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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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552. Aethiopsar fuscus (Wagl.). Jungle Myna

Acridotheres fuscus (Wagl.) Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 327; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 686.

The Jungle Myna eschews the open cultivated plains of Upper, Central, and Western India. It breeds throughout the Himalayas, at any elevations up to 7000 feet, where the hills are not bare, and in some places in the sub-Himalayan jungles. It breeds in the plains country of Lower Bengal, and in both plains and hills of Assam, Cachar, and Burma, and also in great numbers in the Nilgiris and all the wooded ranges and hilly country of the Peninsula. The breeding-season lasts from March to July, but the majority lay everywhere, I think, in April, except in the extreme north-west, where they are later.

Normally, they build in holes of trees, and are more or less social in their nidification. As a rule, if you find one nest you will find a dozen within a radius of 100 yards, and not unfrequently within one of ten yards. But, besides trees, they readily build in holes in temples and old ruins, in any large stone wall, in the thatch of old houses, and even in their chimneys.

The nest is a mere lining for the hole they select, and varies in size and shape with this latter; fine twigs, dry grass, and feathers are the materials most commonly used, the feathers being chiefly gathered together to form a bed for the eggs; but moss, moss and fern roots, flocks of wool, lichen, and down may often be found in greater or less quantities intermingled with the grass and straw which forms the main body, or with the feathers that constitute the lining, of the nest. I have never found more than five eggs, but Miss Cockburn says that they sometimes lay six.

From Murree, Colonel C. H. T. Marshall writes: "This Myna, which takes the place of A. tristis in the higher hills, breeds always in holes in trees. We found five or six nests in June and early in July."

They breed near Solan, below Kasauli, and close to Jerripani, Captain Hutton's place below Mussoorie, in both which localities I have taken their nests myself.

Captain Hutton remarks: "This is a summer visitant in the hills, and is common at Mussoorie during that season; but it does not appear to visit Shimla, although it is to be found in some of the valleys below it to the south. It breeds at Mussoorie in May and June, selecting holes in the forest trees, generally large oaks, which it lines with dry grass and feathers. The eggs are from three to five, of a pale greenish blue, shape ordinary, but somewhat inclined to taper to the smaller end. This species usually arrives from the valleys of the Doon about the middle of March; and, until they begin to sit on their eggs, they congregate every morning and evening into small flocks, and roost together in trees near houses; in the morning they separate for the day into pairs, and proceed with the building of nests or laying of eggs. After the young are hatched and well able to fly, all betake themselves to the Doon in July."

In Kumaon I found them breeding near the Ramgarh Ironworks, and, writing from Nainital, Colonel G. F. L. Marshall says that they "breed very commonly at Bheem Tal (4000 feet), but I have not noticed them at Nainital. I took a great many eggs; they were all laid in holes in rotten trees at a height of 2 to 8 feet from the ground; they average much smaller than the eggs of A. tristis, but are similar in color."

Writing from Nepal, Dr. Scully says: "This species is common and a permanent resident in the Valley of Nepal, but does not occur in such great numbers as A. tristis. It is also found in tolerable abundance in the Nawakot district and the Hetoura Dun in winter. It breeds in the Valley in May and June, laying in holes in trees or walls; the eggs are very like those of A. tristis, but smaller - not so broad. I noticed on two or three occasions an albino of this species, which was greatly persecuted by the Crows."

Mr. G. Vidal remarks of this bird in the South Konkan: "Exceedingly common. Breeds in May. The irides of all I have seen were pale slate-blue."

"In the Nilgiris," writes Mr. Wait, "the Jungle Myna's eggs may be found at any time from the end of February to the beginning of July. They nest in chimneys, hollow trees, holes in stone walls, etc., filling in the hole with hay, straw, moss, and twigs, and lining the cavity with feathers. They lay from three to five long, oval, greenish-blue eggs, a shade darker than those of the English Starling."

From Kotagherry Miss Cockburn tells us that "these Mynas breed in the months of March and April, and construct their nests (which consist of a few straws, sticks, and feathers put carelessly together) in the holes of trees and old thatched houses. They lay five or six eggs of a beautiful light blue, and are extremely careful of their young. The nests of these birds are so common in the months above mentioned that herd-boys have brought me more than fifty eggs at a time.

