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Full text of "Pet birds of Bengal .."

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PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 
( SONG BIRDS ) 



Calcutta Oriental Series No. lo, E. 4 

PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Vol. I .. ^ M > I 



BY 

SATYA CHUKN LAW, M.A., B.L. 

Fellow of the Zoological Society of London ; 
Member of the British Ornithologists* Union 



WITH A FOREWORD BY 

Dr. GRAHAM RENSHAW, m.d., f.r.S.e. 

Editor "Natureland*' ; Formerly Editor 
"The Avicultural Magazine" 

With Illustrations by N. Kushari. 
CALCUTTA AND SIMLA 

THACKER, SPINK & CO. 

1923 



Printed by Mr. Nalin Chandra Paul, b, a. 
at the Calcutta Oriental Press, 107, Mechuabazar St,, Calcutta 

■..i^— <^ S ^ >) ^ _ '\'.yy 'T 



FOREWORD 

One of the crying needs of aviculture 
has been a pioneer, up-to-date and com- 
prehensive volume on the wonderful bird- 
fauna of India, written not merely for 
the field naturalist but also for the lover 
of pets, with a sympathetic insight into 
the difficulties of a keeper of birds. The 
present readable and reliable work suppli- 
es this want. 

Mr. Law needs no introduction to 
the Zoological public. Himself a fine 
naturalist and a keen observer, he has 
the happy faculty of presenting to his 
readers a vivid picture of the events that 
he records from time to time in the 
various natural history journals. As the 
editor of the Naturelandy it has been 
my privilege to be in special touch with 
his ornithological studies. All the birds 
dealt with in this volume have lived in 



VI 

Mr. Law's aviaries, and he has set forth 
nothing that has not come under his 
personal observation. 

By a happy inspiration, the birds are 
designated by their Indian names, their 
English titles being given a subsidiary 
place, thus rendering the work of local 
as well as of general interest. Those of 
us who are interested in Shamas and Dhya- 
Is, in Bulbuls and Drongos, would, I am 
sure, heartily welcome this work. 

e I n/r 1 ^ Graham Renshaw, 

Sale, Manchester 

1923. 



PREFACE 

The conquest of Nature, that has been 
-advancing apace with the spread of material 
civilisation, has been putting difficulties in 
the way of man's free communion with 
Nature. The music that cheered him up 
spontaneously in his rural or urban environ- 
ments at a time when he did not assert 
his independence of Nature, has now to be 
enjoyed through special efforts for securing 
and preserving it within reach. The truth 
of this will be realised to some extent by 
visits to a city like Calcutta or London 
where the rattling of carriage-wheels and 
the grunting of bus-horns make it diffi- 
<3ult to even turn one's thought to a past 
enjoyment of avine music amidst natural 
scenery. Many of us feel this want caused 
by the progress of our material civilisation 
a,nd try to make up for it by periodical 
'excursions into villages, marshes, jungles 



via 

and forests where Nature still has her 
citadel unassailed or unaffected. Such 
were the excursions made at times by 
President Roosevelt who used to refresh 
himself as also to satisfy his insatiable 
curiosity about the avine community by 
roaming about ill the prairies and jungles 
of the United States or in the dense forests 
©f far-off Africa ; it was also the prac- 
tice of the distinguished British ex-minis- 
ter Viscount Grey who, not content with 
the stray song of a Robin at his window 
or a Finch in his garden, ran away from 
the cares of Whitehall into places where 
birds sang in chorus or poured forth 
floods of music in their unmolested natural 
abodes. Many lovers of bird-music may 
be of the habit which soothed the two 
statesmen in their o^nawin^: cares, but 
there are others who want to have the 
remedy within easy reach. They will 
have the pleasure of the distant hills and 
dales as far as possible within the city 
itself, in their own garden, or in the 



IX 



public grounds hard by. The pleasure m 
derived of course through suggestion and 
imitation on a small scale, like the 
scenery reproduced on a stage to re- 
present the actual scenery stretching for 
miles. This offers scope for the application 
of the highest human art and ingenuity j, 
for there in the aviaries or on the open 
e^round is to be made such a blendins; of 
of Nature and Art that the latter may 
hide its identity and be mistaken for the 
former. This blendinsf of art and nature 
is meant to delude not only the human 
spectators visiting the place for pleasure, 
but also its feathered inmates who must 
feel there quite at home and take the 
amenities of the artificial dales and wood- 
lands to be the same as those in their former 
rural or sylvan habitat. Flitting, roaming 
or hopping from place to place or branch 
to branch ; mating, nesting, and rearing, 
their young ; chirruping, cooing, and carol- 
linoj to their hearts' content • lovino; instead 
of resenting the restraint on their freedom. 



if they mind it at all, they would enjoy 
their existence quite as much as the hu- 
man visitors who take to these resorts 
in their spare half-hours to watch the 
habits and movements of their feathered 
companions for delight and study. It is 
here that the skill and experience of the 
aviculturist become a necessity ; it is here 
that the utility of ornithology as a branch 
of human knowledge becomes patent. The 
reproduction of conditions pleasant to the 
birds, and suitable to their ways of living, 
is possible only to a specialist who has 
a deep and intimate knowledge of bird- 
life. It is the application of this knowledge 
that serves to keep alive the birds in the 
artificial conditions of the aviary and enable 
them to thrive there. It also supplies 
the means by which the bounds of human 
knowledge in regard to birds may be made 
wider and wider ; for the aviaries are 
the laboratories of the ornitholoorist and 
it is through them that aviculture has 
become a handmaid of ornithology. The 



XI 

study of bird-life in Nature is beset with 
difficulties, and if we rely exclusively on 
the jB.eld observations of the ornitholoorist, 
we may have to wait long, and, in many 
instances, in vain. The field observer can 
not observe a particular bird the whole 
year through, and has, therefore, to glean 
facts in many cases from chance obser- 
vations which may be misleading. The 
aviculturist, on the other hand, gets an 
opportunity of studying a bird for years 
in a scientific way and, if he does so, he 
can get at many truths regarding its nidi- 
^^fication, courting, nesting etc., which are 
of the greatest interest and importance not 
only to a systematist for the purposes oi 
classification, but also to a student of evolu- 
tion. It is possible, therefore, through 
aviculture, to have not merely immediate 
pleasure and bits of knowledge of bird-life, 
the utility of which is admitted even by 
men with a practical turn of mind, but 
also to pursue their highest ideals of ex- 
tending knowledge for the sake of know- 



xu 

ledge, the immediate utility of which>- 
though not so easily understood, is, never- 
theless, very great on account of the fact 
that it alone can create the conditions 
throusch which discoveries of the hiojhest 
importance become a possibility. 

The practice of keeping birds in cap- 
tivity dates in India from remote anti- 
quity. The Vedic literature contains many 
references to talking birds like Mynahs 
and Parrots which were regarded as 
common favourites at the time. Pigeons- 
were regarded as household birds of good 
omen. Accounts are available as to the 
caging of parrots at the time of Alexander 
the Great's invasion of India. This great 
warrior took away from here a number 
of ring-necked parrots which are known 
to this day as Alexandrine Parrakeets. 
^lian informs us that *'in India there 
were many parrots which were held sacred 
by the Brahmans because they could imi- 
tate human speech, and which were there- 
fore neither killed nor captured by the^ 



XUl 



Indians.'* This statement is not wholly 
correct, because the talking propensity of 
the birds was discovered in captivity, and 
there was no sentiment among the people 
against the practice of caging them. The 
keeping of birds in aviaries, instead of in 
small cages, is noticed in the Mrichchha- 
hatika^ a Sanskrit drama of about the 
4th century A.D. The caging of talking 
birds for the adornment of houses and for 
pleasure was widely practised in ancient 
India, but evidences are meagre as to the 
caging of singing birds for the same pur- 
poses. Bigger birds like Saruses (Cranes), 
Peafowl, Raj-hans (Flamingoes) etc., were 
also kept at large in lawns and gardens 
in ancient India to heighten their beauty. 
Bird-fights were liked by the Hindu 
kings, while hawking was widely followed 
as a pastime. There is a Sanskrit work 
called Syainiha Sastra by one of the Hindu 
princes, which gives a systematic study 
of the subject, recording and describing 
the habits and qualities of several species 



XIV 



of falcons, and the means by which they 
were caught, tamed and trained. The an- 
cient Hindus were keen observers of birds 
and bird-life. It is my impression that 
Sanskrit works on birds have mostly 
been overtaken by the same fate that has 
befallen works on other special subjects 
of secular importance. The physical fea- 
tures of many birds as also many of their 
habits that escape the eye of ordinary 
observers are delineated by the world- 
renowned Sanskrit poet Kalidasa in his 
works with a faithfulness which is really 
admirable. Shortness of space prevents 
me from dilating on the point, but de- 
tailed information on it can be had from 
a work of mine in Bengali called Pakhir 
Katha. Suffice it to say that the evi- 
dence at our disposal does not enable us 
to have a full idea about the activities of 
the ancient Hindu in regard to bird- 
keeping; but there can be no doubt that 
it was extensively practised, and birds 
were kept in cages and open gardens not 



XV 

only as a source of pleasure and as a luxury 
but also for diverse other purposes e.g.,. 
carriage of message, prevention of dis- 
eases by their presence (vide Kautiliya 
Arthasastra ) etc. 

The Muhammadan Emperors of India 
were very fond of cage-birds. Some of 
them were also fond of hawkins; and made 
elaborate arrano-ements for housino; several 
kinds of hawks. The Emperor Akbar 
had several aviaries and bird-houses in 
which he kept a very large number of birds 
and pigeons. The first recorded attempt 
at cross-hybridisation in India is probably 
that of this monarch, who succeeded in 
raising the Fantail variety, appreciated so 
greatly by the Pigeon-fanciers of the present 
day. The sportive or fighting capacities 
of birds were greatly valued by the Muham- 
madans. The common Grey Partridges 
called Titar, Quails, Game Cocks and 
Bulbuls are noted for such capacities. A 
particular period of the year is still recog- 
nised as the time for holding: such bird- 



XVl 

--contests for the satisfaction of the people 
with a fancy for those spectacles. 

Aviculture, as we understand it at 
cipresent, is a very recent phase of bird- 
•keeping. The term was first coined and 
^■ased by the founders of the Avicultural 
Society of London in the latter part of the 
19th century. The object of the Society 
as to encourao-e birds to live and thrive 
in congenial conditions in captivity in 
•order to study their habits and the bio- 
logical or ornithological phenomena for 
adding to the stock of our knowledge of 
'bird-life. Foreign birds are to be exten- 
sively imported and studied. Before the 
■establishment of this Society, bird-keeping 
in Europe followed a standard which was 
^not exactly the present scientific one, 
and was rightly designated 'fancy'. The 
training of birds to imitate artificially 
created trilling sounds resulted in the 
nicely quavering song of the German Roller 
Canaries. The fanciers were also bent on 
anule-breeding and development and fixa- 



XVll 

tion of particular colour-marks in parts of 
the body. Aviculture, on the other hand, 
has for its province the scientific study 
of birds as mentioned already. Most or- 
nithologists in the past were ignorant of 
the avicultural branch of their science, — 
a state of things which the Avicultural 
Society has helped a good deal to remove. 
How far it has been successful in the reali- 
sation of its objects may be gathered from 
the fact that in 1900, it could assert its 
claim so far as to have a special section 
for aviculture in the International Congress 
of Ornithology at Paris. The avicultural 
study of Indian birds was first systematic- 
ally taken up by those English scientists 
who established a school of aviculturists 
in England. The most prominent names 
among them are those of Butler, Reginald 
Phillips, Astley, Teschemaker, Meade- 
Waldo, Seth-Smith, and Humphrys. 

No comprehensive literature on Indian 
cage-birds from the pen of modern or- 
nithologists is available. Sporadic attempts 



XVlll 

at scientific caofino: and breedino^ of Indian 
birds are on record. Modern vernacular 
literature is utterly barren of books on 
ornithology generally, not to speak of 
a special branch of it regarding the cage- 
birds. 

The ideal and the methods of enquiry 
of the European Aviculturists are almost 
unknown to the Indians who, however, 
appreciate the possibilities of many Indian 
birds for growing into valuable cage pets 
by virtue of their song, beauty and other 
attractive features. Europeans have not 
yet had ample opportunities for examining 
them thoroughly but the conclusion that 
would be reached by such an investigation 
in regard to the song-birds, would not, 
I think, be different from the opinion of 
Douglas Dewar that "song-birds are nu- 
merous in India... India possesses some 
song-birds which can hold their own in 
any company. If the shama, the magpie- 
robin, the fan-tailed fly-catcher, the white- 
eye, the purple sunbird, the orange-headed 



XiX 



ground thrush, and the bhimraj visited 
England in the summer, they would soon 
supplant in popular favour some of our 
British song-birds." 

As a laro^e number of Indian sonofs- 
ters is found in Bengal, the present volume 
is devoted to these song-birds, the sub- 
sequent volumes being reserved for the 
talkino:, fiofhtinof, and miscellaneous birds 
kept for show etc. I have not, however, 
confined myself wholly to the cage-habits 
of these birds, and this volume should not 
be regarded as a book exclusively on 
aviculture. Several Indian cage-birds are 
liked and caged by aviculturists in Europe, 
who thus become acquainted with their 
cage-life, but lack information about them 
in their wild state. I have attempted to 
deal in detail with this feature from direct 
•field observation ; at the same time, I have 
put in facts regarding cage-life supplemen- 
ting my own experience by the results 
of observations made by European avi- 
culturists in their bird- rooms. All the 



XX 



birds touched in the volume are or were, 
sometime or other, inmates of my aviaries ; 
and I have said about them nothing which 
did not come within my personal obser- 
va.tion, or was not verified as correct. 

In including the birds in this volume, I 
have in view the limits of Bengal as they 
stand at present. When the first edition 
of Fauna (Birds) of British India appeared, 
Bengal was a much bigger province than 
it is now. It then included Bihar, Orissa 
and Chota Nagpur within its boundaries 
but those three divisions were sliced oft' 
into a separate province in 1912. A map 
of Bengal has been included in the volume, 
showing the present and past limits to 
enable the reader to understand the dis- 
tribution of the birds treated of in the book. 
There is, however, a host of cage-favourites 
belonging to provinces other than Bengal, 
They do not as a rule come within my 
purview except in one or two cases in 
which the bird is not unfrequently seen in 
the fringe-areas of Bengal. The omission 



XXI 



of the king of songsters, the Nightingale, 
in a volume on song-birds may need some 
explanation, specially when it is so often 
seen in Bengal as a caged pet. It is never 
found in a wild state here. In fact, there 
was, and perhaps still is, some doubt as to 
its being an Indian bird ; but I find that 
Mr. Stuart Baker has included it in his 
Hand-list of Indian birds. Another cao-ed 
pet, not treated of in this book, is the 
Calandra Lark {Melanocori/pha maxima ), 
known to Indians as the "Jal". It is 
largely imported from China and is never 
found in the plains of India. Though an 
allied species of this Lark — Melanocorypha 
himaculata — is a winter visitor to the 
north-western parts of India, it is seldom 
caught for the cage, people preferring the 
Chinese bird. Among other birds not 
noticed here are a few songsters like the 
Fantail Fly-catcher ( Rliipidura alhifron- 
tata) and the Purple Sun-bird {Arachne- 
cJithra asiatica) which, though found 
plentifully in Bengal, are unknown as pet 



xxu 

birds. They are very delicate and are 
not likely to thrive on the regulation diet 
provided by Indian bird-keepers. 

1 have used freely in this volume the 
vernacular names of the birds with the 
object of familiarising the European 
readers with the local nomenclature. As 
regards the scientific names, 1 have follow- 
ed Oates authoritative volume — the Fauna 
of British India. The trinomial nomen- 
clature which has been adopted in the 
second edition of the Avi-fauna (now in 
course of publication by Mr. Stuart 
Baker) has necessitated some very im- 
portant changes in classification. As the 
published portion of the book reached me 
after I had sent my manuscripts to the 
press, I have no other alternative but to 
add an appendix containing the names. 
I have also appended some additional 
aviary notes on several birds the habits 
of which were observed during the period 
the text was in the press. 

