Part 11 out of 12
The eggs vary in length from 1.03 to 1.32, and from 0.75 to 0.87 in
breadth; but the average of fifty eggs measured was 1.11 by 0.81.
521. Oriolus melanocephalus(Linn.). _The Indian Black-headed
Oriolus melanocephalus, _Linn., Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 110;
_Hume, Rough Draft N. & E_ no. 472.
Oriolus ceylonensis, _Bonap., Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 111.
I have already noticed ('Stray Feathers,' vol. i, p. 439) how
impossible it is to draw any hard-and-fast line, in practice, between
this the so-called "Bengal Black-headed Oriole" and the supposed
distinct southern species, _O. ceylonensis_, Bp.
The present species certainly breeds in suitable (i.e. well-wooded
and not too bare or arid) localities throughout Northern and Central
India, Assam, and Burma, and I have specimens from Mahableshwar,
from the Nilgiris, and even Anjango, that are nearer to typical _O.
melanocephalus_ than to typical _O. ceylonensis_. Of its nidification
southwards I know nothing. I have only myself taken its eggs in the
neighbourhood of Calcutta.
It appears to lay from April to the end of August. The nest of this
species, though perhaps slightly deeper, is very much like that of _O.
kundoo_; it is a deep cup, carefully suspended between two twigs, and
is composed chiefly of tow-like vegetable fibres, thin slips of bark
and the like, and is internally lined with very fine tamarisk twigs or
fine grass, and is externally generally more or less covered over with
odds and ends, bits of lichen, thin flakes of bark, &c. It is slightly
smaller than the average run of the nests of _O. kundoo_. The
egg-cavity measures about 3 inches in diameter and nearly 2 inches in
depth. I myself have never found more than three eggs, but I daresay
that, like _O. kundoo_, it may not unfrequently lay four.
The late Captain Beavan writes:--"A nest with three eggs, brought to
me in Manbhoom on 5th April, 1865, is cup-shaped; interior diameter
3.5, depth inside 2 inches. It is composed outside of woolly fibres,
flax, and bits of dried leaves, and inside of bents and small dried
twigs, the whole compact and neat. The eggs are of a light pink ground
(almost flesh-coloured), with a few scattered spots of brownish pink,
darker and more numerous at the blunt end. They measure 1.125 by
From Raipoor, Mr. F.R. Blewitt remarks:--"_Oriolus melanocephalus_
indiscriminately selects the mango, mowah, or any other kind of large
tree for its nest, which is invariably firmly attached to the extreme
terminal twigs of an upper horizontal branch, varying from 20 to 35
feet from the ground. Owing to the position it selects for the safety
of its nest, it sometimes happens that the latter cannot be secured
without the destruction of the eggs. It nidificates in June and July,
and it would appear that both the birds, male and female, engage in
the construction of the nest. Three is the normal number of the eggs,
though on one occasion my shikaree found four in a nest."
Buchanan Hamilton tells us that this species "frequents the groves and
gardens of Bengal during the whole year, and builds a very rude nest
of bamboo-leaves and the fibres that invest the top of the cocoanut or
other palms. In March I found a nest with the young unfledged."
I confess that I believe this to be a mistake: neither season nor nest
correspond with what I have myself seen about Calcutta. The nests, so
far from being _rude_, are very neat.
Mr. J.R. Cripps writes from Furreedpore in Eastern Bengal:--"Very
common, and a permanent resident. On the 20th April I found a nest
containing two half-fledged young ones; in the garden was a clump of
mango-trees, and attached to one of the outer twigs, but overhung by
a lot of leaves, and about 12 feet from the ground, hung the nest, of
the usual type."
Mr. J. Davidson met with this Oriole on the Kondabhari Ghat in
Khandeish. On the 16th August he saw a brood, while on an adjoining
tree there was a nest with two slightly-set eggs. He says:--"It was a
very deep cup on the end of a thin branch, and though in cutting the
branch to get at the nest, it got turned at right angles to its proper
position, the eggs were uninjured. I do not think this nest belonged
to the same pair as that which had young ones flying.
"These Orioles are very common here, and I found three nests: one
was new and empty; from another the birds had just flown; while the
remaining one contained one fresh egg. The bird would no doubt have
laid more; but to get at the nest I had to cut the branch off, and it
was only then I discovered that only one egg had been laid."
Major C.T. Bingham says:--"Plentiful at Allahabad across the Ganges,
notwithstanding which I only found one nest, and that I have no note
about, but I remember it was some time in June, and contained four
half-fledged young ones; the materials of the nest were the same as
those used by _O. kundoo_."
Writing of his experience in Tenasserim he adds:--"On the 5th March I
found a nest of this bird in a small tree near the village of Hpamee.
It, however, contained three unfledged young, so I left it alone.
"On the 21st April I found a second nest suspended from the tip of a
bamboo that overhung the path from Shwaobah village to Hpamee. This
contained two awfully hard-set eggs, white, with a few dark purple
blotches and spots at the larger ends. Nest made of grass and dry
bamboo-leaves, lined with the dry midribs of leaves, and firmly bound
on to the fork of the bamboo with a strip of some bark."
Mr. Oates writes from Pegu:--"My nests of this Oriole have been found
in March, April, and May, but I have no doubt they also breed in June.
No details appear necessary."
Typically the eggs are somewhat elongated ovals, only slightly
compressed towards one end, but pyriform as well as more pointed
varieties may be met with. The shell is very fine and moderately
glossy. The ground-colour varies from a creamy or pinky white to a
decided but very pale salmon-colour. They are sparingly spotted and
streaked with dark brown and pale inky purple. In most eggs the
markings are more numerous towards the large end. Some have no
markings elsewhere. The dark spots, especially towards the large end,
are not unfrequently more or less enveloped in a reddish-pink nimbus.
Though much larger and much more glossy, some of the eggs, so far as
shape, colour, and markings go, exactly resemble some of the eggs of
_Dicrurus ater_. The eggs of _O. kundoo_ are typically excessively
glossy china-white, with few well-defined black spots. The eggs of
_O. melanocephalus_ are typically somewhat less glossy, with a pinky
ground and more numerous and less defined brownish-purple spots and
streaks. I have not yet seen one egg of either species that could be
mistaken for one of the other, although of course abnormal varieties
of each approach each other more closely than do the typical forms.
The dozen eggs that I possess of this species vary from 1.1 to 1.2 in
length, and from 0.78 to 0.87 in breadth, and the average is 1.14
by 0.82. Although the average is somewhat larger than that of the
preceding species, and although none of the eggs are quite _as_ small
as many of those of _O. kundoo_, still none are nearly so large as the
finest specimens of the latter's egg. Probably had I an equally large
series of the eggs of the present species, we should find that as
regards size there was no perceptible difference between the two.
