(1) Corvus corax laurencei Hume.
THE PUNJAB RAVEN.
Corvus corax laurencei, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 21.
Within Indian limits the Punjab Raven breeds from South and Western Sind as far East as the United Provinces. In both the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province it is a common bird, but is less so to the East of the Jumna. It occurs regularly in many parts of Upper Sind but much more rarely and, apparently, only sporadically in Lower Sind. According to Mr. K. Eates the great majority of these Ravens in Upper Sind are migrants coming, in considerable numbers in September and October and leaving again in May after breeding. To the South it has been obtained breeding as far as Sambhur. From the North-West Frontier Province Hume remarked that it seemed to be absent from the Dera Ghazi Khan district, but Capt. C. R. S. Pitman and Col. R. H. Rattray both found it very common at Dera Ismail Khan, where they took many nests in January and February.
The Punjab Raven commences to build in December and January, but few eggs will be found until the second or third week of the latter month, whilst probably more eggs are laid in February than in any other month. Hume took five slightly incubated eggs as early as the 19th December but, on the other hand, Major Lindsay Smith took four quite fresh eggs as late as the 28th March, 1911, at Lyallpur.
Normally this Raven makes its nests in trees, sometimes on quite small ones, at other times on trees of some height. The body of the nest is made of stout sticks, well interlaced and compactly put together, being generally finished off and lined with smaller sticks and twigs. Often the nests are lined with wool and less often with hair and other miscellaneous scraps such as pieces of cloth, skin and other odd fragments picked up near villages. The nest, as Hume records, is very like a large nest of a Rook but, unlike that bird’s, it is always solitary and it is seldom that two nests will be found within a few hundred yards of each other. If the bird starts building early they are often very slow in their work, whether of repairing their old nests or in building a new one but, if work is commenced late a new nest is built in little over a week or ten days, whilst the bringing up to date of a previously occupied nest may only take a day or two. Some nests are occupied for many years in succession, not being deserted until they are blown down or otherwise destroyed, when another is built in the same tree or in one close by. Sometimes the nests are built on cliffs. Mr. B. B. Osmaston says that round about Rawal Pindi the Punjab Raven nearly always builds one the cliffs ; Mr. A. E. Jones found nests on the high cliff banks of the Haro River near Campbellpur ; Mr. P. Dodsworth also obtained one such nest near Chuakhana in the Punjab. Hume’s description of his first nest would suffice for almost any other of those built on trees. He writes :—
“At Hansie, in Skinner’s Beerh, Dec. 19th, 1867, we found our first Raven’s nest. It was in a solitary Keekur tree, which originally of ho great size had had all but two upright branches lopped away. Between these two upright branches was a large compact nest fully 10 inches deep and 18 inches in diameter, and not more than 20 feet from the ground. It contained five slightly incubated eggs, which the old bird evinced the greatest objection to part with, not only flying at the head of the man who removed them, but some little time after they had been removed similarly attacking the man who ascended the tree to look at the nest. After the eggs were gone, they sat themselves on a small branch above the nest, side by side, croaking most ominously, and shaking their heads at each other in the most amusing manner, every now and then alter¬nately descending to the nest and scrutinizing every portion of the cavity with their heads on one side as if to make sure the eggs were really gone.”
Jones described a cliff nest as follows :— “These six eggs were from a nest composed of sticks and lined with hair, etc., which was built on a ledge of a clay cliff on the left bank of the River Haro, near Campbellpur, in the Western Punjab. Both birds were very demonstrative whilst the nest was being taken, though they did not actually attack the man. This was fortunate, for the nest could only be reached with the aid of a rope, being about 20 feet below the top and about 50 feet from the base of the cliff. These six eggs, which were taken on the 25th February, 1919, were slightly incubated.” Nests are often built on quite small trees, sometimes not more than about 15 feet from the ground, whilst one nest has been recorded as placed in a stunted Mimosa only 7 feet from it. The tree selected may be quite a solitary one standing in culti¬vation or waste ground, one of an avenue beside a road, one in small clumps of trees near villages or, rarely, one in an orchard of Mango-trees.
The eggs number four to six, most often, perhaps, five, and are quite typical of the Crow tribe. The ground-colour varies very greatly but is most often a pale blue or greenish blue ; at other times it may be a pale olive or pale stone colour, nearly always, however, with a greenish tinge. The markings consist of blotches, spots and specks of various shades of deep brown, with others almost black and others again of olive-brown. They vary considerably in size and distribution but, normally, they are moderately large and are scattered fairly thickly over the whole surface, though more numerously over the larger end. A few eggs have much of the smaller end almost devoid of markings, whilst those at the larger end are more sparse than usual and bigger and bolder in character, such eggs being particularly handsome. Occasionally the markings are reduced to tiny specks and spots scattered profusely over the whole egg and giving a very dull appearance to it. The secondary, or underlying, markings vary in size and distribution much as do the primary ones but they are seldom sufficiently numerous to dominate the general tint of the egg. In colour they range from the palest lavender or neutral tint to a deep inky grey. In shape the eggs are rather long ovals, though they naturally differ consider¬ably ; short stumpy eggs are, however, rare in this subspecies of Raven, whilst long pointed eggs are comparatively common. The general impression given by a series of these eggs is that of green in colour and a rather elegant long oval in shape. The surface is usually glossless but some eggs have a slight gloss, especially those which are less pigmented than normal. The texture is close and hard but the shell rather thin and brittle for so large an egg, a feature which seems to be characteristic of the eggs of this family.
One hundred eggs measured by myself average 50-7 x 33.6 mm : maxima 59-6 x 34.6 and 51-9 x 36.2 mm. ; minima 41.9 x 33.0 and 47.5 x 31.0 mm.
The period of incubation is said to be only 17 or 18 days, though the typical form of the Raven is said to take from 19 to 21 days to hatch its young, possibly due to development not proceeding so fast in a cold as in a tropical climate.
1. Corvus corax laurencei