(1030) Uroloncha malabarica (Linn.).
THE WHITE-THROATED MUNIA.
Uroloncha malabarica. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 89.
This is one of the widest spread of all the Munias. It is found practically all over India as well as in the dry zones of Ceylon. It ascends the Himalayas up to 6,000 feet below Simla ; to the East it extends to Eastern Bengal and Cachar, but not to Northern Assam or further East. On the West it occurs in both Afghanistan and Baluchistan and has been obtained at Muscat in Persia. As in the ‘Fauna,' I still retain these last birds and those from Sind all under one name with those from the rest of India.
This Munia over the whole of its immense range keeps much to the drier, less well-watered areas, and it is only in the East, as in Bengal, it is to be found in really very wet climates, while even there it avoids the wettest districts. I once found its neat in Cachar, but its occurrence there is most exceptional.
It is a bird of towns, villages and gardens but breeds anywhere in open country.
As regards the site of the nests, Hume thus sums up his infor¬mation :—“Normally, in fact nine times out of ten, they place their nests in low thorny bushes, at heights from 1 foot to 5 feet from the ground ; but I have found them in the most out of the way situations—once in a hole in a wall, once in an old thatch, several times in a haycock in my own ground, and once in amongst some dry bushes, stuck up as supports for, and almost covered with, sweet peas.
Typically the nest is large and globular, loosely put together with fine and coarse grass, the latter predominating on the outside, the former on the inside, and with more or less of fine vegetable down as a lining. But they are sometimes only partially covered over, sometimes quite open above, and all kinds of odds and ends are sometimes pressed into service.”
Of nests found by himself, Hume mentions one which was a flat saucer made of the flower-stems of a species of Agrestis mixed with tiny pieces of cotton and wool, a piece of red cloth and a few pieces of cotton-cloth. A second nest was a complete sphere of fine grasses thickly lined with cotton-wool, while a third was a ball made of the flowering stalks of delicate grasses with a good deal of cotton and one greenish rag incorporated.
Correspondents of Hume give details of still more curious sites.
Blewitt relates how, having taken three eggs from a nest of Aquila fulvescens, be noticed a pair of these Munias fussing round the Eagle’s nest and, on a further investigation, found their nest built inside the sticks forming the base of the Eagle’s nest, so that, when both birds were sitting, they were not two inches apart. Nor is a nest of this kind very rare, for Butler wrote to Hume saying : “I have seen numerous instances in the neighbourhood of Belgaum of nests built in the stick nests of Neophron ginginianus and Aquila vindhiana, In fact this seems to be one of the favourite sites selected.”
They frequently breed in the thatch of houses and in verandah creepers etc. Marshall, Inglis, Coltart and others have taken, nests from boles in the thatch, the nest in these cases being, as one would expect, mere chips of broken thatching grass in a pad for the reception of the eggs. On one occasion Marshall found they had appropriated the nest of a pair of Sparrows, and there were four eggs of that bird in addition to seven of their own.
This trespass into, and theft of, other birds’ nests seems to be not uncommon. Blewitt records their laying in an old Weaver-Bird’s nest hung up in a verandah, while Sykes says that on the Deccan he frequently found them in possession of deserted nests of Weaver-Birds. Many correspondents also report two or more pairs of this Munia breeding in one nest.
Theobald found 25 eggs in one nest, being of two different shapes, and obviously the product of two or more females. Blewitt remarks that it is very difficult to say how many eggs this bird lays, as he once found fifteen, in different stages of incubation, belonging to two or three pairs, all in one nest. Aitken also says that two pairs will sometimes go into partnership, while many refer to the large number of eggs often found in a nest, due to two or more pairs occupying it.
Even when their own nest is of normal spherical construction it varies greatly in size. Most nests are about 7 inches, both high and broad, but some are much larger and others rather smaller. They breed practically all the year round, but most birds lay from the latter half of June to September, having two or more broods. In Ceylon they lay from December to March. Hume believed there were two principal periods of laying in West and North-West India, first from January to April and then again from July to September. Theobald also found eggs in October and December Jesse took many nests in the United Provinces in March and other in November, December, July and August.
The full clutch ON eggs is five to eight but, as so many have recorded, up to 25 eggs have been found in one nest, with nothing to prove how many birds have laid them.
One hundred eggs average 15.7 x 11.7 mm. : maxima 18.5 x 11.5 and 16.6 x 12.5 mm. ; minima 13.5 x 12.2 and 14.8 x 11.2 mm.
1030. Uroloneha malabarica
(1030) Uroloncha malabarica (Linn.).