522. Oriolus traillii (Vigors). _The Maroon Oriole_.
Oriolus traillii (_Vig._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 112; _Hume, cat._
From Sikhim Mr. Gammie writes:--"I took a nest of this Oriole on the
24th April, at an elevation of about 2500 feet. It was suspended,
within ten feet of the ground, from an outer fork of a branch of a
small leafy tree, which grew in a patch of low dense jangle. It is a
neat cup, composed of fibrous bark and strips of the outer part of dry
grass-stems, intermixed with skeletonized leaves and green moss, and
lined with fine grass. Besides being firmly bound by the rim of the
cup to the horizontal forking branches by fibrous barks, several
strings extended from one branch to the other, both under and in
front of the nest, while other strings from the body of the nest were
fastened to an upright twig that rose immediately behind the fork,
thus most securely retaining it in its position.
"Externally the nest measured 5 inches wide by 2.75 in height;
internally 3.25 wide by 2 deep. It contained three fresh eggs.
"The female came quite close, making loud complaints against the
robbing of her nest."
The nest is that of a typical Oriole, usually very firmly and
substantially built, and of course always suspended at a fork between
two twigs. A nest taken by Mr. Gammie in Sikhim on the 20th April, at
an elevation of about 2500 feet, is a deep substantial cup, nearly 4
inches in diameter and 21/2 in depth internally. It is everywhere nearly
an inch in thickness. The suspensory portion composed of vegetable
fibres; towards the exterior dead leaves, bamboo-sheaths, green
moss, and tendrils of creeping plants are profusely intermingled;
interiorly, it is closely and regularly lined with very fine grass.
A nest sent me by Mr. Mandelli was found on the 3rd April at Namtchu,
and contained three fresh eggs. It is precisely similar to the one
above described, except that in the lining roots are mingled with the
fine grass, and that instead of being suspended in a fork, it was
partly wedged into and partly rested on a fork.
As a rule, however, as I know from other nests subsequently obtained,
the nests are always suspended like those of the Common Oriole.
Two eggs of this species obtained by Mr. Gammie closely resemble those
of _O. melanocephalus_. In shape they are regular moderately elongated
ovals; the shell is strong, firm, and moderately glossy. The ground
is white with a creamy or brownish-pink tinge; the markings are
blackish-brown spots and specks, almost confined to a zone about the
large end, where they are all more or less enveloped in a brownish-red
haze or _nimbus_. In length they measure 1.12 by 0.82, and 1.14 by
523. Eulabes religiosa (Linn.). _Jerd. B. Southern Grackle_.
Eulabes religiosa (_Linn.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 337; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 692.
The Southern Grackle breeds in Southern India and Ceylon from March to
Mr. Frank Bourdillon, writing from Travancore, gives me the following
account of the eggs. He says:--"This bird, an abundant resident, lays
a blue egg pretty evenly marked with brown spots, some light and some
darkish, in a nest of straw and feathers in a hole of a tree generally
a considerable height from the ground.
"I have only taken one nest, which contained a single egg slightly
set, on 23rd March, 1873, the egg measuring 1.37 long and 0.87 broad."
Later Mr. Bourdillon says:--"Since writing the foregoing I took on
21st April two fresh eggs from the nest of a Southern Hill-Mynah
(_Eulabes religiosa_). The nest was of grass, feathers, and odds and
ends in a hole in a nanga (_Mesua coromandeliana_) stump, about 25
feet from the ground. The eggs of this Mynah are blue, with purplish
and more decided brown spots.
"I am _positive_ as to the identity of the egg. Both the eggs taken
last year and the two taken the other day were obtained under my
personal supervision. In both instances I watched the birds building,
and when we robbed the nests saw the female fly off them."
These two eggs sent me by Mr. Bourdillon are very beautiful. In shape
they are very gracefully elongated ovals; the shell is very fine and
smooth, but has only a rather faint gloss. The ground-colour is a
delicate pale sea-green or greenish blue, and the eggs are more or
less profusely spotted or splashed with purplish, or, in some spots,
chocolate-brown and a very pale purple, which looks more like the
stain that might be supposed to be left by one of the more decided
coloured markings that had been partially washed out than anything
The eggs measure 1.37 by 0.9 and 1.35 by 0.87.
Mr. J. Darling, junior, writes:--"The Southern Grackle breeds in the
S. Wynaad rather plentifully, and I have had numbers of tame ones
brought up from the nest, but have never succeeded in getting a
perfect egg owing to my having found all the nests in very hard places
to get at.
"I cut down a tree containing a nest and broke all the eggs, which
must have been very pretty--blue ground, very regularly marked
with purplish-brown spots. The nest was composed of sticks, twigs,
feathers, and some snake-skin. I have found them in March, April,
September, and October. I hope this year to get a number of eggs, as
Culputty is a very good place for them."
Mr. C J.W. Taylor notes from Manzeerabad in Mysore:--
"Common up in the wooded portions of the district. Breeding in April
Mr. T. Fulton Bourdillon, speaking of this Grackle in Travancore,
says:--"This bird lays one or two light blue eggs beautifully blotched
with purple in the holes of trees. It does not like heavy jungle,
but after a clearing has been felled and burnt it is sure to appear.
During the fine weather it is very abundant on the hills, descending
to the low country at the foot when the rains have fairly set in. The
nest scarcely deserves the name, being only a few dead leaves or some
powdered wood at the bottom of the hole, and there about the end of
March the egg or eggs are laid. The young birds, which can be taught
to speak and become very tame, are often taken by the natives, as they
can sell them in the low country. I have obtained on the following
dates eggs and young birds:--
"March 29th. One egg slightly set.
April 20th. Two young birds.
April 22nd. " "
April 25th. Two eggs slightly set.
May 2nd. One young bird.
"I also had three eggs, slightly set, brought me on May 21. They are
rather smaller and a deeper blue than the ones obtained before, being
1.25 x 1, 1.19 x .95, 1.21 x .97 inch. They were all out of the same
nest, so that the bird sometimes lays three eggs, though the usual
number is two."
Colonel Legge writes in the 'Birds of Ceylon':--"The Black Myna was
breeding in the Pasdun Korale on the occasion of a visit I made to
that part in August, but I did not procure its eggs."
Other eggs subsequently sent me by Mr. Bourdillon from Mynall, in
Southern Travancore, taken on the 9th and 13th April, 1875, are
precisely similar to those already described. The eggs that I have
measured have only varied from 1.22 to 1.37 in length, and from 0.86
to 0.9 in width.
524. Eulabes intermedia[A] (A. Hay). _The Indian Grackle_.
[Footnote A: Mr. Hume does not recognize _E. javanensis_ and _E.
intermedia_ as distinct. The following account refers to the
nidification of the latter, except perhaps Major Bingham's later note,
in which he states that he procured two distinct sizes of eggs in the
Meplay valley (Thoungyeen). It is very probable that Major Bingham
found the nests of both species on this occasion. I have seen no
specimen of _E. javanensis_ from the Thoungyeen valley, but at
Malewun, further south, it occurs along with _E. intermedia_.--ED.]
