(1008) Ploceus philippinus.
Loxia philippina Linn.? Syst. Nat., 12th ed., i, p. 305 (1766) (Ceylon, Hartert), Ploceus baya. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 175.
Vernacular names. Baya (Hind.); Chindora (Hind, in Beng.); Bawi, Talbabi (Beng.); Parsupu Pitta (Tel.); Manja-kuravi (Tam.); Thuckenam-kuruvi (Tam.in Ceyl.); Tatta-kurula, Wada-kurulla (Chig.).
Description. Whole crown and nape golden yellow; back and scapulars blackish brown, margined with yellow; lower back and rump fulvous-brown, obsoletely streaked with brown and faintly edged with golden fulvous; upper tail-coverts and tail brown edged with greenish ; wing~coverts and quills brown edged with golden fulvous and sub-edged with pale fulvous; a narrow line across the forehead, lores, round the eye, chin, throat and sides of head dark brown ; breast and sides of the neck golden yellow; abdomen, posterior flanks and under tail-coverts pale fulvous, sometimes faintly washed with yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill dark horny-brown; legs and feet flesh-colour or pale tan-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 150 mm.; wing 68 to 75 mm.; tail 45 to 50 mm.; tarsus about 19 to 20 mm.; culmen 16 to 18 mm.
Male in Winter and Female. Above, the yellow entirely disappears and the plumage is fulvous-brown, broadly streaked with blackish brown on the back and scapulars, obsoletely so on the rump and upper tail-coverts ; the greater coverts and secondaries are boldly edged with fulvous and the primaries narrowly edged with greenish yellow and sub-edged fulvous ; below, the plumage is fulvous, deepest on the breast and flanks, the latter with faint shaft-lines of black.
Colours of soft parts. Bill horny-yellow, a little darker on culmen and at tip.
Distribution. Ceylon, the whole of India from the extreme South to Sind in the West, to the Sub-Himalayas in the North and East to Western Bengal, Bihar and the Sikkim Terai. In Nepal this bird meets another species "passerinus " of which Reichenow has made the type-locality "Nepal." The majority of the specimens from Nepal are obviously passerinus, large birds with no trace of yellow on the breast in the breeding-season. On the other hand, many specimens have some yellow on the breast and one or two have it as extensively as any philippinus. These specimens may be intermediate forms where two subspecies meet, or they may be the result of interbreeding of two species. For the present I retain philippinus and passerinus as species.
Nidification. The Baya-bird commences to breed as soon as the rains have come and Nature is green and fresh enough to supply her with green and pliant material for her nest. Where rain is constant and material ever at hand these birds breed in March and April but over the greater part of its area July and August are the two principal breeding months. It breeds in company, anything from a dozen pairs to nearly two hundred building their wonderful banging nests on some clump of bamboos, a cluster of palms or some other suitable tree or trees. The nests are so well known as hardly to require.
Description. In shape they are long retorts, or pear-shaped, one side of the pear being prolonged downwards in a tunnel which forms the entrance to the nest. In most cases the material used consists of long strips of grass, grass bark, plantain leaf or, less often, coir or other fibre. The weaving of the nest is the work of both sexes and it is wonderfully compact and well put together, standing almost any rain-storm, whilst so well is it attached to its support that it takes a hurricane to tear it away. The tubular entrance varies greatly in length. Sometimes it is a few inches only, whilst at other times it may be as much as two or even three feet. Inside the nest the bird always places a few pellets of mud, each about the size of a marble. These may be intended to weight and steady the nest or, as the natives declare, for the sitting hen to stick with fire-flies to light up her abode. Very often a building-site is selected growing over a piece of water, probably on account of the extra protection so afforded. Over Southern India two eggs seem to be the number most often laid and in Northern India three or four. Even in Ceylon, however, five eggs have been taken by Mr. W. W. A. Phillips and further North by others. I have seen only one clutch of six and this might possibly have been the product of two females. The eggs are pure white and the texture is very hard and stout. One hundred eggs average 20.3 x 14.5 mm.: maxima 22.3 x 15.0 and 21.9 x 15.2 mm.; minima 18.9 x l3.7 mm.
Habits. The Bay a is essentially a bird of open country, cultivated fields, gardens and orchards but at the same time it likes well-wooded country, not frequenting the drier, more barren tracts of the Deccan, Rajputana, etc. It is not intolerant of human beings and human habitations, sometimes building in gardens quite close to houses though it does not build in verandahs etc. as the Burmese Baya sometimes does. It is a cheerful, not to say noisy, little bird and all day long never ceases its conversational chatter, but it has no real song, though the cock will keep up a prolonged pleasant twittering during the courting time. It is principally a seed-eater but also consumes almost any kind of ripe grain and, in captivity, eats fruit and boiled rice and millet. It is a very favourite cage-bird, constantly on the move, very hardy and one of the most intelligent of pets.