Corvus levaillanti .
(5) Corvus levaillanti levaillanti Lesson.
THE NORTHERN INDIAN JUNGLE-CROW.
Corvus coronoides levaillanti, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 26, Corvus levaillanti levaillanti, ibid. vol. vii, p. 593.
The breeding habits of all our races of Jungle-Crow vary but little except in their times of breeding and a few other minor points and, for the most part, a description of the habits of one race would suffice for all. The Northern Indian race breeds during December and January in Bengal and I have myself taken eggs as early as the 27th November in Eastern Bengal. In Behar a few birds breed as early as the second week in January, but over the rest of its range across India as far West as the United Provinces and as far South as the Central Provinces the normal breeding season seems to be late March to early May, most eggs being laid in April before the 20th of that month. Unlike the House-Crow, this bird seldom breeds actually within the limits of towns or large villages. At the same time it seems to prefer the vicinity of houses to uninhabited areas. Its favourite sites for nests are undoubtedly Mango orchards, clumps of trees on the outskirts of villages and single trees dotted about in cultivation. Mango and Tamarinds are very favourite trees but I have also taken them from Coconut-palms, bamboo-clumps, Mimosas and other similar trees, not 20 feet from the ground, and from Casuarinas 60 feet or more above it. They have also been recorded from Babool-trees, 10 feet up, but as a rule they like to be at least 25 feet high or more on a biggish tree.
The nest is nearly always made of sticks, big and small, lined with any kind of fibrous roots, palm-fibre from the bark, or with hair.
* Messrs. Kinnear and Whistler have revived macrorhynchus as the specific name for our Indian Jungle-Crows. This may be quite correct, but our Northern Indian bird cannot be—and is certainly not—the same as the Javan race. The name levaillanti must therefore remain. The question of species and subspecies of this bird cannot be decided upon an examination of Indian and Burmese birds only.
Hume records taking a hair lining from a Jungle-Crow’s nest which weighed no less than a pound, while there is also a record of a human hair lining weighing 6 ounces. The nest is generally rather bulky and untidy, anything from 12 to 20 inches across, 3 to 6 deep and with a depression for the eggs measuring about 8 inches across by 2 to 4 inches deep. In one part of Eastern Bengal, where these birds were very numerous, I took many nests from the clumps of trees on the Golf-course, often having to examine nests to recover golf-balls which the Crows carried off. Here the nests were some¬times much smaller and neater than usual, more like the nests of its cousin, the Himalayan race. Much moss was incorporated in the bodies of these nests, whilst the lining was of softer hair and fine roots, so that the whole structure was very compact and neat. The parent birds sit very close, especially when the eggs are at all incubated, and will often continue to sit until the taker of the nest is within a few feet of it. One pair of the Burmese form of this Crow, which is found in Dacca, had their nest in a curious position, a small bunch of Ficus growing on the roof of a broken- down mausoleum. When the nest was found the two birds sat, the one on the nest and the other within a foot or so of it, until the former was almost pushed off. When the eggs were taken the bird several times swooped down within a few inches of the boy’s head but never struck him. On other occasions I have seen feeble swoops made at an intending robber but I have never seen so determined and long-drawn-out an attack as that, made by this pair. No attempt seems to be made at concealment, though in trees with thick foliage the nests may not be very conspicuous. Even in such cases, however, the birds always give away the site of their nest by their anxiety whenever anyone passes the tree in which it is built.
The eggs number three to five and, though six have been recorded, this number must be very rare. Cases in which two eggs have been reported as incubated are probably incomplete clutches, part of which have been stolen by the vermin, of which so many kinds steal birds-eggs in India.
It is very interesting to note that the eggs of the various races of Jungle-Crow are very distinctive, perhaps even more so than the birds themselves. Of course eggs of all the races overlap and it would be quite impossible to identify any single egg or even clutch of eggs but, when series are available for examination, the differentiation is very easily seen. The present race lays eggs which are intermediate in size and in depth of colour between the Southern and Himalayan subspecies. The eggs are, like all Crows’ eggs, green. That is to say, the ground-colour is normally a pale olive or blue-green, more rarely almost blue, with numerous blotches and spots of umber-brown and blackish-brown, distributed freely over the whole surface but nearly always more, numerous at the larger end. Occasionally eggs may be seen with a slightly yellowish tinge in the ground-colour. Sparsely marked clutches are not rare and I have one clutch of four in my collection almost unmarked pale blue, whilst another has merely a few large blotches of dull brown and brownish neutral tint. The underlying markings are almost always few in number and very inconspicuous but in a few eggs they become well defined, rather large blotches of deep lavender-grey.
One hundred eggs average 39.6 x 28.9 mm. : maxima 45.2 x 29.5 and 45.2 x 35.2 mm. ; minima 36.9 x 28.2 and 38.9 x 26.3 mm. In shape they are generally long pointed ovals, but long-shaped eggs with obtuse smaller ends are not exceptional, though broad stumpy eggs are very rare. The texture is fairly fine and close but there is little or no gloss and the eggs are brittle for their size.
As a species the Jungle-Crow lays eggs which differ from those of the Carrion-Crow in having fewer longitudinal markings.
5. Corvus levaillanti levaillanti
Corvus levaillanti .