"About a year ago a pair took up their abode in my pigeon-cot, and although the eggs were often destroyed they would not leave the place, but continued to lay in the same nest. At last one of them was caught; the other went away, but returned the next day accompanied by a new mate. At length the hole was shut up, as they committed great depredations in the garden, and were useful only in giving a sudden sharp cry of alarm when the Mhorunghee Hawk-Eagle, a terrible enemy to Pigeons, made its appearance, thus enabling the gardeners to balk him of his intended victim."

Dr. Jerdon states that "it is most abundant on the Nilgiris, where it is a permanent resident, breeding in holes in trees, making a large nest of moss and feathers, and laying three to five eggs of a pale greenish-blue colour."

Mr. C. J. W. Taylor informs us that at Manzeerabad, in Mysore, this Myna is common everywhere, and breeds in April and May.

Captain Horace Terry notes that in the Pulney hills the Jungle Myna nests in April.

Mr. Rhodes W. Morgan, writing from South India, says in 'The Ibis': "It breeds on the Nilgiris in holes of trees. The hole is filled up with sticks to within about a foot of the entrance, and a smooth lining of paper, rags, feathers, etc. laid down, on which are deposited from two to six light blue eggs. The young are fed on small frogs, grasshoppers, and fruit. An egg measured 12 inch by 88. Breeds in May."

At Dacca Colonel Tytler found them nesting in temples and houses about the sepoy lines.

Mr. J. R. Cripps tells us that at Furreedpore, in Bengal, this species is "pretty common, and a permanent resident. This species associates with A. tristis, but is seen on trees away from villages, which the latter never is. Prefers well-wooded country, whereas A. tristis never goes into jungle. On the 29th of June, 1877, I found a nest in a hole of a tree, about 12 feet off the ground. The diameter of the entrance-hole was two and a half inches, and inside it widened to six inches and about twenty inches in depth. The nest was a mere pad of grass and feathers, and contained four very slightly incubated eggs. And again on the 17th July, seeing the hole occupied, I again sent up a boy, who found another four fresh eggs. The tree formed one of an avenue leading from the house to the vats, and as men were always going along the road it surprised me to find these birds laying there; the hole had been caused by the heart of the tree rotting,"

Mr. Gates remarks of this Myna in Pegu: "This bird does not appear to lay till about the 15th April. I have taken the eggs, and I have seen numerous nests with young ones of various ages in the middle of May. They breed by preference in holes of trees and occasionally in the high roofs of monastic buildings."

The eggs of this species, which I have from Mussoorie, Dacca, Kumaon, and the Nilgiris, approximate closer to those of Acridotheres tristis than to those of A. ginginianus. They are rather long ovals, somewhat pointed usually, but often pyriform. They are perhaps, as a rule, somewhat paler than those of either of the above-named species, and are of the usual spotless glossy type, varying in colour from that of skimmed milk to pale blue or greenish, blue. Typically, I think, they are proportionally more elongated and attenuated than those either of A. tristis, A. ginginianus or S. contra.

In length they vary from 103 to 131, and in breadth from 078 to 09; but the average of forty eggs is 119 by 083.


555. Sturnopastor contra (Linn.). Pied Myna

Sturnopastor contra (Linn.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 323; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 683.

The Pied Pastor, or Myna, breeds throughout the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, Bengal, the eastern portions of the Punjab and Rajpootana (it does not extend to the western portions nor to Sindh), the Central Provinces, and Central India.

The breeding-season lasts from May to August, but the majority of the birds lay in June and July. It builds in trees, at heights of from 10 to 30 feet, usually towards the extremities of lateral branches, constructing a huge clumsy nest of straw, grass, twigs, roots, and rags, with a deep cavity lined as a rule with quantities of feathers. Occasionally, but very rarely, it places its nest in some huge hole in a great arm of a mango-tree. I have seen many hundreds of their nests, but only two thus situated.

As a rule these birds do not build in society, but at times, especially in Lower Bengal, I have seen a dozen of their nests on a single tree. The nest is usually a shapeless mass of rubbish loosely put together, rough and ragged.

A note I recorded on one taken at Bareilly will illustrate sufficiently the kind of thing:

"At the extremity of one of the branches of these same mango-trees, a small truss of hay, as it seemed, at once caught every eye. This was one of the huge nests of the Pied Pastor, and proved to be some 2 feet in length and 18 inches in diameter, composed chiefly of dry grass, but with a few twigs, many feathers, and a strip or two of rags intermingled in the mass. The materials were loosely put together, and the nest was placed high up in a fork near the extremity of a branch. In the centre was a well-like cavity some 9 inches deep by 3 inches in diameter, at the bottom of which, amongst many feathers, lay four fresh eggs."

