(973) Sturnus vulgaris humii.
The Himalayan Starling,
Sturnus humii Brooks, Str. Feath., viii, p. 207 (1873) (Kashmir) (Description, Hume, Ibis, 1871, p. 410); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 520.
Vernacular names. Tilgiri (Kashmir).
Description. - Summer. Whole plumage black with various glosses, generally with a few fulvous specks on the posterior flanks and narrow fulvous margins to the primaries; inner portions of primaries and secondaries brown; tail purple-grey with black edges.
Gloss. Head deep blue or green-blue; throat, neck, upper breast and upper back copper-red; lower back, rump, scapulars, wings and abdomen greenish.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown in the male, white in the female; bill yellow; legs and feet reddish brown to tan-brown.
Measurements. Total length about 190 to 200 mm.; wing 115 to 123 mm.; tail 50 to 60 mm.; culmen 24 to 26 mm.; tarsus about 29 mm.
Winter. Upper plumage and wing-coverts with small triangular fulvous tips, generally obsolete or absent on the head; lower plumage black with large white terminal bars to the feathers of the breast, flanks and abdomen.
Young birds like the adult but retaining the large white spots of the nestling's lower plumage and, to a less extent, the buff spots on the upper plumage.
Nestling. Pale brown, the feathers of the lower plumage streaked with darker brown and the throat and chin very pale.
Distribution. Breeding in the Himalayas East to Nepal and. Garhwal and West to Afghanistan. In Winter it is found in the Plains of the North-West, Sind and Northern India East to Dinapore and Bihar.
Nidification. The Kashmir Starling breeds from the end of April to early June, between 5,000 and 7,000 feet, making a rough untidy nest of grass, straw, leaves, etc. well lined with feathers, placed in holes of trees, buildings or even in banks. General Betham also discovered it breeding in holes excavated in the masses of debris in the reed-beds in the Kashmir Lakes. The eggs number four to seven and are a very pale skim-milk blue, occasionally almost white. They are highly glossed and in shape ovals well pointed at the smaller end. One hundred eggs average 29.7 x 20.5 mm.: maxima 30.5 x 21.4 mm.; minima 27.0 X 20.3 mm. and 28.0 x 19.2 mm.
Habits. This Starling is quite typical of the genus; very gregarious, cheerful, impudent and noisy though, perhaps, less of a town bird and more an inhabitant of orchards, gardens, open but well-wooded country than is its English relation. It has a considerable repertoire of notes, mostly unpleasant, although the bird itself is under the impression that it is quite the finest songster to be found in Kashmir. In the breeding-season the male sits on any exposed position and with drooping, shivering wings and depressed tail gives vent to discordant whistles, shrieks and ungreased cart-wheel notes with which to woo its most indifferent mate. These Starlings do an immense amount of good in the destruction of their insect food, largely grasshoppers; often,, however, they do an even greater amount of harm in pilfering fruit and ripe grain.