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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 5a

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

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25. Garrulus leucotis, Hume. Burmese Jay

Garrulus leucotis, (Hume), Hume, Cat. no. 669 bis.

The nest of this Jay has not yet been found, but Capt. Bingham writes:

"Like Mr. Davison I have found this very handsome Jay affecting only the dry Dillenia and pine-forests so common in the Thoungyeen valley. I have seen it feeding on the ground in such places with Gecinus nigrigenys, Upupa longirostris, and other birds. I shot one specimen, a female, in April, near the Meplay river, that must have had a nest somewhere, which, however, I failed to find, for she had a full-formed but shell-less egg inside her."

26. Garrulus bispecularis, Vigors. Himalayan Jay

Garrulus bispecularis, (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 307; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 669.

The Himalayan Jay breeds pretty well throughout the lower ranges of the Himalayas. It is nowhere, that I have seen, numerically very abundant, but it is to be met with everywhere. It lays in March and April, and, though I have never taken the nest myself, I have now repeatedly had it sent me. It builds at moderate heights, rarely above 25 feet from the ground, in trees or thick shrubs, at elevations of from 3000 to 7000 feet. The nest is a moderate-sized one, 6 to 8 inches in external diameter, composed of fine twigs and grass, and lined with finer grass and roots. The nest is usually placed in a fork.

The eggs are four to six in number.

Mr. Hodgson notes that he "found a nest" of this species "on the 20th April, in the forest of Shewpoori, at an elevation of 7000 feet. The nest was placed in the midst of a large tree in a fork. The nest was very shallow, but regularly formed and compact. It was composed of long seeding grasses wound round and round, and lined with finer and more elastic grass-stems. The nest measured about 6 inches in diameter, but the cavity was only about half an inch deep."

Colonel C. H. T. Marshall remarks: "I only took one authenticated set of eggs of this species (I found several with young), as it is an early breeder - I say authenticated eggs, because I think we may have attributed some to Garrulus lanceolatus, as the nests and eggs are very similar, and having a large number of the eggs of the latter, I took some from my shikaree without verifying them.

"The nest I took on the 6th May, 1873, at Murree, was at an elevation, I should say, of between 6500 and 7000 feet (as it was near the top of the hill), in the forest. The tree selected was a horse-chestnut, about 25 feet high. The nest was near the top, which is the case with nearly all the Crows' and Magpies' nests that I have taken. It was of loose construction, made of twigs and fibres, and contained five partially incubated eggs.

"The eggs are similar to those of G. lanceolatus. I have carefully compared the five of the species which I am now describing with twenty of the other, and find that the following differences exist. The egg of G. bispecularis is more obtuse and broader, there is a brighter gloss on it, and the speckling is more marked; but with a large series of each I think the only perceptible difference would be its greater breadth, which makes the egg look larger than that of the Black-throated Jay. My four eggs measure 115 by 085 each.

"This species only breeds once in a year, and from my observations lays in April, all the young being hatched by the 15th May. Captain Cock and myself carefully hunted up all the forests round Murree, where the birds were constantly to be seen, commencing our work after the 10th May, and we found nothing but young ones."

Colonel G. F. L. Marshall writes: "I have found nests of this species for the first time this year; the first on the 22nd of May, by which time, as all recorded evidence shows it to be an early breeder, I had given up all hopes of getting eggs. The first nest contained two fresh eggs; it was on a horizontal limb of a large oak, at a bifurcation about eight feet from the trunk and about the same from the ground. The nest was more substantial than that of G. lanceolatus, much more moss having been used in the outer casing, but the lining was similar; it was a misshapen nest, and appeared, in the distance, like an old deserted one; the bird was sitting at the time; I took one egg, hoping more would be laid, but the other was deserted and destroyed by vermin. Another nest I found on the 2nd June; it contained three eggs just so much incubated that it is probable no more would be laid; this nest was much neater in construction and better concealed than the former one; it was in a rhododendron tree, in a bend about ten feet from the ground, between two branches upwards of a foot each in diameter, and covered with moss and dead fern; the tree grew out of a precipitous bank just below a road, and though the nest was on the level of the edge it was almost impossible to detect it; it was a very compact thick cup of roots covered with moss outside. The eggs were larger, more elongated, and much more richly colored than in the first nest. Both nests were at about 7000 feet elevation, and in both instances the bird sat very close."

The eggs of this species are, as might be expected, very similar to those of G. lanceolatus, but they are perhaps slightly larger, and the markings somewhat coarser. The eggs are rather broad ovals, a good deal pointed towards one end. The ground-colour is pale greenish white, and they are pretty finely freckled and speckled (most densely so towards the large end, where the markings are almost confluent) with dull, rather pale, olive-brown, amongst which a little speckling and clouding of pale greyish purple is observable. The eggs are decidedly smaller than those of the English Jay, and few of the specimens I have exhibit any of those black hair-like lines often noticeable in both the English Jay and G. lanceolatus. In length the eggs that I have measured varied from 11 to 121, and in breadth they only varied from 084 to 087.

27. Nucifraga hemispila, Vigors. Himalayan Nutcracker

Nucifraga hemispila, (Vigors), Jerdon B. Ind. ii, p. 304; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E. no. 666.

The Himalayan Nutcracker is very common in the fir-clad hills north of Shimla, where it particularly affects forests of the so-called pencil cedar, which is, I think, the Pinus excelsa. I have never been able to obtain the eggs, for they must lay in March or early in April; but I have found the nest near Fagu early in May with nearly full-fledged young ones, and my people have taken them with young in April below the Jalori Pass.

The tree where I found the nest is, or rather was (for the whole hill-slope has been denuded for potato cultivation), situated on a steeply sloping hill facing the south, at an elevation of about 6500 feet. The nest was about 50 feet from the ground, and placed on two side branches just where, about 6 inches apart, they shot out of the trunk. The nest was just like a Crow's - a broad platform of sticks, but rather more neatly built, and with a number of green juniper twigs with a little moss and a good deal of grey lichen intermingled. The nest was about 11 inches across and nearly 4 inches in external height. There was a broad, shallow, central depression 5 or 6 inches in diameter and perhaps 2 inches in depth, of which an inch was filled in with a profuse lining of grass and fir-needles (the long ones of Pinus longifolia) and a little moss. This was found on the 11th May, and the young, four in number, were sufficiently advanced to hop out to the ends of the bough and half-fly half-tumble into the neighboring trees, when my man with much difficulty got up to the nest.

29. Graculus eremita (Linn.). Red-billed Chough

Fregilus himalayanus, (Gould, Jerdon) B. I. ii, p. 319.

Mr. Mandelli obtained three eggs of this species from Chumbi in Tibet; they were taken on the 8th of May from a nest under the eaves of a high wooden house. Though larger than those of the European Chough, they resemble them so closely that there can be no doubt as to their authenticity.

In shape the eggs are moderately elongated ovals, very slightly compressed towards the small end. The shell is tolerably fine and has a slight gloss. The ground-colour is white with a faint creamy tinge, and the whole egg is profusely spotted and striated with a pale, somewhat yellowish brown and a very pale purplish grey. The markings are most dense at the large end, and there, too, the largest streaks of the grey occur.

One egg measures 174 by 12.

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