Dr. Graham Kenshaw, m.d., f.r.s.e., 



XXlll 

editor of the Natur eland, has laid me under 
a deep obligation by contributing a fore- 
word to this volume. I owe a deep debt 
of gratitude to Professor Bipin Behari 
Gupta, M.A., for his valuable suggestions, 
and to my cousin Dr. Narendra Nath 
Law, M.A., B.L., P.R.S., P.H.D., whose words 
have always served as a stimulus to my 
energy, and whose efforts have always 
been directed to the prefection of the 
results of my labours. Dr. Law has put 
me under a fresh obligation by including 
this volume in his Calcutta Oriental Series. 
My thanks are due to Mr. Sudhindra 
Lai Roy, m.a., for material assistance and 
to Mr. N. Kushari for the artistic drawing 
of the illustrations. I must also acknow- 
ledge the help I have received from 
Messrs. Nalin Chandra Paul and Raghu 
Nath Sil while putting the manuscripts 
through the press. 

24, Sukeas Street, S. C. Law. 

Calcutta, 
Decembev^ 1923. 



CONTENTS 

Page 

Foreword v 

Preface vii 

The Sham a i 

The Dhayal ( Magpie-Robin) 19 

The Piddah ( Common Pied Bush-chat) 35 

Other Piddahs and their kindred 4^ 

Kher-Piddah ( Indian Bush-chat) 49 

Kali Shama (Indian Robin) 5^ 

Husaini-Piddah ( Indian Blue-throat) ^7 

Common Ruby-throat 73 
The Gulab Chasm ( Yellow-eyed 

Babbler) 77 

The Harewa ( Gold-fronted Chloropsis) 92 

The Fatik-jal (lora) no 

The Bharat and its kindred (Lark) 127 
The Dama (Orange-headed Ground 

Thrush) 166 
The Kastura (Ouzel and Whistling 

Thrush) 187 

The Bhimraj (Racket-tailed Drongo) 222 

The Khanjan (Wagtail) 240 



XXVI 





Page 


The Tuti (Scarlet Rose-Finch) 


265 


The Koel and its alHes 


284 


Appendix 


323 


Additional Aviary Notes 


325 


Glossary 


341 


Scientific Nomenclature 


343 


Index 


349 



MAP 






"Bengal, past and present 


Frontispiece 


PLATES 








Faci 


ng- page 


Shama, male and female 




I 


Shama 




9 


Dhayal, male and female 




20 


lora 




119 


Bush-Larks 




129 


Shama and nest 




32s 


Shama feeding youngl 
Shama nestling J 




330 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Paoe 

Magpie-Robiw 34 

Pied Bush-chat 38 

Pied Bush-chat feeding young 43 

Indian Bush-chat 49 

Indian Bush-chat 51 

Brown-backed Indian Robin, male and female 56 



XXVlll 







Page 


Brown-backed Indian Robin with insect 


60 


Indian Blue-throat 




67 


Indian Blue-throat and nest 




69 


Common Ruby-throat, male 




73 


Common Ruby-throat, female 




75 


Indian Yellow-eyed Babbler 




80 


Indian Yellow-eyed Babbler, feedir 


ig 


Z2 


Indian Yellow-eyed Babbler, male and female 


H 


Gold-fronted Chloropsis, catching 


spider 


96 


Gold-fronted Chloropsis, hanging 


head 




downwards 




98 


Orange-bellied Chloropsis 




108 


lora 




112 


lora, family party 




116 


Indian Sky-Lark (mock-combat) 




135. 


Indian Sky Lark 




141 


Bengal Bush-Lark 




143 


Singing Bush-Lark 




144 


Crested Lark 




147 


Bush-Lark and nest 




150 


Crested Lark 




164 


Orange-headed Ground Thrush 




166 


Orange-headed Ground Thrush, courting 


180 


Himalayan Whistling Thrush 




193 


Grey-winged Blackbird 




208 


Grey-winged Blackbird 




2ia 



XXIX 

Page 

Grey-winged Blackbird, female and nest 213 

Racket-tailed Drongo in flight 229 

Racket-tailed Drongo 236 

Large Pied Wagtail on housetop 247 

Large Pied Wagtail on ground 252 

Hodgson's Rose-Finch 273 

Koel 284 

Hawk-Cuckoo 291 

Indian Cuckoo 304 

Pied Crested Cuckoo 305 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 
(SONG BIRDS) 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 






THE SHAMA 

(CITTOCINCLA MACRURA) 

The Shama, as a songster, is entitled to 
the first place in the whole feathered com- 
mnnity of India, and for the matter of that, 
in Bengal. Eor a competitor to whom it 
yields in song, we have to look to regions 
which are, strictly speaking, outside India, 
to that unassuming bird which, despite its 
homely beauty, has been rendered immortal 
by its- vocal chaims — the Nightingale. 
Though the Shama is overstepped by this 



2 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

prince of songsters by a long distance, yet 
the sweetness of its song is highly remark- 
able for its variety, depth, impetuousness, 
and modulation, which have made it the 
darling of both the high and the low throu- 
ghout the length and breadth of India. This 
bird was familiar to our ancestors in the long- 
past. The name Shama signifies *glossy 
dark' — a predominant colour of the bird. 
The name has another fascination for the 
Hindus, whose love and reverence for the 
goddess of that name are so well-known. 
The bird has yet another charm. It is very 
docile in captivity, though so bold and fear- 
less in demeanour. This, added to its 
beauty and its wonderful capacity for imita- 
ting human voices and calls of other birds 
and animals, has greatly enhanced its value 
as a caged pet. The attention which it can 
thus command from its master is no less 
remarkable. It is commonly kej)t in a 
lovely cage of superior workmanship, always 
wrapped up with a piece of clean linen, 
and taken out every evening for an airing. 



THE SHAMA 6 

Those who can afford, engage servants 
specially for this purpose, and it is not an 
unusual sight in many an Indian city to 
see several such cages taken out to a muni- 
cipal park or open ground for the airing. 
A covered cage is always looked upon by 
the Indians as essential to keeping a bird in 
health and song. The 1)elief has taken such 
a firm hold on the mind of the masses that 
no amount of reasoning can dissuade them 
from this practice which is obviously con- 
trary to all hygienic rules ; for, in fact, birds 
in open cages, enjoying air and light, do not 
sing the less or fare the worse in health. 
In spite of this drawback in caging, the 
caged Shama can be pronounced to be an 
avicultural success, for the bird grows robust 
and lives long in confinement, and, except 
for the short moulting period, it sings 
throughout the year. And, since the bird 
is often caged when young, it gets accus- 
tomed to human intrusion, and acquires a 
non-chalant air about it, singing away its 
days quite oblivious of the presence of man. 



4 PET BIRDS or BENGAL 

The Sliama, in freedom, is not a familiar 
sight to us. It is a denizen of thick jungles 
and dense forests, keeping generally to the 
underwood. It loves to frequent thickets in 

glades and valleys located in the 
/^ ^ ^' midst of hills or mountains. It is, 

therefore, absent in the districts 
devoid of these natural features. In Bengal, 
which is one of the most thickly populated 
provinces, this bird confines itself to those 
jungly districts where human habitation is 
scarce. Por this reason, it rarely makes the 
Deltaic portion of Bengal its place of abode, 
but is often a dweller of the western skirts 
of the districts of Midnapore and Birbhum. 
Eastwards from the Padma in the verdant 
hills of Cachar, Assam, and Tipperah, it is 
very numerous. In other parts of India, its 
most important ranges are the Terai districts 
of the Sub-Himalayan regions from Nepal to 
Dibrugarh in Assam. It is also represented 
in the well-wooded hills and forests of 
Central India, Orissa, Chotanagpur, and the 
Bajmahal Hills. In Southern India, it is 



THE SHAMA O 

a permanent resident of the hill-ranges of 
the West as far north as Khandalla in tlie 
Sahyadri. Its range extends beyond the 
Palk Straits into Ceylon, where it is very 
abundant. In the eastern parts of the 
Deccan, it is seen in Malabar. It is abso- 
lutely a stranger in the provinces west of 
the Ganges, and in Rajputana. It is widely 
and abundantly found all over Burma. 

It is invariably a resident bird in the 
localities to which its range is confined, but 
in the hill-tracts of Cachar, it has been ob- 
served to be a winter visitant. It seldom 
ascends the hills to any great 

heio^ht, nor is it ever seen in culti- 

Notes ^ 

vated tracts, however well- wooded. 
The hills and forests, the jungles around 
streams, and woods in valleys and dales 
which the bird frequents are hardly con- 
sidered by it as its safest retreats ; and so, 
by way of further precaution, this wary 
bird betakes itself to the most impervious 
thickets, underwood, and clumpy bushes, 
where it is able to escape the most searching 



6 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

observations. Almost everywhere within 
its range, the bird shows a preference for 
l)articular spots, over which it holds sway 
and even seems to stick to these favoured 
haunts in spite of devastations by occasional 
fires, which break out in the forests. 

The Sliama thus chooses for its habita- 
tion places where Nature is luxuriant and 
arrayed in its varied glories. In the morn- 
ings and evenings, from the midst of a 
bush or a bamboo-sci-ub — for which it seems 
to have a partiality — it mingles its im- 
petuous melody with the music of rustling 
leaves and murmuring rills. And, while 
rapt in its own song, the least sound will 
send it scurrying through the air — so shy 
and easily alarmed it is ! But its flight is 
never long ; and re-alighting at a short 
distance, it vanishes into leafy cover, whence 
it renews its song with as much visrour. 
When the usual notes are thus suddenlv 
interrupted, the bird gives out a sort of 
monosyllabic sound, which Legge says 
resembles chur7^ churr. But to me it hears 



THE SHAMA 



more like t'chat Vchat, This peculiar 
sound is accompanied by a jerking up of the 
tail. 

It never soars high into the air, nor is it 
ever seen perched on the topmost branches 
of trees ; but it makes it a point to keep 
as near the ground as possible, generally 
selecting low branches for perching. Prom 
such a position, it is always on the look-out 
for any insect which may stray into view. 
As soon as it notices its prey, it comes down 
to pick it up ; and if, in the act of swallow- 
ing the worm, it happens to spot another, 
it hops up to bag this one also. It is chiefly 
insectivorous, its menu consisting of grass- 
hoppers, small beetles, ants, flies and their 
congeners. 

Solitary in its habits, it aggressively 
drives away any member of its own commu- 
nity, and on the approach of one, it will at 
once attack the latter, fighting fiercely till 
one gives ground. The unsociability of this 
bii»d falsifies the proverb that birds of a 
feather flock together. This peevish 



8 PKT BIRDS OF BENGAL 

temper makes it shun even the proximity 

of its unobtrusive mate, who wisely keeps 

aloof, and from a distance, takes silent pride 

in the vocal attainments of her enchanter. 

If, by inadvertence, she comes too near her 

lord, he forgets all codes of chivalry and 

does not even hesitate to give her a sound 

chastisement. 

The only season, when the Shama does 

not dislike the company of its mate, is when 

instinct obtains mastery over its temper in 

the mating period. It mates during April 

and June, and the female rears 

up the brood. Hollows in trees 
Eggs ^ 

or stumps from two to twenty 

feet from the ground are selected by it for 
nesting, and sometimes she takes advantage 
of holes made by other birds. She stuffs up 
the hollow with dry leaves about three in- 
ches thick, and makes upon this bed of 
leaves a loose nest of twigs and grass. The 
eggs laid by her are usually four in num- 
ber, rather small in size, and ovate in 
shape. The ground colour is dull greenish, 



te 



SHAMA 



THE SHAMA 9 

very often a pale sea-green. Tlie whole is 
densely freckled with rich brown, thickly 
mingled with dull purplish. 

If there is any bird which repays the care 
bestowed on it, it is the Shama. Its rich 
coloration, bold and vivacious movements, 
powerful and melodious voice and unlimited 

power of mimicry — all combine 
Cage-life to make it the most desirable 

subject for the cage or the aviary. 
Though in India this bird has received the 
attention of bird- lovers from time imme- 
morial, no one seems to have studied it from 
an avicultural view-point. We know little 
of its wild life ; and we, in India, knew as 
little about its life in the cage till Europeans 
took up the study. 

The Shama is one of those birds which 
in a free state shun all intimacy with man. 
But once caged, it seems to forget all anti- 
pathy towards him and becomes the most 
lovable pet. It never pines for its loss of 
liberty ; and its easy and cheerful life indi- 
cates that it fully appreciates the love and 



10 PET BIRDS OF BEN GAL 

Care of its protector. If hearty cheerfulness 
conduces to long life, it is no wonder that 
the Shama stands a life of bondage so well 
and so long. 

When accommodating the Shama, it 
should be remembered that it is very rest- 
less. It is always frisking about with its 
tail working up and down. It should have 
sufficient space inside the cage ; otherwise 
its continual tail-play will injure that 
beautiful appendage of its graceful person. 
While introducing it into the aviary, it 
should be kept in mind that this bird, how- 
ever tame it may be, has a wonderful com- 
bative temperament. The presence of 
another Shama serves as a red rag to a bull. 
It never condescends to accept others of its 
kind as chums, and seems to think that the 
latter are there to be its uncomplaining fags. 
When in a warlike mood, its healthy opti- 
mism would even lead it to give battle to 
its keeper, if the latter were to enter 
the aviary without the conciliatory dish 
of mealworms. It carries its aloofness 



THE SHAMA 11 

to such an extent that it would at first 
refuse to chum up with a female Shama if 
introduced into its dwelling'. The male does 
not seem to be at all anxious for a feminine 
companion. You can never thrust a female 
Shama near a male without a lengthy intro- 
duction. The female, knowing well the 
tyrannical temper of the male, will at first 
shrink in fear. Both should at first be kept 
in different cages inside the same aviary. 
Occasionally, they may be let loose. At 
first there is sure to be trouble, but the 
male will begin to tolerate the female gra- 
dually, and may even mate in the long run. 
Indian experience has seldom recorded 
any instance of the Shama breeding in cap- 
tivity. A couple of years back I noticed a 
pair trying to build a nest in the hollow of 
a stump inside an aviary of the Calcutta 
Zoological Gardens, but nothing came of it. 
A pair of Shamas, in the aviary of Mr. G. C. 
Mandal of Calcutta, built a nest and hatched 
their young which, however, did not survive 
long. But we find mention of several instan- 



12 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

ces of the Shama ha^ ing bred in captivity 
in England. In tliis direction, the observa- 
tions of Mr. Reginald Phillips are of great 
value. The female Shama seems to 
take the initiative in ])nilding a nest. The 
male never responds to the female's 
silent appeal until the former is thoroughly 
satisfied as to the latter's earnestness. In 
selecting materials for the nest, the female 
shows much discrimination. In one instance, 
it carried dead leaves of Ivy and Euonymus 
while it studiedly rejected those of Ehodo- 
dendrons. It chose straw and the finest 
hay for the inner lining of the nest but 
never looked at moss and hair. The period 
of incubation seems to last for about eleven 
or twelve days. It is only when the nest- 
lings come out that the keeper will feel 
the greatest difficulty as to food. While in 
ordinary times the Shama would take to 
all sorts of artificial food, it refuses to eat 
anything but in^^.cts at this time. The 
keeper will thus be hard put to in maintain- 
ing a sufficient supply of live grubs both 



THE SHAMA 13 

for the chicks and the parents. A regular 
supply of mealworms and cock-roaches 
should be kept up at this time. The meal- 
worms need not be cut up into pieces. The 
Capacious throat of the young- bird can 
receive whole cock-roaches without the least 
danger of suffocation. In India we hand- 
rear captive nestlings with satoo made into 
soft paste with water, and a few grasshop- 
pers. It is interesting to note how the 
parent-birds try to keep the fact of its nest 
a secret. In your presence it will never go 
straight to its nest but will make a show of 
stopping at different places before finally 
entering it. The Shama is very careful about 
sanitation, and the male may often be seen 
carrying the excreta, and dropping them at 
places far from the nest. When the young 
are considered able to fly, the mother-bird 
gives them a preliminary course of training 
by supporting them from beneath, after 
shoving them off a perch. As soon as the 
aviary-bred nesthngs 'attain their adult 
plumage, the question iUaturally arises as to 



14 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the propriety of in-breeding and even trying 
any experiment of cross-breeding a Shama 
with an English bird Uke the Robin. 

