(1877) Streptopelia senegalensis cambayensis (Gmelin).
THE INDIAN LITTLE BROWN DOVE.
Streptopelia senegalensis cambaiensis, Fauna I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v. p. 246.
This very common little Dove is found over the whole of India West of Calcutta. It does not occur in Ceylon but has been obtained on the Malabar coast and on Travancore, though it is rare and, perhaps, only a casual straggler so far South. On the North-West Frontier this species breeds, but I believe it to belong to the next race ; in Sind also it breeds in numbers but, here again, though cambayensis is common in Winter I believe the breeding bird to be ermanni, The only skin I have seen with eggs was large and pale, and I had no doubt was this bird, while the Quettah breeding bird also is, I consider, attributable to ermanni.
This is our most confidential little Dove, and probably eschews forest altogether as breeding ground. It is fond of nesting in gardens and parks, round towns and villages, in hedges in cultiva¬tion, odd bushes or tangles of briars and thorns in waste ground and, sometimes, in largish trees in orchards such as Mangos. Very often it makes its nest in buildings, both occupied and empty, and occasionally it has been found placed actually on the ground. It prefers dry climates and where the rainfall is heavy and the climate humid it is much less common. Thus in the wetter districts of Bengal it is rare. In Chota Nagpur, which is one of the most dry districts, it is more common. Inglis does not give it as occurring in Madhupore in Bihar, but it occurs in other districts of that province, though perhaps not commonly.
The nest is the usual little platform of twigs, sometimes mixed with grass-stems, with little or no depression for the eggs, measuring about 5 to 7 inches in diameter and from less than I to about inches in depth.
Among the unusual sites selected for nesting may be mentioned the following. Hume “found several nests of this species in the bristling crowns of young, wild date-trees (Phoenix sylvestris).” Anderson records one nest built on a double rope inside his tent, but, unfortunately for the birds, the tent had to be struck when the nest was ready for eggs. The rope, double for some six inches, was just broad enough to allow of the nest being balanced on it. Another nest was built on the window-sill in his office room, in which the birds brought up their two young successfully. I have also heard of a nest built behind a picture in a drawing-room and of another built between the antlers of a deer’s head against a wall. More than once the birds have tried to build their nests on the roll-up blinds, called chics in India, where they are used to keep out the sun. Dewar, in his 'Birds of the Plains,' relates the history of one of these nests. In this instance the little Doves built their first nest and reared two young in it whilst the chic was rolled up ; later, when it was let down in the hot weather, they stuck to the site and actually built another nest in which they reared no less than three broods and, finally, a pair of domestic Pigeons whose eggs had been substi¬tuted for their own.
Butler records two nests built about 2 yards apart in a net placed round a verandah to prevent the entry of bats, a position which necessitated the birds fluttering along inside the, net for 9 or 10 yards every time they entered or left.
Sometimes these Doves nest on the ground, and there have been several records of such nests. Mr. B. Aitken wrote to Hume about one as follows “I once found a nest of T. senegalensis in a most unusual situation. It was on the ground at the top of a ditch in a plain covered with short grass. Not a stick or straw had been carried to the spot, but the grass as it grew had been worked into a very neat nest.”
More recently Mr. Fenton has recorded (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xx, p. 220, 1910) :—"I found some years ago at Chorwar in Kathiawar, the nest of Turtur cambayensis placed on the ground, on a large bare plot surrounded by the ordinary Indian cactus. The nest contained two young birds. Besides the almost im¬penetrable jungle of cactus round the spot, there were only a very few low bushes and stunted trees in its near vicinity.” Cactus hedges, we may add, form favourite sites for nests in many districts.
This Dove, and many other Doves and Pigeons, often place their nests in the same tree, or close to one, occupied by one of the Raptores, and in some cases actually close to a branch in which a Laggar Falcon has its nest, yet the Falcons never attack the birds or steal the young, although Pigeons and Doves are their favourite prey. Moreover, the Falcons must recognize the particular Doves living under their protection at great distances, as they show no excitement at their approach and the Doves or Pigeons fly carelessly to their nests as if no bird of prey were anywhere near them. What this wonderful law of Nature is many observers have wondered, but that it exists no one can doubt.
The breeding season is more or less perpetual, and some pairs of birds will rear as many as half a dozen broods in the season. Probably the favourite seasons are two, the first February to April, the second September to November. In the hills, naturally, the breeding season is more definite, most eggs being laid between April and October, and in the highest elevations, which are 5,000 to 6,000 feet, April to August.
Two eggs are, of course, the normal clutch, but there are several records of three eggs, and sometimes one only is incubated.
Sixty eggs average 25.3 x 19.3 mm. : maxima 27.2 x 20.0 and 26.7 x 20.9 mm. ; minima 22.0 x 18.2 and 23.0 x 18.0 mm.
Both birds, as usual, build the nest and incubate, but there is no record as to how long incubation lasts.
1877. Streptopelia senegalensis camljayensis
(1877) Streptopelia senegalensis cambayensis (Gmelin).