(1158) Hirundo fluvicola Jerdon.
THE India Cliff-Swallow.
Hirundo fluvicola, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 246.
The Cliff-Swallow is found over the greater part of India from Kashmir and the Outer Himalayas to Coimbatore on the South and East to Sikkim and Etawah. It does not occur in Sind.
So well was this little Swallow known in Hume’s time and so well did he and his correspondents record its breeding that very little can be added to the accounts given in ‘Nests and Eggs.’ Did space allow I would like to quote all Hume says, but the following includes the gist of what he has to say :—
“The Indian Cliff-Swallow is one of the commonest of our Swallows, in Upper India at any rate. From the Tonse River near Mirzapur to the Sutlej near Ferozepur it abounds wherever there is water and cliffs or ruined buildings against which it can plaster its huge mud honey comb-like congeries of nests. In the Doon under the Solana Aqueduct, in Ajmere, in Ahmedabad, in Guzerat, in Saugur, in the Central Provinces and twenty other places, I have noticed numerous colonies in and on buildings ; and as for breeding in cliffs, to give one single instance, visiting the River Chambal, where the Etawah and Gwalior road crosses it, and following its course down¬wards to its junction at Bhurrey with the Jumna, one will meet with at least a hundred colonies of this species, all with their clustered nests plastered against the faces of the high clay cliffs which overhang the river.
“They breed, according to my experience, from February to April and again in July and August. They build a small, more or less retort-shaped mud nest, in clusters of from 20 to 200, packed as closely as possible, so that a section parallel to the wall or cliff- face against which a colony has established itself, and about 4 inches away from the wall, would present an appearance much like that of a honey-comb, though the cells would be less regular. The tubular mouths, from 2 to 5 inches long, all point outwards, but those of the exterior nests of the cluster are generally turned some¬what. The chambers vary a good deal in size, but average about 4 inches in diameter. Their nests are to be found equally in the wildest and most desolate, and again, as at the Kotwalee in Dehra and the city-gate in Ajmere, in the most thronged and frequented localities.
“The nests are well lined with feathers.”
To this may be added the following sites :—“On the side wall of a Hindoo place of worship facing the main road of the city over one hundred nests” (Blewitt). “Nests placed under a wreck of an old bridge” (B. Aitken). “In great numbers under a railway arch over the standing waters of the Sholapur bank” (Davidson and Wenden). Bridges are a very favourite resort, and Betham writes me of such a site:—“This colony nested under a low bridge only just above the water, so that ingress and egress were not easy ; consequently all the birds flew in under the bridge on the upper side and left the bridge by the down-stream opening. I have found the lining to be sometimes of hair and grass together with feathers.”
The size of the colonies varies greatly. Many arc quite small, ten to thirty nests, others number one or two hundreds, and yet others are far higger, for Aitken (B.) observed one of six hundred nests on the river at Akola, Berar.
Aitken (J.) remarks that these birds instead of carrying away the egg-shells, when the young are hatched, to a great distance as other birds do, merely drop them into the water, which does their duty for them.
Most colonies have two well-marked breeding seasons. The first of these is December to February and the second, after the rains have broken, in June, July and August. Both in Baroda and Poona Betham found them breeding during September and October, and possibly eggs may be taken in any month of the year, for in each colony seme birds start laying much earlier and others much later than the main body.
The eggs number three or four in a clutch, generally three only.
They vary from pure unspotted white to white, rather smudgily spotted and blotched with very pale sepia or yellowish-brown, the blotches mostly confined to the larger end and often sparse even there. Occasionally the marks are a little deeper brown, better defined and more profuse, while even less often they form rings or caps at the Larger end. As a series they are poorly coloured dings, eggs, and I have never seen one as boldly or darkly spotted as a normal egg of the Wire-tailed or Common Swallow.
One hundred and twenty eggs average 18.5 x 13.1 mm. : maxima 20.8 x 12.6 and 19.2 x 14.0 mm. ; minima 16.0 x 13.0 and 17.0 x 11.8 mm.
Both sexes incubate and both assist in the construction of the nest.
Like most Swallows and Martins, the young return to the nest for the first two or three nights after they have begun to fly, the parents sleeping with them inside the nest.
1158. Hirundo fluvicola
(1158) Hirundo fluvicola Jerdon.