(1596) Micropus affinis affinis (Gray).
THE COMMON INDIAN HOUSE-SWIFT.
Microput) affinis affinis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iv, p. 332.
The Indian House-Swift is a resident bird wherever found, though subject to small local movements. It occurs in the North¬-West Provinces but not on the Afghan and Baluchistan boundaries. It is the breeding form over the whole of the Punjab except, per¬haps, a small area in the South-West, extending South to Bombay City, Belgaum, Rajputana, the Deccan and Central Provinces. In the Himalayas it occurs, up to some 7,000 feet, as far East as Garhwal and, in the plains, to Bihar and Western Bengal.
Although the notes in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ refer to all the races of this Swift, his summing up of the nidification can hardly be improved on, and applies equally to one and all the subspecies. He writes :—
“It has at least two broods in a year, and eggs may be found any time from February to August, both months included.
“It is very capricious as to its choice of a nest site, but having once secured one to its liking, returns thither with a pertinacity that no ordinary persecution in the way of robbing and destroying nests will overcome. They breed in company solitary nests are, so far as my experience goes, unknown ; from a dozen to fifty pairs will be found nesting together ; the nests either clustered together in one dense mass, as when they choose the roof of some little cave, or the interior of some old Moslem dome or Hindoo shrine, or else scattered about in little groups, in close proximity, as when they occupy a verandah, and each pair of rafters has its half¬dozen nests. Perhaps on the whole it prefers inhabited to deserted buildings, but I have found its nest a hundred times in both.
“The nests vary very much in size, shape and material. I have taken them from between two very closely set rafters in a railway- station, long half-tubes a foot in length, some 4 inches in external diameter, composed wholly of feathers cemented together with saliva and nearly 1/2 inch in thickness. Two now before me are large masses, 10 by 6 and 2.1/2 to 3 thick, of grass in which many feathers of doves, parrots, peafowl, sarus, duck, some little sheep’s wool, and a bit or two of twine are all mingled. The bottom portions are a good deal cemented together by saliva but the interior is by no means hard or smooth ; others again are much smaller, globular, and having the whole of the materials agglutinated together.
“In the plains they are not generally lined, but in the hills they often have a warm lining of grass and feathers.”
Hume says that it breeds up to 6,000 feet in the Himalayas, but in the Simla States it nests up to 7,000 feet.
The only type of nest described, not mentioned by Hume, was obtained by Adam, who writes of nests found at Sambhur :—“Some had openings at the side, while others had tubular-shaped necks, about 2 inches long, projecting from the side of the nests.” These were not usurped nests of Swallows, for Adam goes on to say : The nests were composed of pieces of straw, fine twigs, cobwebs, and fluffy feathers, all agglutinated together, with here and there some bright-coloured feathers of a Parrot or a Roller stuck care¬lessly on the outside,”
The inside of the nest is often hard and finished off with saliva. Jerdon says ;—“The inside of the nest is hard, glistening and smooth, and feels, says Theobald, ‘like coarse cardboard."
Sometimes, however, even in the plains, there is a good lining of soft feathers ; Aitken (J.) speaks of such linings, and Adam says : “The egg-cavity had a lining of feathers and the entrance was lined with fluffy feathers.”
Betham found them usurping the nests of Swallows in Baroda on several occasions.
Eggs have been taken from early February to the end of September, and many birds have two broods in the year, perhaps more.
The number of eggs is normally two or three and in many colonies more than two is exceptional. At the same time four eggs are often laid, J. M. Ollenbach obtained many clutches of four in Jamalpur ; Dodsworth obtained four at Simla and Barnes took one clutch of five eggs from a nest built in a house in Bombay City.
One hundred eggs average 22.2 x 14.2 mm, : maxima 24.1 x 14.2 and 22.0 x 15.1 mm. ; minima 20.1 x 14.0 and 23.0 x 13.0 mm.
They are typical long, narrow white eggs, with a rather fragile shell for their size.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in building the nest. Witherby quotes Steele to the effect that the incubation of the Common English Swift is at least eighteen days, but that of the present bird is, I am practically sure, only fifteen days (see M. a. nipalensis).
1596. Micropus afflnis afflnis
(1596) Micropus affinis affinis (Gray).