(782) Chibia hottentotta hottentotta* Linn.
THE INDIAN HAIR-CRESTED DRONGO.
Chibia hottentotta hottentotta, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 370.
As I fail to be able to discriminate between the birds of any special geographical area sufficiently to divide them into races, this bird has a very wide range. It is found over Travancore, Malabar and the Bombay Presidency ; in the Central Provinces and Chota Nagpore ; in the Himalayas from Murree to Eastern Assam ; Burma South to Tenasserim but not the Malay States ; North and South Shan States, Yunnan and North and Central Siam.
The Hair-crested Drongo is more essentially a forest bird than any of the Drongos already dealt with and seems, everywhere, to keep to fairly heavy forest, thick scrub and small tree-jungle or, less often, to dense bamboo forest. In these it is found from the broken ground, ravines and low hills at the foot of the higher hills up to some 3,000 feet, occasionally wandering about 1,000 feet higher. In Assam we noticed that of all forest it preferred dense evergreen in which stood here and there gigantic specimens of the Cotton-tree (Bombax malabarica). The flowers of these trees, with their thick, sweet nectar, attract myriads of insects, which in turn attract many birds, so forming happy hunting grounds for the collector. Several of the nests I took were within short distances of one of these great trees, situated well inside the forest and nearly always down near the bottom of deep valleys.
In Dibrugarh Coltart and I, and long ago Cripps also, took a good many nests from comparatively small trees standing in open forest or in mixed bamboo- and tree-jungle. Occasionally, also, they were to be found breeding in the jungle-covered ravines running through Tea land. The elevation in Dibrugarh was between 700 and 1,000 feet, but in the Surrma Valley hills they bred more commonly between 2,000 and 2,500 feet. Here, also, most of the nests I saw were between 15 and 25 feet from the ground but, occasionally, they were built at very great heights and, as they are nearly always built at the end of small branches on the outside of the trees, they are very hard to get at.
* Kloss has remarked (Journ. Fed. Malay States, vol. x, p. 222, 1922) that Sikkim cannot be used as the type-locality for C. hottentotta because Gould has named the Nepal bird crishna and that Sikkim birds cannot have been known to naturalists in Linnaeus’s time. As a matter of fact, Darjiling was a place where natives did a big trade in skins. However, I cannot separate our Indian birds, and retain all under the name hottentotta.
Oates, writing from Pegu, says that “in the first week of May I took several nests of this bird, but in all cases the nests were situated in such dangerous places that most of the eggs got broken.” Bingham also, writing from Tenasserim, remarks that he “saw a great number of nests round and about Meeawuddy in Tenasserim, but all inaccessible, as they were invariably built out at the very end of the thinnest branches of eng, teak, thingan (Hepea odorata,) and other trees.”
The nests vary considerably in size. Thus Thompson says that the nest is about 5 inches in diameter (Kuman and Garhwal) ; Hodgson says that in Nepal “it builds a large shallow nest, 8 or 9 inches in diameter externally, with the cavity almost half that diameter.” Gammie gives the measurements as “6 inches broad by about 2.1/4 externally ; internally 4 by 1.3/4.” Cripps supplies the small extreme with measurements for his nests as “3.1/2 inches diameter, internally 1.1/2 wide, with the sides about 1/4 inch deep.”
The great number of nests I have seen have agreed well with Gammie’s measurements. I have never seen any so big as Hodgson’s and none anything like so small as Cripps’s. I should think the extremes of those I have taken have been between 5 and 7 inches diameter and between 1.1/2 and 2.1/2 deep.
They are quite typical King-Crows’ nests, larger and more untidy than most, made of the same materials, and the same wide saucers, in shape. Most nests are placed in horizontal forks of branches, but Hume writes :—“Sometimes placed between four or five upright shoots, at times resting on a horizontal bough against, and attached to, some more or less upright shoots.”
The breeding season is everywhere from the last few days of March to the end of April. Bourdillon in Travancore says from the end of February to June, but the nests he took himself were from the 15th March to the 26th April. In Assam we took practically all our nests in April, very few in May, while I have one clutch taken on the 1st June. In the Western Himalayas they seem to breed later. Whymper took nests up to the 2nd June ; Gammie and Thompson also both took nests in June. Cripps records taking nests in May and June in Furreedpore, but in adjoining districts of Eastern Bengal I found the birds breeding in early April.
A full clutch of eggs consists of three or four. I have once taken five, and have several times seen two well incubated.
The eggs vary as greatly as do those of the genus Dicrurus and in very much the same manner. I have one clutch of eggs practicallypure white and, even with a glass, it is hard to detect a few fine stipplings at the larger end. At the other extreme I have deep rich salmon-buff-coloured eggs, freckled all over with reddish, which coalesce to form tiny caps at the larger extremity. Some eggs have a white ground sparsely freckled all over with deep purple, no mark exceeding a small pin’s head in size. The marks are rather more numerous at the larger end. In other eggs the ground is pale cream and the specks, almost invisible, are of pale red. Many eggs have a warm salmon-pink ground, and are profusely marked all over with specks and small blotches of light red or, less often, purple-red. In one clutch the markings are larger, more elongate, and the eggs look marbled.
Between these varieties there is every intermediate stage represented. As a whole the eggs are handsome but the markings are small and insignificant, while secondary markings are absent, or not very pronounced.
The most common shape is a rather long, pointed oval, but many eggs are shorter and some are just stumpy ellipses. The texture is hard and close and, though generally there is no gloss, in some this is well developed.
The average of two hundred eggs is 29.2 x 21.2 mm. : maxima 34.5 x 22.0 and 31.0 x 22.8 mm. ; minima 25.0 x 20.5 and 27.5 x 19.8 mm.
Both sexes incubate, but the male only rarely, while both seem to take an equal part in the construction of the nest.
782. Chibia hottentotta hottentotta
(782) Chibia hottentotta hottentotta* Linn.