(1714) Neophron perenopterus perenopterus (Linn.).
THE EGYPTIAN, or LARGER WHITE, SCAVENGER VULTURE.
Neophron perenopterus perenopterus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 22.
The Vulture ranges from South-West Europe and the greater part of Africa through Egypt to Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Persia, entering Indian limits as far East as Delhi and as far South as Cutch, breeding up to an elevation of some 8,500 feet.
This Scavenger Vulture is a frequenter of towns and villages, breeding freely both in and round them as well as in all kinds of buildings and trees away from the actual towns. There is little one can add to Hume’s summary of their nesting habits. He writes:—“They nest indifferently, it appears to me, on rocky precipices, earthen cliffs, parapets and cornices of buildings, and large trees. I have often found the nest on ledges of the clay-cliffs of the Jumna, close to nests containing the young of Bonelli’s Eagle or the Jugger Falcon. At Etawah a pair built yearly on the church-tower, at the base of the steeple. One pair always breeds on the portico of the Metcalfe Hall at Agra. On the rocky head¬land, known as the Mata Pahar, which juts out from the Southern shore of the Sambhur Lake, whose blue waters it overlooks, I found a nest in the cleft of a rock, from which I was able to take the eggs without leaving the pathway ; and within 2 feet of the head of the sitting bird was a nest containing three eggs of Ptyonoprogne concolor. They are far from seeking retirement. They build commonly on trees in the suburbs of towns—neem, tamarind, peepul and burgot alike furnishing them with homesteads ; and for several years I noticed a pair building on a comparatively small tree in the centre of the busy grain-market of Etawah.
“The nests arc clumsy, ragged, stick structures ; platforms slightly depressed towards the centre, loosely put together and lined with any soft substance they can moat readily meet with. Old rags are a great stand-by. In many parts of the country, way¬farers, as they pass particular trees, have a semi-religious custom of tearing a strip off their clothes to hang thereon. These are a perfect godsend to the Neophrons of the neighbourhood, whom. I have more than once watched robbing these rural ‘shrines’ of their trophies by the score. Sometimes the rags of various colours are laid out neatly in the nest, as if an attempt had been made to please the eye ; sometimes they are irregularly jumbled up in the materials of the nest. Cotton-wool, old and dirty, stolon, I suspect, from the old ‘rizais’ or padded coverlids thrown with half-burnt dead bodies into the river, occurs occasionally in great lumps in the nest, and I have sometimes found nests lined entirely with masses of human hair. Sometimes they line their nests with green leaves. In size the nests vary from 2 to 3 feet in diameter, and from 4 to 10 inches, in depth.”
In Sind Scrope Doig found them usually breeding in pollarded Kundy-trees, but Eates has also sent me a fine series of eggs all taken from ledges on the cliffs of the Poi Mangho lulls.
They return annually to the same nesting site and to the same nest if still available, though these are generally scattered by winds and storms. Hume gives rather large measurements—vide supra— for the nests, but Blewitt records of the many nests seen by him that “they varied from 12 to 18 inches in diameter and from 3 to 7 inches in thickness.” I have also been told of eggs laid on the bare earth of cliffs, on roofs of buildings and in great hollows between the first branching boughs of big trees.
They breed principally in March and April, hut I have seen eggs taken below Simla up to 7,000 feet in the first week of May, while Marshall found a nest with eggs in the some month near Murree, where also Rattray took a single egg on the 11th May. Hume says that they commence to lay in February, and Bingham also records it as breeding commonly at Delhi in February and March.
The eggs are nearly always two in number, very rarely three but occasionally one only.
In shape they are normally rather broad ovals very little compressed at the smaller end ; rarely they are long or pointed ovals and occasionally almost spheroidal. The texture is very coarse, less compact, or “indurated” as Hume calls it, and the surface, except in the very highly pigmented eggs, porous, rough and dull.
The range of variation in colour is enormous but, as a series, they are beautifully coloured, handsome eggs. They vary in ground from chalky white, pale creamy, pale dingy reddish to a rich warm cream or reddish. Some eggs are sparsely blotched or spotted with pale brick-red, deop red, dark brown or, rarely, purple-brown, chiefly at the larger end. In other eggs the marks are very numerous and are distributed over the whole surface. Some eggs are freckled or stippled more or less freely with the same colours, many have the stipplings fairly numerous at the larger end, while quite a number have them so plentiful and dark that the eggs look a uniform brick red, dark reddish-brown or, rarely, purple-red, I have one egg with deep red ground with purple-red blotches and smears at the larger end, coloured just like a Honey-Buzzard’s egg. Others are like eggs of Peregrines or of Kestrels and Sparrow-Hawks, When seen in very big series the eggs of this race taken in India are not quite so fine as those taken in Spain, On the other hand they are much more handsome than those of the Southern Indian race, ginginianus.
One hundred Indian eggs average 65.2 x 51.2 mm. : maxima 73.0 x 50.8 and 68.2 x 58.4 mm. ; minima 53.7 x 43.0 mm.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in the building of the nest. The period of incubation is probably forty-two days, which is said to be the period taken by the Southern race.
1714. Neophron perenopterus perenopterus
(1714) Neophron perenopterus perenopterus (Linn.).