(1616) Hemiprocne coronata Tickell.
THE INDIAN CRESTED SWIFT.
Hemiprocne coronata, Fauna B. I., Bails, 2nd ed, vol. iv, p. 354.
This beautiful Swift is found in Ceylon anti practically the whole of India omitting Sind, the drier portions of Rajputana, the Deccan, Carnatic and parts of Central India. It occurs throughout the Lower Himalayas from Dehra Dun to Eastern Assam and in suitable places through the whole of Burma East to the Southern Shan States and Siam.
This is a Swift of well-wooded country and forests where there is an ample rainfall, ascending hills up to about 4,000 feet and found throughout the plains. Osmaston notes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxvii, p. 283, 1931) :—"They frequent open forest, and especially glades in the forest near water. They are resident and non-migratory so far as my experience goes.” This is quite correct ; at the same time the birds indulge in curious movements. For some years they were common in the North Cachar Hills, though restricted entirely to certain open country surrounded by forest. Eventually for some reason every bird left, these hills, and
I practically never saw them again. I have been told of similar eases of their sudden appearances and disappearances in Burma.
Davidson obtained many eggs in Kanara ; Phillips and Wait almost as many in Ceylon ; Thompson obtained two or more in the Central Provinces, where also Osmaston found a nest : and Terry secured a nest and egg in the Palni Hills.
The nest is ft tiny cup varying considerably in size and shape, which is attached to the side of a bare branch of a tree often at a great height from the ground, but more often at about 25 feet up. Often, however, it is built on rotten or semi-rotten branches in very in¬accessible positions, so that the egg is nearly always hard to get at. The nest itself is a tiny cup, half-cup or saucer, sometimes more of an inverted cone than a cup, composed of small thin scraps of bark and soft little feathers stuck together with saliva. One nest before me measures under 1.1/2 inch lengthways, 3/4 of an inch across and exactly half an inch deep. The walls of this nest are flush with the top of the branch to which it is fixed, and the tops of the walls extend on to the top of the branch, increasing its breadth at this part to 1.1/8 inch. The branch itself is about 1 inch thick. Another nest is an inverted cone, 1.1/4 by 1.1/8 inch in diameter and just over 3/4 inch deep. The walls are no thicker than stout writing-paper, increasing gradually towards the bottom to about 1/16 of an inch, or, in the cone-shaped nest, to about 1/8 inch. The nests in fact are just big enough to hold one egg, and from below all one sees is a Swift sitting on a small projecting knob of a branch, and often even this is hard to make out. It seems quite impossible for the egg to remain safe in the nest until it is hatched, and it would cer¬tainly not do so if it were left for many minutes unguarded, as the first high breeze would send it crashing to earth. The birds sit very close and relieve one another most carefully, the sitting bird sidling sideways off the nest as the relieving bird sidles on, touching his mate all the time. Occasionally the neat is built against a stout branch some inches in diameter ; sometimes it is attached to one which is little more than a twig ; always, however, I think the top is flush with the upper surface of the branch on which the bird really sits, only its vent and posterior abdomen covering the egg.
In Kanara, where this bird is very common, Davidson took nearly all his eggs in. March and a few in April, but Thompson obtained eggs in the Central Provinces up to the 7th May, while Terry took a single egg in the Palni Hills on the 7th April. In Ceylon they also breed principally in March, but Wait has taken eggs from March to August and Phillips one as early as the 12th February.
The eggs are not white, as described by Hume, but a pale grey tinged with blue when fresh, though this quickly fades. The texture is fine, not close, and quite glossless, being silky to the touch. In shape they are practically true ellipses, one end scarcely showing smaller than the other.
Twenty-nine eggs average 23.7 x 17.1 mm. : maxima 25.0 x 18.0 mm. ; minima 22.3 x 16.7 mm.
Both sexes incubate, though there is nothing on record as to which sex makes the nest or how long incubation lasts ; Osmaston, however, has the following interesting note (in loc, cit. supra) :— “The birds were observed commencing this nest on March 19th ; on March 26th the nest was apparently completed but the egg was not laid until April 11th. The nest was attached to a dry branch about 40 feet from the ground.”
1616. Hemiproene eoronata
(1616) Hemiprocne coronata Tickell.