(26) Dendrocitta rufa rufa.
THE INDIAN TREE-PIE.
Corvus rufus Latham, Ind. Orn., p. 161 (1790) (Malabar Coast). Dendrocitta rufa. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 30.
Lanius rufus Linne, Syst. Nat., i, 1766. Corvus rufus Lath. Ind. Orn., p. 161, 1790.
The description given is very poor, but it is founded on Sonnerat's plate, vol. ii, p. 161, Voyage de Sonnerat,' and cannot be mistaken. Although called "de Chine" it was apparently obtained on the Malabar Coast. On p. 171 Latham describes C". vagabunda and here lays stress on the black head and red back, evidently having obtained a N.E. Indian bird, possibly from the vicinity of Calcutta.
Vernacular names. Mahtab and Chand (Sind); Gokurayi, Konda-kati-gada (Tel.); Mootri (Lucknow) ; Maha-lat (Hindi).
Description. The whole head and neck with the upper breast, sooty-brown; remainder of the plumage fulvous or reddish fulvous, darker on the back and scapulars; wing-coverts greyish-white; wing-quills dark brown, the outer webs of the inner secondaries grey; tail pale ashy-grey, darkest at the base, broadly tipped with black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown to red-brown; bill dark slaty horn-colour, albescent at the base; mouth flesh-colour; eyelids plumbeous; legs dark brown, claws horn-colour.
Measurements. Length from 365 to 450 mm., according to length of tail which varies from 193 to 257 mm., in one case actually 305 mm.; wing from 137 to 159 mm., and in the one case 177 mm.; tarsus about 33 mm.; culmen about 28 mm.
The young are duller in colour than the adults, the head is lighter brown and the lateral tail-feathers are tipped with white or buffy-white.
Distribution. The whole of Southern India, North to, and including, Orissa; West to Sind, Punjab and Afghanistan and thence East to the South of Kashmir, Simla Hills and Garhwal.
Nidification. In the southern part of their range these Magpies breed in February and March, whilst further north they breed principally in May and June. As, however, with so many common birds, their breeding extends over a prolonged period and eggs are laid both later and earlier than the above months. The nest is a rather untidy, but not very bulky, affair of twigs, roots and other material, carelessly interwoven and lined with roots and sometimes a scrap or two of wool. Generally they are placed well up in trees of some size, but often in thorn hedges, Ber bushes or cactus clumps.
In the north the birds lay three to five eggs, most often four, but in the south they lay fewer and generally only two or three. The majority are of two distinct types: one pale greenish in ground-colour with blotches and spots of light and dark grey-brown; the other pale reddish white or salmon-colour with blotches of reddish and dark brown and others, underlying, of lilac and neutral tint.
150 eggs average 29.2x21.7 mm.
Habits. This Magpie is more of a plains than a mountain bird, but in some parts of the Himalayas it is said to wander up to as high as 7,000 feet and to breed at this height. It is a sociable, noisy bird but many of its notes are very musical, though it can give vent to most unmusical discords at times. Its usual call is an oft-repeated "bob-a-link bob-a-link "as it flies from one bush to another, the cry being repeated by each member of the. flock in turn. They are practically omnivorous and are arrant egg and nestling thieves during the breeding seasons of the smaller birds.
Their flight is dipping and consists of alternative flappings of the wings with short spells of sailings with the wings stiffly outspread.
This Magpie is everywhere one of the most familiar of birds, frequenting gardens and the outskirts of towns and villages and not penetrating into the wilder parts.
The type locality of rufa was certainly somewhere in South India, probably Malabar and therefore that place may be now designated.