48. Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax himalayanus

(48) Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax himalayanus (Gould).
Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 68.
In its restricted form this Chough breeds within our limits throughout the Himalayas from the North-West Frontier to Tibet. They are early breeders and some birds have eggs in March, but the great majority breed in April and May. Since Mandelli took the first known eggs of this race of Chough from under the eaves of a high wooden house in Chambi many field naturalists and others have visited their breeding haunts and taken nests and eggs.
Ward was, perhaps, the first to take their eggs in Kashmir, securing some clutches laid in holes in the sandstone cliffs in the Liddar Valley at 12,000 feet. Whymper took them in Garhwal between 9,000 and 12,000 feet, while Osmaston took others again at Leh, 11,600 feet. Ludlow (Ibis, 1928, p. 53) gives an interesting and complete account of its nidification in Tibet:—
“Another exceedingly common bird both at Gyantse and in the Chambi Valley, breeding plentifully in both localities. Nest construction begins in March, and eggs are to be found in April and May. Sometimes the nests are situated in an inaccessible cliff, sometimes in holes in the walls of inhabited and uninhabited houses only a few feet from the ground. At times the birds will be found breeding in colonies, at other times only solitary nests will be found. It will construct its nest in the most secluded spot imaginable, or right in the midst of a village. Frequently the same site is occupied year after year. The nest is made of sticks and twigs and lined with wool. Three or four constitutes the normal clutch.”
As a rule the bird selects natural holes in cliffs in which to nest but sometimes they excavate one for themselves. Osmaston records a nest, a thick matted pad of wool and hair with no sticks, placed in a hole 20 feet from the ground in soft sandstone which he believed the birds had dug out for themselves. The hole was about 2 feet deep.
Steen and Kennedy were the first to take eggs round Gyantse and I have a fine series collected by them and by D. Macdonald much later. Their accounts corroborate those of Ludlow but add little to it. Kennedy describes one colony of “hundreds of birds, but very scattered in a high cliff, most of the nests quite un-get-atable.”
Occasionally the Chough lays five eggs as I have two such clutches in my collection taken by Macdonald and obviously all five laid by the same bird, but three seems to be the number most often laid.
The ground-colour grades from almost pure white with the faintest blue or green tinge to a pale rather dull pinky-white. The primary blotches are generally fairly large and light reddish or umber-brown to a rather dark brown in colour ; the secondary marks are of lavender- or inky-grey and are as numerous as the primary. They are scattered pretty thickly over the whole surface, in some eggs very thickly, in a few more scantily. In one or two clutches they form a ring round the larger end of the egg.
Fifty eggs average 41.7 x 28.4 mm. : maxima 46.3 x 30.5 mm. ; minima 37.5 x 27.5 and 38.3 x 27.3 mm.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
48. Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax himalayanus
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Eastern Red Billed Chough
Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax himalayanus
Vol. 1

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