(1822) Baza leuphotes leuphotes (Dumont).
THE INDIAN BLACK-CRESTED BAZA.
Baza, leuphotes leuphotes, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 171.
The Indian Baza is found in the Sub-Himalayas from Nepal to Eastern Assam, North of the Brahmapootra and then again in Travancore and Ceylon. It is a bird of the lowest hills and Terai country but has been found breeding as high as 4,000 feet and possibly higher. A. M. Primrose found it breeding on the Longview Tea Estate near Kurseong, and in Travancore Stewart obtained its nest frequently at about 2,000-2,500 feet.
It is essentially a forest bird,yet it loves best forest through which broad streams make their way or where there are wide open glades and spaces, either natural or made by the haphazard efforts of the hill tribes to cultivate the land. It may also be found in the broad strips of jungle and forest which intersect the bigger tracts of rice cultivation in the plains near the hills, or which, in the hills themselves, divide streams from mustard-crops etc. Here, both during the breeding season and at other times, they may be observed soaring at no great height in small circles or flapping along like Crows with ample leisure from one patch of forest to another. In the breeding .season, of course, the birds will be single or in pairs, at other times in small family parties of four or five.
For nesting purposes they choose generally the highest tree they can find in the jungle they have selected for breeding purposes, the few nests I have seen and taken myself having all been thus situated. One of the first nests I ever saw was built in a Bombax tree which, though not big for its species, was tall enough to tower over the surrounding trees, while the nest, fully 60 feet from the ground, was conspicuous from the hill above. Another nest was in a swampy piece of forest near a Tea-Garden, with dense under¬growth and matted cane-brakes all round, making it difficult to get near the tree, which represented a tough climbing job even when one arrived at the base. In this tree, I believe an Iron-wood of some sort, the nest must have been 80 feet from the ground, and we were two days before a small boy eventually succeeded in taking the eggs, the climbing necessitating a cane and bamboo ladder being made up the first. 30 or 40 feet, and then cane loops over the big boughs to help the boy up another 20 feet.
Primrose, however, found the nest twice, once on a small sapling in the Gooma Reserve and once on a big tree near Kurseong, both times only 25 feet from the ground and easy to get at. His nests also were found in heavy forest, though once it was close to the open ground of a Tea Estate. Most of the nests seen by me and the Gooma nest taken by Primrose were near water, either running rivers and streams or swamp and pools.
The nests are small well-made affairs of small sticks, measuring between 10 and 15 inches in breadth by about 4 to 8 inches in depth. The sticks used are from 4 to 6 inches in length, with half a dozen or so twice as long again. In thickness few are thicker than a lead pencil and many still thinner. The egg-cavity is about 8 inches across and 2 to 4 inches deep, being generally well lined with grass or fibre over which there is a mat of green leaves, which are renewed from time to time until incubation is far advanced.
The breeding season in Northern India is from April to June but, in the South, Stewart found most eggs in March and April, while he took eggs as early as February 10th and as late as July 4th.
The eggs number two or three, though Stewart once obtained a single egg much incubated.
The eggs of the Bazas closely resemble those of Astur ; in colour they are grey-white, becoming much stained from the leaves they lie on. Very few eggs have any real pigment on them, though sometimes it is hard to distinguish between- stains and true pig¬mentation. Of the three eggs taken by Primrose on the Longview Estate one has a bold long blood-stain down one side while a second has blood-stains like marbling over most of the surface, the third egg being pure grey-white. A pair taken by myself has fairly definite reddish blotches and specks, sparse and confined to the larger end.
In shape the eggs are broad ovals, the texture fairly fine and the surface smooth, but rather less so than in the eggs of Astur badius.
Twenty-four eggs average 37.4 x 31.1 mm. : maxima 46.0 x 31.0 and 39.1 x 32.1 mm. ; minima 34.9 x 29.6 and 36.5 x 28.9 mm.
Both sexes incubate and both help in the construction of the nest, but I have no idea how long incubation lasts. I have never seen the birds attack a human intruder, but once one of a pair which was having its neat rifled sat on a bough close by and softly squealed at the boy as he climbed up and then flapped slowly away when he reached the nest.
1822. Baza leuphotes leuphotes
(1822) Baza leuphotes leuphotes (Dumont).