates writes from Pegu: "Commences making nest about 15th March. I have taken eggs as late as 17th July, but in this case the previous brood had been destroyed. Normally no eggs are to be found after June."

The eggs, which are larger than those of either Sturnopastor contra or A. ginginianus, in other respects resemble these eggs greatly, but when fresh are, I think, on the whole of a slightly darker colour. They are rather long, oval, often pear-shaped, eggs, spotless and brilliantly glossy, varying from very pale blue to pure sky- or greenish blue.

In length they vary from 105 to 128, and in breadth from 08 to 095; but the average of ninety-seven eggs is 119 by 086.

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