(1605) Hirundapus giganteus indicus (Hume).
THE INDIAN BROWN-THROATED SPINETAIL.
Hirundapus giganteus indicus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iv, p. 343.
This magnificent Swift is found all over Burma, South-West Siam, Assam, Manipur and the Andamans. It is also found and is resident in Ceylon and in South India about as far North as latitude 12°.
The first person to take the nest of this Spinetail was J. Stewart, and the following is a summary of the information he has given me from time to time :—
“This Swift breeds over an enormous stretch of country in the Travancore and Malabar coast districts, principally between 500 and 1,500 feet and in forests where the heat is very great, a damp humid heat up to 100° in the shade. For the most part the birds keep to forests of great deciduous trees without very dense under¬growth, but they do sometimes breed in very thick evergreen forest if there are suitable trees. Although the birds roost in hollow trees in quite big flocks, only one, rarely two, or at the outside three, pairs will breed in the same tree. They select for this pur¬pose enormous trees which are more or less hollow from top to bottom, and they prefer those to which they can obtain access by a hole, however small, at a great height from the ground. They very often breed in the tree Valeria indica, which is common in the deciduous forests, grows to a great height and is often hollow for its whole length. The birds make no nest, but simply scratch out a hollow in the accumulated mass of dust and rubbish at the bottom of the hole and, more than once, I have found these saucer-shaped hollows made a foot or 18 inches below the level of the surround¬ing land. The hunting out of these nests with the help of the local tribesmen is most interesting but very arduous work, the area to work is so vast, the number of possible trees so great, that for every success one must expect a hundred disappointments. Perhaps one may have the luck to see a Swift appear and dart with lightning speed into some almost invisible hole far overhead. A few strokes of an axe effect an entrance into the bottom of the tree, and the nose of the axeman then without fail is able to detect the presence or absence of the desired nest. An occupied or even an empty nest has a smell which, to a native, is unmistakable and which is quite different to that of a roosting-tree or one occupied by bats, and the men seldom if ever made a mistake. My first, nests were found on the 2nd March, 1912, exactly as described above, but unfortunately they were empty. The holes were care¬fully closed, and on a subsequent visit were opened and we could see eggs in the nests. The birds dashed up the hollow tree to the exits high up in their tops, but one, in her fright and agitation, struck something and came floundering down and wag captured. In this tree there were two nests each with two eggs only, but they generally lay three, sometimes four, and I have occasionally found live eggs or young in a nest. The eggs seem to become filthy in a very short time, and I have seen some in a complete but fresh clutch so densely coated with dirt, principally the birds’ own droppings, that it took hours of work with a, hard nail-brush and soap to get them clean. Soaking effects but little, as the droppings seem almost impervious to water. Trees which may bold only one or two nests are often occupied above by many birds for roosting purposes and, of course, they add their quota to the droppings accumulated below. Occasionally a tree which has been the nesting place of at Woodpecker or Barbet, but which has become too completely hollow inside for these birds to nest in, is taken possession of by a pair of Swifts, and the maimer in which these birds, the fastest fliers in the world, hurl themselves through the tiny opening has to be seen before it can be appreciated.
“The breeding season is almost confined to March and April, though one year they may possibly have bred in October, They are not double brooded.”
The eggs ore sui generis. They are pure white when just laid, but soon become so filthy that it is almost impossible to remove all stains. In shape they are broad ovals, in some cases almost elliptical. The texture is fine, close and hard, with a shell so strong and tough that it is more reptilian than avian in character and unlike that of any other bird’s egg known to me.
One hundred eggs average 30.7 x 22.2 mm. : maxima 32.1 x 22.5 and 31.2 x 23.5 mm. ; minima 28.8 x 22.0 and 29.9 x 20.0 mm.
1605. Hirundapus giganteus indieus
(1605) Hirundapus giganteus indicus (Hume).