The present volume deals with those families contained in volume ii of the ‘Fauna of British India,’ excluding the Cinclidoe, which were included in the first volume of this work. It also deals with the families Irenidoe, Oriolidoe, Graculidoe and Sturnidoe, which form part of volume iii of the. ‘Fauna.’
These families, 12 in number, contain 111 genera and 319 species, or 527 species and subspecies. To these, however, must be added no less than 13 species and subspecies which have been described or resuscitated since the ‘Fauna’ was published, giving a total of 540.
Of these 540 there are 75 birds which do not breed within the limits of the Indian Empire. Of the remaining 465 species and subspecies, the nidification of 403 is described in the present volume, while of the other 62 nothing is known in regard to their nesting habits or, at least, nothing has been yet recorded. That is to say, there still remains about 13 to 14 per cent, of our Indian breeding birds of whose breeding habits we know nothing.
Of these 62 forms it is true that most breed on the higher Himalayas or in the extreme boundaries of East and South Burma, which have been much neglected from an oological point of view. On the other hand, some are extremely common birds, living in places which have been well worked, such, for instance, as Cisticola erythrocephala, which abounds on the grassy plateaus of the Nilgiri Hills.
In comparison with our knowledge of nidification at the time of Oates’s edition of Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ in 1898, an enormous advance has been made. Comparison is, of course, difficult, as at that time subspecies were not recognized, but, roughly, the percentage of birds of which we now know the breeding has advanced from about 55 to 86 per cent. This, however, shows how much there is still to be done, especially when we remember that in some cases the nidification recorded requires confirmation and that in other cases the record is that of a single nest and its contents. In addition to the finding of entirely new eggs, we have much to learn as to the range of variation, of colour, shape and size in those which are already known ; length of incubation period, construction of nest, courting displays and many other points also still require elucidation.
All these wants may be seen from a perusal of the present volumes and, it may be hoped, they will initiate a more systematic, methodical and thorough collection, not only of eggs, but of all the facts con¬nected with the breeding habits of the birds which lay them.
E. C. STUART BAKER.
6 Harold Road, S.E. 19.
30th May, 1933.