Eulabes intermedia (_A. Hay_), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 339.
Eulabes javanensis (_Osbeck_), _Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 693.
The Indian Grackle, under which name I include _E. andamanensis_,
Tytler, breeds, I know, in the Nepal Terai and in the Kumaon Bhabur;
and many are the young birds that I have seen extracted by the natives
out of holes, high up in large trees, in the old anti-mutiny days when
we used to go tiger-shooting in these grand jungles. I never saw the
eggs however, which, I think, must have all been hatched off in May,
when we used to be out.
"In the Andamans," writes Davison, "they breed in April and May,
building a nest of grass, dried leaves, &c. in holes of trees." He
also, however, never took the eggs.
Mr. J.R. Cripps tells us that this species is "common during March to
October in Dibrugarh, after which it retires to the hills which border
the east and south of the district. About the tea-gardens of Dibrugarh
there are always a number of dead trees standing, and in these the
Grackles nest, choosing those that are rotten, in which they excavate
a hole. I have seen numbers of nests, but as these were so high up and
the tree so long dead and rotten, no native would risk going up."
Mr. J. Inglis notes from Cachar:--"This Hill-Mynah is common in the
hilly district. It breeds in the holes of trees during April, May, and
Major C.T. Bingham writes from Tenasserim:--"I saw several nest-holes
of this bird, which was very common in the Reserve, but none of them
were accessible; and it wasn't till the 18th April that I chanced on
one in a low tree, the nest being in the hollow of a stump of a broken
branch. It was composed and loosely put together of grass, leaves, and
twigs, and contained three half-fledged young and one addled egg of
a light blue colour, spotted, chiefly at the large end with purplish
The eggs very similar to those of _E. religiosa_, but, what is very
surprising, it is very considerably _smaller_.
Of _E. religiosa_ the eggs vary from 1.2 to 1.37 in length, and from
0.86 to 0.9 in breadth, and the average of eight is 1.31 by 0.88.
This present egg only measures 1.12 by 0.8, and it must, I should
fancy, be abnormally small.
In shape it is an extremely regular oval. The ground is a pale
greenish blue, and it is spotted and blotched pretty thickly at the
large end (where all the larger markings are) and very thinly at the
smaller end with purple and two shades (a darker and lighter one) of
chocolate-brown, the latter colour much predominating. The shell is
very fine and close, but has but little gloss.
And later on Major Bingham again wrote:--"One of the commonest and
most widely spread birds in the province. The following is an account
of its nidification:--
"This bird lays two distinct sizes of eggs, all, however, of the same
type and coloration. Out of holes in neighbouring trees, on the
bank of the Meplay, on the 13th March, 1880, I took two nests, one
containing three, and the other two eggs. The first lot of eggs
measured respectively 1.15 x 0.77, 1.15 x 0.80, and 1.16 x 0.79 inch;
while those in the second nest 1.30 x 0.95, and 1.27 x 0.93 inch
respectively. All the eggs, however, are a pale blue, spotted chiefly
at the larger end with light chocolate. The nests were in natural
hollows in the trees, and lined with grass and leaves loosely put
The eggs apparently vary extraordinarily in size; they are generally
more or less elongated ovals, some slightly pyriform and slightly
obtuse at both ends, some rather pointed towards the small end. The
shell in all is very fine and compact and smooth, but some have
scarcely any appreciable gloss, while others have a really fine gloss.
The ground-colour is pretty uniform in all, a delicate pale greenish
blue. The markings are always chiefly confined to one end, usually the
broad end; even about the large end they are never very dense, and
elsewhere they are commonly very sparse or almost or altogether
wanting. In some eggs the markings are pretty large irregular blotches
mingled with small spots and specks, but in many eggs again the
largest spot does not exceed one twelfth of an inch in diameter. In
colour these markings are normally a chocolate, often with more or
less of a brown tinge, in some of the small spots so thickly laid on
as to be almost black, in many of the larger blotches becoming only a
pale reddish purple, or here and there a pale purplish grey. In some
eggs all the markings are pale and washed out, in others all are
sharply defined and intense in colour. Occasionally some of the
smaller spots become almost a yellowish brown.
526. Eulabes ptilogenys (Blyth). _The Ceylon Grackle_.
Eulabes ptilogenys (_Bl.), Hume, cat._ no. 693 bis.
Colonel Legge writes in his 'Birds of Ceylon':--"This species breeds
in June, July, and August, laying its eggs in a hole of a tree, or in
one which has been previously excavated by the Yellow-fronted Barbet
or Red Woodpecker. It often nests in the sugar- or kitool-palm, and in
one of these trees in the Peak forest I took its eggs in the month of
August. There was an absence of all nest or lining at the bottom of
the hole, the eggs, which were two in number, being deposited on the
bare wood. The female was sitting at the time, and was being brought
fruit and berries by the male bird. While the eggs were being taken
the birds flew round repeatedly, and settled on an adjacent tree,
keeping up a loud whistling. The eggs are obtuse-ended ovals, of
a pale greenish-blue ground-colour (one being much paler than the
other), sparingly spotted with large and small spots of lilac-grey,
and blotched over this with a few neutral-brown and sepia blots. They
measure from 1.3 to 1.32 inch in length by 0.96 to 0.99 in breadth."
527. Calornis chalybeius (Horsf.). _The Glossy Calornis_.
Calornis chalybaeus[A] (_Horsf.), Hume, cat._ no. 690 bis.
[Footnote A: Mr. Hume considers the Andaman _Calornis_ distinct from
the _Calornis_ inhabiting Cachar, Tenasserim, &c. I have united them
in the 'Birds of India.'--Ed.]
Of the Glossy Calornis Mr. Davison remarks that "it is a permanent
resident at the Nicobars, breeding in holes in trees and in the
decayed stumps of old cocoanut-palms, apparently from December to
March. At the Andamans it is much less numerous, and is only met with
in pairs or in small parties, frequenting the same situations as it
does in the Nicobars."
Mr. J. Inglis writes from Cachar:--"This Tree-Stare is rather rare. It
breeds about April in the holes of dead trees; when the young are able
to fly it departs. It again returns about the middle of February."
In Tenasserim this species was observed nesting by Mr. J. Darling,
junior, who says:--"22nd March. Noticed several pairs of _Calornis_,
with nests, in the big wooden bridge over the Kyouk-tyne Creek about
11/2 mile out of Tavoy, and also a great number of their nests in the
old wooden posts of an old bridge further down the Creek."
