(40) Garrulus leucotis leucotis Hume.
THE BURMESE BLACK-CROWNED JAY.
Garrulus leucotis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 61.
The Burmese Jay’s breeding range extends from the hill ranges of Northern Burma, excluding the country between the Chindwin and Irrawaddy in the North and the whole of the Chin Hills, South through the mountains of the Shan States and Karenni to Tenasserim. It is very common in the Kachin Hills, especially round Monywa, though where this bird and Sharpe’s Jay (G. I. oatesi) meet is doubtful. At Kindat, northwards, the latter bird is certainly the breeding resident and probably extends some way South of this, as it does in the Chin Hills, West of the Chindwin.
The great majority of eggs seem to be laid in April, Harington, Grant, Mackenzie and Hopwood finding nearly all their eggs in this month, but Grant took a full clutch of slightly set eggs on the 26th March, 1917, whilst Osmaston took another similar set on the 4th May, 1915.
Colonel (then Capt.) Harington gives an excellent account of this bird’s nesting in the ‘Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society’ (vol. xx, p. 1002) :—
“During former visits to Maymyo in the non-breeding season, I found the Burmese Jay to be very plentiful in certain parts of the jungle and so always had hopes when opportunity occurred of procuring their eggs, and during my last visit my hopes were realized beyond expectation.
“On the 13th April at Thundoung, the last stage into Maymyo, I made my first attempt at birds’ nesting ..... In the same bit of jungle I was fortunate in finding my first nest of the Burmese Jay, G. leucotis, with the parent bird sitting very tight, in fact not moving until my man began to climb the sapling. The nest was placed about 10 feet from the ground and was very conspicuous, and contained four incubated eggs, two of which were addled.
“On the 30th April we made an early start in that direction [Maymyo] trying some likely oak jungle with hopes of finding a Jay’s nest. We were soon rewarded, first by seeing a Jay, and then two or three old nests. Then at last my orderly spotted a nest on which the old bird was sitting, which on investigation contained a nice clutch of four eggs. On resuming our hunt we were rewarded by finding another nest close by which contained three eggs. We found two more nests in the same patch of forest, each having two eggs apiece. These we left in the hope of getting complete clutches. Of these four nests three were in saplings from 10 to 12 feet high and the fourth was placed on a stump not 4 feet high.
“On the afternoon of the next day I again visited the same jungle and found two more nests, each containing five eggs, and another with three young birds. It was most extraordinary finding seven nests all within an area of about 100 square yards, one or two being within 20 yards of one another ; showing that
G. leucotis when unmolested breeds in communities ; also in every case except one the parent bird had to be driven off the nest.
“The nests consisted of a rough outline of coarse twigs, containing a compact cup-shaped lining made entirely of grass, which measured about 6 inches in diameter by about 5 in depth. Four nests were placed in saplings from 10 to 12 feet from the ground, one on a stump, and others on branches of trees from 5 to 10 feet from the ground.
“Nests containing incubated eggs were found of two, three, four and five clutches, showing the bird to be irregular ; one nest contained five addled eggs and in many of the others one or two addled eggs were found.”
The nests and eggs of this Jay were subsequently taken in some numbers by other collectors in Maymyio and its surrounding country. Mackenzie, Hopwood, Grant and Wickham took or saw many nests and all these confirm what Harington says about their breeding in company. In fact, as Hopwood says, to find one nest probably means that “with a little care one can find all one wants, half a dozen nests or more.”
The favourite site is undoubtedly a sapling Oak 15 to 20 feet high standing in patches of forest with a certain amount of open country round about, either cultivated or grass-land. Some of these patches of jungle may be a mile or so long and nearly as broad, others may be quite small spinnies not 200 yards across either way. On the whole the smaller patches seem to be preferred to the larger though occasional nests may be taken in really deep forest. Osmaston describes the woods in which he found the nest as “mixed forest of oak, chestnut etc., not always open but not very dense.”
The full clutch of eggs is probably four or five, but vermin, more especially bird-thieves, are so plentiful in Burma that eggs dis¬appear from nests in the most extraordinary way.
In appearance the eggs are quite typical Jay’s eggs, the ground¬colour a pale green-grey or green-blue, in some slightly tinged with yellowish, in a few with brownish-yellow. The whole surface is stippled all over with minute specks of olive-brown or light brown, often so numerous and fine as to make the egg appear to be uni¬coloured olive or sage-green. In other eggs the specks are larger and not quite so numerous, while in a very few they are large enough to show up as distinct though smudgy blotches on a lighter ground. Occasionally a set with the yellowish ground-colour may appear to be pale uniform clay-brown rather than olive-green, and one very beautiful clutch taken by Mackenzie is of this type with dark brown caps where the marks have coalesced. Secondary markings, if they exist, are indistinguishable, but many eggs have one or two lines of black at the larger end, very superficial in character and very liable to be washed off.
Eighty eggs average 3.5 x 23.2 mm. : maxima 35.6 x 24.0 and 35.0 x 25.0 mm. ; minima 28.5 x 22.25 mm.
The texture is rather fine and close and the surface smooth but glossless or nearly so.
40. Garrulus leucotis leucotis
(40) Garrulus leucotis leucotis Hume.