(996) Acridotheres tristis tristis (Linn.).
THE COMMON INDIAN MYNA.
Acridotheres tristis tristis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 53.
As recorded in the ‘Fauna,’ the breeding range of this Myna is the whole of the Indian Empire from the extreme South up to about 8,000 feet in the Himalayas ; all Burma South to Tavoy and East to Siam, where of recent years it has become much more numerous. It occurs in Baluchistan and Afghanistan. Birds from extreme South Travancore are dark and approach the Ceylon form, melanosternus.
This Myna, which shares with the Sparrow and the House-Crow, the doubtful honour of being the most familiar of Indian birds, breeds in almost every building, new or old, in cities, towns and villages. Any hole, any corner in among the rafters, or in between the ceilings and the roof is good enough for the Myna to exercise her ingenuity in making the greatest possible mess in the shortest possible time. Originally this Myna was not a bird of high elevations and, probably, seldom bred much over 2,000 feet, but now he has followed mankind into all the hill-stations and is as ubiquitous there as in the plains. Buildings, however, are not essential for him and often the nest is built in holes in trees, and I have even found nests in holes in banks made by other birds or animals, while nests in the walls of wells are quite common. Finally, if there are no holes immediately available the Myna sometimes builds a nest in the branches of trees.
When placed in a hole, wherever this may be, the nest is merely an accumulation of grass, feathers, leaves, rags and any kind of rubbish which may be handy, though scraps of cast snake-skin seem to have a special attraction. The nests are very bulky, often consisting of several handfuls of rubbish, generally with a sort of lining of feathers and other soft materials. The birds stick very closely to their breeding places and nest year after year in the same position, often building two and, sometimes, even three nests and rearing three broods in the same year, Mr. Benjamin Aitken mentions a pair of Mynas which made their nest in a hole in some verandah-matting of his house, rearing six broods in three years and, when their nesting-site was examined, seven nests were found to have been built, one on top of the other, forming a pile of rubbish nearly two feet deep.
When they make their nests on branches of trees they are rather better built. All those I have seen myself were domed, great balls of grass, leaves and miscellaneous scraps, with dense linings of feathers. Other writers, however, speak of cup-shaped nests. Tickell and Hume both saw such nests ; Adams “saw a pair of this species building a large cup-shaped nest in a babool-tree” ; while Marshall (G. F. L.) says that this Myna “frequently lays in cup¬shaped nests of sticks placed in trees, like small Crows’ nests.”
Again, the last writer on one occasion found five of these cup¬shaped nests in a compound densely planted with sheeshum trees, the nests being about 20 feet from the ground, at the tops of the trees.
Bingham also once found a nest built in a dense creeper.
Where the rains are regular in starting and stopping this Myna breeds almost entirely in the earlier rainy months of June, July and August, though even in these provinces nests may be found both earlier and later. In Assam, where there are earlier rains, I have found eggs from March to September, while in the Andamans Wimberly says they breed all the year round.
Both birds assist in building the nest, which takes anything from five to fifteen days to collect, and both birds share in the duties of incubation, though many of Hume’s correspondents consider the birds are very careless in the matter of sitting on their eggs, leaving them to be incubated—it must be admitted quite successfully—by the heat of the sun.
The courting display of this bird, like that of all Mynas, is very primitive. The male bird merely walks up and down, the wings slightly depressed and quivering, a few bobs made every now and then, accompanied by a very raucous song made with puffed-out throat, while very often a straw or feather is held in the bill most of the time.
Mynas are excellent parents and very plucky in defence of their young.
The eggs number three to six, most often four or five, in a full clutch. I have often seen three incubated and, on the other hand, six eggs have been taken from the same nest by Aitken (Akola), Betham (Peshawar) and myself (Silchar).
In colour the eggs are a beautiful turquoise-blue, rather paler than in the eggs of the genus Gracupica, and with a very smooth, fairly glossy surface, rarely showing any corrugations. An unusual clutch of three eggs taken by Dodsworth in Simla is a beautiful pea-green. In shape the eggs are generally rather long ovals.
One hundred eggs average 30.8 x 21.9 mm. : maxima 35.0 x 22.3 and 33.0 x 23.2 mm. ; minima 27.6 x 19.2 mm.
996. Acridotheres tristis tristis
(996) Acridotheres tristis tristis (Linn.).