(1031) Uroloncha punctulate punctulata (Linn.).
THE INDIAN SPOTTED MUNIA.
Uroloncha punctulate punctulata, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 91.
This is another of our familiar Indian birds known to everyone and breeding all over India, except in the driest and most desert areas, such as Sind and Rajputana, In the desert parts of the Punjab and North-West Provinces also it is not to be found. It occurs in the Himalayas up to 5,000 feet and in the hills South of Assam up to about the same height, while in the Nilgiris it is found at even greater elevations.
It is a most confiding little bird, breeding in gardens and all about villages and towns, often making its nest in thatch and trellises of houses. In some places where it is even more common than usual it breeds in colonies. Thus Layard once counted 40 nests in one tree, while Miss Cockburn had no less than eight pairs breed¬ing in the trellis-work on the verandah of her house in the Nilgiris.
The nest is quite a typical Munia’s, round and made of grass, straw, strips of grass-blades and grass-bark) occasionally bamboo, leaves and, according to Hume and others, “leaves of bajera, jowar and the like." As a rule it is very loosely and clumsily put together, with a most untidy ill-finished hole on one side as, an entrance. Sometimes, especially when built of Jute-fibre, as I have seen in Bengal, it is much neater and more compact. Unlike many other Munias, this species makes a very definite lining to its nest of fine grass-stems or the fine flowering ends of seeding grass, or, less often, of very fine roots. Hume says that occasionally the lining is made of the beards of wheat.
The nest is very large, but the extremes of size are great, I have seen a nest of Jute not exceeding 5 inches in depth or diameter, but I have also seen one enormous nest in Dacca, which measured no less than 18 inches in depth and 15 inches in width. An average nest probably measures about 8 inches either way. As a rule The nest is a fairly correct sphere, but some are wider than high and others higher than wide. The nests are generally placed in bushes or small trees, thorny ones being most often chosen, at any height from 2 to 20 feet from the ground, though most are built at about 5 to 7 feet. All sorts of queer places are sometimes adopted as sites. Trellis-work over verandahs and garden arches are commonly used ; creepers growing anywhere ; thatch of bungalows and outhouses ; corners under the eaves of the same ; while Hume mentions one built in a straw scarecrow.
Miss Cockburn gives a delightful account of this little bird’s breeding. She writes:—
“The Spotted Munia is migratory with us, and only appears on the Nilgiris during June and the Tour following months.
“They return regularly to their old haunts, even to the same bushes in which they built the previous season.
“Several pairs of these birds build in the trellis around our windows, so near the ground that I have often put my finger into the nest and felt the eggs.
“I am perfectly sure that each pair takes possession of the same trellis in which it built in previous years, and that, should the old nest remain where they left it, they commence another alongside it ; should, however, the old abode be removed, they will build again in the exact site which it occupied.
“In selecting a place to build on they sit on a twig and, raising themselves as high as possible, flap their wings over their backs to ascertain that no small branches are likely to obstruct the progress of their building. When perfectly satisfied as to the convenience of the spot, the female remains there while the male flies to a short distance, alights on the ground and, breaking off a piece of fine long grass, flies back with it to the female, and continues to bring her at least one piece a minute, while she carries on the building process-alone.
“They begin early and build for an hour or so, and then leave it till evening and work late, keeping up an incessant cry of ‘Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.’
“They build in July and August, and lay from six to ten white eggs. When the young are tuny fledged they accompany their parents to the grain-fields, but continue to return to their nests every evening for a long time after they have left them entirely during the day.
“At one time I counted no less than fourteen nests of these birds in the trellis of our verandah and windows ; besides these there were others in the garden on orange-trees and scarlet geraniums.” Although Miss Cockburn noticed only the hen-bird building the nest, this procedure is not always adopted, as I have seen both birds busy at the work, flying backwards and forwards to fetch the grass or other materials for the nest, each for his own work.
Again, although Miss Cockburn is quite correct about the young returning to the nest to roost, this often occurs for even longer than she noticed, and sometimes the birds use it until they are ready to start nesting again. Occasionally the birds will repair their old nest, and I have mere than once seen this done, the new green material contrasting strongly with the old. The birds bite and tear the strips off the grass in the way already described.
These Munias breed principally after the rains break in June up to September, but odd eggs may he taken at almost any time. Wait— found then nesting round Coonoor “any time between February and September.” In Sylhet and the Khasia Hills I found most nests in May and June, but I saw a nest, with the hen sitting on it, on the 13th December and another pair built in a Pomegranate tree in my garden in January.
The nomral clutch is anything from five to ten eggs, six to eight perhaps in most cases.
I cannot distinguish between the eggs of this and other Munias, but Hume thought they were longer in shape tham others.
One hundred eggs average 16.4 x 11.6 mm. : maxima 18.0 x 12.0 mm, ; minima 14.8 x 10.8 and 17.1 x 10.7 mm.
1031. Uroloncha punctulata punctulata
(1031) Uroloncha punctulate punctulata (Linn.).