(964) Gracula religiosa intermedia Hay.
THE INDIAN GRACKLE.
Eulabes javana intermedia, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 19.
Gracula religiosa intermedia, ibid. vol. viii, p. 649.
This fine Grackle is found throughout the Lower Himalayas from Kuman and Nepal to Eastern Assam. It occurs in Burma as far South as Tenasserim, lat. 12° being a rough dividing line between the present bird and the preceding race. Eastwards it extends through Siam, Annam and Cochin-China. It is found in the foot-hills and adjacent plains, ascending the hills up to about 4,000 feet, and is common up to 2,500 feet.
The bird was very numerous in Assam, breeding in thin forest, open ground and in cultivation. Here I took many eggs, and my experiences cover all that can be said on the subject of their breeding. The favourite sites for nests were undoubtedly old, rotten trees standing in the jungle clearances, cut down and then burnt for rice cultivation, but they will breed in almost any kind of country if there are suitable trees available. I have found a nest in a rotten stump standing beside a track through the densest and dampest of evergreen forest, while I have also taken eggs from a hole in a solitary dead tree standing on a bank in a wide open area of plains rice-fields. In the North of Cachar they made their nests in holes of dead Oaks in park-land, and in Dibrugarh, as well as in the Surrma Valley, we often found their nest-holes in trees on the borders of Tea cultivation.
As is shown by those who corresponded with Hume, the finding of the nesting-tree by no means infers the getting of the eggs, for the trees selected are often so rotten that they are impossible to climb and equally impossible to cut down without smashing the eggs. If a convenient tree grows close to that occupied by the Mynas it is sometimes possible to fasten bamboos to it so that the nest-holes can be inspected, and it is by this means that most of my eggs were obtained. The birds breed year after year in the same tree, making fresh holes, as need arises, higher or lower up. In some trees one may see as many as a dozen large entrance-holes, and then each has to be examined for the nest, or nests, as sometimes two, or even three, pairs of Mynas will breed in the same tree. The nest-hole entrances are very large, neat and circular, from 4 to 6 inches in diameter, while the chamber varies. It does not seem to matter how big a natural hollow may be but, if too small, the birds enlarge it to suit their requirements, generally making it about 8 inches wide and up to a foot in depth. They prefer holes at a considerable height, very few will be seen as low as 15 feet, and I have seen others at 30 and 40 feet from the ground. There is really nothing one can call a nest ; sometimes the birds collect a lot of rubbish in the hollow such as dead leaves, grass, straw, twigs etc., upon which the eggs are laid but, at other times, they are merely deposited on the rotten wood lying at the bottom of the hole. In one nest I found nearly a bucketful of rubbish, including many feathers, had been collected, but this is quite exceptional.
When rubbish is collected, both birds work at the collection as well as in making the entrance-holes and enlarging the chamber. Both sexes have also been repeatedly caught inside the tree, but whether the male was incubating or not at the time it is impossible to say, for often both birds are inside at the same time and both parents and young all roost together in the hole.
They are early breeders. Cook took eggs in Kalaw on the 12th March ; in Assam they breed principally in April, but I have seen young birds in that month. Some birds may breed twice, as Hop¬wood found fresh eggs in Arakan in June, and occasionally eggs may be taken in June and July in Assam.
The eggs number two or three only and I have never seen more, while Bingham also says that he only found two or three in a clutch in Tenasserim.
In colour, shape, etc. they are the same as those of Gracula indica, but are decidedly bigger.
Thirty eggs average 36.2 x 25.6 mm. : maxima 39.0 x 24.8 and 34.8 x 26.5 mm. ; minima 33.5 x 26.0 and 35.9 x 24.3 mm.
964. Graeula religiosa intermedia
(964) Gracula religiosa intermedia Hay.