Mr. W. Davison, when in the Malay peninsula, took the eggs of this
bird. He remarks:--"I found a few pairs frequenting some areca-palms
at Laugat, and breeding in them, but only one nest contained eggs,
three in number. The nest was a loose structure almost globular, but
open at the top, composed externally of very coarse dry grass (lallung
or elephant-grass), and lined with green durian leaves cut into small
bits. The nest was too lightly put together to preserve. This nest and
several other empty ones were placed at the base of the leaves where
they meet the trunk.
"The three eggs obtained were slightly set, so that three is probably
the normal number laid.
"I noticed several other pairs breeding at the same time in holes of a
huge dead tree on Jugra Hill at Laugat, but I was unable to get at the
The eggs are quite of the _Eulabes_ type, moderately broad ovals, more
or less compressed towards the small end, occasionally pyriform. The
shell firm and strong, though fine, smooth to the touch in some cases,
with but little, but generally with a fair amount of gloss. The ground
is a very pale greenish blue. A number of fairly large spots and
blotches, intermingled with smaller specks and spots, are scattered
about the large end, often forming an imperfect irregular zone, and a
few similar specks and spots are scattered thinly about the central
portion of the egg, occasionally extending to the small end. The
colour of these spots varies; they are generally a brownish-reddish
purple and a paler greyer purple, but in some eggs the spots are so
thick in colour that they seem almost black. In some they are almost
purely reddish brown without any purplish tinge, and some again, lying
deep in the shell, are pale grey.
Six eggs measure from 0.92 to 1.1 in length, and from 0.71 to 0.76 in
breadth, but the average of six eggs is 1 by 0.74.
528. Pastor roseus (Linn.). _The Rose-coloured Starling_.
Pastor roseus (_Linn.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 333; _Hume, cat._ no.
The Rose-coloured Starling has not yet been discovered breeding in
India, but Mr. Doig has written the following note on the subject,
which is one of great interest. He writes from the Eastern Narra, in
"Though I have not as yet discovered the breeding-place of this bird,
I think it as well to put on record what little I have noticed, in the
hope that it may be of assistance in eventually finding out where it
goes to breed. I began watching the birds in the middle of April, and
every week shot one or two and dissected them, but did not perceive
any decisive signs of their breeding until the 10th May, when I shot
two males, both of which showed signs of being about to breed at an
early date. Again, on the 15th May, out of seven that I shot in a
flock, six were males with the generative organs fully developed; the
seventh was a young female in immature plumage, the ovaries being
quite undeveloped. The birds were feeding in the bed of a dried-up
swamp, along with flocks of _Sturnus minor_, and were constantly
flying in flocks, backwards and forwards, in one direction.
Unfortunately, important work called me to another part of the
district, and when I returned in a fortnight's time I could not see
one. Where can they have gone? And they remain away such a short time!
I have seen the old birds return as early as the 7th July, accompanied
by young birds barely fledged, and I should not be at all surprised
if these birds are found to breed in some of the Native States on the
_east_ of Sind. That they could find time to migrate to the Caspian
Sea and Central Asia to breed, and return again by the middle of July,
I cannot believe, especially after having found them so thoroughly in
breeding-time, while still in the east of Sind. Another suspicious
circumstance is the absence of females in the flocks I met with.
Perhaps some of my readers may have an opportunity of finding out
whether _Pastor roseus_ occurs in the districts lying to the east of
Sind in the month of June, as there is no doubt that the breeding-time
lies between the 20th May and the commencement of July."
529. Sturnus humii, Brooks. _The Himalayan Starling_.
Sturnus unicolor, _Marm., apud Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 322.
Sturnus nitens, _Hume; Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 682.
The Himalayan Starling breeds in Candahar, Cashmere, and the extreme
north-west of the Punjab. It is the bird which Dr. Jerdon includes in
his work as _S. unicolor_ (a very different bird, which does not occur
within our limits), and which Mr. Theobald referred to as breeding in
Cashmere as _Sturnus vulgaris_, which bird does not, as far as I can
learn, occur in the Valley of Cashmere, though it may in Yarkand.
This Starling lays towards the end of April at Peshawur, where I found
it nesting in holes in willow-trees in the cantonment compounds. In
Candahar it lays somewhat earlier, and in the Valley of Cashmere
somewhat later, viz. in the month of May.
It builds in holes of trees, in river-banks, and in old buildings and
bridges, constructing a loose nest of grass and grass-roots, with
sometimes a few thin sticks; it is perhaps more of a lining to the
hole than a true nest. It lays five or six eggs.
Mr. Brooks says:--"It is like _S. unicolor_, but smaller, with shorter
wing and more beautiful reflections. It is excessively abundant in
Cashmere, at moderate elevations, and in the Valley, and breeds in
holes of trees and in river-banks. The eggs are like those of _S.
vulgaris_, but rather smaller. The latter bird[A] occurs plentifully
in the plains of India in the cold weather, and is as profusely
spotted as English specimens. The bills vary in length, and are not
longer, as a rule, than those of British birds. I did not meet with
_S. vulgaris_ in Cashmere. It appears to migrate more to the west, for
it is said to be common in Afghanistan. _S. nitens_ also occurs in the
plains in the cold season. I have Etawah specimens. They are at that
time slightly spotted, but can always be very easily distinguished
from _S. vulgaris_."
[Footnote A: Mr. Brooks here refers to _S. menzbieri_.--ED.]
Mr. W. Theobald makes the following remark on its nidification in the
Valley of Cashmere:--"Lays in the second and third weeks of May; eggs
ovato-pyriform; size 1.15 by 0.85; colour, pale clear bluish green;
valley generally, in holes of bridges, tall trees, &c., in company
with _Corvus monedula_."
Captain Hutton records that "_S. vulgaris_ remains only during the
coldest months, and departs as spring approaches: whereas the present
species builds in the spring at Candahar, laying seven or eight blue
eggs, and the young are fledged about the first week in May."
The eggs of this species are generally somewhat elongated ovals, a
good deal compressed towards one end, and not uncommonly more or less
pyriform. They are glossy, but in a good light have the surface a good
deal pitted. They are entirely devoid of markings, and seem to have
the ground one uniform very pale sea-greenish blue. They appear to
vary very little in colour, and to average generally a good deal
smaller than those of the Common Starling.
They vary in length from 1.02 to 1.19, and in breadth from 0.78 to
0.87; but the average of twenty eggs is 1.13 by 0.83.[A]
[Footnote A: STURNUS PORPHYRONOTUS, Sharpe. _The Central-Asian
This species breeds in Kashgharia, and visits India in winter. Dr.
Scully writes:--"This Starling breeds in May and June, making its nest
in the holes of trees and walls, and in gourds and pots placed near
houses by the Yarkandis for the purpose. It seems to make only a
simple lining for its hole, composed of grass and fibres. The eggs
vary in shape from a broadish oval to an elongated oval compressed at
one end; they are glossy and, in a strong light, the surface looks
pitted. The eggs are quite spotless, but the colour seems also to vary
a good deal--from a deep greenish blue to a very pale light sea-blue.
