(11) Corvus splendens splendens Vieill.
THE COMMON INDIAN HOUSE-CROW.
Corvus splendens splendens, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 33.
The breeding range of this race of House-Crow may be said to be all India except Sind, the North-West Province, Kashmir proper and possibly Ladak. It is the form found in Assam, Manipur, Lushai Hills. Chin Hills and Arrakan. In the Punjab the two forms meet and birds obtained by Mr. H. Whistler at Jhang are said to be typical splendens. The breeding season of the Common House-Crow varies very greatly and, in some areas at all events, they have two breeding seasons. In the two seasons I believe there are two sets of birds breeding and not the same lot of birds breeding twice and rearing two broods, for nests which are used annually are never used twice in the same year. Over Eastern Bengal, Behar and Arrakan the normal breeding season, is March and April but in Dacca and Mymensingh there are two well-defined seasons : December, January and February in the Winter and April, May and, rarely, June in the hot weather. In Ratnagiri and in other parts of the Bombay Presidency Messrs. Vidal and Davidson found that they had two similar seasons, the principal months being November and December and then again in April and May. Over the rest of India the favourite months seem to be June and July.
The normal nest is composed entirely of sticks lined with roots, fibre, wool, hair or almost any soft material which may be easily obtained close by. Rags are a favourite article and in Eastern Bengal jute-fibre, which is always handy, is used more often than anything else. They are bulky affairs as a rule, very untidy and always coming to pieces, so that each year, if used again, they have to be practically rebuilt. This Crow seems to have a predilection for using curious material for its nest. Blyth records “several nests composed more or less, and two almost exclusively, of the wires taken from soda-water bottles, which had been purloined from the heaps of these wires commonly set aside by the native servants.” Two pairs of birds in Eastern Bengal went one better than these and, according to Mr. J. ft. Cripps, “two nests in the compound of the house in which I lived at Howrah were made entirely of galvanized wire, the thickest piece of which was as thick as a slate pencil. How these birds managed to bend these thick pieces of wire was a marvel to us ; not a stick was incorporated with the wires, and the lining of the nest (which was of the ordinary size) was of jute and a few feathers. The railway goods-yard, which was alongside the house, supplied the wire.”
A nest found by myself in my garden was made of sticks as usual but the lining was an old cap which held the eggs well but, not being supported underneath, eventually gave way when the young were well grown. Yet another nest found in Bombay was made entirely of spectacle-rims, purloined from a shop in the bazaar.
The House-Crow does not seem to mind what kind of tree he builds in. Perhaps, more often than not, he chooses a Mango, Tamarind or some other large tree with dense foliage but I have seen seven nests in one small leafless tree in the middle of the Dacca bazaar, the lowest nests not 10 feet from the ground, In Calcutta the “Gold Mohur” tree is this bird’s favourite but in Barrackpore, 15 miles away, he prefers the tall Casuarinas. Nor do these birds always build in trees but frequently place their nests on ruined mausoleums or even inhabited houses. Sometimes they will actually build in the verandahs of these latter, and Aitken gives an amusing account of the efforts of a pair of these Crows to construct their nest in the verandah of the ‘Madras Mail’ Office on a ledge of one of the pillars :— “The ledge was so narrow that one would have thought the Sparrow alone of all known birds would have selected it for a site. I was told that the Crows had been at their task two months before I saw them and I then watched them till nearly the end of October. The celebrated spider which taught King Bruce a lesson in patience was fitful and eager compared with this pair of Crows. I kept no account of the number of times their structure was blown down, only to be immediately begun again ; but, as there was a good deal of rain and wind at that season, in addition to the regular sea breeze, it was a common thing for the sticks to be cleared off day after day. But perseverance will often achieve seeming impos¬sibilities, and, moreover, the Crows worked more indefatigably as the season went on, and used to run up their nest with great rapidity, so that several times the structure was completed, or nearly completed, before being swept to the ground, though how it remained in its place for a moment seems a mystery, and twice I saw a broken egg among the debris. At length about the middle of September the Crows determined to try the pillar at the other end of the verandah. The new site selected differed in no respect from the old one, and was no less exposed to the wind ; but the birds had grown expert at building “castles in the air” and now met with fewer mishaps. In the first week of October the hen bird was sitting regularly, so on the 8th of the month I sent a man up by a ladder, and he held up four eggs for me to look at. It really seemed after this that patience was to have its reward, but on the night of the 20th there came a storm of wind and rain, and when I went to office in the morning the nest was lying on the ground with two young Crows in it.
“I am told by a gentleman in the ‘Mail’ Office that the Crows have built in that verandah for five or six years past.”
The usual clutch of Crow’s eggs numbers four or five but six is not uncommon and sometimes three only are laid. So far as descrip¬tion of the eggs goes it is not possible to add anything to those already given of the other species of Crow. As a series they impress one as very intermediate, neither very dark nor very pale ; nor can I, after an examination of many hundreds—possibly thousands —of eggs find that there is any variation in the geographical ranges parallel with the subspecific variations so striking in the birds themselves. If there is any it is possible that the eggs of the Common Indian House-Crow may average paler than those of the other races, whilst I think those of the Burmese birds are definitely the darkest of them all, as well as being just a trifle more boldly and richly marked.
Two hundred eggs average 37.2 x 27.0 mm. : maxima 44.1 x 27.4 and 41.1 x 29.1 mm. ; minima 30.4 x 25.4 and 32.0 x 23.0 mm.
I have seen only two erythristic eggs of this Crow, these having been taken by a young friend of mine who was asked to send me two or three clutches from Mhow containing Cuckoos’ eggs. The only eggs he took for me were four of these red eggs with one Koel’s egg, but two of the former went astray somehow and never reached me.
11. Corvus splendens splendens
(11) Corvus splendens splendens Vieill.