In this country it thrives well on satoo 
prepared with boiled ghee, grass-hoppers, 
and a few maggots. In England it is given 
cock-roaches, mealworms, gentles, ants' eggs 
and the yolk of hard-boiled eggs. Pieces 
of raw meat are also given, but this should 
be sparingly used, for too much of this food 
may bring on diarrhoea. Ordinarily the 
Shama does not require any great attention. 
But at the time of moulting, careful watch- 
ing and feeding are necessary, for then it 
is susceptible to a kind of warty growth on 
the legs and feet and the space immediately 
above the eyes. It should be carefully 
guarded against cold and draughts during 
the period. 

Its song loses none of its charm in con- 
finement. Besides its usual song, it has a 
habit of uttering a few set phrases over and 
over again, pausing after each utterance. 
These repetitions are rendered in the verna- 



THE SHAMA 15 

cular as ''Gopeejee rojee bhejo' (Send us 
our daily bread, ! Gopeejee). These 
sounds are repeated a great number of times 
and then suddenly changed. Its imitative 
faculty knows no bounds. It can mock any 
bird to perfection and can faithfully render 
the voices of cocks, crows, and kites. Even 
the female Shama is not altogether devoid 
of song. My own specimen sings as beauti- 
fully as the male and repeats the above- 
mentioned set phrahjes. It is no wonder 
therefore that in some countries, the bird 
is called '' Sundred-TonguedJ* 

In India the Shama is housed in a cage 
which is generally kept covered. But the 
aviary with plenty of space, air, and light 
is the best place for keeping it. It may 
be rough in its dealings with its own 
kind, but it seldom gives trouble to others 
of the avian community. If you care for 
its cheerfulness, you should always provide 
for the luxury of a bath, for this bird is 
inordinately fond of , a dip in water. It is 
curious that if there be two male Shamas in 



16' PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the same aviary, none would even bathe. 
Because a bath means wet plumage which 
means damaged armour to a bird, and a wet 
bird succumbs easily if attacked. In one 
case it cost a Shama its life for bathing in 
an aviary where it had a pugnacious 
companion. 

The Shama is easily available for pur- 
chase all over the country. Birds caught 
young in the Terai are brought down in 
numbers to Grorakhpur and Monghyr to be 
hand-reared. These birds take to cage-life 
easily ; but those from Midnapore, generally 
Caught while adult, very often pine away 
in captivity. 

The Shama' s outward appearance is 

beautiful and striking, if not gaudy. The 

head, back, and throat with the 

Coloration neck and breast are black with a 

splendid gloss throughout. * All 

the underparts are a rich bright chestnut 

* I have, however, noticed Shamas with chestnut 
streaks just above both the eyes — a thin straight line 
elongated bothways towards the nape and the mandible 
but not reaching those parts. 



THE SHAMA 17 

except the thighs which are white. The 
rump and the upper tail-coverts are white ; 
and durins: excitement when the hird 
puffs up its whole plumage, the downs on 
these two parts show conspicuously in two 
fluffy patches of snowy whiteness. The 
wings are dark brown, and the primaries 
eda^ed with lisrhter brown. The tail of the 
Shama is a very important part of its 
anatomy inasmuch as the length of the 
tail gives to this extremely graceful bird 
much of its grace. The central tail-feathers 
are the longest while the lateral are muck 
graduated, which means that they gradually 
become shorter on both sides. The t^Yo 
pairs of central tail-feathers are completely 
black, while the others are white at the end, 
the white increasing gradually on the outer 
feathers. The l)asal end is always black. 
The line of demarcation between the black 
and the white is drawn in an irregularly 
slanting direction. 

This pleasing coloration is denied to tlie 
less assuming female Shama, in which black 



18 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

is replaced by slaty brown and chestnut by 
rufous. The female birds of Tenasserim are 
often darker than their Indian cousins. 

The bill of the Shama is slender, com- 
pressed and black, its legs are of pale 
flesh-colour, its claws light horn and eyes 
deepest brown. 

The bal)v Shama is dark brown in its 
upper parts with reddish edges to wing- 
coverts; underneath, it is pale rufous with 
brown mottlings on tlie throat and breast. 
Its colour, however, varies a good deal. 
A full-fledged young does not take lons^ to 
assume full adult plumage. 

The usual length of the Shama is eleven 
inches, the female being smaller by an inch 
in the tail. 



THE DHAYAL 

( COPSYCHUS SAULARIS ) 

If there is a bird, very familiar in an 
Indian village, and has a voice exquisitely 
sweet, it is the Dhayal. The black and 
white markings of its body correspond so 
nearly to those of the Magpie, that it is 
known as the Magpie-Robin. The bird re- 
sembles the English Robin in many of its 
habits. Constantly jerking up its tail, it 
loves, like the Robin, to frequent places close 
to human habitation. Bold and vivacious, 
it steps into our verandahs, and nests in the 
holes and crannies of human dwellings. As 
a songster it has no rival in the plains of 
India, the Shama. being a bird of the forest 
depths. Its notes are clear and varied. 
They greet our ears the very first thing in 



20 PET BIEDS OF BENGAL 

the morning, and when all nature is silent 
in the evening, their cheerful music ring.^ 
out a farewell to the departing day. 

The Dliayal is indeed a superb singer. 
With its presence in the gardens, orchards, 
barnsides, and the backyards of houses, it i-^ 
one of the attractions of our rural surroun- 
dinofs. The semi-domestic nature of the 
bird has left it in comparative liberty, and 
though it is often caged, people have not 
the same rage for it as they have for the 
more unfamiliar Shama. Legge says that, 
like the latter, the Dhayal is a mimic ; it 
can roll its tongue in imitation of other 
birds. Layard also records that its power 
of mimicry manifests itself in its wild life as 
well. This, if true, is singular, as it is unlike 
other birds that have similar habits. Even 
the parrots do not show this trait while at 
large. The Dhayals in my own aviary, 
however, do not "degrade" their voice, a.s 
has been observed also by Gould, ''l^y apish 
tricks of imitation." The Dhayal'.s pugna- 
cious instinct makes it a special favourite 





' \ 



h/.-.:.h! 



Male 



Female 



DHAYAL 



THE DHAYAL 21 

with the rich in Nepal where it is kept like 
gamecocks for fighting. 

It is one of the most widely distributed 
birds in India and is found everywhere 
except in the extreme North-west beyond 
the Punjab. In Rajputana and westwards, 
the desert tracts are too arid for its 
habitation. It is, however, found 
in Kathiawar, Sind, and in and 
around Karachi, whence it departs in April 
with the advent of summer. Eastwards it 
is abundant and is an inevitable feature of 
bird life everywhere — both in the Sub-Hima- 
layan regions from Mussoorie eastwards, and 
the hills and plains of Aryavarta. In Ben- 
gal, no place is unrepresented up to the very 
base of the Himalayas, where it is not seen 
liigher up than the Terais. Thence its range 
extends up to Burma. Though not so 
abundant in the Deccan, it is pretty 
numerous along the Hills in the West, and 
in the lowlands of the Madras Presidency 
in the East. It is distributed throughout 
the whole island of Ceylon. 



22 PET BIRDS or BENGAL 

The characteristic difference hetween the 
Shaina and the Dhayal is that while the 
former confines itself solely to the most 
secluded depths of forests, the latter, though 
not unknown in the solitude of 
woods, seldom strays very far from 
the vicinity of man. Its graceful 
form is always in evidence around us. Early 
at dawn, before other members of the fledged 
tribes are astir, it pours forth its music in 
a continuous stream from the foliage. At 
noon it is generally busy, silently foraging 
for food in the chequered shades of gardens 
and orchards. While thus engaged, the 
approach of man does not seem to ruffle its 
composure, and except bestowing a half- 
amusing quizzical look, it cares no more for 
your presence than for that of any other 
living thing. At the same time, it will not 
allow you to take any undue liberty with it. 
If it notices that you are trying to come very 
near, it will fly away a few yards, and per- 
ching on the branch of a tree, regard your 
discomfiture with a sublime complacency or 



THE DHATAL 2B 

defy you by a musical rebuke for thought- 
lessly disturbing it at its midday meal. In 
the evening when the day's labour is over, 
it resumes its rapturous strain of music till 
late at dusk. 

This habit of keeping early and late 
hours is true also of the more retired Shama. 
In fact, we observe many traits common to 
both these birds. The Dhayal is as vora- 
cious an insect-feeder as the Shama. It 
seeks its prey near the ground and generally 
selects the low branches of trees for perch- 
ing, though it is not uncommon to find it 
seated on the top of some large tree or other 
elevated spots. In pugnacity, it is almost 
a cousin-Q:erman to the Shama. Like all 
pugnacious birds, the Dhayal is unsociable 
to a degree, staying alone throughout the 
greater part of the year, and only occasion- 
ally in the company of its mate. 

Sometimes one may notice a deviation 
from this habit of exclusiveness on the part 
of the Dhayal. But this is seasonal only. 
Prompted by a freshly roused combative 



1:4 PET BIEDS or BENGAL 

instinct, the bird suddenly develops a 
irregarious impulse during the mating 
jieriod. It is not unusual to observe a 
lUimber of Dhayals congregating in an open 
^ )ace in a garden or a grove to fight out 
<luels like the knights of mediaeval Europe. 
As each bird comes out a winner, its success 
is received with such an uproar of applause 
that the uninitiated may easily mistake it 
for some disaster in the avine world. 
Amidst such din and commotion, each com- 
petitor engages in combat till one is left the 
^sole champion of the field. Then, mighty 
pleased with themselves and their perfor- 
mances, the birds retire to their roosts, 
chattering the while and discussing perhaps 
the merits of different competitors. The 
Dhayal's bullying tendency very often ])e- 
trays it into bondage. Bird-catchers take 
advantage of this propensity and employ 
tame birds to entrap it. .. Among the various 
devices which are resorted to, one is to bring 
a caged Dhayal to the place where wild ones 
abound. Small sticks smeared with bird- 



THE DHAYAL 2o 

lime are attached to the cage. As soon as 
the captive bird begins to sing, the wild 
Dhayals while coming down to challenge the 
newcomer perch upon the sticks and get 
fastened to the bird-lime. Sometimes the 
tame bird is taken out of the cage and tied 
to a long piece of string. While combating 
its wild antagonist, it holds the latter in such 
a firm grip with its beak and claw that the 
catcher has no difficulty in securing the 
bird. 

The Dhayal is full of activity. Watch it 
feeding on the ground in the alleys and by- 
lanes of our countryside, you cannot fail to 
notice its quick and animated movements. 
With its wing half open or almost drooping, 
it hops about in search of its prey, and at 
each hop, stops with a jerk of its tail instant- 
ly spread out and turned to the sky. If 
cattle pass by at the moment, it flies up to 
a low twig and keeps a sharp eye on any 
insect or grub that may chance to be 
brought to light. The moment it is noticed, 
it comes down to snatch it up and after 



26 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

beating it to death, returns with it to its 
former perch. Always in motion, it raises 
and depresses its body accompanied by 
a flirtation of its tail. This tail-play is 
most in evidence durin^j the matins: season 
and specially at the time when several of 
Dhayals are engaged in fighting out their 
duels. The display consists in expanding the 
tail like a fan so as to show the white outer 
feathers, and continually jerking it up and 
down. Although far from shy, the bird 
likes the security of a thicket and revels in 
the shade. While warily working its \\'ay 
along the hedge, it betrays its presence by 
uttering its shrill note every now and then. 
It seldom sings in full view of man whose 
sudden intrusion would check its flow of 
vocal music ; and when thus interrupted, 
it assumes a still attitude, fixing its cold 
look upon him. If you advance nearer, it 
will fly up to a higher perch or a more 
distant twig. When flushed, it is seen to 
fly directly from its perch in the cover of 
the thicket to a more remote hiding place. 



V 



THE DHAYAL 27 

The hen bn^d is not slow to follow her 
mate's example, but if she flies, she keeps 
aloof from her lord and loses herself amidst 
dense cover. While at ordinary times the 
Dhayal seldom indulges in protracted flights, 
it has been observed to develop a tendency 
for sustained serial gyrations in the mating 
season. The female Dhayal is far less 
obtrusive than the male, and as she has a 
less striking appearance, she easily eludes 
detection. In conformity with the etiquette 
of pugnacious birds, she knows what distance 
to keep between herself and her lord. This 
explains why the males appear singly so 
often, but if you take a little pain to watch 
carefully, you are likely to detect its retiring 
partner not very far off. The Dhayal is 
conscious of its right to its territory and 
tenaciously keeps to its hunting ground. 
It is not timid. Pond of insects as it is, it 
may be easily encouraged to closer familia- 
rity with man, if we care to put now and 
then a few grubs or disabled worms in its 
way, or fix up in some safe place close to 



28 PET IJIRBS OF BENGAL 

our habitation little boxes or even earthen 
pots which will be readily aceeptable to the 
hird as its nestino' site. It is a beneficial 
bird as far as its insect-feeding habit goes ; 
and so, the more it is left to its liberty and 
allowed to multiply, the better. 

The Dhayal does not appear to sing in 
the same way all the year round. It has 
been observed to be in fall choral activity 
chiefly during the mating period viz., in 
April and May. The bird seems at that 
time to be possessed with a musical mania, 
warbling forth its amorous notes, which by 
reason of their volume, depth, variety, and. 
sweetness sound perfect to the human ear. 
From Au^rnsfc, its sons; be2:ias to los3 much 
of its sweetness until in mid-winter it ceases 
to fascinate us as before. iVnd lo ! when 
February comes, its voice begins again to 
get into form and emerge once more into 
full-throated melody towards the close of 
March. 

The Dhayal takes to house-keeping at this 
period and for nearly four months it is busy 



THE DIIAYAL 29 

rearing up its family. The bird seems tii 
have a remarkably monogamous instinct. 

Observations of its habits in the 
_ "^ aviary substantiate the fact that a 

cock-bird which has lost its heic 
refuses to chum up with any other female, 
and feels so much enraged as to kill all 
subsequent wives submitted for its approval. 
The Dhayal breeds throughout the plains of 
India ; but many birds resort to the Dhoons 
and Terais of the Himalayas during the 
nesting season. Holes in trees, walls, banks, 
corners of the under-roof or the eaves of a 
verandah are tbe places generally selected 
for nesting. The nest is invariably placed 
in a secure and sheltered position and is 
made up of roots, grass, fibres, feathers — in 
fact anything that is to hand is utilized for 
the purpose. In the hills, the nest is a 
shallow loosely-built cup of moss, small 
twigs, and dry leaves. The Dhayal develops 
a great fondness for particular places. 
Hov^^ever far it may stray from its abode iu - 
otiier seasons, it will come back year after 



30 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

year to the same spot as soon as the nesting 
season arrives, and build its nest in exactly 
the same place. Five is the usual comple- 
ment of eo-o's, which are oval, neither broad 
nor very narrow, somewhat elongated, with 
a moderately glossy surface. The ground 
colour is sometimes greenish or greenish 
white, and sometimes greenish-blue with 
rusty blotches. 

In the cage, the Dhayal is no less attract- 
ive than the Shama. It becomes tame and 
docile, and appears A'ery happy, seeming to 
realise that ''iron lavs do not a prison make'\ 
and sings away its time as sweetly 
Cage-life as when at liberty. Young, hand- 
reared birds grow up very hardy 
and make very nice pets, but adult birds seem 
to feel their loss of liberty very keenly just 
after capture. The provision of a bath in 
the cage delights it immensely, for it enjoys 
a dip in water as much as the Shama. Its 
treatment in captivity is almost similar to 
that of the latter. The food prepared for 
the one is well suited to the other. Only a 



THE DHAYAL 31 

little more insect-food is necessary in order 
to keep it in health. This discourages many 
people from caging it. Apart from this ques- 
tion of its insect -food, there are good o-rounds 
for leaving it at liherty. The bird is so much 
attached to the vicinities of human habita- 
tion that it seems not to be a gain to deprive 
it of its freedom. The growth of civiliza- 
tion with the concomitants of modern 
town-planning is working such a havoc on 
bird-life that even many of the commonest 
birds have chosen to leave our company for 
ever. It is not advisable, therefore, to make 
life unbearable even for those few that still 
adhere to us. In Beno^al such a laro^e num- 
ber of nestlings of this bird is caught during 
the nesting season that the law meant to 
prevent it by declaring the season a closed 
period for bird-catchers utterly fails in its 
object. One effect of this indiscriminate 
Capture is that in Calcutta what was once a 
familiar garden-bird a few years back is now 
a vara avis. 