Five is the full complement of eggs, but they very often lay only four, and once in a hundred times six are met with.

From Hansi (now in Haryana), Mr. W. Blewitt writes that he "found numerous nests during May and June. They were all placed all Kikar-trees, at heights of from 10 to 15 feet from the ground, the trees for the most part being situated on the banks of a canal or in the Dhana Beerh, a sort of jungle preserve.

"The nests were densely built of Kikar and zizyphus twigs, and thickly lined with rags, leaves, and straw. Five was the greatest number of eggs that I found in any one nest."

Writing of his experience in the Delhi and Jhansi Divisions, Mr. F. R. Blewitt remarks that "the Pied Pastor breeds from June to August, making its nests between the outer branchlets of the larger lateral branches of trees, without special choice for any one kind. The nest is altogether roughly made, though some ingenuity is evinced in putting all the material of which it is composed together. Twigs, grasses, rags, feathers, &c. are all brought into requisition to form the large-made structure, which I have found, though less commonly, at a higher altitude from the ground than the 8 or 10 feet Jerdon speaks of."

Major C. T. Bingham writes: "Breeds in Allahabad in June, July, and August; and at Delhi in May, June, and July. The nest is a large shapeless mass of straw, feathers, and rags, having a deep cavity for the eggs, which are generally five in number. The nest is almost always placed at the extreme tip of some slender branch, and there is no attempt at concealment."

Mr. J. E. Cripps tells us that at Furreedpore, in Bengal, this Myna is "very common, and a permanent resident. They eat fruit as well as insects. Lay in May and June, building their huge nests at various heights from the ground, and in any tree that comes in handy. I have generally found the nests lined with the white feathers of the paddy-birds; some of the feathers being as much as six and seven inches in length. The nests were composed principally of doob-grass; three to four eggs in each nest."

From Cachar Mr. J. Inglis writes: "The Pied Pastor is very common all the year. It breeds during March, April, May, and June, making its nest on any sort of tree about 15 feet or more from the ground; about 100 nests may often be seen together. It prefers nesting on trees on the open fields. I do not know the number of its eggs."

The eggs are typically moderately broad ovals, a good deal pointed towards one end, but pyriform and elongated examples occur; in fact, a great number of the eggs are more or less pear-shaped. Like those of all the members of this subfamily, the eggs are blue, spotless, and commonly brilliantly glossy. In shade they vary from a delicate bluish white to a pure, though somewhat pale, sky-blue, and not uncommonly are more or less tinged with green. They vary in length from 095 to 125, and in breadth from 075 to 09; but the average of one hundred eggs is 111 by 082 nearly.


556. Sturnopastor superciliaris, Blyth. Burmese Pied Myna

Sturnopastor superciliaris, (Blyth), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 683 bis.

Of the Burmese Pied Pastor, or Myna, Mr. Eugene Oates says that it is common and resident throughout the plains of Pegu. Writing from Wau he says:

"On the 28th of April, having a spare morning, I took a very large number of nests and eggs. The eggs were in various stages of incubation, but the majority were freshly laid. On May 7th I took another nest with two eggs. These were quite fresh.

"The nest is a huge cylindrical structure, about 18 inches long and a foot in diameter, composed of straw, leaves, and feathers. It is placed at a height of from 10 to 25 feet from the ground, in a most conspicuous situation, generally at the end of a branch, which has been broken off and where a few leaves are struggling to come out. A bamboo-bush is also a favorite site. This Myna will, by preference, build near houses, but in no case in a house; it must have a tree."

The eggs, which I owe to Mr. Oates, are, as might be expected, very similar indeed to those of our Common Pied Pastor, but they seem to average somewhat smaller. They are moderately broad ovals, a good deal pointed towards one end, and in some cases more or less compressed there, and slightly pyriform.

The specimens sent are only moderately glossy. In colour they vary from very pale bluish green to a moderately dark greenish blue, but the great majority are pale. In length they vary from 10 to 11, and in breadth from 073 to 082; but the average of fifteen eggs is 104 by 077.
 

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