(1725) Falco subbuteo centralasiae Buturlin.
THE CENTRAL ASIAN HOBBY.
Falco subbuteo centralasiae, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 43.
This Hobby breeds in Central Asia, South to the Himalayas, possibly as far East as Assam. Rattray, Buchanan, Wilson and Osmaston obtained its nests round Murree, while Jones found it breeding in the Simla States. Ward says that it breeds freely in the higher hills of Kashmir ; Whitehead found it breeding in the Karram and Khagan Valleys. Everywhere it seems restricted to elevations above 5,000 feet. Osmaston (Journ, Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soe. vol. xxxii, p. 143, 1928) found nests up to 10,500 feet, while in Tibet it breeds up to about 14,000 feet.
The nidification of this Hobby is very little known and in some oases the Indian Hobby, F. s. rufipedoides, and the present bird seem to have been confounded with one another. The records, however, of Jones in Simla, Dodsworth in the same place and in the Patiala State, Osmaston in Ladak and Macdonald in Tibet do undoubtedly refer to this bird. The first record of its breeding is that of Jones (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxiii, p. 579, 1915 ; vol. xxiv, p. 359, 1916), In 1914 Jones found a nest with three young on the 10th August. The description of the nest is as follows :—“The situation of the nest was on three horizontal branches and 40, feet up in a Deodar (C. deodara). It was oblong in shape, measuring approxi¬mately 12" x 10" by 2.1/2 in depth, with a central depression of 2 inches. The nest was composed of fine twigs which did not exceed the diameter of an ordinary pencil. There were three young in the nest which were 16-18 days old. The old birds brought food at intervals of 10 to 15 minutes. As the parent bird alighted on the nest the young greedily rushed to secure the tit-bit, which was always carried in the feet. The duration of these visits lasted only a few seconds.
“Probably the nursery of these young Hobbies had originally been built by Crows (G. macrorhynchus) and had been altered to suit the requirements of the former.”
In 1915 Jones again found a nest, this time one with three eggs, on the 27th June, the eggs being slightly incubated. This “nest was on the outskirts of Deodar forest placed 65 feet up in a Deodar at an elevation of 6,000 feet," and was one “undoubtedly built by Crows.”
A clutch sent me from near Rhamtso and taken at about 14,000 feet was said to have laid in “a dilapidated nest, probably a Magpie’s, in a stunted thorn-bush." These were hard-set on the 29th May, perhaps unusually early.
Finally we have Osmaston's account of his finds in Ladak (ibid. vol. xxxii, p. 143, 1926) : "July is the month when nidification takes place. The nest is placed fairly high up in a tree. A nest found in the Indus Valley at 10,500 feet above Chushot was in a Poplar Grove. The nest was incomplete in June. A second nest at Kargil, 9,000 feet, in Ladakh, was also in a Poplar-tree, in the nest of a Carrion-Crow from which I had previously taken eggs. On August the 4th it contained three young in down. A third nest was half-way up a spruce-fir standing on an island in the Lidar River near Pahlgaon at 7,000 feet. It contained three fresh eggs in August which resemble Kestrels’ eggs in colour. A fourth neat was in the top of a Silver-fir in Gulmarg in July.”
Yet a fifth nest, the three eggs from which were sent to me, was taken by Osmaston on the 28th June. This also was half-way up a spruce standing on an island in the Lidar River.
From the above it seems that this Hobby breeds from 6,000 to 14,000 feet throughout the Himalayas as far East as Central South Tibet, sometimes breeding in the interior of dense forests but, at other times, breeding in groves and single trees in open country and occasionally in solitary trees or in stunted thorns standing all alone in wide waste lands. Apparently they always lay in the nests of other birds and generally in those of Crows or Magpies ; sometimes they use them as they are, while at other times they repair and add to them before laying their eggs.
The laying season appears to be from the end of May to early July and the fresh eggs obtained in August by Osmaston must be unusually late.
The full clutch is three or, rarely, four and the eggs are exactly like those of the European Hobby, The ground varies from dull yellow¬ish-buff to dull pale brick-red, the eggs being normally speckled and spotted all over very densely with darker dull brick-red and brown, with a few small blotches of purple-black The eggs have been said to resemble those of the Merlin and Kestrel, but they are much duller eggs than those of these birds. It is rare to find an egg at all richly blotched, but a few maybe rather more boldly blotched and with rather brighter colour than usual. The texture is rather coarse and quite glossless and the shape is a broad obtuse oval, though I have one clutch the eggs of which are long ovals in shape.
Twenty-eight eggs average 41.4 x 33.0 mm. : maxima 44.3 x 31.0 and 40.8 x 34.2 mm. ; minima 38.4 x 31.6 and 44.3 x 31.0 mm.
Both birds assist in incubation, Jones shooting a male, off the nest.
1725. Falco subbuteo centralasize
(1725) Falco subbuteo centralasiae Buturlin.