(1162) Hirundo daurica erythropygia Sykes.
The SOUTHERN STRIATED SWALLOW.
Hirundo daurica erythropygia, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 251.
The breeding range of this Swallow extends from the foot-hills of the Himalayas to the Nilgiris in Southern India. To the East it is a common bird in the dry hilly districts of Western Bengal, and Osmaston has found it breeding in the North, at Dehra Doon at an elevation of about 3,000 feet.
Ticehurst says that this race breeds at about 4,000 feet in the Himalayas in the same places as nepalensis, and rather infers that the two are different species. I can find no definite overlapping of the breeding range, but there is certainly an area between 2,000 and 4,000 feet in the sub-Himalayas where the birds grade into one another and some individuals might be placed with either race. This is of course what we should expect with subspecies of a species, which are generally and naturally hard to distinguish in the area where the two grade into one another. Erythropygia is the plains form always easy to distinguish ; nipalensis the high-level bird above 4,000 feet, also easy to separate ; while between plains and 4,000 feet we have the birds grading into one another. Thus in the Simla Hills Jones has found colonies breeding at 3,000 feet in the Bhagat States which are fairly distinct erythropygia, yet the birds breeding at 6,000-7,000 feet in the Bhogi State, Simla Hills, are equally easily referable to nepalensis.
One cannot improve upon Hume’s and Blewitt’s summary of the breeding of this Swallow. The former writes:—“Sykes’s Striated Swallow breeds from April to August. Typically the nest, which is usually affixed, to the under surface of some ledge of rock, or the roof of some cave or building, and which is constructed of fine pellets of mud or clay, consists of a narrow tubular passage, like a white-ant gallery on a large scale, say some 2 inches in diameter and from 4 to 10 inches in length, terminating in a bulb-like chamber from 4.1/2 to 7 inches in diameter externally. These nests have been aptly described as retort-shaped, but are not always of this shape. Indeed (though I am bound to say I do not agree with him) Mr. P. R. Blewitt is disposed to believe that the long retort-shaped nests are commonly built as residences and the less-developed ones as breeding places. He says : 'Eccentric to a degree is this Swallow in the selection of a suitable place for its nest. I have obtained it on the ground, at the base of a rook, having for protection a small overhanging ledge ; in a hole in any old wall ; affixed to the roof-top of a pucka house ; to the under ledge of a high rook ; the arch of a culvert, bridge etc. ; but never, though they may occur there, in mosques and pagodas ; and twenty and thirty together, as stated in Jerdon. I have always found the nest single. The form and material of the nest depend mainly on the locality chosen for it. Sometimes a simple collection of feathers answers the purpose, at others it is more or less dome-shaped, the exterior of line clay, the inside lined with feathers. The opening for egress and ingress is invariably made above the centre of the nest, Frequently I have seen the spherical or oval-shaped mud nest with the long neck or tubular entrance, but only once with eggs in it. From frequent observations I have sometimes fancied that it is intended more for a winter residence than for breeding purposes.’ ”
Culverts in roads seem to be their favourite resort, and many of my correspondents have written to this effect. Aitken is quoted by Hume as saying : “This is one of the birds which seem highly to appreciate the advantages of civilization, and to think, like Cowper’s oat, that men take a great deal of trouble to please them. In Berar they have almost discarded the mosques which gave them their name, and have betaken themselves to the culverts of the roads.”
In the Nilgiris and hills of Southern India the breeding season is April, May and June, but in Northern India, although many birds breed during these months, even in the hottest parts of Northern and Central India, many others do not commence to lay until the rains break in June.
The eggs number three to five.
Sixty eggs average 21.0 x 14.4 mm. : maxima 21.8 x 14.0 and 20.9 x 15.0 mm. ; minima 17.8 x 13.9 and 18.5 x 12.9 mm.
1162. Hirundo daurica erythropygia
(1162) Hirundo daurica erythropygia Sykes.