It is not very difficult to get the DLayal 



32 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

to breed in captivity. Any small wooden 
box comes handy to it for nesting. It is 
known to have done so successfully in Eng- 
land. In a few instances, however, the 
nestlings were killed by the cock-bird, which 
had to be separated from the hen soon after 
she had laid eggs. When it is housed in 
an aviary with other birds, care should be 
taken to eliminate the smaller and weaker 
birds, as the latter are likely to be worried 
by the bad-tempered Dhayal. 

The bird is very well-proportioned, has a 
graceful form, and looks very bold for its 
tail which is almost always carried erect. 
The upper part of its body is black with 

a blue metallic gloss, the white 
Coloration wing-coverts forming a broad band. 

The under-surface is white fron; 
the chest downwards. The two median pair,> 
of tail-feathers are black, the others white: 
the fourth pair is either white with a smaF. 
black tip, or white with a greater or less 
amount of black. The bill is black, iri> 
hazel-brown, and the legs dark plumbeous. 



THE DHAYAL 33 

la the female, the upper part of the 
body is uniformly dark-brown glossed with 
blue. In the wings and tail, the white is 
distributed as in the male. Chin, throaty 
breast, and sides of the neck are grey ; 
forehead and cheeks mottled with white 
and grey ; sides of the body, vent, under 
tail-coverts pale fulvescent, and middle of 
the abdomen whitish. 

In the young, the upper plumage is dark 
brown streaked with rufous ; the white in the 
wings being as that in the adult ; the tail 
brown with similar white patches. Throat 
and breast greyitih brown streaked with 
rufous. The rest of the lower body is white. 
The young assume adult plumage as soon 
as they are fully fledged. 

The Dhayal is considerably smaller in size 
than the Shama, being only about eight 
inches from the tip of its bill to the end of 
its tail. But if we leave the tail in both 
cases out of account, the Dhayal becomes 
laro^er than the Shama, the reason ])eino; 
that the latter has a lono-er tail. The 



34 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



Dhayal's tail which is iimeh shorter equals 

its wings in length. In 

bo th t he Dhay al and 

the Shama, the two central 

pairs of tail-feathers are 

black. 







THE PIDDAH 

( PRATINCOLA CAPRATA ) 

The Piddah, otherwise known as Fratin- 
cola caprata, is a very wee, Httle bird. Its 
popularity is in an inverse ratio to its dimi- 
nutive size. It is not an unworthy minstrel 
of the Indian countryside. Considering its 
tiny body, the sweet and pleasant warble 
produced by its subtle mechanism is a marvel 
which makes it highly esteemed as a cage- 
bird. Though its song has not the power, 
volume, and compass of either the Shama or 
the Dhayal, it is still beautifully sweet. 
Foreigners, too, have not been chary in their 
praise of its song. Blyth states that *4ts 
song approaches to that of the English 
Robin, but is more uniformly plaintive". 
Its sprightly movements and courageous 
demeanour are no less its attractions. It is 



36 PET BIRDS OF BENGA.L 

very confiding and readily adapts itself to 
cage-life, — a trait which does not fail to 
please the bird-lover. 

The Piddah is far from ugly and its beau- 
tiful appearance and vigorous actions bring 
to our countryside a spirit of brisk animation. 
As in the Dhayal, black and white are the 
only colours in the general appearance of the 
Piddah, which is, strictly speaking, clothed 
principally in black, the white colour being 
confined to the parts near the lower abdomen 
and the rump, and a conspicuous longitudinal 
bar on the wing. 

The Piddah, otherwise called Kalapiddah, 
(black piddah) from its colour, is a perma- 
nent resident in Burma and all over India 
except the extreme South where, as also in 
Ceylon, it is replaced by a species 
istri u- ^vhich in habits and appearance is 
identical with the Indian variety, 
but the latter is smaller by an inch or two. 
In Bengal, it is not so common in the Deltaic 
portion as in the region to the West of the 
Hooghly, and in Northern Bengal, through 



THE PIDDAH .^7 

which its range extends to Assam and 
Burma. 

The Piddah is commonly found in con- 
genial localities almost throughout India. 
But in its natural haunts it is not so well- 
known to the people of India as the Dhayal. 
It is not that it lives, like the 

Shama, in deep forests which, in 
Notes 

fact, it avoids studiously like the 

Dhayal, or is seen like the latter foraging 
boldly in village lanes, and behind our 
bungalows ; nor is it that it loves like 
the Ply-catcher, to flit about the top-most 
branches of trees in our gardens and or- 
chards. But we shall have to seek it in 
the slightly rocky districts where jungles 
are open and bushy, and the outskirts of 
towns and villages where there is sparse 
and dwarf vegetation. There we may 
chance on it in the bushes or shrubs, or 
sitting jauntily on a big piece of stone, 
chirruping and warbling with perfect self- 
possession. A fence, a post, a grass-stem 
or a mound of earth are also places where 



38 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



the Picldah may be seen indulging in gay 
flutterings in the most self-approved man- 
ner. It does not probably altogether shun 




human proximity. For, once driving- 
through one of the suburban lanes of 
Allahabad, I noticed on the low branches 
of wayside trees several Piddahs which did 
not seem at all ruffled by the rattling of 



THE PIDDAH 39 

my Ekka, It has, however, the stereotyped 
habit of using the top-most twigs of a bush 
or the summit of a large boulder as its perch 
and observatory, from where it constantly 
sallies out to pick up passing insects from 
the ground. These insects are generally 
carried to its perch to be finished off, but 
sometimes they are swallowed when caught 
on the ground. The bird is entirely insecti- 
vorous and has a special fondness for cater- 
pillars, black-ants and beetles. Flies and 
midges, too, are not discarded. 

Shyness is alien to the character of this 
little bird. It does not care for your pre- 
sence until you are too uncomfortably near ; 
and, even then, it avoids you only by a short 
flight to a neighbouring bush, whence with 
a defiant up-jerk of the tail, it watches 
your further movements. If, instead of 
pursuing it, you leave it alone and care to, 
watch the bird, your patience will be fully 
rewarded. Por it is one of the boldest, 
springiest and most elegant of our birds and 
its movements are extremely graceful. It 



40 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

is never at rest. From one perch it will 
fly down to the ground, pick up an insect 
and at once carry it to the same or another 
perch — all done in a flash. There the insect 
is swallowed; next, the tail is jerked up as a 
sign of self-satisfaction and, lastly, a strain 
of pleasant chirrups is sent forth. Then 
after looking round in the mo>st self-asser- 
tive manner with one or more tail-move- 
ments, it sallies forth again. The extremely 
mobile tail of the Piddah is a remarkable 
feature of its anatomy and seems to have 
spring-adjustments from the way it is con- 
tinually worked up and down. But this 
movement is not altoo^ether mechanical. 
Every up-jerk of the tail is expressive of an 
emotion — pleasure or displeasure. The tail- 
play is most frequent during its meals, the 
tail indicating with barometrical precision 
its pleasure at every morsel of food acquired. 
The tail-jerks again, accompanied by angry 
fchat, fchat sounds, are expressive of anger 
when intruded upon by man or beast, or 
when foiled in an attempt to catch a parti- 



THE PIDDAH 41 

cularly tasty insect. No one should suppose 
that this little bird is incapable of giving 
expression to its displeasure. Not being 
over much fond of company, it dislikes 
close proximity of birds of the same feather. 
On such occasions and in the breeding season 
it not only expresses its indignation by 
angry up-jerks of the tail, but also becomes 
irascible and pugnacious. In a big feeding 
ground several of these birds may be seen 
but each keeps within its own range and 
seldom intrudes on the other. 

I have already said that this bird amply 
repays observation. Though small, its body 
is stout and strongly built. Its legs are 
strong and in all its movements there is an 
elegant buoyancy. Even its melodies are 
expressive of the bird's buoyant and intrepid 
nature. There is no constraint in its vocal 
outpourings, which very often consist of notes 
that are generally unmusical chatterings. 
But in between them, the bird gives out 
short warbles which are distinctly sweet 
and melodious. Towards evening, when 



42 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

after the day's labour it is about to retire 
to rest, its chatterings increase which are 
always accompanied by its Dhayal-like tail- 
play. But occasionally it rises above this 
vulo;ar demonstration of its feelino^s and, in 
the mornings specially, no early riser will 
miss its joyous melodies poured forth with 
great ardour usually from a bush. 

The Piddah builds its nest in the most 
unlikely places and never minds the proxi- 
mity of man. It builds in a hole in the 
ground, *'the foot-print of a bullock serving 
the purpose very frequently," 

^ as Gates says. Sometimes the 

Eggs . "^ 

nest is placed on the ground 

under the shelter of a tuft of grass. Holes 
in banks close to frequented roads, or even 
in a well, are not rejected by it as un- 
suitable. It is not at all punctilious in the 
choice of materials for its nest which is a 
shabby pad of soft grass lined with fine 
roots, vegetable fibres, horse or even human 
hair, cotton, wool — in fact anything that 
it lights upon. Its breeding season is from 



THE PIDDAH 



43 



March to June, In the phi ins, however, it 
lays mostly in March and April, but in the 
hills in May and later. 
The ego-,s, four or five in 
number, are broad ovals, 
somewhat pointed towards 
one end and fairly glossy. 
They are pale bluish green 
mottled and streaked with 
dull reddish 
hrown. 




44 "^ PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

The caged Piddah is out and out a hand- 
reared nestling, numbers of which are 
brought down for sale to the Calcutta bazaar 
every rainy season from the north-western 
parts of the country. Their 
Cage-life value is easily guessed, for a hand- 
reared bird makes a nice pet, and a 
bold and long-lived cage-bird. Although on 
account of its diminutive size, it can be kept 
in the smallest cages, an aviary is its fitting 
accommodation ; for this bird which is 
always full of activity wants sufficient space 
for its sprightly movements. As a matter 
of fact, the Piddah receives scant treat- 
ment from its Indian keepers — a very small 
cage with a dirty air-blocking wrapper is 
all that is considered material for its exis- 
tence. And the poor bird has such a lusty 
and robust constitution, and an affable 
temper that it readily reconciles itself to 
its lot ! But to speak the truth, the dingy 
cage is a veritable hell for the bird, which 
loves open life and demands ample scope 
for its unceasing activities. Like the 



THE PIDDAH 45 

Dhayal and the Shama, the Piddah is pugna- 
cious to a degree, fighting not only with its 
own kind, but its distant relatives and some- 
times other birds which are much bigger 
than itself. Self-assertion, which is a cons- 
picuous trait in its character, betrays it 
into frequent quarrels with the Robins 
(Thamnolias) and Red-starts {Huticillas). 
So the housing of Piddahs in an aviary 
requires a little attention, as it is not un- 
attended with dangers. Broadly speaking 
its treatment in captivity should be similar 
to that of the Shama and the Dhayal, and 
the diet which is appropriate for the two, 
will suit the tiny Piddah admirably. 

Nothino^ is known about its breedinof 
habits in captivity, and the people who have 
a mind to try the experiment feel handi- 
capped for want of female birds which are 
not at all available for purchase in the 
Indian markets. The reason lies in the fact 
that the male Piddah is alone valued as 
a song-bird and consequently caught and 
caged while quite a nestling ; and as the male 



46 PET BIRDS OE BENGAL 

develops the distinctive white wing-patch 
while it is quite a chick, it is easily recog- 
nised and picked out by bird-catchers. 

The Piddah is one of those birds in which 

the sexes differ in colour and the 

Coloration seasonal changes of plumage are 

quite marked. 

The male is clothed in black except the 

rump, the vental portions and a bar on the 

wing which are white. 

In the female grey with reddish-brown 
streaks replaces the black and the white 
is replaced by wood-brown ; the tail is 
black. 

In autumn after the completion of its 
seasonal moult, the bird puts on a new garb. 
This happens when its new feathers which 
overlap like the scales of a fish show their 
edges only ; and as the colour of these edges 
is brown in the case of the male bird, and 
greyish in the female, the effect is to give its 
owner either a brown or a greyish appear- 
ance. But the edges wear away gradually, 
so that, as the hidden portions of the feathers 



THE PIDDAH 47 

begin to re-appear, the original colouring of 
the bird is restored. 

The young birds are tawny brown with 
dusky mottlings. The male chick becomes 
easily recognisable from the earliest period 
by the white wing-patch. 

The iris of the Piddah is brown ; its bill, 
ieo^s and claws are black. The bill is broad 
at the base and well notched. In size the 
bird does not exceed five inches and a half. 



OTHER PIDDAHS AND THEIR KINDRED 

The word "Piddah'' seems to be a generic 
term Tfith the Indians. The bird we have 
just descrilied — Pratlncola caprata — is the 
real Piddah, Kalapiddah being its more 
specific name. There are a few other Chats 
and Robins which are also loosely called 
Piddahs and are therefore likely to be con- 
founded with the real Piddah. Some 
writers have indentified the Piddah with 
the genus Thamnohia which includes the 
Indian Pohins. The mistake is perhaps due 
to their almost identical habits. All these 
so-called Piddahs are almost alike in their 
dapper outlines and perky attitudes. They 
are sexually dimorphic and essentially in- 
sect-feeders, spending most of their time 
on or near the ground. The flick of the tail 
and a little sweetness of voice are also their 
common traits. Wo notice below a few of 
the Piddahs of this latter class. 



THE KHER=PIDDAH 

( PRATINCOLA MAURA ) 






V' 



^^^ 




Very closely related to the real Piddah 
is the Kher-Piddah or the Indian Bushchat, 
bearing the classical name of Fratincola 
Quaura, It is as sweet a singer and has almost 



50 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the same characteristics as the other bird, 
though less known as a cage-favourite. It is 
dressed in a parti-coloured attire — a lovely 
black cap with a ruddy chestnut waistcoat, 
set off by its immaculate white collar — 
which gives it a distinctly handsome appear- 
ance and makes it a conspicuous figure 
amidst its furzy surroundings. But all this 
splendour of its gay plumage is lost to 
mankind, as unlike the Dhayal, it is too shy 
to visit our gardens and orchards. It gives 
a wide berth to human surround- 

ino-s but avoids forests as well like 

Notes ^ 

the.Piddah. It prefers the open, 
keeping to tracts covered with small furzy 
bushes, or to cultivated fields, specially 
€orn, maize and millet fields, and sugar-cane 
plantations, where they destroy the insects. 
It perches on a clod of earth, a post or a 
swaying stem in search for insects, and flies 
down to the ground for just sufficient time 
to catch its prey. It is prodigiously active. 
The opening and jerking up of the tail at 



THE KHER-PIDDAH 




s h o r*'t 
intervals is 
a frequent 
habit with 
this Piddah. 
This bird is com- 
monly believed to 
be a winter visitor, 



migrating to Siberia 

in summer. But it is 

doubtful if such small 

birds, that never associate 

in flocks, undertake such 

ong and arduous journeys. 

They are very probably local 

migrants. So many birds 

breed in the Himalayas and 



52 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

in the hill-ranges of the Punjab and the N. 
W. Frontier Province that Oates is inclined 
to differentiate it from the Siberian species 
which differs in the depth of its black and 
red colours. At all events, during winter, 
birds of this species populate the whole of 
Northern India as far south as Belgaum. 
Further south, its existence has not been 
noted, but Hume says it has been 
Distnbu- reported common in south-west 
Mysore. It is commonly met 
with in Bengal in winter. Two of the 
birds in my aviary were caught within a few 
miles from Calcutta. In summer the Kher- 
Piddah is found throughout the Himalayas 
from Afghanistan to Assam up to an 
elevation of 5,500 feet. It nests also in 
the Salt-Ranges, the Suleiman hills, in 
the plains skirting these hills, and in the 
valleys of the Sutlej and the Beas. 

It breeds in April and May and has 
probably more than one brood in the year. 
The situation of the nest varies according 
to locality. It may be found in some low 



THE KHER-PIDDAH 53 

thick bush or shrub, or dense tuft of grass, 

on or near the ground. Some- 
Nests and , . , 1 . T -n 

times the crevices on hills near 

bggs 

the fields serve the purpose. Its 
nursery is generally a cup of coarse grass 
mingled with moss, lined with fine grass, 
fur, cattle-hair, or feathers. Nests placed 
in holes in walls are mere shapeless pads. 
The eggs are four or five in number, pale- 
green with brownish- red spots. 

