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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 4c

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

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18. Dendrocitta himalayensis, Bl. Himalayan Tree-pie

Dendrocitta sinensis (Latham) Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 316.
Dendrocitta himalayensis, (Blyth), Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 676.

Common as is the Himalayan Tree-pie throughout the lower ranges of those mountains from which it derives its name, I personally have never taken a nest. It breeds, I know, at elevations of from 2000 to 6000 feet, during the latter half of May, June, July, and probably the first half of August.

A nest in my museum taken by Mr. Gammie in Sikkim, at an elevation of about 2500 feet, out of a small tree, on the 30th of July, contained two fresh eggs. It was a very shallow cup, composed entirely of fine stems, apparently of some kind of creeper, strongly but not at all compactly interwoven; in fact, though the nest holds together firmly, you can see through it everywhere. It is about 6 inches in external diameter, and has an egg-cavity of about 4 inches wide and 15 deep. It has no pretence for lining of any kind.

Of another nest which he took Mr. Gammie says: "I found a nest containing three fresh eggs in a bush, at a height of about 10 feet from the ground. The nest was a very loose, shallow, saucer-like affair, some 6 or 7 inches in diameter and an inch or so in thickness, composed entirely of the dry stems and tendrils of creepers. This was at Labdah, in Sikkim, at an elevation of about 3000 feet, and the date the 14th May, 1873." Later he writes:

"This Magpie breeds in the Darjeeling district in May, June, and July, most commonly at elevations between 2000 and 4000 feet. It affects clear cultivated tracts interspersed with a few standing shrubs and bamboos, in which it builds. The nest is generally placed from 6 to 12 feet from the ground in the inner part of the shrubs, and is made of pieces of creeper stems intermixed with a few small twigs loosely put together without any lining. There is scarcely any cup, merely a depression towards the centre for the eggs to rest in. Internally it measures about 48 in breadth by 15 in depth. The eggs are three or four in number.

"This is a very common and abundant bird between 2000 and 4000 feet, but is rarely found far from cultivated fields. It seems to be exceedingly fond of chestnuts, and, in autumn, when they are ripe, lives almost entirely on them; but at other times is a great pest in the grain-fields, devouring large quantities of the grain and being held in detestation by the natives in consequence. Jerdon says 'it usually feeds on trees,' but I have seen it quite as frequently feeding on the ground as on trees."

Mr. Hodgson has two notes on the nidification of this species in Nepal: "May 18th: Nest, two eggs and two young; nest on the fork of a small tree, saucer-shaped, made of slender twigs twisted circularly and without lining; cavity 35 in diameter by 05 deep; eggs yellowish, white, blotched with pale olive chiefly at the larger end; young just born.

"Jaha Powah, 6th June: Female and nest in forest on a largish tree placed on the fork of a branch; a mere bunch of sticks like a Crow's nest; three eggs, short and thick, fawny white blotched with fawn-brown chiefly at the thick end."

Dr. Jerdon says: "I have had the nest and eggs brought me at Darjeeling frequently. The nest is made of sticks and roots, and the eggs, three or four in number, are of a pale dull greenish-fawn colour, with a few pale reddish-brown spots and blotches, sometimes very indistinct."

Captain Hutton tells us that this species "occurs abundantly at Mussoorie, at about 5000 feet elevation, during summer, and more sparingly at greater elevations. In the winter it leaves the mountains for the Doon.

"It breeds in May, on the 27th of which month I took a nest with three eggs and another with three young ones. The nest is like that of Urocissa occipitalis, being composed externally of twigs and lined with finer materials, according to the situation; one nest, taken in a deep glen by the side of a stream, was lined with the long fibrous leaves of the Mare's tail (Equisetum) which grew abundantly by the water's edge; another, taken much higher on the hillside and away from the water, was lined with tendrils and fine roots. The nest is placed rather low, generally about 8 or 10 feet from the ground, sometimes at the extremity of a horizontal branch, sometimes in the forks of young bushy oaks. The eggs somewhat resemble those of U. occipitalis, but are paler and less spotted, being of a dull greenish ash with brown blotches and spots, somewhat thickly clustered at the larger end."

