(16) Pica pica bactriana.
THE KASHMIR MAGPIE.
Pica bactriana Bonap., Conspect., i, p. 383 (1850) (Kandahar). Pica rustica. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 24.
Vernacular names. Akha (Cabul);, Aq aq (Mesop.). Description. The entire head and neck, the upper plumage, breast, thighs, vent and under tail-coverts black, the rump with a broad white band across it; scapulars, abdomen, and the greater portion of the primaries white; wings brilliantly glossed with blue, and the tail with green, lilac and purple.
Differs from the British Magpie in having a broader white rump band. It is said also to be larger; Hartert gives the European bird a wing of 155 to 193 mm. and bactriana a wing of 210 mm. and over. I find, however, that whilst many English birds have a wing of over 210 mm., many Indian specimens have it under 190 mm.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill and legs black. Measurements. Wing 182 to 227 mm., generally well over 200ram.; tail anything from 200 to 270mm., usually about 240 mm.; culmen 30 to 32 mm.; tarsus from 40 to 45 mm.
Distribution. Throughout Northern Asia to Kamschatka and South to South Persia, Afghanistan and Kashmir. It is found also in Kumaun, the Simla Hills "and Garhwal; but not apparently in Nepal.
Nidification. The Kashmir Magpie seems to be resident and to breed wherever found. It is very common in Kashmir, breeding in great numbers between 6,000 and 10,000 feet, making a nest like that of others of its tribe—a cup of twigs, bents and roots with a dome of twigs, often with moss, thorns, and lined with roots or wool, It is- usually placed well up in a fairly high tree but sometimes comparatively low down in thorny bushes. The eggs number four to seven and are indistinguishable from those of the Common Magpie. The ground-colour is a pale sea-blue green and the markings consist of small blotches, freckles and spots of dull reddish brown, scattered profusely all over the egg but more numerous at the larger end. They average 35.7 x 24.4 mm.
The breeding season is from early April to late May, according to elevation.
Habits. The Magpie is found in well-wooded parts of the country and near cultivation. Two or more pairs may often be seen in company, and in parts of Kashmir where they are very common several birds may be found together. They do not come very low down the hills in winter, and are seldom found below 5,000 feet. They are very conspicuous birds on the wing, their black and white plumage, long waving tail and undulating flight quickly attracting the eye. They eat insects, fruit and grain, and their voice is typically harsh and Corvine in character.