(32) Dendrocitta formosae himalayensis Blyth.
THE EASTERN HIMALAYAN TREE-PIE.
Dendrocitta formosoe himalayensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 53.
This Magpie breeds throughout the Himalayas from Nepal, through Sikkim, Assam, Manipur, all Northern Burma, to the Northern Kachin Hills and Shan States. In Assam, North of the Brahmapootra, it breeds regularly actually in the Plains, whilst in Eastern Lakkimpur it is a common breeding bird in the foot-hills up to an elevation of some 4,000 feet and straggles occasionally into the Plains as far as Dibrugarh, which is some 500 to 700 feet above sea-level and which, owing to the proximity of snow-capped moun¬tains, has a fauna common to about 2,000 feet elsewhere. In Sikkim and Bhutan it is most common between 2,000 and 3,000 feet but, all through its range, ascends to about 5,000 feet and occasionally as high as 7,000. Gammie took many nests in Sikkim during May, June and July, whilst I have taken them containing fresh eggs from April to August in the various hill-ranges of Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra, and in the Surrma Valley. Hodgson found eggs in June in Nepal, whilst Wardlaw- Ramsay took a clutch in the Karen Hills in April.
The nests, of which I have seen some hundreds, are made of fine twigs, coarse roots, tendrils and weed-stems, rather strongly intertwined, though the whole affair looks fragile. In some nests practically all the materials used are twigs and a few coarse roots but in others nothing else is used but the long elastic stems and tendrils of a Convolvulus-creeper, perhaps with a few finer roots as a rough lining. Many nests have no lining at all, nor have I ever seen any nests with a supporting platform such as is common to nearly all nests of rufa. In shape the nest is nearly always a shallow saucer with a very slight depression for the eggs ; about one nest in every ten, however, is stouter in build, rather more bulky and with a comparatively deeper internal cup. In these nests leaves often form a component part of the fabric. In size the nests may be anything from 5 to 7 inches across by 1.1/2 to inches deep, the internal saucer for the eggs being about 1/2 to 1 inch in depth. In the more bulky, deeper nests the diameter is generally under 7 inches but the depth runs up to nearly 4 inches.
The site selected for the nest varies much. According to Gammie “It affects clear cultivated tracts, interspersed with a few standing shrubs and bamboo in which it builds,” whilst elsewhere he adds it “is rarely found far from cultivated fields.” In Assam Coltart, Inglis and I found it to be a bird of the forest, though generally haunting the more open, less humid parts of it. It is especially fond of the dense, but dry, secondary growth which springs up so rapidly in deserted cultivation, while they may also be found breeding in small patches of forest, more or less broken up by open plains. In North Lakkimpur Stevens found it common both in summer and winter in strips of forest surrounded on all sides by great tracts of grass-land, but in winter it undoubtedly comes far more into the open and may then be found near well-wooded villages.
Its nest is never placed at any great height from the ground. Probably four nests out of five are built in tall bushes and saplings between 8 and 20 feet from the ground. I have, however, found a few of them placed as high as 30 feet or so in big trees, while I have, on the other hand, taken them from tangles of briars and from clumps of stout weeds not 3 feet from the ground.
The eggs number three to five, the latter number quite exceptional. The ground-colour ranges from pale bluish or yellowish stone-colour to a rich yellowish cream, dull or bright buff, but buff eggs are few in number. The primary blotches are generally large and bold, numerous at the larger end, where they normally more or less coalesce to form caps or rings, and sparse elsewhere. In colour the blotches are a dark brown, frequently reddish or, rarely, tinged with olive. The secondary marks are of pale or dark inky often blending with the primary ones. In some clutches the markings are smaller, paler and feebler, and in these they are sometimes more widely distributed over the smaller end. In shape they are broad ovals, occasionally rather longer. The texture is stout, fine and close and the surface usually shows a distinct gloss, some¬times highly developed. Two hundred eggs average 28.8 x 20.1 mm. : maxima 33.5 x 20.3 and 29.9 x 22.3 mm. ; minima 24.6 x 19.3 and 26.2 x 19.2 mm.
32. Dendrocitta formosse himalayensis
(32) Dendrocitta formosae himalayensis Blyth.