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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 4a

Order PASSERES     Family CORVIDAE     Subfamily CORVINAE     (continued...)

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13. Urocissa flavirostris (Blyth). Yellow-billed Blue Magpie

Urocissa flavirostris (Blyth), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 310; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 672.

The Yellow-billed Blue Magpie breeds throughout the lower ranges of the Himalayas in well-wooded localities from Hazara to Bhutan, and very likely further east still, from April to August, mostly however, I think, laying in May. The nest, which is rather coarse and large, made of sticks and lined with fine grass or grass-roots, is, so far as my experience goes, commonly placed in a fork near the top of some moderate-sized but densely foliaged tree. I have never found a nest at a lower elevation than about 5000 feet; as a rule they are a good deal higher up. They lay from four to six eggs, but the usual number is five.

Colonel C. H. T. Marshall writes: "The Yellow-billed Blue Magpie breeds commonly about Murree. I have never seen the bird below 6000 feet in the breeding-season. They do not commence laying till May, and I have taken eggs nearly fresh as late as the 15th August. I do not think the bird breeds twice, as the earliest eggs taken were found on the 10th May.

"They build in hill oaks as a rule, the height of the nest from the ground varying much, some being as low as 10 feet, others nearer 30 feet. The hen bird sits close, and sometimes (when the nest is high up) does not even leave the nest when the tree is struck below. The nest is a rough structure built close to the trunk, externally consisting of twigs and roots and lined with fibres. The egg-cavity is circular and shallow, not at all neatly lined. The outer part of the nest is large compared to what I should call the true nest, and consists of a heap of twigs, etc. like what is gathered together for the platform of a Crow's nest.

"The eggs, which are four in number, vary in length from 145 to 125, and in breadth from 09 to 075. The ordinary type is an egg a good deal pointed at the thinner end. The ground-colour is greenish white, blotched and freckled with ruddy brown, with a ring at the larger end of confluent spots. The young birds are of a very dull colour until after the first month. The normal number of eggs laid appears to be four."

Captain Cock wrote to me: "U. flavirostris is common at Dharamshala, but the nest is rather difficult to find. I have only taken six in three years. It is usually placed amongst the branches of the hill oak, where it has been polled, and the thickly growing shoots afford a good cover; but sometimes it is on the top of a small slender sapling. The nest is a good-sized structure of sticks with a rather deep cup lined with dried roots; in fact, it is very much like the nest of Garrulus lanceolatus, only larger and much deeper. They generally lay four eggs, which differ much in colour and markings."

Dr. Jerdon says: "I had the nest and eggs brought me once. The nest was made of sticks and roots. The eggs, three in number, were of a greenish-fawn colour very faintly blotched with brown."

The eggs are of the ordinary Indian Magpie type, scarcely, if at all, smaller than those of U. occipitalis, and larger than the average of eggs of either Dendrocitta rufa or D. himalayensis. Doubtless all kinds of varieties occur, as the eggs of this family are very variable; but I have only seen two types - in the one the ground is a pale dingy yellowish stone-colour, profusely streaked, blotched, and mottled with a somewhat pale brown, more or less olivaceous in some eggs, the markings even in this type being generally densest towards the large end, where they form an irregular mottled cap: in the other type the ground is a very pale greenish-drab colour; there is a dense confluent raw-sienna-colored zone round the large end, and only a few spots and specks of the same colour scattered about the rest of the egg. All kinds of intermediate varieties occur. The texture of the shell is fine and compact, and the eggs are mostly more or less glossy.

The eggs vary from 122 to 148 in length, and from 08 to 096 in breadth; but the average of twenty-seven eggs is 13 by 092.

14. Cissa chinensis (Bodd.). Green Magpie

Cissa sinensis (Briss.), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 312.
Cissa speciosa (Shaw), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 673.

According to Mr. Hodgson's notes the Green Magpie breeds in Nepal in the lower valleys and in the Terai from April to July. The nest is built in clumps of bamboos and is large and cup-shaped, composed of sticks and leaves, coated externally with bamboo-leaves and vegetable fibres, and lined inside with fine roots. It lays four eggs, one of which is figured as a broad oval, a good deal pointed towards one end, with a pale stone-colored ground freckled and mottled all over with sepia-brown, and measuring 127 by 089.

Mr. Oates writes: "In the Pegu Hills on the 19th April I found the nest of the Green Magpie, and shot the female off it.