The reason why in India it is scarce as 
a cage-bird is not difficult to detect. It 
evades the gaze of bird-fanciers on account 
of its retiring nature and its song can hardly 
compare with that of the Dhayal 
Cage-life and the Shama, which are there- 
fore so much liked as cagepets. 
But the Kher-Piddah is undoubtedly a 
more handsome Inrd than the pied Bush- 
chat, and to those who are fastidious about 
size and colour, its value can hardly be over- 
looked. As compared with the Piddah, its 
behaviour in an aviary is exemplary. It is 
neither rough nor irascible in its dealings 



54 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

with its mess-mates, though it does not 
forget now and then to show its temper 
towards its own kind. It is undoubtedly 
the more delicate of the two and therfore it 
is not safe to leave it in the company of any 
pugnacious birds. Sheer dread of company 
is enough to kill it. Insect is its favourite 
dish, hut the invaluable satoo meal cannot 
be despensed with. Bath and sunrays are 
also indispensible to keeping it in health 
and spirits. 

Like the Piddah, it undergoes a seasonal 
change of plumage, hut in it the change is 
more marked. In summer, the whole upper 
body of the male is black except a wing- 
patch, rump, upper tail-coverts, 
Coloration and a large spot on each side of 
the neck, all of which are white. 
The breast and lower parts are bright-red — a 
colour which is entirely absent in the Pied 
Bush-chat. The red is deep on the breast 
and pales lower down. The female is a 
reddish-brown bird without the white collar 
on the neck. In summer it looks a little 



THE KHER-PIDDAH 55 

paler. The yoang is a brown bird with, 
mottling s on the breast. 

In winter the black feathers of the male 
are edged with reddish-brown so that the 
cumulative effect is to give it a reddish-brown 
appearance instead of black. The bird at 
this time so closely resembles the female 
that but for the white collar in the neck 
the sexes are well-nigh indistinguishable. 
Except when they are in full dress in the 
mating season, it is difficult to come 
across two birds which are exactly alike in 
colour. This is due to the fact that the 
young birds are gradually assuming adult 
plumage, while the feathers of the old are 
undergoing a process of continual abrasion. 

Our Kher-Piddah is a cousin of the 
English Stone-chat which "one may often 
note by a furzy wayside, perched on a bush." 
The English bird has a "nice little song and 
breeds early in spring, lays five eggs of dull 
pale sea-green with reddish spots". In 
coloration, too, they are similar, except that 
the white portions in the English bird are 
broader than in the Indian. 



THE Kali shama 

(THAMNOBIA CAMBAIENSIS) 




As graceful and well-built as the Dhayal, 
thouHi smaller than it in size but lare^er than 
the Piddah by about an inch, this bird lends 
a charm to the Indian countryside by its agile 
movements and smart tail-play. It is called 
the Indian Robin by the English residents of 



THE KALI SHAMA 57 

this country. The Indian name of the bird 
— Kali Shama — is apparently a product of 
association of ideas. Any one who sees it 
will at once be reminded of the Shama, — so 
close do the two birds come as regards their 
movements and tail-play. It is the absence 
of the chestnut colour from the breast of 
the Indian Robin ( where it is replaced by 
black ) which distinguishes it from the 
Shama and bestows on it the distinctive 
vernacular name. The chestnut, however, 
is shifted down to its seat of trousers, 
where it becomes visible whenever its tail is 
thrown far up over its back. The darker 
tone of the general body-colour of the Indian 
Robin sup-o-ests a likeness to the Piddah 
{Fratincola caprata) with which it is found 
often in similar surroundings. The chief 
point of its resemblance to the Piddah is in 
its habit of nesting in holes and capturing 
its quarry on the ground, but in this latter 
habit, we notice some difference. Instead of 
quietly waiting like the Piddah for the 
approach of insects, the Robin hops and 



58 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

runs about on the ground for catching them. 
The chief difference is that while the Piddah 
is shy and avoids the vicinity of man, the 
Indian Robin is quite the reverse. 

This bird belongs to the genus Thamnobia 

which contains two Indian species with 

distinct ranges of distribution — the species 

cambaiensis ( the brown-backed Indian 

Robin ) belongs to Northern 

India while the species fulicata 

tion ■•- ^ . 

( the black-backed Indian Robin ) 

is confined to southern India. The latitude 

of Bombay seems to be the geographical 

borderland of these two species. In the tract 

of the country from Ahmadnagar to the 

mouth of the Godavari, both the birds are 

found, and, durino- the moultins^ season, it 

becomes difficult to discriminate between the 

two species. Both the species are resident. 

The Northern species is locally known as the 

Kah Shama. It is not common in Bengal 

except in the region west of the Hooghly. 

It is not a bird of the plains and lives in 

rocky, rugged districts where the climate is 



THE KALI SHAMA 59 

extreme. ^^Their idea of an earthly paradise,'^ 
says Dewar /'is a flat, rocky, barren, arid 
piece of land". 

Just as the Dhayal by its bold and 

springy movements and vigorous tail-play 

enlivens the countryside in Bengal, the 

Indian Eobin imparts a homely charm to 

the rufifsred districts of Behar and 

^^ the United Provinces. In Summer, 

Notes 

when the blazing sun has burnt up 

all the grass, leaving the whole country an 

uneven stretch of burning, brown land — the 

presence of the Thamnohia helps to dispel 

the frowning looks of Nature. It may be seen 

sitting on a big boulder with its tail upraised 

in order to show off its bright colouring to 

advantage. The tail is sometimes flung up 

so far as to come over the head, making an 

acute angle with the back. Sometimes the 

bird may be seen issuing from a small 

prickly shrub. Then looking round, it 

observes an insect, after which it runs with 

great agility without the least clumsiness in 

its movements. 



60 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



It pursues and catches 
several insects at a run 
and returning with them 
in its beak to a boulder, 
a shrub, or a neigh- 
bouring tree, as the case 
may be, eats them leisure- 
ly. Small shrubs, plants 
like those of prickly pear 
and wild berries or the 
leafless Palas ( Butea 
froudosa ) groves are 
its fcwourite haunts. 
In Behar and the 
United Provinces, 
it is truly a house- 
hold bird, and like 




THE KALI SHAMA 61 

the English Robin, j)erches on walls, 
window-sills, housetops, and verandahs, and 
sometimes, even enters houses. It is a very 
familiar bird there, and is always to be 
found in gardens, and old temples and build- 
ings, seldom straying far from human habi- 
tation. The sight of man does not ruffle it 
in the least. In this respect it is a more self- 
possessed bird than the Dhayal. The latter 
bird has its own ideas about the safe distance 
from which it will allow you to observe 
its graceful movements. But the Indian 
Robin is not so sensitive. If you stand 
three or four cubits away, your presence 
will not frighten it at all. It will, on the 
other hand, proudly show off its beauty of 
form and movement, and even display before 
you its red trouser-patch by continually 
sending up its tail over the back. It has a 
very pleasant warble. ''Although not the 
peer of its English cousin, it is not a mean 
singer." In summer its song is vigorous. 
In winter its performance has little charm. 
It is not gregarious and lives with its mate, 



62 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

though just after the breeding season it is 
sometimes seen in small parties, for the 
fledgelings stay a pretty long time with 
the parents. 

The Indian Robin mates from March to 
August, and builds its nest in all sorts of 
queer places. Spaces in stacks of bricks, 
holes in the ground or buildings and window- 
sills are given great preference. 
Nests and j^ig-^-^gg^ i^^^.^y^ ^^^g^^ railway cutt- 
Eggs 

ings, roots of trees, old watering 

pots in a shrub, or even pieces of cloth hang- 
ing in a tree — serve well for its nest-building. 
The nest is a mere pad of grass roots, vege- 
table fibres, and a host of heterogeneous 
materials, lined with feathers, human or 
horse-hair, and often fragments of snake - 
skin. Khus-khus and onion peels have 
been found in the nests. The eggs are four 
in number. Their sfround-colour is white 
faintly tinged with either green, pink, pale 
brown or oream-colour, green being the 
most common. The markings are speckles 
of different shades of reddish brown, but 



THE KALI SHAMA 63 

they vary greatly in their character, extent 
and intensity. 

Spruce and neat in attire, jaunty and 
gallant in movements, the Kali Shama will 
afford pleasure to its keeper if properly 
housed. A nimble runner and an inhabitant 

not of the close confines of woods 
Cage-life but of open countries where the 

landscape reaches up to the hori- 
zon — this bird would feel better in the 
comparative spaciousness of an outdoor 
aviary than in the cramping closeness of 
a cage. If it can get the opportunity of 
daily baths — both a water-bath and a sun- 
bath — it will bear its life of captivity with 
admirable grace. It is a bird of a sunny 
country — rather too much sunny according 
to its human inhabitants — and it vastly 
enjoys the burning rays of the sun. To 
keep it in health, it should be allovs^ed to 
enjoy the sunshine for a considerable 
part of the day. Give it full meals of 
insects, because that is its proper food. But 
it will keep as well on satoo and ghee with 



64 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

a few grass-hoppers and maggots. I have 
seen it partake of bread and milk with 
evident relish. Like the Shama and the 
Dhayal, it is devoid of commimal fellow- 
feeling, but it is not as peevish and fretful 
as they are. 

To be seen at its best, the Indian Kobin 
requires elevated places inside the aviary. 
Though not incapable of perching on twigs 
and trees, it frequents, in nature, rugged 
and elevated earth and rocky places which 
are also its resting sites during sun-bath. 
In the aviary the rockeries can amply serve 
this purpose. It will skip in and out of the 
holes as it does in its natural surroundings. 
And as it silently runs about, its tail rises 
up with mechanical precision. In the case 
of this bird, the tail-movement appears to 
have little or no connection with its emo- 
tions as in the Piddah, or with its voice, as 
in the Shama and the Blue-Jay. 

Confiding and courageous, it disdains to 
fight shy of human intrusion. While enjoy- 
ing the sun, of which it is inordinately fond^ 



THE KALI SHAMA 65 

it forgets all fear of man and allows him to 
come very near. If its keeper, watching in 
front of the aviary window, stands in the 
path of the sun s rays, it steps up within 
a few inches of his feet to get the sun and 
warble its sweet, merry note. 

Though not dressed in gay plumage, 
the Indian Robin arrests our attention. 
One peculiarity about its colora- 
Coloration tion is that the deeper hue is 
on the lower parts of its body. 
Ordinarily we find that, in birds which are 
not uniformly coloured, the colour of the 
upper body is deeper than that of the 
lower. Here, however, the colour-setting 
is reversed. The exception in this case 
cannot be without reason. The colour of 
its upper body is brown. Does not this 
colour, together with the fact that it lives 
ill rocky districts where the landscape is 
also of the same colour for the greater part 
of the year, suggest protective coloration ? 
And as the bird is mostly terrestrial in 
habits, the deeper tint of its lower body 
becomes less prominent. 



66 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

In the Northern species, sides of the 
head, neck, chin, throat, breast, the upper 
part of the abdomen, and sides of the body 
are deep glossy black. This black portion 
appears bluish in sunlight. The whole of 
the upper plumage is sandy brown except 
a white band, as in the Dhayal and 
the Piddah, on the wings. The white 
of the Piddah in the lower part of the 
body is replaced by chestnut in the Tham- 
nobia. The Southern bird is wholly glossy 
black in the upper part and has the same 
white wing-patch and the same chestnut 
vent. The males of the two species are not 
difficult to distinguish but the females are 
very close to each other. The female is 
a sandy-brown bird with the vental portions 
chestnut like the male. The young look 
like their mother except for reddish edges 
to the wino^s. The chestnut in the under- 
parts is pale. 



THE HUSAINI PIDDAH 

(CYANECULA SUECICA) 




Another Robin, known as tlie Husaini 
Piddah or Nilkanthi, is Cyanccnla suecica — 
the Indian Blue-throat. 



68 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

This bird is a winter visitant all over 
India and leaves for the far North at the 

end of the cold season. Return- 
*^^ ing in September, it spreads 

over the whole of India as far 
south as Ceylon. It is extremely common 
in Lower Bengal. It prefers, as its foraging 
ground, thick grass-jungle near water 
and, more specially, reedy places like sugar- 
cane plantations, and fields with corn or 
lono: o^rass. In Lower Benojal, it lives on 
the edges of jheels and in damp paddy 
fields, where it is usually seen moving 
about under the shelter of grass growing 
on the himds between the fields. It is 
terrestrial in its habits, seldom perches 
but remains mostly on the ground, and with 
an upraised tail runs about very fast, like 
a wagtail, with alternate steps, stopping 
now and then to pick up an insect. But, 
occasionally, it is seen to hawk flies in the 
air. It is very shy and when seen, dis- 
appears into low cover. Though its tail- 
play is not as frequent as the birds already 



THE HUSAINI PIDDAH 



69 



described, it spreads the tail wide at times 
like a fan and gives it an upward jerk in 
the characteristic Robin-like fashion. 

Certain travellers have spoken very 
highly of the excellence of its song. It 
is said to be a very good mimic and, in its 
wild haunts, it mocks other birds. Seated 
in a bush with distended throat and, with 
its bill working rapidly, it gives out a 
strain of blended notes which may easily 




ws^" 



70 PKT BIRD^^ OF BENGAL 

mislead one to imagine that the whole bird- 
world is engaged in a musical concert. Its 
vocal performance reaches the acme of 
])erfection durino- the matino- season. It then 
indulges in a *' song -flight", pouring forth its 
piercing music not only while it flies upwards 
Avith its wings and tail outspread, but sings 
also while descending. Unhappily for India, 
the bird hies for its Northern resort before 
its nuptial display begins. The glints of 
the many colours which adorn its breast and 
l)ody can only be seen at their best during 
this ^song-flight' ; they are meaningless 
when in India the bird cowers, in its fear of 
man, in a thick cover. 

This bird is caged very seldom. It has 
a sweet voice, and in company with wag- 
tails, it can, I think, add to the beauty of 
aviaries. It is certainly difllcult to reconcile 
the Husaini Piddah to cage-life. On several 

occasions, I tried to accustom 
€age-life it to captivity and I was not 

unsuccessful. When first caught, 
it should never be introduced into an 



THE HUSAINI PIDDAH 71 

aviary, for, in that case it goes on hunger- 
strike till it dies of sheer exhaustion. 
It should be lodged in a rectangular cage 
of split bamboos with compartments in it. 
A tame bird, preferably a wag-tail, should 
be introduced in each of the compartments 
on its immediate right and left, so that 
the free and easy manners of the tame 
birds will make the new bird shake off its 
fright due to new surroundings. The 
feeding cups of the new captive should be 
placed adjacent to those of its neighbours ; 
so that, when it will see the other birds 
taking food of their own accord, it will 
gradually follow suit. It should be fed 
forcibly by hand at first, for it refuses 
absolutely to take any food except insects 
for the first few days. 

The whole of the upper body in the 

male is brown ; the tail is chestnut on the 
basal half ; the chin and throat 

Coloration are bright sky-blue with a 
chestnut patch in the middle. 

Bordering this blue is a narrow black band. 



72 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

underneatli which is a broader band of 
chestnut. The rest of the lower plumage 
is huffish white. But the bird is seldom 
to be found in full costume. The quantity 
of blue and chestnut in the throat varies 
a good deal and sometimes a few blue 
feathers are the only distinguishing marks 
of a male. The females are of a dull colour 
but the chestnut on the tail is always 
present. The young are blackish with 
tawny streaks. 



THE COMMON RUBY=THROAT 

( CALLIOPE CAMTSCHATKENSIS ) 




The Indian Blue-throat rennnds us of 
another bh'd — the Common Ruby-throat — 
which closely agrees with the former in 
habits. It is also a winter visitor to the 



74 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

eastern portions of India, being very 

common in Beno;al durino^ the cold weather. 

Gates sa3^s that its range extends only as 

far south as the latitude of Raipur in the 

Central Provinces. 

It is shy and silent, but not devoid of 

pugnacity. Thickets and underwoods are 

its favourite resorts. In the 
Field . . 