In size they vary from 1.1 to 1.22 in length, and from 0.80 to 0.86 in
breadth; but the average of nine eggs is 1.19 by 0.83."]
531. Sturnus minor, Hume. _The Small Indian Starling_.
Sturnus minor, _Hume; Hume, cat._ no. 681 bis.
Mr. Scrope Doig furnishes us with the following interesting note on
the breeding of _S. minor_ in Sindh:--
"Last year I mentioned to my friend, Captain Butler, that I had
noticed Starlings going in and out of holes in trees along the 'Narra'
in the month of March, and that I thought they must be breeding there;
he said that I must be mistaken, as _S. vulgaris_ never bred so far
south. As it happens we were both correct--he in saying _S. vulgaris_
did not breed here, and I in saying that _Starlings_ did. My Starling
turns out to be the species originally described from Sindh as
_Sturnus minor_ by Mr. Hume; and as I have now sent Mr. Hume a series
of skins and eggs, I trust he will give us a note on the subject of
our Indian Starlings. In February I shot one of these birds, and on
dissection found that they were beginning to breed; later on, early in
March, I again dissected one and found that there was no doubt on the
subject, and so began to look for their nests; these I found in holes
in kundy trees growing along the banks of the Narra, and also situated
in the middle of swamps. The eggs were laid on a pad of feathers
of _Platalea leucorodia_ and _Tantalus leucocephalus_, which were
breeding on the same trees, the young birds being nearly fledged; the
greatest number of eggs in any one nest was five. The first date on
which I took eggs was the 13th March, and the last was on the 15th
"The eggs are oval, broad at one end and elongated at the other; the
texture is rather waxy, with a fine gloss, and they are of a pale
delicate sea-green colour.
"The birds during the breeding-time confine themselves closely to
their breeding-ground, so much so, that except when close to their
haunts none are ever seen.
"The size of the eggs varies from 1.00 to 1.10 in length, and from .70
to .80 in breadth. The average of twelve eggs is 1.03 in length and
.79 in breadth."
He subsequently wrote:--"I first noticed this bird breeding on the
11th March; on the 10th, while marching, I saw some on the side of
the road and shot one, and on opening it found it was breeding.
Accordingly on the 11th, on searching, I found their breeding-ground,
which was in the middle of a Dhund thickly studded over with kundy
trees, in the holes of which they had their nests. The nest lay at
the bottom of the hole, which was generally some 18 inches deep, and
consists of a few bits of coarse sedge-grass and feathers of _T.
leucocephalus_ and _P. leucorodia_ (which were breeding close by).
Five was the maximum number of eggs, but four was the normal number in
"I afterwards found these birds breeding in great numbers all along
the Eastern Narra wherever there were suitable trees (kundy trees). At
the place I first found them in, the young ones are now many of
them fledged and flying about, while in other places they are just
beginning to lay.
"The total length of their breeding-ground in any district must be
close on 200 miles, but entirely confined to the banks of the river.
If you looked four miles from, the river, one side or the other, you
would not see one. Can _Pastor roseus_ breed in India in some similar
secluded spot? I have been rather unlucky in getting their eggs, as at
each place which I visited personally the birds had either young ones
or were just going to lay."
The eggs of this species are moderately broad ovals, sometimes
slightly elongated, always more or less appreciably pointed towards
the small end. The shell is extremely smooth and has a fine gloss.
The colour, which is extremely uniform in all the specimens, is an
excessively delicate pale blue with a faint greenish tinge, a very
beautiful colour. They vary from 1 to 1.18 in length, and from 0.71 to
0.82 in breadth.
537. Sturnia blythii (Jerdon). _Blyth's Myna_.
Temenuchus blythii (_Jerd._), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 331.
Sturnia blythii (_Jerd._), _Hume, cat._ no. 689.
Mr. Iver Macpherson sent me from Mysore three eggs and a skin of a
Myna, which latter, although in very bad order, is undoubtedly _S.
Blythii_. He says:--"It is very possible that the bird now sent is _S.
malabarica_, and it is such a bad specimen that I fear it will not be
of much use to you for the purpose of identification. I think it is
_Sturnia blythii_, as Jerdon says that _S. malabarica_ is only a
cold-weather visitant in the south of India.
"I will, however, try and procure you a good specimen of the bird. It
is only found in our forests bordering the Wynaad, and as it is far
from common, I am not well acquainted with it.
"I am also inclined to think that it is not a permanent resident with
us, but that a few couples come to these forests only to breed.
"The only nest I have ever found was taken on the 24th April, 1880,
and was in a hole of a dry standing tree in a clearing made for a teak
plantation and contained three fresh eggs.
"A few days subsequently I saw a brood of young ones flying about a
dry tree in the forest, so probably the breeding-season here extends
through April and May."
The eggs are very similar to those of _Sturnia malabarica_ and
_S. nemoricola_, but perhaps slightly larger. They are moderately
elongated ovals, generally decidedly pointed towards the small end.
The shell is very fine and smooth, and has a fair amount of gloss. In
colour they are a very delicate pale greenish blue. They measure 0.99
and 1 in length by 0.71 in breadth.
538. Sturnia malabarica (Gm.). _The Grey-headed Myna_.
Temenuchus malabaricus (Gm.), _Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 330; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 688.
I have never met with the nest of the Grey-headed Myna myself, but am
indebted to Mr. Gammie for its eggs and nest. That gentleman says:--"I
obtained a nest of this species near Mongphoo (14 miles from
Darjeeling), at an elevation of about 3400 feet. The nest was in the
hollow of a tree, and was a shallow pad of fine twigs, with long
strips of bark intermingled in the base of the structure, and thinly
lined with very fine grass-stems. The nest was about 4 inches in
diameter and less than 11/2 inch in height exteriorly, and interiorly
the depression was perhaps half an inch deep. It contained four
This year he writes to me:--"The Grey-headed Myna breeds about
Mongphoo, laying in May and June. I have taken several nests now, and
I found that they prefer cleared tracts where only a few trees have
been left standing here and there, especially on low but breezy
ridges, at elevations of from 2500 to 4000 feet. They always nest in
natural holes of trees both dead and living, and at any height from 20
to 50 feet from the ground. The nest is shallow, principally composed
of twigs put roughly together in the bottom of the hole. They lay four
or five eggs.
"The Grey-headed Myna is not a winter resident in the hills. It
arrives in early spring and leaves in autumn. It is very abundant on
the outer ranges of the Teesta Valley, and is generally found in those
places frequented by _Artamus fuscus_. It feeds about equally on trees
and on the ground, and a flock of 40 or 50 feeding on the ground in
the early morning is no unusual sight."
