(982) Sturnia malabarica malabarica.
The Grey-Headed Myna.
Turdus malabaricus Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p, 816 (1789) (Malabar). Sturnia malabaria. Blanf. & Oates, i; p. 527.
Vernacular names. Pawi (Hind.); Desi-jpawi (Beng.); Pali-palisa (Tel.) ; Kat-halik (Assam); Maina-gophu (Cachari).
Description. Forehead and feathers over the eye white, often tinged with ferruginous; whole upper plumage and wing-coverts grey tinged with rufous on the upper tail-coverts and sometimes faintly washed all over with the same ; feathers of the crown and lengthened feathers of the nape and neck with pale shafts ; middle pair of tail-feathers bronze-grey, the lateral deep ferruginous with blackish bases; winglet, greater coverts and primaries black, the latter tipped with grey ; the grey increases in extent until the innermost secondaries are all of this colour with black shafts ; sides of the head, chin, throat and upper breast lilac-grey, the chin and throat very pale and the breast-feathers pale-shafted; remainder of lower plumage bright ferruginous, deepest on the lower tail-coverts; under wing-coverts and axillaries lilac-grey marked with black ; the edge of the wing, next the bastard wing, is often whitish.
Colours of soft parts. Iris greyish or pearl-white to white ; bill blue at the base, turning to green in the centre and to yellow at the tip ; legs and feet yellowish olive to yellowish brown, the claws darker.
Measurements. Total length about 225 mm.; wing 99 to 102 mm.; tail 61 to 63 mm.; culmen 17 to 18 mm.; tarsus 25 to 26 mm.
In Winter the rufous becomes very pale and dull, sometimes almost disappearing; the upper plumage also becomes duller and browner.
Nestling. Above dull grey-brown, the head paler; tail all brown ; below pale rufous. The bill is all yellow and the iris dull bluish-grey or bluish brown.
Distribution. The whole of India except the North-West portion beyond a line drawn roughly from Mt. Abu to Dehra Dun. To the South probably not breeding on the Malabar Coast South of Belgaum, though in Winter it straggles into Mysore and there is one specimen from Travancore in the British Museum. Assam, Manipur, Chin Hills, Yunnan and Cochin China.
Nidification. The Grey-headed Myna breeds from April to June from the level of the Plains to about 5,000 feet, not often above 4,000 feet. It places its nest in small holes in trees at heights varying from 10 to 40 feet from the ground, often enlarging or altering a hole to suit its purpose. The nest is a very crude one, sometimes only a few leaves and a little grass, some¬times a good pad of the same material. The eggs number from three to five and are pale blue in colour. In shape they are most often rather long, pointed ovals and measure: average forty eggs 23.4 x 18.1 mm.: maxima 26.0 x 18.9 and 23.8 x 19.0 mm.; minima 21.1 x 18.0 and 22.3 x 17.0 mm.
Habits, This little Myna is an inhabitant of both well-wooded open country and of forest and is especially partial to huge trees left standing in patches of cultivation inside forest. When these trees, such as Bombax malabarica, are in flower, many of these birds resort to them to feed on the insects they attract. They hunt about amicably in company with many other species of birds and themselves associate in flocks of a dozen or twenty individuals. Every now and then the whole flock hurl themselves off the tree, fly at a great pace for a few circles round about it and then, having recovered their appetites, once more settle and feed. They keep up a constant rather musical little chatter and their notes generally are much less discordant than those of either the true Starlings or those of the genera Acridotheres etc.
Abnormally coloured specimens of this species seem to be very common and I have seen quite a number coloured as in the plate here given.