(958) Oriolus xanthornus xanthornus.
The Indian Black-headed Oriole,
Coracias xanthornus Linn,, Syst. Nat., 10th ed., p. 108 (1758) (Bengal). Oriolus melanocephalus. Blanf. & Oates, i. p. 506.
Vernacular names. Pilak, Zardak (Hind.); Pirola (Gorukpur); Konda-vanga-pandu (Tel.).
Description. - Adult male. Whole head, chin, throat and upper breast velvety black; winglet and primary-coverts black with yellow tips ; primaries black with whitish edges and yellow tips to all but the first one, two, or three feathers; secondaries black with yellow edges and with broad diagonal terminal patches of yellow on the outer webs ; central tail-feathers with the subterminal half black, the lateral tail-feathers with a similar band decreasing outwardly ; this band varies greatly in individuals, generally being absent on the three outer pairs and, very rarely, on four pairs ; less often extending to the third outer pair and sometimes even to a broad patch on the outermost; remainder of plumage golden yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris crimson; eyelids lead-colour; bill livid pink to pale crimson-pink (breeding-season), the mouth bright flesh-colour; legs bluish-plumbeous or plumbeous, the claws almost black.
Measurements. Total length about 250 mm.; wing 131 to 142 mm.; tail 83 to 93 mm.; tarsus 24 to 25 mm.; culmen 26 to 30 mm.
Adult female. Forehead yellow; the black of the upper head duller and more or less streaked with yellowish ; the black of the wings and tail also duller and tinged with green on the latter ; chin, throat and upper breast dull yellowish white streaked with black ; yellow everywhere paler and duller and often tinged with green on the mantle.
Colours of soft parts as in the male but duller, the iris never so deep and bright a crimson.
Young male like the female but with the head blacker.
Nestling like the female but with the yellow of the upper plumage broadly streaked with black ; the whole lower plumage pale yellow narrowly streaked with black.
Distribution. The whole of India, excluding the extreme South of Travancore and North-West India West of a line from the Sutlej to Kathiawar; Assam, Manipur, the whole of Burma to Tenasserim and Northern Malay States, Siam, Shan States, Cochin China and Annam. Osmaston says that he saw this species in the Andamans not uncommon in the Hot Weather."
With more material available for comparison 1 find that it is impossible to keep separate O. x. thaiacous Hartert. The characteristics he relied on do not hold good and many birds from India, especially from the South-West, have these more highly developed than have birds from Siam, the type-locality of thaiacous.
Nidification. The Indian Black-headed Oriole breeds from February to July over the greater part of its range, most eggs being laid in April and May. Mr. S. C. Law found nearly fully-fledged young near Calcutta on the 23rd March and 1 have seen eggs taken in August. The nest cannot be distinguished from that of 0. o. kundoo, though it may average smaller and neater. The eggs differ distinctly in being smaller, more pink in groundcolour and, generally, much less glossy. The markings normally are light reddish brown to deep purple but are never black. Sixty eggs average 28.0 x 19.4 mm.: maxima 31.6 X 21.3 ram.; minima 24.0 x 19.4 and 26.5 x 18.0 mm. The number of eggs laid is three, sometimes two only and very rarely four.
Habits do not differ from those of O. o. kundoo, though it is perhaps even more confiding and tame than that species.