Mr. J. R. Cripps says: "On the 15th June, 1880, I found a nest [in the Dibrugarh district] with three fresh eggs. It was fixed in the middle branches of a sapling, about ten feet off the ground, in dense forest, and was built of twigs, presenting a fragile appearance; the egg-cavity was 4 inches [in diameter] and 1 inch deep, and lined with fine twigs and grass-roots."

Captain Wardlaw Ramsay writes: "I obtained two eggs of this species at an elevation of 4200 feet in the Karen hills east of Toungngoo on the 16th April, 1875."

Taking the eggs as a body they are rather regular, somewhat elongated ovals, but broader and again more pointed varieties occur. The ground-colour varies a great deal: in a few it is nearly pure white, generally it has a dull greenish or yellowish-brown tinge, in some it is creamy, in some it has a decided pinky tinge. The markings are large irregular blotches and streaks, almost always most dense at the large end, where they are often more or less confluent, forming an irregular mottled cap, and not unfrequently very thinly set over the rest of the surface of the egg. In one egg, however, the zone is about the thick end, and there are scarcely any markings elsewhere. As a rule the markings are of an olive-brown of one shade or another; but when the ground is at all pinkish then the markings are more or less of a reddish brown. Besides these primary markings, all the eggs exhibit a greater or smaller number of faint lilac or purple spots or blotches, which chiefly occur where the other markings are most dense. In length they vary from 106 to 122, and in breadth from 08 to 10, but the average of 34 eggs is 114 by 085.


21. Crypsirhina varians (Latham). Black Racket-tailed Magpie

Crypsirhina varians (Latham), Hume, Cat. no. 678 quat.

This Magpie is very common in Lower Pegu, where Mr. Oates found many nests. He says:

"This bird appears to lay from the 1st of June to the 15th of July; most of my nests were taken in the latter month. It selects either one of the outer branches of a very leafy thorny bush, or perhaps more commonly a branch of a bamboo, at heights varying from 5 to 20 feet.

"The nest is composed of fine dead twigs firmly woven together. The interior is lined with twisted tendrils of convolvulus and other creepers. The uniformity with which this latter material is used in all nests is remarkable. The inside diameter is 5 inches, and the depth only 1, thus making the structure very flat. The exterior dimensions are not so definite, for the twigs and creepers stick out in all directions; but making all allowances, the outside diameter may be put down at 7 or 8 inches, and the total depth at 1 inches.

The eggs are usually three in number, but occasionally only two well incubated eggs may be found. In a nest from which two fresh eggs had been taken, a third was found a few days later. The eggs measure from 109 to 88 in length, and from 76 to 68 in breadth. The average of 22 eggs is 98 by 72."

In shape the eggs are typically moderately broad, rather regular ovals, but some are distinctly compressed towards the small end, some are slightly pyriform, some even pointed, though in the great majority of cases the egg is pretty obtuse at the small end; the shell is compact and tolerably fine, and has a faint gloss. The ground-colour seems to be invariably a pale yellowish stone-colour. The markings vary a good deal: in some they are more speckly, in others more streaky, but taking them as a whole they are intermediate between those of Dendrocitta and those of Garrulus, neither so bold and streaky as the former, nor so speckly as the latter. The markings are a yellowish olive-brown; they consist of spots, specks, small streaky blotches and frecklings; they are always pretty densely set over the whole surface of the egg, but they are always most dense in a zone or sometimes a cap at the large end, where they are often, to a great extent, confluent. In some eggs small dingy brownish-purple spots and little blotches are intermingled in the zone. The eggs differ in general appearance a good deal, because in some almost all the markings are fine grained and freckly, and in such eggs but little of the ground-colour is visible, while in other eggs the markings are bolder (in comparison, for they are never really bold) and thinner set, and leave a good deal of the ground-colour visible.
 

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