19. Urocissa erythrorhyncha erythrorhyncha

(19) Urocissa erythrorhyncha erythrorhyncha Bodd.
THE CHINESE RED-BILLED MAGPIE.
Urocissa melanocephala melanocephala, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. i, p. 41.
Urocissa erythrorhyncha erythrorhyncha, ibid. vol. viii, p. 594.
This Red-billed Magpie breeds in China and Yunnan, just entering our area in the Eastern Shan States. It is extremely common round Hongkong, where Surgeon-Commander H. K. Jones took a fine series of their eggs which he sent to me. His account of their breeding is as follows :—
“The earliest nests are built at the end of March or the beginning of April and breeding goes on through May, June, July and August. It is double-brooded in most cases.
“The nest is a very slight affair, made of thin twigs and lined with the Aerial rootlets of the false Banyan-tree and with finer twigs.
“Almost always it is possible to see through the nest in every direction. In construction it is flat and the contral hollow con¬taining the eggs is very shallow. A favourite nesting site is a topmost twig of a thin sapling, but not infrequently the extremity of a horizontal bough is selected, and only once was the nest found in a strong fork near the main trunk. Firs are, perhaps, the favourite with this species, but a variety of deciduous trees have also been noted as used.
“Both birds assist in building the nest, which is usually about 20 feet from the ground.”
The courtship of all Magpies is much the same whatever the subspecies may be. La Touche (Ibis, 1905, p. 26) describes the display of the male of the Chinese race in the breeding season. “It puffed out the feathers of its head and neck, raised its tail, which was spread like a fan, and turned its body slowly from side to side.”
In N.E. Chihli La Touche found them laying from the 29th May to the 2nd July.
The number of eggs in the clutches in my collection vary in number from four to six. There is one 3, but both these and the one 4 are probably incomplete clutches and five seems to be the normal full clutch.
This is one of the few species of birds of which the geographical races lay eggs widely differing from one another, although they may show a strong family likeness and certain individual clutches may be indistinguishable. The present, typical, form lays eggs which, as a series, may be said to look pale to darkish earthy brown. The ground-colour varies from pale yellow-grey, which is rare, to a definite earth-brown, equally rare. Other eggs are intermediate and in some cases tinged with olive. The primary markings consist of blotches of umber-brown or, less often, of light reddish- brown. As a rule these are small and scattered over the whole egg, nowhere numerous, but more so at the larger end. In some eggs the blotches are larger and rather bolder, and in these eggs they are decidedly more numerous at the larger end, where they may tend to form a ring or cap.
Forty eggs average 29.6 x 22.0 mm. : maxima 34.0 x 23.0 and 31.1 x 23.4 mm. ; minima 27.0 x 21.8 and 28.2 x 21.6 mm.
It is curious to note that, though there is little difference in size between the Chinese and Burmese birds, yet the former lays much the smaller eggs. A larger series would probably reduce or wipe out the difference.
The Koel cuckolds this Cuckoo in some places and I have twice had clutches of eggs sent me as of this bird which proved on careful examination to be all Koels’ eggs.

BookTitle: 
The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Reference: 
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 1. 1932.
Title in Book: 
19. Urocissa erythrorhyncha erythrorhyncha
Spp Author: 
Bodd.
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
CatNo: 
19
Year: 
1932
Page No: 
25
Common name: 
Chinese Red Billed Magpie
M_ID: 
20407
M_SN: 
Urocissa erythroryncha erythroryncha
Volume: 
Vol. 1
id: 
13244

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