"The nest was placed in a small tree, about 20 feet from the ground, in a nullah and well exposed to view. The nest was neatly built, exteriorly of leaves and coarse roots, and finished off interiorly with finer fibres and roots; depth about 2 inches; inside diameter 6 inches. Contained three eggs nearly hatched; all got broken; I have the fragments of one. The ground-colour is greenish white, much spotted and freckled with pale yellowish-brown spots and dashes, more so at the larger end than elsewhere."

Sundry fragments that reached me, kindly sent to me by Mr. Oates, had a dull white ground, very thickly freckled and mottled all over, as far as I could judge, with dull, pale, yellowish brown and purplish grey, the former preponderating greatly. As to size and shape, this deponent sayeth nought.

Major Bingham writes from Tenasserim: "On the 18th April I found a nest of this most lovely bird placed at a height of 5 feet from the ground in the fork of a bamboo-bush. It was a broad, massive, and rather shallow cup of twigs, roots, and bamboo-leaves outside, and lined with finer roots. It contained three eggs of a pale greenish stone-colour, thickly and very minutely speckled with brown, which tend to coalesce and form a cap at the larger end. I shot the female as she flew off the nest."

Major Bingham subsequently found another nest in Tenasserim, about which he says:

"Crossing the Wananatchoung, a little tributary of the Thoungyeen, by the highroad leading from Meeawuddy to the sources of the Thoungyeen, I found in a small thorny tree on the 8th April a nest of the above bird--a great, firmly-built but shallow saucer of twigs, 6 feet or so above the ground, and lined with fine black roots. It contained three fresh eggs of a dingy greyish white, thickly speckled chiefly at the large end, where it forms a cap, with light purplish brown. The eggs measure 125 x 089, 118 x 092, and 120 x 090."

Mr. James Inglis notes from Cachar: "This Jay is rather rare; it frequents low quiet jungle. In April last a Kuki brought me three young ones he had taken from a nest in a clump of tree-jungle; he said the nest was some 20 feet from the ground and made of bamboo-leaves and grass."

A nest of this species taken below Yendong in Native Sikkim, on the 28th April, contained four fresh eggs. It was placed on the branches of a medium-sized tree at a height of about 12 feet from the ground; it was a large oval saucer, 8 inches by 6, and about 25 in depth, composed mainly of dry bamboo-leaves, bound firmly together with fine stems of creepers, and was lined with moderately fine roots; the cavity was 5 inches by 4, and about 1 in depth.

The eggs received from Major Bingham, as also others received from Sikkim, where they were procured by Mr. Mandelli on the 21st and 28th of April, are rather broad ovals, somewhat pointed towards the small end. The shell is fine, but has only a little gloss. The ground-colour is white or slightly greyish white, and they are uniformly freckled all over with very pale yellowish and greyish brown. The frecklings are always somewhat densest at the large end, where in some eggs they form a dull brown cap or zone. In some eggs the markings are everywhere denser, in some sparser, so that some eggs look yellower or browner, and others paler.

The eggs are altogether of the Garruline type, not of that of the Dendrocitta or Urocissa type. I have eggs of G. lanceolatus, that but for being smaller precisely match some of the Cissa eggs. Jerdon is, I think, certainly wrong in placing Cissa between Urocissa and Dendrocitta, the eggs of which two last are of the same and quite a distinct type*.

*[I am responsible, and not Mr. Hume, for calling this bird a Magpie. Jerdon calls it a Jay, but places it among the Magpies, which is, I consider, its proper position, notwithstanding the colour of its eggs.--ED.]

The eggs vary from 115 to 126 in length, and from 09 to 095 in breadth, but the average of eight is 121 by 092.

15. Cissa ornata (Wagler). Ceylonese Magpie

Cissa ornata (Wagler), Hume, Cat. no. 673 bis.

Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon': "This bird breeds during the cool season. I found its nest in the Kandapolla jungles (Sri Lanka) in January; it was situated in a fork of the top branch of a tall sapling, about 45 feet in height, and was a tolerably bulky structure, externally made of small sticks, in the centre of which was a deep cup 5 inches in diameter by 2 in depth, made entirely of fine roots; there was but one egg in the nest, which unfortunately got broken in being lowered to the ground. It was ovate and slightly pyriform, of a faded bluish-green ground thickly spotted all over with very light umber-brown, over larger spots of bluish-grey. It measured 098 inch in diameter by about 13 in length."

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