THE present volume includes notes on the nidification of all those families of birds contained in my first Bird-volume of the ‘Fauna of British India,’ plus the Cinclidoe, which commences the second volume. The families dealt with are : (1) The Corvidoe, or Crow family ; (2) the Paridoe, or Titmice ; (3) the Paradox-ornithidoe, or Parrot-Bills, formerly known as Crow-Tits ; (4) the Sittidoe, or Nuthatches ; (5) the Timaliidoe, or Babblers and Laughing- Thrushes ; (6) the Pycnonotidoe, or Bulbuls ; (7) the Certhiidoe, or Tree-Creepers ; (8) the Troglodytidoe, or Wrens ; and (9) the Cinclidoe, or Dippers. The total number of individual species and subspecies dealt with in the ‘Fauna’ belonging to these families was 480 and, since that volume was written, more races have been recognized, giving a gross total of 494.
It is interesting, but rather difficult, to compare the present work with the 2nd edition of Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ written by Oates in 1889. At that time the accepted number of species in the families and genera included in the present volume was 332, as against the 480 species and subspecies recognized in my work, giving, with the additional races above referred to, a total of 494. In many cases, however, Oates includes under the one binomial two or more geographical races which are represented now by trinomials.
Of the 332 species accepted by Oates in the 1st edition of the ‘Fauna' he was able to record the nidification of 158 species only, a little over 48 per cent. It is now possible to record the breeding habits of 408 species and subspecies, equivalent to over 82 per cent., showing that the field-knowledge of our Indian Avifauna has increased in a greater proportion than has the mere recognition of new species and subspecies.
At the same time it will astonish many of our field-naturalists to learn that nothing at present is known of the nidification of so many birds. Of the 86 species and subspecies all mention of whose nidification is wanting in the present volume, there are a few which breed outside our area whose breeding habits are known, but there are still about 78 species and subspecies of which nothing has yet been recorded. A comparatively large proportion of these refer to birds on our extreme North-Eastern and Eastern boundaries or in extreme Southern Burma, but there are still many birds, not all of them by any means rare, in various parts of the Indian Empire whose breeding habits are still a closed book to us.
There are one or two points in the format to which I may draw attention. Each bird is numbered with the same number as that used in the ‘Fauna’ and may not always be consecutive in the present work. An innovation is the placing in brackets of the author’s name after a bird originally described under a different genus. This course has been felt desirable, as no first reference to the name has been given.
Finally, it will probably be observed that my descriptions are somewhat dry and brief. I have seldom indulged in ornate or lengthy descriptions of the often beautiful surroundings of nests which are in themselves beautiful objects. This, unfortunately, was a necessary restriction where space had to be considered, for, if one indulged in descriptions long in proportion to one’s admiration, our four proposed volumes would have had to be extended into some number more like fourteen.
E. C. STUART BAKER.
6 Harold Road, S.E. 19.
18th November, 1932.