Mr. J.R. Cripps, writing from Fureedpore, Eastern Bengal, says:--"Very
common from the end of April to October, after which a few birds may
be seen at times. I cannot call to mind ever having seen these birds
descend to the ground. They must nest here, though I failed to find
one. In front of my verandah was a large _Poinciana regia_, in the
trunk of which, and at about seven feet from the ground, was an old
nest-hole of _Xantholaema_ which a pair of these birds widened out.
During all May and June I watched these birds pecking away at the
rotten wood and throwing the bits out. They generally used to engage
in this work during the heat of the day; and, although I several times
searched the hole, no eggs were found; the pair were not pecking at
the decayed wood for insects, for I watched them through a glass. Had
I remained another month at the factory most likely they would have
laid during that time; it was on this account their lives were spared.
This species associates with its congeners on the peepul trees when
they are in fruit, which they eat greedily."
Subsequently detailing his experiences at Dibrugarh in Assam, he
adds:--"On the 27th May I found a nest with three callow young and one
fresh egg. The birds had excavated a hole in a rotten and dead tree
about 18 feet from the ground, and had placed a pad of leaves only at
the bottom of the hole. They build both in forest as well as the open
cultivated parts of the country."
Mr. Oates remarks:--"This Myna lays in Pegu in holes of trees at all
heights above 20 feet. It selects a hole which is difficult of access,
and I have only been able to take one nest. This was on the 13th May.
This nest, a small pad of grass and leaves, contained three eggs,
which were slightly incubated. They measured 0.86 by 0.7, 0.8 by 0.7,
and 0.83 by 0.72."
Major C.T. Bingham writes from Tenasserim:--"I shot a Myna as she flew
out of a hole in a zimbun tree (_Dillenia pentagyna_). I had nearly a
fortnight before seen the birds; there was a pair of them, busy taking
straw and grass-roots into the hole; and so on the 18th April, when I
shot the birds, I made sure of finding the full complement of eggs,
but to my regret on opening the hollow, I only found one egg resting
in a loose and irregularly formed nest of roots and leaves. This
solitary egg is of a pale blue colour."
The eggs vary a good deal in shape: some are broad and some are
elongated ovals, but all are more or less pointed towards the small
end; the shell is very fine and delicate, and rather glossy; the
colour is a very delicate pale sea-green, without any markings of any
kind. They vary from 0.89 to 1.0 in length, and from 0.69 to 0.72 in
breadth; but the average of ten eggs is 0.93 by 0.7.
539. Sturnia nemoricola, Jerdon. _The White-winged Myna_.
Sturnia nemoricola, _Jerd., Hume, cat._ no. 688 bis.
Mr. Gates writes from Lower Pegu:--"Of _S. nemoricola_ I have taken
two sets of eggs: one set of two eggs fresh, and one of three on the
point of being hatched; the former on 12th May, the latter on 6th
June. In size the two clutches vary extraordinarily. The first two
eggs measure .82 x .62 and .85 x .63; the second lot measure 1.01 x
.7, 1.0 x .7, and 1.0 x .7.
"The eggs are very glossy, and the colour is a uniform dark greenish
blue, of much the same tint as the egg of _Acridotheres tristis_."
543. Ampeliceps coronatus, Blyth. _The Gold-crest Myna_.
Ampeliceps coronatus, _Bl., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 693 sex;
_id. cat._ no. 693 ter.
Of the nidification of this beautiful species, the Gold-crest Myna, we
possess but little information. My friend Mr. Davison, who has secured
many specimens of the bird, writes:--"On the 13th April, 1874, two
miles from the town of Tavoy, on a low range of hills about 200 feet
above the sea-level, I found a nest of the Gold-crest Grakle. The nest
was about 20 feet from the ground in a hole in the branch of a large
tree. It was composed entirely of coarse dry grass, mixed with dried
leaves, twigs, and bits of bark, but contained no feathers, rags, or
such substances as are usually found in the nests of the other Mynas.
The nest contained three young ones only a day or two old."
544. Temenuchus pagodarum (Gm.). _The Black-headed Myna_.
Temenuchus pagodarum (_Gm.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 329; _Hume, Rough
Draft N. & E._ no. 687.
The Pagoda or Black-headed Myna breeds throughout the more open, dry,
and well-wooded or cultivated portions of India. In Sindh and in the
more arid and barren parts of the Punjab and Rajpootana on the one
hand, or in the more humid and jungly localities of Lower Bengal on
the other, it occurs, if at all, merely as a seasonal straggler. How
Adams, quoted by Jerdon (vol. ii, p. 330), could say that he never saw
it in the plains of the North-West Provinces (where, as a matter of
fact, it is one of our commonest resident species), altogether puzzles
Neither in the north nor in the south does it appear to ascend the
hills or breed in them at any elevations exceeding 3000 or 4000 feet.
The breeding-season lasts from May to August, but in Upper India the
great majority lay in June.
According to my experience in Northern India it nests exclusively in
holes in trees. Dr. Jerdon says that "at Madras it breeds about large
buildings, pagodas, houses, &c." This is doubtless correct, but has
not been confirmed as yet by any of my Southern Indian correspondents,
who all talk of finding its nest in holes of trees.
The whole is thinly lined with a few dead leaves, a little grass, and
a few feathers, and occasionally with a few small scraps of some other
They lay from three to five eggs.
From Hansie Mr. W. Blewitt writes:--"During June and the early part
of July I found numerous nests of this species in holes of shishum,
peepul, neem, and siriss trees situated on the bank of the Hissar
Canal. The holes where at heights of from 12 to 15 feet from the
ground, and in each a few leaves or feathers were laid under the eggs.
Five was the greatest number found in any one hole."
Recording his experience in the Delhi, Jhansi, and Saugor Divisions,
Mr. F.R. Blewitt tells us that the Pagoda Myna breeds from May to
July, building its nest in holes of trees, selecting where possible
those most inaccessible. I have always found the nest in the holes of
mango, tamarind, and high-growing jamun trees. Feathers and grass,
sometimes an odd piece of rag, are loosely placed at the bottom of the
hole, and on these the eggs repose.
"The eggs are pale bluish green, and from four to five form the
regular number. I may add that only on one occasion did I obtain five
eggs in a nest."
"In Oudh," writes Mr. R.M. Adam, "I took one nest of this species, in
a hole in a mango-tree, on the 5th May, containing five eggs."
Major C.T. Bingham remarks:--"All nests I have found at Allahabad and
Delhi have been in holes in trees, in the end of May, June, and July.
Nest strictly speaking there is none, but the holes are lined with
feathers and straw, in which the eggs, four in number, are generally
Lieut. H.E. Barnes tells us that this Myna breeds in Rajputana in
June, and that he found one nest in that month in a hole of a tree
with three eggs.