^ Deltaic portion oi Bengal, rank 

grass-jungles, sugar-canes or 

reeds are selected by it as its hunting 

ground. It passes most of its time on the 

ground where it hunts up insects by 

runnino' after them with remarkable adroit- 

hess. Extreme cautiousness, however, sends 

it into cover at the least sound and so it 

seldom '^meets the eye". Its notes have 

been characterised by Mr. P. W. Munn as 

''a plaintive whistling noise". I would not 

call it a *^noise" — -it is far superior to that. 

It is a very pretty bird. In the male the 

upper-plumage is olive-brown. A white line 

from the base of the upper bill passes over 

the eye, and another white streak, broader 



THE COMMON RUBY-THROAT 



75 



thfin the last, is below the eye. The 
interniedicite space is black. 
Throat and fore-neck are ruby-red 

with silvery edges to the feathers. The 



Coloration 




s e n c e 
of the 



76 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

patch on the throat which is dull white. 
The Avhite streaks on the face are buffy 
white above, and olive-brown below. The 
young are mottled and assume full adult 
plumage in the very first winter after their 
birth. A full-grown bird is seldom larger 
than six inches. 

The Ruby-throat is not generally caged 
in this country, but, in my opinion, it deser- 
ves attention. If we cultivate its acquain- 
tance, we will not be disappointed inasmuch 
as it is a handsome bird possessing a char- 
ming note. I had a pair of these birds i n 
my aviary. In company with the Chats, 
they lived happily enough, w^arbling merrily 
their pleasant little tune, requiring little 
special attention except during the moult- 
ing season. 



THE GULAB=CHASM 

( PYCTORHIS SINENSIS ) 

As a bird pet, Pi/ctorhis sinensis 
possesHes special attraction for the bircl- 
lover. It is gifted neither with any musical 
skill of a superior order like the Shama, nor 
with the Dhayal's pugnacious vivacity or 
predilection for the neighbourhood of man, 
but it possesses the virtues of a covfidante, 
appreciating caresses from its master and 
reciprocating them by song and dance and 
a free use of its beak upon his body and 
attire. Far from sulky, it readily courts 
intimacy with its keeper, to whom it un- 
reservedly babbles forth its affection and 
gratitude. The amiability of its disposition, 
its confiding song and dance, make it a 
darling to its human friends. It is a perky 
little bird, smaller than our domestic spar- 
row, with a pretty long tail. Its livery of 
rufous brown is not without its grace, tho- 
ugh not striking in colours. This, together 



78 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

with the orange of its iris and eyelids, is a 
potent attraction for the Indian bird-lover, 
who hastens to bestow on it the endearing 
but well-merited appellation of "Gulab- 
ehasm" ( Pink-eyed ). In wild life, it evinces 
traits which run counter to its behaviour 
ill captivity. Extremely shy and nimble, 
it dislikes open and elevated places, and 
leads its life under cover of thickets, rank 
grass, reeds, and low bushes. It is seldom 
fbund on tree-tops. What it considers to 
be its vantage-ground is generally the top 
of a lono; stem of liTass, from which it 
looks round before utterins: its animated 
calls. The fact that these calls are often 
answered from amidst a neighbouring clump 
of reeds indicates that the bird is to some 
extent o;re^arious in its habits. But its 
following is never large, which scarcely 
exceeds three. Nor is it a ]:>arty whoso 
fussiness might easily lead to its detec- 
tion. Wary and alert, it ^shrinks from man's 
intrusion and at once disappears in tho 
tai-gle of thick vegetation. No sooner i>s 



THE GULAB-CHASM 79 

the Gulab-chasm caged than does it 
display a wonderful capacity for adapting 
itself to its altered surroundings. It sha- 
kes off skulkiness and jauntily stands at 
attention at its master's approach, and, 
confident of a dainty morsel, allows itself 
to be tickled by him. In captivity, it 
loses none of the charm and enthusiasm 
of its notes, nor its sprightly habits. 

This bird is seen in suitable localities 
everywhere in the plains, but its range 
in the hills appears to be confined to the 
elevation of 5,000 ft and below. It is 
found in Burma, though un- 
, . represented in Tennaserim, south 

of Moulmein. It is less common 
in the south of the Deccan. The speci- 
men found in Ceylon, though classed as 
a different species called P. nasalis is 
almost identical with the continental 
type. 

For a glimpse of this golden-eyed 
Babbler amid natural surroundings, we 
must turn to places overgrown with thick 



80 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



2f r a S S, 
labyrinths 
of tall 
reeds and 




tussocky 
wastes 
w h i c h 
abou- 
nd near 
dried-up 
tanks or 

marshes and are sometimes found in the 
borders of cultivated fields. Such 
fields, if they be covered thickly 
with close stalky plantations, are 
not disliked by this secretive bird, which 
is therefore sometimes in evidence in 
sugar-cane plots and fields of raliar — 
a kind of Indian cereal. But these can 



Field 

Notes 



THE GULAB-CHASM 81 

afford shelter only so long as they do 
not yield to the reaper's sickle. While its 
lioine is ruthlessly laid bare — and it often 
fiappens that many a grassy jungle is 
Imrnt down periodically or cut by grass- 
cutters — it fixes its abode in a suitable 
place in the neighbourhood, — thickets, 
hedge-rows, furzy bushes, or low jungles. 
Cautious and elusive, it displays a tendency 
to wander about like typical Babblers in 
search of localities favourable to its habits. 
But notwithstanding its shyness and 
extreme dislike of human observation, it 
never retires to the depths of forests. In the 
sun-bathed countryside through the long 
grass or tangled reeds, so quickly and 
cleverly does it frisk about in search of 
insects that not a single moving blade 
betrays its presence — only its recurring 
chatter indicates its whereabouts. These 
sharp and frequent ehatterings are its call- 
notes, while its song consists of a whistle 
with a double note, which is not without 
volume and sweetness. 



8: 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



Though the Gulab-chasm is a Babbler, 
it differs from the typical birds of that group 
in the facts that it does not feed on the 
ground and possesses a stronger flight. 
While in search of food, it scrutinizes 
every leaf with a thoroughness surpassing 
even the vigilance of a party of Lai- 
jmgrees raiding a suspected quarter. Every 
time its 

search is -^ li'&^^O^/y 

rewarded 




with an 
insect, it 
leaves cov- 
er and flies^ 
up to the' 
top of a 



THE GULAB-CHASM 83 

stem to give out a strain of happy warble. 
Its food consists of insects, and it takes its 
meal in a way of its own. It does not 
swallow its prey in one gulp as is usual with 
most birds. It places one foot on 
the insect and pecks at it with its bill, 
taking off morsels from its body like the 
birds of prey. 

The bird is always full of animation. In 
the breeding season, it becomes livelier and 
more energetic. It is then in full song, 
and discarding its usual caution, perches 
frequently on the top of a nodding reed 
to warble forth its mid-day serenades. 
Company takes away nothing from its 
joyous ardour ; for, not unusually, one or 
two of its kindred can be detected close 
at hand. It is not an exclusiva bird like 
the Dhayal or the Shama ; nor, on the 
other hand, is it as gregarious as the 
Seven Sisters. Whatever may be the de- 
gree of gregariousness of this bird, I can 
vouch for a remarkable degree of fellow- 
feeling and esprit de corps possessed by it. 



84 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 




Once at Benares, 
a catcher brought 
me three of these 
birds caught by 
means of bird- 
lime. As the y 
were being extri- 
cated, one bird 



THE GULAB-CHASM 85 

escaped and flew to a guava tree in the 
compound of my house, which, I might 
mention, was in a populous quarter. One 
would have expected the bird to fiy straight 
away to its natural haunt leaving the city 
and its dangers behind. But the bird 
clung to the guava tree calling out to 
its companions, who were not slow to res- 
pond to its call. Not content with only 
calling to its companions, this shy and 
timid bird became bold enough to come 
to the varandah where its companions had 
been safely lodged in a cage. It, however, 
eluded our attempts to re-capture it and 
disappeared after a couple of days. 

While singing blithely from a pronjl- 
nent position in the most happy-go-lucky 
fashion, as if inviting the whole world to 
listen to its music, it never fails to keep 
a watchful eye all round. If its song draws 
you towards the spot where it is singing, 
you are not likely to see it ; for, before 
you guess its location, it slips down into 
cover. Even if it happens to he visible, 



86 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

hunting for food on the skirts of a reedy 
field, it will not remain long in sight. 
Go near and it will vanish in a moment. 
And though you may wait patienth' for 
ever so lono:, it will never come out as 
long as you are there. 

The breeding season for this Yellow-eyed 
Babbler extends from May to Septem- 
ber. Living amid grassy surroundings, its 
ambition for housing its family seldom 
goes beyond grass-blades, three or four 
of which are usually considered 
sufficient to support its nest; 
sometimes only a single reed 
serves the purpose. But whenever it goes 
out of its way to a tree to build its nest, the 
fork of a lime-bush, or at most, a young 
manofoe-tree is all that more than suffices 
to satisfy its taste. 

The nest is an ingeniously built cone 
with the apex downwards. It is always 
very strong and compact, never slovenly 
done, which bespeaks volumes about the 
bird's artistic ability. Broad blades of 



THE GULAB-CHASM 87 

grass are interwoven with long strips of 
tine fibrous bark, the inside being up- 
holstered with extremely thin grass-stalks 
and fine roots. When the nest is wedo-ed 
into the fork of a tree, the two adjacent 
twigs are enclosed as the inner walls of 
the nest. A closely woven outer filigree 
of cobwebs invariably forms the plaster- 
work which makes the attachments firmer, 
and fixes it securely to the sprigs or stems, 
as the case may be. 

The hen comes out with a clutch of 
three eggs usually, though as many as iiYe 
have been found in the same nest. It is 
rather difficult to hit off a general descrip- 
tion of the eo^ojs, for two clutches from two 
different nests are seldom similar. They 
are mostly broad ovals, while some are 
elongated. The surface has often a fine 
gloss. The eggs keep a uniform ground- 
colour of pinkish -white. The blotches and 
streaks of bright deep-red brick-dust are 
so thick in some that the ground-colour 
itself shows like mottling. In others, the 



88 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

blotches take the f^ini of hierogly{>hie 
streaks ^ sparingly cast over the wlio1e 
surface. 

Though in its wild state, the bir.1 
observes strict pur da Ji in its relation to nmn, 
it completely shakes off its shyness when 
once captured and l>rought under his in- 
fluence. .From its conduct in t]i<^ 
Cage-life cage, it is impossible to imagine 
that this bird, while at large, 
declines all advances made by man to court 
its friendship. In captivity, it tries to 
establish the closest possible intimacy witli 
its owner. It is immensely pleased if taken 
up by hand, and expresses its appreciation 
by beginning at once a thorough search oi 
your person. Perhaps it expects to find 
grubs in all the unlikely corners of your 
attire. In the aviary it is as sprightly 
as ever. There also it does not forget its 
old habit of prying into the leaves of 
shrubs for insects. If 3^ou enter the aviary 
with food, this brave and impatient little 
bird will fly u]) to ;\ /n and snatch away one 



THE GULAB- CHASM 89 

or two insects from your hand. It is a 
bird with plenty of go in it, and while in a 
cheerful mood, it indulges in a dance which 
is indeed a treat to see. If two birds in 
two separate cages are placed near each 
other, they always respond to each other's 
call. With the first streaks of light at 
dawn, when one of the birds would break 
into soft music before the other ])ird is astir, 
the latter at once takes up the strain, 
and the two sing a duet for a considerable 
time. 

The habit of responding to the calls 
of its kindred betrays the Yellow-eyed 
Babbler into bondage. As it retires into 
dense cover on the approach of man, it 
becomes difficult to locate its position. 
Indian bird-catchers take a caged bird to 
places frequented by these birds, and when 
the former calls out, the wild one cannot 
resist the temptation to respond. As soon 
as the catcher has ascertained its position, 
he uses his long poles smeared with bird- 
lime. At times, wh n a bird is lucky 

7 



90 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

enough to disengage itself from the Hme- 
covered pole, it escapes into cover by 
running with extreme fleetness. 

In its wild home it is an out-and-out 
insect-feeder, hut in bondage, it is not so 
nice about its food and takes the soft food 
mixtures with relish. Insects should, ot 
course, be provided and an occasional 
rationing of kidney and liver keeps it in 
good humour. To keep it in continued good 
health, a periodical supply of cockroaches 
and grass-hoppers is also necessary. 

Too nmch reliance should not be placed 
on the sociable instinct of these birds ; for, 
when housed together, they sometimes 
evince a quarrelsome temper and work 
mischief in the aviary. 

The livery of the bird is neat and decent, 
if not gorgeous. The whole upper plumage, 
ear-coverts and sides of the neck are red- 
dish brown, changino- to cinnamon 
Coloration on the wings. Lores, a short eye- 
brow, chin, throat, and breast are 
pure white shading into pale fulvous on the 



THE GULAB-CHASM . 91 

al)domeii and under tail-coverts. It has a 
very short deep bill without a notch, and 
a long and much graduated tail. The bill is 
black, the legs and iris pale orange-yellow, 
claws pinkisli and the mouth yellow in 
winter, black in summer. Its length is about 
seven inches. 



THE HAREWA 

(CHLOROPSIS AURIFRONS) 

Nothing more conforms to an Indian's 
standard of a cag^e- bird than that it should 
be tiny enough to suit a small, easily 
portable wicker-cage, and have a sweet 
voice. [f these qualities be accompanied 
with beauty of plumage, the bird passes 
the highest test that is demanded of a 
caged pet. The Harewa, or the Gold-fronted 
Green Bulbul, is just the bird of this sort. 
Its dimension hardly exceeds that of an 
ordinary Bulbul. It has a varied song, witli 
continual notes, which though not equal 
in sweetness and intensity to that of the 
Shama or the Dhayal, is yet pretty and 
cheerful. Its attempts at mimicry are 
laudable and, an untiring chorister as it is, 
it is put to the necessity of culling and 
borrowing notes from the store-houses of 
other birds. Its leaf-green plumage is indeed 
a thing of pride to its owner, and serves 



THE HAREWA 93 

as a splendid 'protective' livery. Thus 
equipped with the quahties of a valued 
pet, it richly deserves the encomiums 
bestowed on it by Indian bird-lovers. 
It lives long in captivity and its behaviour 
in the cage is amiable. 

The appellation of *Green Bulbui' is a 
misnomer, for unlike the earlier writers, 
modern systematists see nothing common 
between it and the Bulbui except their 
short tarsus, which is too slender a feature 
to establish their affinity. Consequently, 
the Harewas are placed in a distinct group, 
scientifically known as Chloropsis. 

It has quite a wide range through the 
Sub-Himalayan regions from Garhwal to 

Dibrugarh. In the forests oi 

Distribu- , . r. ^ 

^.^^ the hilly regions of Central 

India and Chotanagpur, from 

Sirguja through Lohardugga and Manbhum 

to the Rajmahal Hills, this bird is very 

largely represented. In West Bengal, 

only the out-lying district of Midnapur is 

inhabited. It abounds more largely in 



94 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

East Bengal, the Khasi hills, Manipur and 
the neighbouring States through which 
its ranofe extends to Burma. There is a 
different species inhabiting the Deccan from 
Khandalla southwards up -to Travancore 
and Ceylon. 

Removed though it is from the Bulbul 

by a wide l3erth, the Harewa is as fussy 

and active as the former in its 

arboreal haunts. Like the Bul- 

notes 

bul, it is a familiar bird in the 
localities to which its ran2:e extends, fre- 
quenting gardens, orchards, and compounds. 
It is not uncommon in the forests and 
wooded districts, and its continual chirrup- 
ins: is not unrecoo'nised alonir the roads 
which pass through heavy jungles, yielding 
ample relaxation to the nerves of the 
weary traveller tramping tedious miles 
without a companion. Though the 

continual notes of the bird betray its where- 
abouts, it is not easy to spcjt it when 
it is assiduously foraging among the leaves 
of lofty trees or flitting aljout among 



THE HAREWA 95 

the sprigs in search of insects. For so 
closely does its body-colour resemble the 
foliage amidst which it lives, that it may 
be said to be a typical example of colour 
protection in Nature. How justly does 
its appellation of 'Leaf-Bird' lit in with 
its nature ! It is essentially a leaf-hunter 
and affects the topmost branches of trees. 
It is seldom found on or near the ground, 
and when clinging tenaciously to its leafy 
surroundings, it keeps its eye not only on 
the insects that remain hidden among the 
leaves but also on fruits and nectar-yielding 
flowers. For they are greatly relished 
by the bird whose long and curved bill 
and protruding tongue are of great help 
to it in sucking up the liquid from inside 
those flowers, and as the latter attract 
various insects, the Harewa shows a 
preference for all large trees bearing sweet- 
scented flowers. Its fondness for spiders 
may be easily guessed by its habit of 
frequenting those prickly shrubs that are 
usually covered w^ith a network of cobwebs. 



