(787) Dissemurus paradiseus paradiseus Linn.
THE SIAM LARGE RACKET-TAILED DRONGO.
Dissemurus paradiseus paradiseus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 377.
The Racket-tailed Drongo has been split up into many races, of which the dividing lines cannot but be somewhat arbitrary. Typical birds from Siam are slightly smaller than those from the Burmese Peninsula, yet these are nearer the Siam form than to any other and must be placed under the same name. Individuals occur throughout Southern Siam which cannot be distinguished in any way from those found in Tavoy, Mergui and other places in Tenasserim.
Hopwood and Mackenzie found this fine Drongo breeding freely both near Tavoy and Mergui and took a series of its eggs which are now in my collection.
Hopwood gave me the following note with the first two clutches of eggs sent by him :—“I am sending by this mail 2 Dissemurus paradiseus with five eggs. Both clutches were taken on the 19th May, and both consisted of three eggs well incubated. One egg was smashed getting the nest down, as it was in a very difficult place. Mackenzie and I had previously found fresh eggs and empty nests from the middle of April onwards. The eggs are of two types, though taken within five miles of one another. The locality in each case was the same, a pyinkado (Xylia dolabriformis) tree standing in open bamboo-jungle on the edge of the road. In one case the nest was quite low down on a small epicormic branch, 10 feet from the ground ; the other was, as usual, on the outer end of one of the lower main branches and about 30 feet from the ground, a situation similar to all those previously found. One of these was on a Pyinsua tree (Lagerst. flos. reginoe) standing in open meadow-like country in the same sort of position, but only 20 feet from the ground."
In Siam Herbert says (Journ. Siam Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. vi, p. 96, 1923) :—“The favourite nesting site is a Mango-tree, either near to the house in fruit gardens or on the outskirts of a village and, although I have seen a dozen or more nests, I have, never seen one in any other kind of tree. The position of the nest is on the very fringe of the tree and about 20 feet from the ground, so it is quite inaccessible from the tree itself. On two occasions there was a Betel Palm growing near by which could be drawn over with a rope so that a boy could reach the nest. There is usually some vantage point from which the nest can be inspected but, failing this, it is necessary to erect a stout bamboo, then steady it with one rope to the tree, and with another as a guy rope, so that a boy can climb it.
“The nest is cup-shaped but very shallow, and is built of tiny creepers, roots and stems of grasses, often so thinly put together that one can see from below whether there is anything in it. The materials are bound round the sides of a horizontal fork at the end of a branch so that the nest hangs in the fork like a cradle.
“The nesting season is May, with the eggs laid by the middle of the month, and this appears to be a short and very regular period, though I have extremes on either side of it. One clutch of fresh eggs dated 5.6.15 may have been late, due to the first nest having been disturbed, and is not extraordinary, but a note of two young birds being fed by their parents at Bansakai, 29.4.13, appears to be an exceptionally early record. I have obtained eggs from Meklong, Samkok and Ayuthia, and in Bangkok I have watched several nests in the fruit gardens on the west side of the river.
“Three is the full complement, and the average size for eleven eggs 28.8 x 20.2 mm.”
Williamson also took eggs at the same period and in similar places.
The breeding season in Siam seems to be regularly May and, occasionally, early June, but in Tenasserim the birds commence breeding in March and continue throughout April up to the middle of May, the latest date being the 27th of that month, when Hopwood took three very much incubated eggs.
In colour the eggs of all the races of Large Racket-tailed Drongo agree, though in my series some varieties are represented in one race and not in another.
The most common type in the present race has a pale, rather livid pink ground, well blotched with large marks of rather dark reddish, to a dark reddish-brown, most numerous, as usual, at the larger end, but nowhere obscuring the ground. The secondary markings are large and small blotches of pale grey or pinkish-grey, which are more numerous than the primary markings and rather dominate the colour of the egg. A somewhat similar type has the ground darker and more definitely a dull pink, while the markings are very faded and washed out. A third type has the ground varying from very pale to pale pink, clearer than in the last and rather more boldly marked and, finally, in a fourth type the ground is white, more or less boldly spotted or blotched with deep purple-brown and, subordinate to these, secondary blotches of very pale grey.
I have never seen in this race the deep creamy buff or terra-cotta tinted eggs not rare in the Northern Indian races.
The texture is coarse yet fragile, the surface smooth but glossless, while the shape varies from a broad to a rather long oval.
Forty eggs average 27.8 x 20.2 mm. : maxima 33.2 x 20.2 and 29.2 x 22.2 mm. ; minima 26.9 x 20.0 and 30.0 x 19.5 mm.
A very curious pair of pigmy eggs taken by Hopwood measure only 26.4 x 19.0 and 26.3 x 18.6 mm., while in colour they are also abnormal—a pure white ground, profusely marked all over with flecks and small blotches of dark reddish-brown.
787. Dissemurus paradiseus paradiseus
(787) Dissemurus paradiseus paradiseus Linn.