Colonel E.A. Butler records the following notes:--"The Black-headed
Myna breeds plentifully in the neighbourhood of Deesa in June, July,
and August, but somehow or other I was unlucky this year (1876) in
procuring eggs. On the 30th July I found a nest containing four young
birds and another containing four eggs about to hatch. On the 2nd of
August I found three nests, all containing young birds. On the 20th
August I found four more nests; three contained young birds and the
fourth four fresh eggs. All of these nests were in holes of trees, in
most instances only just large enough at the entrance for the bird to
pass through. In some cases there was no lining at all except wood
dust, in others a small quantity of dry grass and a few feathers. The
average height from the ground was about 8 or 10 feet; some nests
were, however, not more than 4 or 5 feet high.
"Belgaum, 21st May, 1879.--A nest in the roof of a house under the
tiles; three fresh eggs. Another nest on the same date in a hole of
a tree, containing one fresh egg. The hole appeared to be an old
nest-hole of a Barbet. Other nests observed later on, in June and
July, in the roofs of houses under the tiles. Another nest in the
hole of a tree, 27th April, containing four fresh eggs. Three more
nests, 4th May, containing three incubated eggs, three fresh eggs,
and three young birds respectively. Two of the nests were in the
nest-holes of Barbets, from which I had taken eggs the month previous.
7th May, another nest containing four fresh eggs.
"I can confirm Dr. Jerdon's statement, quoted in the Rough Draft of
'Nests and Eggs of Indian Birds,' relative to this species breeding in
large buildings, having observed several nests myself this season at
Belgaum on the roofs of bungalows. In one bungalow, the mess-house of
the 83rd Regt., there were no less than three nests at one time built
under the eaves of the roof."
Messrs. Davidson and Wenden, writing of the Deccan, say:--"Not quite
so common as _Acridotheres tristis_. Breeds at Satara in May."
Mr. Benjamin Aitken remarks:--"In Nests and Eggs, p. 433, you
write:--'Dr. Jerdon says that at Madras it breeds about large
buildings, pagodas, houses, &c.' This is doubtless correct, but has not
been confirmed as yet by any of my Southern Indian correspondents, who
all talk of finding its nest in holes of trees.' On the 29th June last
year I was at the Anniversary Meeting of the Medical College, and the
proceedings were disturbed by the incessant clatter of _two_ broods of
young of this species. The nests were in holes in the wall near the
roof, and the two pairs of old birds, which were feeding their young,
kept coming and going the whole time, flying in at the windows and
popping into the holes over the peoples' heads. In the following month
a nest of young were taken out of a hole in the outer wall of a house
I was staying at, and the birds laid again and hatched another brood.
"I very rarely saw the Black-headed Myna in Bombay, Poona, or Berar,
but here, in Madras, it is, if anything, commoner than _A. tristis_."
And Mr. J. Davidson, writing from Mysore, also confirms Jerdon's
statement; he says:--"_T. pagodarum_ breeds here in holes in the roofs
of houses as well as in trees."
Of the breeding of this Myna in Ceylon, Colonel Legge says:--"In the
northern part of Ceylon this Myna breeds in July and August, and
nests, I am informed, in the holes of trees."
Mr. A.G.R. Theobald notes that "early in August I found a nest of _T.
pagodarum_ at Ahtoor, the hill-station of the Shevaroys. It was
down in the inside of a partly hollow nut-tree log, attached to a
scaffolding, about 2 1/2 feet down and, say, 35 feet from the ground,
and was composed of dry leaves and a few feathers. It contained three
The eggs of this Myna are, of course, glossy and spotless, and the
colour varies from very pale bluish white to pale blue or greenish
blue. I have never seen an egg of this species of the full clear
sky-blue often exhibited by those of _A. tristis, S. contra_, and _A.
The eggs vary in length from 0.86 to 1.15, and in breadth from 0.66 to
0.8; but the average of fifty-four eggs is 0.97 by 0.75.
546. Graculipica nigricollis (Payk.). _The 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.). _The Common Myna_.
Acridotheres tristis (_Linn.), Jerd. 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 Simla, at an elevation of 7800 feet.
They are very domestic birds, and greatly affect the habitations of
man and their immediate neighbourhood. 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 (as the
Americans hang boxes for the Purple Martin), 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 babool 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 sheeshum
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
"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
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 deg.
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, &c., but preferentially, I
think, in holes of trees, laying generally four, but sometimes five
Colonel E.A. Butler writes:--"In Karachi Mynas begin to lay at the end
of April. The Common Myna breeds in the neighbourhood 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 Rajputana
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
"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
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
In length they vary from 1.05 to 1.28, and in breadth from 0.8 to
0.95; but the average of ninety-seven eggs is 1.19 by 0.86.
550. Acridotheres melanosternus, Legge. _The Common Ceylon Myna_.
Acridotheres melanosternus, _Legge, Hume, cat._ no. 684 bis.
Colonel Legge tells us, in his 'Birds of Ceylon,' that "this species
breeds in Ceylon from February until May, nesting perhaps more in the
month of March than in any other. It builds in holes of trees, often
choosing a cocoanut-palm which has been hollowed out by a Woodpecker,
and in the cavity thus formed makes a nest of grass, fibres, and
roots. I once found a nest in the end of a hollow areca-palm which was
the cross beam of a swing used by the children of the Orphan School,
Bonavista, and the noise of whose play and mirth seemed to be viewed
by the birds with the utmost unconcern. The eggs are from three to
five in number; they are broad ovals, somewhat pointed towards the
small end, and are uniform, unspotted, pale bluish or ethereal green.
They vary in length from 1.07 to 1.2 inch and in breadth from 0.85 to
"Layard styles the eggs 'light blue, much resembling those of the
European Starling in shape, but rather darker in colour.'"
551. Acridotheres ginginianus (Lath.). _The Bank Myna_.
Acridotheres ginginianus (_Lath.), Jerd. B. Ind._ ii, p. 326; _Hume,
Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 685.
The Bank Myna breeds throughout the North-West Provinces and Oudh,
Behar, and Central Bengal, the greater portion of the Central
Provinces, and the Punjab and Sindh. Adams says it does not _occur_ in
the Punjab; but, as Colonel C.H.T. Marshall correctly pointed out to
me years ago, and I have verified the facts, it breeds about Lahore
and many other places, and in the high banks of the Beas, the Sutlej,
the Jhelum, and the Indus, congregating in large numbers on these
rivers just as it does on the Jumna or the Ganges.
It builds exclusively, so far as my experience goes, in earthen banks
and cliffs, in holes which it excavates for itself, always, I think,
in close proximity to water, and by preference in places overhanging
or overlooking running water.
The breeding-season lasts from the middle of April to the middle of
July, but I have found more eggs in May than in any other month.
