(24) Cissa chinensis chinensis (Bodd.).
THE INDIAN GREEN MAGPIE.
Cissa chinensis chinensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 45.
The Green Magpie breeds throughout the Lower Himalayas from the Jamna Valley to the extreme East of Assam and Eastern Bengal. Thence it extends to Yunnan and Setchuan in Western China, where it is common, whilst it has also been recorded from Fokhien. South-East it occurs as far as Tenasserim in Burma and in Siam.
This is a bird of the forest and, though it sometimes breeds in bamboo or scrub-jungle mixed with tree-growth, it undoubtedly prefers evergreen forest growing in the humid foot-hills between the plains and some 3,000 feet, though its nest has been taken at as high an elevation as 5,000 feet. It was an (extremely common bird in all the hills in Assam South, of the Brahmapootra and I took many nests there. Most were built in small trees or high bushes in the interior of evergreen forest, though even here the birds selected trees beside rivers and streams, small pools of water or open glades where the sun could penetrate and attract insects etc. A rather favourite haunt was some deep rocky ravine running through a copse surrounded by open grassland but, in such cases, the jungle was always thick and the cover good. Hodgson recorded it as breeding in bamboo-clumps in Nepal and Bingham also found a nest in Tenasserim built in “a bamboo bush.” In Assam, where I must have seen several hundred nests, I can only recall two built in bamboo clumps and, in that province, such sites were certainly quite unusual. Most nests were placed in small trees or saplings, sometimes in high bushes, occasionally in tangles of raspberry vines or other creepers or, very rarely, in bigger trees. Few nests are found over 20 feet from the ground, while often they may be within five or six. I have seen a few nests with eggs in the end of April and, on the other hand, have taken fresh eggs on the 23rd July and 6th August. The vast majority of eggs are, however, certainly laid from early May to early June.
The nest is a strong well-made cup, the principal materials in most nests being leaves, twigs and roots all well and strongly inter¬laced and generally mixed with a certain amount of moss, both dried and green. In some nests a number of bamboo-leaves are wound round and bound in with the rest on the outside, and in every case the body of the nest is kept firm and close by tendrils, weed-stems or similar materials. The lining is of fine roots, sometimes these only being used, whilst at other times fem-rachides, moss-roots or grass is intermixed and, occasionally, one or more of these materials is used alone. In size the nests vary in diameter from 6 to 7.1/2 inches and in depth from 3 to 5, having an internal cup somewhere about 5 broad by 1 to 3 deep, generally under 2 inches. The bird sits very close and, as the nest is generally very conspicuous, she and it can be seen from a long way off. One of the first nests I ever found was in a densely wooded spinney with a ravine running down its length. I had disturbed a cow Gaur and, suspecting a calf, hunted for it and, keeping my eyes on the bushes and ground, paid no heed to the trees above me. The new-born calf was soon found lying flat and motionless in a bed of fallen leaves and, while examining the calf, I heard a squawk above me. Looking up, I found a Magpie peering over the edge of her nest and taking an intense interest in us. Every now and then she squawked at us, but did not move until I had climbed up the side of the ravine above her and put out my hand to the nest and caught her on it.
The eggs number four to six and vary greatly in appearance, though as a series they are very close to the eggs of the genus Garrulus, differing in their much harder, finer and more glossy texture. The eggs of the latter genus are also more olive-brown rather than reddish-brown, as in Cissa.
The eggs in my own collection vary from white faintly and sparsely speckled with pale reddish to dark buffy-brown densely freckled with reddish-brown all over, the freckles coalescing to form rings or caps at the larger end. Between these extremes, which are rare, there is every intermediate phase of colour. In some eggs the freckles become small blotches, rather more sparsely scattered and showing the ground-colour, though never standing out boldly against it. In a few eggs there is a faint olive, cream or yellowish tint but the prevailing colour is reddish or buflish- brown. The secondary markings are of pale lavender, but there are but few of them and they are sometimes entirely absent. In shape the eggs are generally fairly true ovals, sometimes obtuse and sometimes slightly pointed ; broad blunt eggs are exceptional. The texture is rather close and hard and, especially in fresh eggs, there is a moderate gloss. The texture would suffice to distinguish them from those of the rare Jay G. l. persaturatus, which breeds in the same area as does this Magpie, only at more lofty elevations.
Two hundred eggs average 30.2 x 22.9 mm. ; maxima 33.3 x 23.0 and 32.5 x 23.7 mm. ; minima 26.8 x 20.9 mm.
24. Cissa chinensis chinensis
(24) Cissa chinensis chinensis (Bodd.).