96 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 




Its insect -eating 
habit makes it a 
beneficial bird in 
tea - plantations, 
tVn' when the 
tea slirubs are in 
tiovver, they are 
menaced by 



insects which fall 
victims to the 
Harewa. Its love for 
fruits might sometimes lead it to injure 
orchard-produces, but the damage is not 



THE HAREWA 97 

i;'reat as it appears to select only those 
fruits that burst open in riping. 

A near relative of the Harewa [C. 
jerdoiii) has been observed to frequent the 
heads of cocoanut palms which abound in 
many parts of Southern India. But the' 
Gold-fronted Harewa has no such predi- 
lection, and shows its attachment generally 
to all fairly big trees and shrubs, though 
it roosts by preference in dense secondary 
scrub or even in long sun- or elephant-grass. 
There its activity knows no bounds. Watch 
it hop amidst luxuriant fronds or flit 
about among^ slender twio-s, or clino- 
to moving leaves like a Tit or catch insects 
on the wing like a Bee-eater, — -the bird is 
always at its best. ''At one moment it 
will hover like a Sun-bird in front of a 
flower, at another it clambers along the 
lower surface of a thin branch and some- 
times it will swing itself round and round 
in somersaults." It looks extremely 
graceful as it slips with ease through the 
foliage in pursuit of moths and termites, 

7 



98 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



halting occasionally to hunt up likely 
places for hidden insects^ or cobwebs for 
spiders, or chasing swifter insects on the 
wing. The smallness of its Bulbul-like 

feet is no 
obstacle to 
its agility 
in coping 
with diffi- 
cult, nay, 
almost 



•n V ^- ^^i 
impossible situations, mfp 

While hunting among 
the leaves, the male 
bird o'ives vent to its 
satisfaction in conti- 
nual chirp- 
ings^ and a 
number of 
varied 
w h i s 1 1 e s. 




THE HAREWA 99 

Its serious attempts at song, however, 
end in the reproduction of a few Dronjo- 
like notes in softer keys. Tiiese are 
probably its amorous calls to its mate. It 
is, however, a mimic par excellence, and 
can imitate the notes of almoso every small 
bird around it. 

Restless and vociferous, it is extremaly 

shy and intolerant of company, and any 

intrusion by its kindred upon its feeding 

area is strongly resented and actively 

repelled. But it is always considerate 

towards its mate, so that a female Harewa 

proceeding at the heels of its partner is 

not an unusual si2:ht. It has been observed 

sometimes to go out of its way to offer 

violence to other birds who happen to 

trespass on its hunting ground. Thus 

scuffles between the Hare was and Parrots 

occur not infrequently during the fruiting 

season of the prickly shrubs like flacourtla 

ramontclii that bear sweet berries. These 

shrubs, inasmuch as they harbour spiders, 

are specially attractive to the Green Bulbuls, 



100 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

while the green parrots are drawn towards 
them on account of tlieh' fruits. In the 
second edition of the Avifauna of British 
India, Mr. Stuart Baker says, "The Gold- 
fronted Chloropsis is found in small parties, 
four to a dozen or so, throughout the non- 
hreeding season". This observation appears 
to be completely different from that in the 
first edition where Gates stated that it lived 
in pairs or alone. Finn ascribes it a savage 
temper and says, "in the wild stage Mr. 
Baker has seen two of these birds fight to 
death." On the other hand, Legge says of 
Jerdon's Chloropsis (C. jerdoni) that the 
females collect in little flocks when not 
breeding. May it not be that, like the latter, 
the hens of the Gold-fronted Chloropsis also 
collect in flocks during the non breeding season 
and were observed by Mr. Stuart Baker ? 
Little seems to be generally known 

regarding the nidification of this 

Nests and i . i -t-» . oj i -o i 

bud. But Stuart Baker orives 
Eggs 

a very full account c>t its house- 
building operations which last from May 



THE HAREAVA 101 

to August. The nest is placed in a semi- 
pendant position in a horizontal fork of 
one of the outer branches of a tree 
or sapling. It is suspended like a hammock 
by very thin fibres which are firmly fixed 
to the sprigs of the fork, and these fibres 
support the nest more strongly by passing 
under the nest. Unlike the nest of its 
relative, C. jerdoni, this bird has not 
been observed to place its nest on the upper 
surface of a large bough. Its nursery is 
a shallow cup made of fine twigs, grass- 
stems, moss-roots, and fern-stalks. As the 
nest is a small one, it is very hard to locate 
it. The eo'o-s are two in number and differ in 
shape and intensity of colour. They vary 
from pale pink, so faint as to appear white, 
to a rather warm pink. Most eggs are 
marked with small specks and spots of a 
deep reddish brown, and also with irregular 
lines and streaks of the same colour but dark. 
In shape, they are long but some are 
regular ovals, while others are decidedly 
pointed. 



102 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

If there is any bird which can give the 
lie direct to the adage — Fwe feathers do 

not make a fine lircl — it is the 
Cage-life Harewa. Whether or not the 

Green Bulbul makes any preten- 
sions to a monopoly of fine feathers (the hue 
of its livery being detectable in a few others 
of the avine community ), there is scarcely 
any other bird whose plumage can 
transcend in mao^nificence the view- of the 
Chloropsis as revealed in its natural netting. 
Indeed so majestic a sight justly deserves 
the appellation of the ^Ornament of the 
forest' bestowed on it by the people of the 
Deccan. But the *fine feathers' of the 
Harewa are the least of its qualities for 
marking it out as a popular cage-favourite. 
Pre-eminent amoni^ its merits are its 
loquacity, and a remarkable power of 
mimicry which has earned for it the 
designation of *a veritable gramophone'. 
Sanguine and vivacious, it has none of the 
morbid scruples which torment many a 
bird in captivity. It has a robust cons- 



THE HAREWA lOS 

titutioii which makes it quite a hardy and 
long-Uved specimen for the cage. Its 
appetite is in conformity with its sturdy 
physique, allowing it no time to be fastidi- 
ous about its food, as is often the case with 
the over-punctilious. It therefore admits 
of easy management in captivity, and it» 
keeper is hardly put to any trouble or 
anxiety except that which sometimes 
verges on the ludicrous and which is due 
to the vulgar misuse of its vocal chord in 
mimicking cries of distress. Little wonder, 
then, that it will be appreciated by bird- 
lovers highly enough to make its price 
commensurate with its worth. And its 
value extorts from its keeper greater and 
more generous care than is generally 
bestowed on birds in this country. It is 
not kept in the traditionally small, crampy 
cao-es, but is accommodated like the 
Shama in bigger and more roomy ones. 
So great is its popularity among the 
people of India that its demand is hardly 
met by its supply in the local markets. 



104 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

It may occasionally be obtained in the 
Calcutta market, where a few are annually 
brought down from Midnapore and some 
other districts. But the principal mart 
where many of these birds are annually 
offered for sale is the Sonepur fair in 
Tirhut, — the largest in India. The Hare- 
wa's fame has also crossed the seas and 
"in London and on the continent" writes 
Butler, ^'it has always commanded toler- 
ably high prices on account of its beauty 
and clear, cheerful notes." 

As in India, the majority of Engiisli 
aviculturists are in favour of the cao^e as 
a domicile for this bird. In the aviary, 
it is prone to create trouble by poking 
its nose into the affairs of others ; and the 
way in which it attacks other birds is 
quite vicious, though this sort of bellicose 
disposition sometimes proves fatal to it- 
self Still, the aviary, if antagonistic 
influences are eliminated, would be a more 
desirable place where it can be billetted, 
because, brisk and restless as it is by 



THE HAREWA 105 

nature, it hankers for space to give freer 
play to its exuberant energies. If a cage 
is decided on, it should be large, otherwise 
its soft feathers will break and come of! by 
brushino' ao^ainst the bars. The cao'e 
should be provided with a number of 
perches, as it will stick to its arboreal 
habit and seldom alio*ht on the caoje-floor. 
It will keep in better trim if the luxury 
of a bath be provided. Its manner of 
enjoying a bath is curious. Instead of 
splashing the water about by flapping the 
wings, as is the habit of many a bird, the 
Harewa makes a dash into the water, not 
a straight dive from above like the fisher, 
but in at one side and out at the other. 
Its soft plumage is quickly soaked, and 
though unable to fly, gets on to a perch 
to preen and dry itself, but remains on 
no account on the floor. 

It should be allowed plenty of light, 
otherwise not only would it lose its usual 
gaiety but also its bright plumage. It 
has been observed that in a bird-room, 



106 PET BIRD.^ OF BENGAL 

the Ilarewa would always seek tlie inost 
lighted corners. 

We have already said that its food 
presents little difficulty. It is a hardy 
bird with sound liver and adapts itself to 
any ration. Formerly aviculturists in 
Europe used to treat it, as regards its food, 
much like the honey-suckers because their 
contemporary ornithologists had wrongly 
classed it as such. So that it was fed on 
a sweetened diet. This is now considered 
unnecessary. Being principally an insect- 
eater, it will keep fit on plenty of insects 
and larvae — ants' eggs, grasshoppers, etc.— 
and fruits, of which banana is greatly re- 
lished. Eich diet like the yolk of eggs 
or minced meat should be sparingly used ; 
otherwise it will bring on fits of hysterics. 
It would accept without the least grumbl- 
ing any soft food, satoo made into a pulp, 
or bread and milk. It will also shift for 
itself by capturing flies which may stray 
too near the cage-bars. 

It is not generally subject to any 



THE HAREWA 107 

malady. According to the late Mr. Sanyal 
a former Superintendent of the Calcutta 
Zoological gardens, newly caught birds 
have been known to suffer from a kind of 
horny growth on the tip of the tongue, due 
to. he su2f2:ests, chanoje of food. The o-rowth 
should be gently scaled away, and some 
non-irritating bland oil applied. My own 
experience has been that in summer 
they are generally susceptible to fits of 
hysterics, to which many of my specimens 
succumbed. 

It may not be out of place to mention 
another Chloropsis which has a name in 
avicultural circles, I mean Chloropsis 
hardwichii. It is a more beautiful bird, 
and takes to the cage easily. It is as good 
a mimic but its natural voice does not 
come up to that of its more favoured 
cousin. It is a bird of the hills and does 
not seek the plains like the Harewa. 

Chloropsis aurifrons keeps a constant 

plumage throughout the year. Its general 

body colour is bright grass-green, a 



108 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



little paler on the lower, 
and front of the crown 
b r i g h t 



Forehead 



golden ur 



orange 



i-\\:: fmp, 




THE HAREWA • 109 

cheeks, and upper-throat bkie ; a faint 
yellow zone surrounds the fore- 
^.^^^ neck and passes round the black 

of the throat forming a collar. 
The lesser wing-coverts are blue and 
there is a patch of the same colour 
under the wings, which is only seen when 
the bird spreads them out. The bill is 
black, slender and curved, the tip being 
bent and notched. The tail is short and 
square, and the wings are rounded. The 
feet are leaden, iris brown, and claws 
horn-coloured. 

The female is generally less brilliant 
in colour than the male. The yellow of 
the forehead is paler, and the black of the 
neck is of smaller extent. The young 
are entirely green, with a faint bluish tinge 
on the winors and tail. In size this bird 
is slightly over seven inches. 



THE FATIK-JAL 

( AEGITHINA TiPHIA ) 

The'^'Fatik-jal" or lora, as it is known 
to the Europeans, is a beautiful little 
bird with a sweet though melancholy note. 
Its plaintive cry just before the rains is so 
pathetic that popular imagination inter- 
prets it as an appeal to Heaven for water. 
This bird is happy only in Nature's bosom 
and becomes so morbid in the cage that 
it seldom lives Ions:. Insect-feedino: birds 
seldom thrive in captivity unless they take 
to artificial food. The Fatik-jal is so 
thorough-going an insect-feeder that it ap- 
pears to derive very little nourishmen 
from the prepared food supplied by man. 
Not that captivity tells upon its temper 
and makes it refuse food altogether. On 
the contrary, it greedily devours the food 
offered, unlike many insectivorous birds. 
It lano^uishes, notwithstandino- for inex^oli- 
cable reasons. 



THE FATIK-JAL 111 

It is greatly sought after by bird-lovers 
who bestow on it much tender care, The 
reason is two-fold. It is, in the first place, 
a bird of beautiful plumage^ — an attribute 
not found in all song-birds. Its green, set 
off by yellow, makes it very attractive. 
Secondly, there is an irresistible charm 
in the appealing sweetness of its voice 
which ranges from a loud and clear fluty 
octave to a very low, tender, almost melan- 
choly wdiistle. 

The Fatik-jal is a resident bird all over 

India except Sind, Kajputana, and the 

Punjab. In Southern India it 

, . is numerous in the plains as also 

bution ^ 

in the hills all alono; the We- 
stern Ghats except Southern Travancore. 
It does not generally ascend the hills 
to more than 3,000 ft., but it has been 
recorded in Ootacamund. Eastwards from 
the Northern frin2:es of the Y/estern 
Ghats, it is found in the Central Provinces, 
Chotanagpur extending to Oudh, and the 
low^er ranges of the Himalayas up to Assam 
in the East. It is a common bird all over 



112 



PET BIRDS OIT BENGAL 



Bengal but it is 
rare in the im- 
mediate vicinity 
of Calcutta. To 
the West it is 
found in the 
Ajmere district 




up to Mt. Abu. 
Here there is a 
break in the 
continuity of the distribution, for immediately 
east of Abu and up to Bundelkhand, the 
country is inhabited by another species of 
I or a. 

Every orchard and garden give shel- 
ter to this active and restless bird. 
Amidst the thick foliage of the 
spreading mango, tamarind, 
and clumps of tall and nodd- 

hours 



Field 
Notes 



ing bamboos, the lora keeps foi 



THE FATIK-JAL 113 

searching minutely every leaf and twig 
for insects. It does not, however, show 
any partiality for particular trees. Any 
leafy tree, affording plenty of shade and 
cover, may be its hunting ground. 
Gardens and orchards are not the only 
places where we find this bird. The 
edges of jungles, and trees around cultivated 
fields are its haunts as well, and I have 
noticed them also amidst roadside foliage 
in Deoghur. It is not easily detected 
amidst its haunts in spite of its bright 
plumage. As it selects the most leafy and 
luxuriant trees, which afford it the most 
effective cover, its green colour and small 
body help admirably to defy detection. 
Snugly concealed, it proclaims its presence 
only by its incessant vocal efforts. *'A 
voice and nothing but a voice" is the apfcest 
description that may be applied to it. 

The male keeps up a continual strain 
of music, sometimes nielodious, sometimes 
querulous, at others merely chatterinor — 
but each note different from the other. 

8 



114 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

Just before the rains, its cry becomes 
appealingly plaintive, quite powerful, and 
very much flute-like. Now it is raised to 
the highest — almost a shrill — -pitch, and 
then suddenly it falls to a soft, mellow, 
and plaintive note. This last note has a 
sad sweetness in it which makes it the more 
charming. The distinguished *'Eha" while 
admitting the sweetness and variety of 
the lora's notes, says, *'It has no song." 
To this Dewar retorts with this happy, 
if sarcastic, reply, ''it continually makes a 
joyful noise", and says that "it is a good 
songster". 

The cry of the birc^ sounds like 'torfee- 
ha! or, as rendered in Bengal, Fa-iee-ka 
(whence its name), the second syllable 
being deep, long and loud. Layard des- 
cribes this note as a "clear bell-like whistle 
which can be imitated on an octave flute." 
Legge renders it as *chee-tooo'. The 
people of Upper India interpret it as 'Shou- 
higa which to Dewar hears like 'So-he-ye'. 
The people of Bengal identify this bird 



THE FATIK-JAL 115 

with the ''^ChataW of Sanskrit literature, 
wherein it is described as a thirsty bird, 
always invoking the cloud-gods in a plain- 
tive voice for drops of heavenly water, 
as it refuses to quench its thirst with water 
from the earth. European Orientalists 
believe that the Chatak is a different bird 
— Coccystes jacobimiSy which has a ''rather 
plaintive, not unmelodious call." 

