1550. Halcyon smyrnensis smyrnensis

(1550) Halcyon smyrnensis smyrnensis (Linn.).
THE EGYPTIAN WHITE-BREASTED KINGFISHER.
Halcyon smyrnensis smyrnensis, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed, vol. iv, p. 268.
Within Indian limits this Kingfisher is found from the Afghan boundary throughout the Punjab and Kashmir and in Sind and Baluchistan, Ticehurst also includes Rajputana, and the birds of this area, though somewhat intermediate, are nearer to the typical form than to fusca, the Indian form.
This is an exceedingly common bird wherever there are river banks or canal-banks in which it can breed, and in Karachi Mac¬Arthur, Gates and Ticehurst all say that it also breeds freely in sides of the tanks and other places in the town itself.
In Rajputana Hume took eggs from a tunnel bored in the side of a well 100 feet below the surface of the country, and says that “the reason for the birds going to such an extraordinary depth appeared to he that the upper 90 odd passed through very loose soil, where the well was lined with masonry, and it had to go below this to pierce a hole.” Butler also found five fresh eggs on the 7th May bored in the side of a well in Karachi, but this was only 20 feet below the surface.
The usual nest-hole, drilled in banks of streams and canals, may he anything between 2 and 4 feet in depth, sometimes, when in soft but firm sand-banks, as much as 6 feet. The tunnel is about 3 to 4 inches in diameter and the egg-chamber upwards of 6 by 6, while in height they may be 3 to 5 inches.
In rivers, which are subject to the usual spring floods, February and March are the normal breeding months, for the young have to be fledged before the snows melt and cause the first rush of water. In canals, wells and other places April and May seem to be the months in which most eggs are laid, and it is probable many birds are double-brooded, as Butler took eggs in July in canal-banks and others still later in August.
Six is the number of eggs most often laid, though occasionally seven are laid and at other times five only.
A curious character I have noticed in the eggs of this and some other Kingfishers is their appearance when fresh blown. If held up to the light they have marks such as those in ribbons which are called “watered.” I have never seen these markings in eggs of Bee-eaters, Rollers or Owls.
Thirty egga taken in India average 20.4 x 26.2 mm. : maxima 31.7 x 25.9 and 20.7 x 28.0 mm.; minima 28.2 x 24.6 mm.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in making the nesting burrow, each bird working for a few minutes only at a time. When the tunnel is advanced a few inches I think both birds work together, as I have noticed that—in the case of H. s. fusca—both birds occupy the tunnel together, a little stream of sand coming out as one bird backs to the entrance, kicking the loose sand behind it. Such action would almost necessitate combined work, unless one bird first digs out a portion and then the other removes the loose material from behind the working bird while he or she rests.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 3. 1934.
Title in Book: 
1550. Halcyon smyrnensis smyrnensis
Spp Author: 
Linn.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
1550
Year: 
1934
Page No: 
418
Common name: 
Egyptian White Breasted Kingfisher
M_ID: 
9113
M_SN: 
Halcyon smyrnensis smyrnensis
Volume: 
Vol. 3
Term name: 
id: 
14698

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