(1884) Maeropygia unchall tusalia (Hodgs.).
THE INDIAN BAR-TAILED CUCKOO-DOVE.
Maeropygia unchall tusalia. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 253.
This curious Dove has a wide distribution, being found from Kashmir, Kuman, the Simla States and Garhwal to Eastern Assam, both North and South of the Brahmapootra. It then ranges through the hill-tracts of Burma to about Muleyit Mountain, and is common in the Shan States, straggling into Siam.
This is purely a forest-bird, and I found it common in Assam in the stunted oak forest between 4,000 and 7,000 feet, while Os¬maston records it as one of “the most common species of dove in the middle hills, about 7,000 feet” (Darjiling). They breed from 3,000 feet upwards, but principally between 5,000 and 7,000 feet and up to 9,000 feet.
The nests were quite typical Doves’ nests, platforms of fine twigs, but I think they are better and more substantially built than those of most birds of this family. The twigs are quite well interlaced, the whole structure deeper in proportion, while there is a distinct depression for the eggs, sometimes lined with fine grass-stems and roots, which latter are also often used in the body of the nest. I have also more than once found dry moss in the lining. The twigs seem generally to have been torn from living trees and are, there¬fore, more pliant and more easily interlaced than dry twigs.
Hodgson calls the nest “a large loose platform-nest of sticks, a foot in diameter and 3 inches in thickness.” The nests found by myself were smaller than this, yet deeper, and probably averaged 9 or 10 inches across by at least 4 inches deep. Nearly all the nests in the Cachar and Khasia Hills were placed in small trees, either saplings or small stunted Oaks, at heights between 6 and 16 feet from the ground ; a few were in thick bushes still lower, while occasion¬ally a nest was found between 20 and 30 feet up in taller trees. Osmaston found them breeding in similar situations about Darjiling, taking nests between 10 and 15 feet from the ground (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. XV, p. 515, 1904). Robinson, however (Journ. Fed. Malay States, p. 54, 1905), records a nest “placed on bracken leaves not far from the ground in dense bamboo and undergrowth.”
In the Darjiling district Gammie says he found them breeding between 2,500 and 4,500 feet, the lowest elevations recorded, though the nest taken by Wardlaw Ramsay near Tounghoo in the Karen Hills could not have been much higher.
The breeding season is late for this family, and only a few birds start in April, most laying in late May, June and July, while I have taken eggs as late as the 12th September. Gammie and Osmaston found them breeding about Darjiling in June and July, as did Theobald, but in the Karen Hills Wardlaw Ramsay obtained a nest on the 18th March.
Over the Western portion of its range this Dove lays one egg only, but over the Eastern portion from South Assam into Burma it often lays two. In North Cachar it very often laid two eggs, and Wardlaw Ramsay also found two in a nest.
The eggs are of two types, one a long and narrow oval, almost elliptical in shape, the other narrow and very distinctly pointed, quite unusually shaped eggs for this family. The texture is very fine and close and the surface often quite glossy. In colour they are a very pale buff, pale cafe-au-lait or creamy, never white as described by Theobald and Wardlaw Ramsay.
Two hundred eggs average 35.3 x 25.4 mm. : maxima 38.1 x 26.2 and 37.1 x 27.6 mm. ; minima 30.4 x 25.3 and 34.2 x 19.8 mm.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in building the nest, which takes about a week to complete.
The display of the male is interesting. He perches on one of the topmost twigs of the tree where his lady-love is sitting and then, suddenly, with much clapping of wings above his back, launches himself high into the air. When he has risen to a height of some 50 feet or so he spreads his wings, puffs out his feathers until the shiny ones of his rump stand out like a lady’s powder-puff, and then sails slowly down in a spiral to his original perch. There he rests for a few moments, booming occasionally, and then once more goes through the same performance.
I believe they pair for life—probably most species of birds do— for they are always to be found in pairs and, where one bird is, the other will not be far off.
1884. Macropygia unchall tusalia
(1884) Maeropygia unchall tusalia (Hodgs.).