(1146) Riparia riparia subsoccata Gray .
THE SMALL SAND-MARTIN.
Riparia riparia subsoccata. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iii, p. 233.
Riparia riparia indica Ticehurst, ibid. vol. viii, p. 658.
This little Sand-Martin breeds over the whole of Northern India from Afghanistan, through Kashmir, Garwhal, Nepal, Sikkim to the Buxa Duars, while South it extends to Sind, the Punjab, United Provinces and Bihar. Eastwards of this in Bengal its place is taken by ijimoe.
Hume, after discussing the distinctiveness of this Sand-Martin from C. sinensis, says : —“On the 11th Jan., 1867, I came on a colony of Sand-Martins breeding in the high sandy banks of the Jamna. I shot two of the birds and got some eggs. I revisited the spot on the 12th March and again shot a pair of birds and obtained more eggs.
“They build in communities in sandy banks overhanging rivers. They bore small holes, about 3 inches in diameter, from 1.1/2 to 3 feet deep, into the bank, usually sloping a little upwards, at the end of which they scoop out a sort of chamber, say 6 inches in diameter ; there they make a nest of very fine twigs and grass lined with a few soft feathers of the wild goose, brahminy and such-like water¬fowl. They lay from two to three eggs.”
The other descriptions given of the breeding of the Sand-Martins in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ may in some cases apply to more than one species or subspecies, so I do not quote further from them. Pitman obtained a fine series of skins and eggs at Dehra Ismail Khan in March 1914 from a big colony breeding in a shallow pit.
* When writing vol. viii of the ‘Fauna’ I accepted Ticehurst's reasons for the name subsoccata being untenable because it had been cited by Horsfield and Moore as a synonym of sinensis (Cat. Birds in Mus. E. I. Co. p. 96, 1854). I find, however, that the name is founded by Hodgson on specimen E in the Indian Museum, while there is also a drawing of the Sand-Martin from Nepal. Because Horsfield and Moore wrongly cite this name as a synonym of sinensis it does not thus become invalidated, and must be used, but the reference must be to Gray (ex Hodgs.), Zool. Misc. p. 82, 1844.
This Sand-Martin undoubtedly breeds for choice in the sandy banks of rivers, but it has also been found breeding in borrow-pits by roadsides, banks of lakes and ponds where these are suitable for the purpose and, often, in roadside and railway cuttings Gill also records finding a colony of upwards of a hundred couples with all the tunnelled nests driven into the face of a mud cliff some fifteen feet square, the little apertures being only inches apart (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xxix, p. 765, 1934, under the name C. sinensis).
The tunnels vary in length according to the soil, but generally in easily workable, but sound, sand-banks they vary from 1.1/2 to 3 feet in depth. In very easy yet still firm sand-banks they may run up to 6 feet ; while in hard soil I have seen tunnels which, excluding the chamber, were under 6 inches. The nests consist of a handful of grass, roots, small leaves and leaf-stalks and, according to Hume, small twigs, with a hning of feathers. Both lining and nest vary much in bulk. I have seen some which could be held in one hand and others which must have contained several handfuls of material.
The breeding season varies according to the normal time for the rising of the rivers etc. The tunnels are usually begun in November, December and January, egga being laid any time between December and March, a few not until April.
The number of eggs laid seems to vary a good deal in the various colonies. In Nowshera Buchanan took many numbering five, but Jones (Attock), Whistler (Jhelum), Pitman (Dehra Ismail Khan), Rattray (Jhelum) and many others have found two or three to be the normal clutch and larger numbers exceptional.
The eggs of all the species of Riparia are small replicas of House-Martins, pure white glossless eggs, of fine soft surface and brittle texture.
Forty eggs average 10.5 x 12.1 mm. : maxima 17.3 x 12.3 and 16.9 x 12.6 mm. ; minima 15.4 x 12.0 and 16.9 x 11.3 mm.
1146. Riparia riparia subsoccata
(1146) Riparia riparia subsoccata Gray .