Four is the usual number of the eggs; I have found five, but never
more. If Theobald got seven or eight, they belonged to two pairs; and
the nests so run into each other that this is a mistake that might
easily be made, even where coolies were digging into the bank before
There is really no variety in their nesting arrangements, and a note
I recorded in regard to one colony that I robbed will, I think,
sufficiently illustrate the subject. All that can be said is that very
commonly they nest low down in earthy cliffs, where it is next to
impossible to explore thoroughly their workings, while in the instance
referred to these were very accessible:--
"One morning, driving out near Bareilly, we found that a colony of the
Bank Myna had taken possession of some fresh excavations on the banks
of a small stream. The excavation was about 10 feet deep, and in its
face, in a band of softer and sandier earth than the rest of the bank,
about a foot below the surface of the ground, these Mynas had bored
innumerable holes. They had taken no notice of the workman who had
been continuously employed within a few yards of them, and who
informed us that the Mynas had first made their appearance there only
a month previously. On digging into the bank we found the holes all
connected with each other, in one place or another, so that apparently
every Myna could get into or out from its nest by any one of the
hundred odd holes in the face of the excavation. The holes averaged
about 3 inches in diameter, and twisted and turned up and down, right
and left, in a wonderful manner; each hole terminated in a more
or less well-marked bulb (if I may use the term), or egg-chamber,
situated from 4 to 7 feet from the face of the bank. The egg-chamber
was floored with a loose nest of grass, a few feathers, and, in many
instances, scraps of snake-skins.
"Are birds superstitious, I wonder? Do they believe in charms? If not
what induces so many birds that build in holes in banks to select out
of the infinite variety of things, organic or inorganic, pieces of
snake-skin for their nests? They are at best harsh, unmanageable
things, neither so warm as feathers, which are ten times more
numerous, nor so soft as cotton or old rags, which lie about
broadcast, nor so cleanly as dry twigs and grass. Can it be that
snakes have any repugnance to their 'worn out weeds,' that they
dislike these mementos of _their_ fall[A], and that birds which breed
in holes into which snakes are likely to come by instinct select these
exuviae as scare-snakes?
[Footnote A: "When the snake," says an Arabic commentator, "tempted
Adam it was a winged animal. To punish its misdeeds the Almighty
deprived it of wings, and condemned it thereafter to creep for ever on
its belly, adding, as a perpetual reminder to it of its trespass, a
command for it to cast its skin yearly."]
"In some of the nests we found three or four callow young ones, but
in the majority of the terminal chambers were four, more or less,
"I noticed that the tops of all the mud-pillars (which had been left
standing to measure the work by) had been drilled through, and through
by the Mynas, obviously not for nesting-purposes, as not one of them
contained the vestige of a nest, but either for amusement or to afford
pleasant sitting-places for the birds not engaged in incubation.
Whilst we were robbing the nests, the whole colony kept screaming and
flying in and out of these holes in the various pillar-tops in a very
remarkable manner, and it may be that, after the fashion of Lapwings,
they thought to lead us away from their eggs and induce a belief that
their real homes were in the pillar tops."
Colonel G.F.L. Marshall remarks:--"This species breeds in the
Bolundshahr District in June and July. It makes its nest in a hole
in a bank, but more often in the side of a kucha or earthen well. A
number of birds generally breed in company. The nest is formed by
lining the cavity with a little grass and roots and a few feathers. On
the 8th July I found a colony breeding in a well near Khoorjah, and
took a dozen fresh eggs."
Writing from Lucknow, Mr. G. Reid says:--"During the breeding season
it associates in large flocks along the banks of the Groomti, where it
nidificates in colonies in holes in the banks of the river. From some
of these holes I took a few fresh eggs on the 15th May, and again on
the 30th June on revisiting the spot. In the district it breeds in old
irrigation-wells and occasionally in ravines with good steep banks."
Major C.T. Bingham, writing from Allahabad, says:--"Breeds in June,
July, and August in holes in sandy banks of rivers and nullahs. Eggs,
five in number, laid on a lining of straw and feathers."
Colonel E.A. Butler notes:--"The Bank Myna lays about Deesa in June
and July. On the 26th June I lowered a man down several wells, finding
nests containing eggs and nests containing young ones, some nearly
fledged. The nests are generally in holes in the brickwork, often
further in than a man can reach, and several pairs of birds usually
occupy the same well. The eggs vary much in shape and number. In some
nests I found as many as five, in others only two or three. In colour
they closely resemble the eggs of _A. tristis_, but they are slightly
smaller, the tint is of a decidedly deeper shade, and the shell more
glossy. July 5th, several nests, some containing eggs, others young
ones. July 13th, numerous nests in wells and banks, some containing
fresh, others incubated eggs, and others young birds of all sizes. The
eggs varied in number from two to five. I took twenty-six fresh eggs
and then discontinued."
Lieut. H.E. Barnes informs us that in Rajputana this Myna breeds about
The eggs are typically, I think, shorter and proportionally broader
than those of other kindred species already described; very pyriform
varieties are, however, common. They are as usual spotless, very
glossy, and of different shades of very pale sky- and greenish blue.
Although, when a large series of the eggs of this and each of the
preceding species are grouped together, a certain difference is
observable, individual eggs can by no means be discriminated, and
it is only by taking the eggs with one's own hand that one can feel
certain of their authenticity.
In length they vary from 0.95 to 1.16, and in breadth from 0.72 to
0.87; but the average of forty-seven eggs is 1.05 by 0.82.
552. Aethiopsar fuscus (Wagl.). _The Jungle Myna_.
Acridotheres fuscus (_Wagl.) Jerd. 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 Kussowlee, 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 Simla, 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
Dhoon 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 Dhoon in July."
In Kumaon I found them breeding near the Ramghur Ironworks, and,
writing from Nynee Tal, Colonel G.F.L. Marshall says that they "breed
very commonly at Bheem Tal (4000 feet), but I have not noticed them at
Nynee Tal. 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
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
"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, &c.,
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
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
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 Neilgherries 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, &c. 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 1.2 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 1.03 to 1.31, and in breadth from 0.78 to
0.9; but the average of forty eggs is 1.19 by 0.83.
555. Sturnopastor contra (Linn.). _The Pied Myna_.
Sturnopastor contra (_Linn_.), _Jerd. 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
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 31/2 inches
in diameter, at the bottom of which, amongst many feathers, lay four
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 Hansie Mr. W. Blewitt writes that he "found numerous nests during
May and June. They were all placed all keekur-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
"The nests were densely built of keekur 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
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 0.95 to
1.25, and in breadth from 0.75 to 0.9; but the average of one hundred
eggs is 1.11 by 0.82 nearly.
556. Sturnopastor superciliaris, Blyth. _The Burmese Pied Myna_.
Sturnopastor superciliaris, _Bl., Hume, Rough Draft N. & E._ no. 683
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
"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 favourite 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
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 1.0 to 1.1, and in breadth from 0.73 to 0.82;
but the average of fifteen eggs is 1.04 by 0.77.