(1730 Falco chiquera chiquera Daudin.
THE INDIAN RED-HEADED MERLIN.
Falco chiquera chiquera, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 47.
The Turumti, the Indian name by which this bird is so often called, is spread over practically the whole of India from the base of the Himalayas to the extreme South. It extends West from Sind to the Surrma Valley in the East, and Hume also records it from Manipur. In the Brahmapootra Valley we never came across it.
So well known was this bird even in Hume’s time that it is almost impossible to add anything to what Hume has already recorded in ‘Nests and Eggs,’ where he writes :—“They nest, I believe, exclusively on trees. I have no record of their building on rocks, as so many Falcons do ; and I once took a nest in the Sewaliks in a peepul-tree, at the foot of a cliff, full of ledges and boulder-holes, which, had the bird any sort of inclination for such localities, would have been sure to have attracted it.
“Where such occur, they prefer large trees—peepul, mango, and tamarind, usually selecting one of a small group standing by itself. In the Punjab and Rajputana, where large trees are scarce, their nests may be found on mere bushes, not above 10 feet from the ground.
“The nest is generally fixed in a fork near the top of the tree, and is typically a very neat, compact, and characteristic structure ; it is usually circular, some 12 inches in diameter, and from 6 to 9 inches in thickness, with a deep egg-cavity, 5 to 6 inches in dia¬meter, and from 3 to 3.5 in depth ; but I have seen some nests comparatively thin platforms, with only a depression from 1.5 to 2 inches in the centre. The lower portion of the nest is constructed of pretty stout twigs, of various kinds of wood, closely put together ; the upper portion of finer twigs still more closely interwoven. The egg-cavity is lined with fine roots or vegetable fibre, the roots of the khus grass (Andropogon muricatum) being commonly chosen for this purpose, along with straw, a few feathers, and occasionally a shred or two of doth, the lining being firmly intertwined with the twigs forming the walls of the cavity.
“The birds, I think, make their own nests fresh and fresh every year, I have repeatedly seen them building new nests in trees containing very nice last year’s nests of Crows and other birds, and I have not as yet ever found a nest tenanted for two successive seasons. Both sexes assist in building, and they make no little fuss about the placing of each twig that is brought up. The normal number of the eggs is four ; but I have found the female sitting on only three. Two nests, each containing five egga, have been reported to me ; but these are very exceptional.”
Sometimes, however, these little Falcons do make use of other birds’ nests. B. Aitken saw them busy repairing an old nest, though he could not say if it was a Crow’s or their own, while his brother, J. Aitken, writing from Akda, says : “In this neighbourhood they more commonly select the old nest of a Crow.” Eates, who has taken many nests in Sind, says that there also the great majority breed in old nests of Crowe.
The breeding season lasts from January to May, but the great majority of eggs are laid in February and early March.
The eggs are, as Hume says, small replicas of the egga of the Laggar Falcon and are on the whole very dull and uninteresting, but occasionally a clutch may bo taken rather more boldly and brightly blotched than usual, and many are more blotched at the larger than the smaller end, a few egga being regularly capped. I have one set of eggs with a pale yellow-clay ground curiously marbled all over with dirty brown, quite pale, hut with a few deep blood-brown blotches and specks. The eggs bleach and fade very rapidly, hub some look as if they had been bleached for a long time even when newly laid.
In shape the egga vary from broad to rather long ovals, never, however, pointed at the smaller end. The texture is rather coarse and the shell not so stout as it is in the eggs of the Hobby.
One hundred and twenty eggs average 42.4 x 32.1 mm. : maxima 46.7 x 31.0 and 41.4 x 34.0 mm. ; minima 38.2 x 31.4 and 41.3 x 30.0 mm.
The birds are very bold in defence of young or eggs, but their fussiness and constant pursuit of any Kite or other bird which comes near their nesting-tree soon gives away the site.
Anderson writes that on two occasions his tent was pitched near a Turumti’s nesting place, and the birds were “a perfect nuisance, as they were incessantly darting out and driving away all manner of imaginary enemies.”
1730. Falco chiquera chiquera
(1730 Falco chiquera chiquera Daudin.