It hops about the leaves with marvellous 
dexterity and searches them in the fashion 
of White-eyes. Sometimes, it may be 
seen hanging on, like a tit, to a slender 
twior scrutinizinsr the surroundinsc foliao-e. 
It seldom leaves a tree unless it has been 
thoroughly searched and then makes a 
rapid flight to another, where also it 
remains for hours. x\.s it hops from twig 
to twig, it may be noticed that every time 
it utters its low whistle, there is a soft 
echo from the same or another tree. This 
is its sweet-heart which is always near or 
around its gallant. Sometimes two hens 
and a cock may be seen together ; and 



116 



PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 




THE FATIK-JAL 117 

or four birds in the same tree enjoying a joy- 
ful dinner. This is not a social gathering but 
a purely family group. The one or the other 
of the foad parents generally looks after and, 
perhaps, educates the children by practi- 
cally demonstrating to them how to fly 
and hunt — even when they are grown up 
and ready to take the chances of life in- 
dependently. After the day's incessant 
hunt for food, when the bird retires to 
roost at dusk, it rolls itself up into a ball 
and tucking its head and bill under the 
feathers goes snugly to sleep. 

The flight of this bird, though rapid, 
can scarcely be said to be graceful. It is 
a combination of quick flappings of the 
wings and dipping of the body, which 
produces a strange sound. The lora catches its 
prey on the wing sometimes, but comes down 
to a branch or to the ground to swallow 
it. Larvae, spiders, caterpillars, and small 
insects chiefly form its food. From an 
economic point of view, it is distinctly 
beneficial, as it feeds on injurious insects. 



118 . PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

In the nesting season, the male becomes 
exceedingly lively. It is supposed by 
many that the lora mates for life, "till 
death do them part". But unlike many 
a human husband, the lora's love for its 
lady never wanes. Every season, the cock 
bird tries its best to please its partner 
by showing off its physical charm and vocal 
attainments. It would indulge in short 
fluttering flights from tree to tree with 
its black tail spread out and the white 
plumes of the flanks puffed up. Sometimes, 
it rises up into the air, and when descend- 
ing, it comes spinning round and round, 
its small body looking more like a fluffy 
ball of down than a bird. All the time 
it descends, it utters a strange protracted 
sibilant sound. At other times, it darts 
out from one tree with a moth or butter- 
fly in its beak and vanishes amid the 
foliage of another. " "When their nests 
are meddled wil^", says Munn, *'the old 
birds are most vociferous, crying and 
fluttering about quite close, and often 




lOPA 



. "* THE PATIK-JAL 119 

making a curious buzzing noise with their 
wings." 

The mating period of this bird extends 

from May to September according to 

locality. In our province, June- 

T?^^o July seems to be the height of 

Eggs ■^ ^ „ . . 

the breeding season for this bird. 
The rains commence in those months, and 
the bird is also in the splendour of its song 
at that time. The nest is generally built 
at a height of from ten to twenty-five feet 
from the ground. It is placed on the 
upper surface of a horizontal branch. Some- 
times, a slanting bough is selected when 
the nest assumes somewhat of a pocket- 
shape. Occasionally, it is built between 
three or four slender twisfs forminsf an 
upright fork. The nests are deep, and 
neat little thin- walled cups — an **after- 
dinner coffee-cup" as Eha puts it — made up 
of fibres, grass and hair, thickly coated 
externally with cobwebs by which it ia 
firmly attached to the branch on which it 
is placed, and also to any little twig spring- 



120 PET BIRI>S OF BENGAL 

ing out of that branch that may adjoin 
the nest. 

Three is the usual number of a clutch 
of eggs, which are broad ovals slightly 
pointed at one end. The eggs, however, 
vary a good deal in shape and colour. Their 
ground-colour is grey or dirty white, but 
some have a creamy tinge, with large brown 
or reddish -brown streaky blotches more 
numerous at the thick-end. 

Many an honest attempt has been made 
to familiarise it with the cacre but all 
attempts have so far been dis- 
Cage-life appointing. When first caught, 
the lora shows little shyness, 
utters its characteristic call, and readily 
takes insect and artificial food unlike many 
newly-caught birds that disdain prepared 
food. But the food apparently fails to 
suit the bird which pines away soon. I 
made several attempts to reconcile the lora 
to captivity. Only a few lived appre- 
ciably long, the majority perished within 
a short time. Amonsr those that lived 



THE FATIK-JAL 121 

for sometime was only one adult which 
survived for two months. The others of 
this group were nestlings. I noticed that 
adult birds would show distinct signs of 
misery in the cage. When the bird- 
catcher brings one to you, it is already 
stripped of half its feathers, and is a piti- 
able object, bare and clumsy. Nevertheless, 
it would take its food and drink water, as 
if mechanically, then go to a perch where, 
rolling itself into its sleeping posture, it 
would remain quiet for hours moving down 
again only when impelled by hunger. In 
this most doleful state, it lingers for a day 
or two and dies a victim to the bird- 
catcher's thousfhtless handlino: of a soft- 
feathered bird. The lora's feathers are 
so soft that they come off easily by the 
least rough handling. In my opinion, we 
should begin with nestlings in our attempts 
to cage the lora. 

A neighbour of mine had a hand-reared 
lora for a long time ; the bird was evident- 
ly happy, for it used to sing very blithely. 



122 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

Its cage was kept covered with a 
piece of clean linen just as the Shama is 
treated in this country. Finn relates his 
experience of this bird as follows — ''A 
tame bird I kept recalled in its actions 

Chloropsis and Leothrix ; it grasped 

food in one foot like the latter or a Shrike. 
It was shy at first, but soon got tame. 
I was told adults could not be kept, and 

mine was a hand-reared one I did 

not see it show any sociability, and it 
seemed able to take care of itself with 
other birds". 

Early Ornithologists classified the lora 
with Chloropsis^ while others grouped it 
as a Bulbul. Legge names it the ^'Bush- 
bulbul". But if, on account of its -supposed 
resemblance, we treat an lora as a 
Bulbul, we shall not get satisfactory re- 
sults. For the lora is not like the latter 
a fruit-eater. Oates says that the lora 
shows affinities with the SyJviidae as it 
has two moults a year. I believe that 
if we treat the captive lora as to its food 



THE PATIK-JAL 123 

like the warblers, we are likely to get better 
results. ^ 

An intersting habit of one of my loras 
is worth mentioning. It used to drink 
water in a peculiar way. When the plants 
of the aviary were sprayed with w^ater, 
the bird used to drink the small dew-like 
drops that remained on the leaves. Does 
this support the Fatik-jaPs identity with 
the classical Chataka which quenches 
its thirst by catching the rain-drops as 
they fall from the sky ? 

In summer plumage, the male has a 
very handsome appearance, its black upper 
body contrasting with the vivid 
Coloration yellow breast. The whole upper 
body — forehead, crown, back, 
upper tail-coverts, and tail — is black, except 
a streak of white on the wings, and a 
greenish yellow rump. Chin, throat, 
breast, and neck kre deep intense yellow ; 
abdomen, sides, and vent are greenish 
yellow. In some birds the yellow bases 
of the feathers on the head peep through 



124 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the black. In winter the bird loses all 
or most of the black on the upper body 
and becomes yellowish green except on 
the tail. In Southern India and Ceylon, 
these birds retain, more or less, the black on 
the upper plumage in winter. ''Through- 
out its great range" say Gates, ''the 
Common lora is subject to variations 
in its plumage which appear to be due 
chiefly, if not entirely, to climatic in- 
fluences". 

The black plumage is generally supposed 
to be the mating attire. But, "in the 
breeding season" observes Munn, "the 
males have very little black on the upper 
parts, being chiefly yellowish green on the 
head and back, and differing but very 
little from the winter plumage". My 
observations also happen to corroborate this. 
Legge says that he has seen the black 
plumage at all seasons of the year. The 
safest hypothesis, in his opinion, is that 
some breed in the green and some 
in the black stage. "It may be," he adds, 



THE FATIK-JAL 125 

''that black plumage is, to some extent, 
a sign of age rather than a seasonal dress." 
In the new edition of Avi-fauna of Bri- 
tish India Mr. E. C. Stuart Baker divi- 
des Aegithina tiphia into three sub-spec- 
ies, all of which become more or less 
black on the upper body in the breeding 
season. His description of the breeding 
plumage of the male Aegithina tiphia 
tiphia is — "Lores, forehead, crown, back, 
upper tail-coverts and tail black". But 
further down he adds, ''The description 
of the male given above is quite exceptional, 
more green and much less black being 
the rule and many breeding males have 
practically no black on the upper parts 
other than the wings and tail". This is 
rather puzzling as it shakes the very founda- 
tion of his "Key to subspecies A",* where 



* Key to Subspecies 
Upper parts greenish, more 
or less marked with 
black from crown to 
rump, the bases of the 
feathers showing through 
as greenish ^. tiphia tiphia, J breeding. 



12G PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

black seems to be a sine qua non for a breed- 
ingr male. Is it not worth while to find 
out if these ''many breeding males" are 
sufficiently many in number to warrant their 
inclusion into a fourth subspecies in 
which the male, whether breeding or not, 
has no black on the upper parts other 
than its wings and tail ? 

The female is at all seasons green above, 
the sides of head and the whole lower 
plumage being yellow. 

The young birds do not assume the 
full adult plumage in the first spring. 

The lora is a fluffy-plumaged bird, 
with a short and straight bill, and roun- 
ded wings. Iris yellowish white ; lower 
mandible and the margins of the upper 
part, almost up to the tip, blue, the 
remainder being black ; legs and feet weak ; 
tarsus lengthened and covered with smooth 
scales ; toes sharp. 

It is quite a diminutive bird, smaller 
than a sparrow, being a little above five 
inches in total length. 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 

The bird, that inspired a great poet of 
England to break out into "harmonious mad- 
ness", is not a strange figure in the sun-lit, 
clear, blue sky of India. The overflowing 
music of this mystic minstrel of the air — 
the Sky-Lark — comes floating down the 
sun-beams on a winter day. This particular 
Sky-Lark fAlauda arvendsj, beloved of 
the English Muse, does not, however, come 
within the scope of this treatise, for it is 
only a temporary sojourner in our climes. 
But it has a first-cousin in the Indian Sky- 
Lark (^A. gulgulaj the vocal attainments 
of which are hardly inferior. Our Sky- 
Lark is the latter bird, which has, by the 
sweetness of its impetuous music, won the 
admiration of princes and peasants alike. 
It is known in this country as the 'Bharat\ 



128 PET BIKDS OF BENGAL 

and we find eulogistic mention of it in our 
ancient Sanskrit literature under the name 
^Bharadwaf. 

Besides the *Bharat', the other cage- 
favourites, among the forty species of 
Larks found in India, are the following — 
the ''Aggin" or *Aggia' comprising the 
singing Bush-Lark, the Bengal Bush-Lark 
and the Madras Bush-Lark ; tlie 'Chendool' 
or the Crested Indian Lark ; and the 'Retal' 
or the Ganges Sand-Lark. The Chendool, 
though not a native bird of Bengal proper, 
is yet a bird of many charms, and ranks 
very high in Bengal as a cage-favourite. 

From the avicultural point of view the 
Lark has much to recommend it. Its 
greatest attraction is its gift of song. It 
is extremely hardy, easily adaptable to the 
cage and, being a seed-eatmg bird, its food 
offers little trouble to its keeper. It be- 
comes remarkably tame and attached to its 
m?ister. No wonder, then that it is so 
widely popular in this country. 

It has been urged that to cage a lark 



THE liHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 129 

which spends so much time on the wing 
is the acme of cruelty". I should like to 
point out that we generally treat these 
birds from nestlings, which, being ignorant of 
the happiness of a free life, cannot have the 
morbid longing for freedom of an adult 
wild bird. "Acme of cruelty" is therefore 
not the expression for it. On such an 
assumption, aviculture itself would be 
inhuman. Our experience shows that the 
Lark thrives well in captivity, sings as 
vigorously as in freedom, and the percentage 
of premature deaths in captivity is negli- 
gible, proving that the bird itself does not 
feel its captivity as a positive pain. 

The Bharat or the Indian Sky-Lark 

fAlauda gulgulaj is to be found everywhere 

in the Indian Empire including Ceylon and 

is abundant in our province. It 

bution ^^ ^'^^^ ^^ ^^ ^^^® ^^ ^'^^ middle 

ranges of the Himalayas. In 
winter, when the European Sky-Lark {A. 
arvensis) comes down to the plains of the 
north-western portions of India, both the 
9 



130 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

species are found to associate together in 
those parts of the country. 

Of the other Larks mentioned above, 
Bengal is inhabited by the Aggia known 
to Europeans as the Bengal Bush-Lark 
{Mirafra assamica). It is to be met with 
in the district around Calcutta. It inhabits 
the north-eastern portions of India and 
extends through Assam southwards to 
Bhamo and Arrakan. Jerdon remarks that 
this bird is rarely met with on the table- 
land of South India. The Aggin or the 
Singing Bush-lark {M. cantillans) is locally 
distributed all over Northern India. It is 
found in the Punjab, Rajputana, United 
Provinces, and Behar. Its eastern limits 
extend up to a longitude six degrees to the 
west of Calcutta. Stray birds may, how- 
ever, be obtained in the outlying western 
districts like Midnapore and Bankura. In 
the works of older writers like Ball, Blyth, 
and Oates, we find western Bengal 
mentioned as its range. But in those days 
Behar was included in the Bengal Presi- 



THE BHA.RAT AND ITS KINDRK.D 131 

dency. Since Behar has been separated 
to form an independant province, we can 
no longer with accuracy call it a Bengal 
bird. Its southern limits extend to the 
latitude of Madras. Northwards, it has 
been noticed as far as the Sutlej valley in 
the Himalayas. Bengal is the home of 
another Bush -Lark — the Red- winged one — 
{M, erifthroptera), the eastern limits of 
its range rea(3hing the longtitude of Cal- 
cutta. The Madras Bush-Lark (Jf. affinis) 
lives in Southern India and Ceylon, its 
northern limit running into Midnapore in 
Benoral. 

The Chendool {Galerita cristata) or the 
Crested Lark is a bird of Northern India. 
Eastwards, it is not found beyond the longti- 
tude of Madras. As it affects dry places, 
the damp climate of Bengal is unsuitable 
for it. It is therefore found in the hot, 
dry localities of Upper India. The latitude 
of the Tropic of Cancer may roughly be 
said to be its southern limit in this country. 
Occasionally, though rarely, it may be found 



132 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

further south. The majority of Indian 
Chendools seems to migrate to Central Asia 
with the advent of summer, but a consider- 
able number is resident and breeds here. 
Dewar notes that "it is found in Lahore 
all the yea)* round, but is far more plenti- 
ful in winter than in summer, which is the 
only time it is seen in England". This 
species is, therefore, a migratory one. 
Beyond India, the Crested Lark has an 
immense range — from Spain to northern 
China, from south Sweden and Central 
Asia to Senegal in Africa. Its preference 
is for bare and barren countries — even for 
deserts — and it is found in large numbers 
iia the warmest parts of its range. 

Last on our list comes a Sand-Lark, 
Its vernacular name is Retal which has 
evidently been accepted by scientists who 
call it Alaudula raytal. "It is found", to 
quote Gates, "on the sand-banks of all the 
large rivers of the north-western provin- 
ces, the Nepal Terai, Oudh, Behar, and 
Bengal. This Lark is also found along the 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 133 

banks of the Brahmaputra". '*It abounds 
on the white sand-dunes, where the stream, 
unchecked by the tide, deposits only fine 
sand, and the alluvial country round (from 
this cause) is everywhere light and are- 
naceous". 

Though so many species of Larks are 
the intimate pets of a very large number 

of bird-lovers, very few of these 

Field 1 J. ' ' 

Notes people, except a microscopic 

minority of scientists, can claim 
to posses first-hand information of the habits 
of these birds in a wild state, inspite of 
the fact that they do not inhabit un- 
approachable and unfrequented depths of 
forests as, for example, the Shama does. 
Even the great Eha pleads ignorance about 
its song and says, *'I should be ashamed 
if I had not noticed that Jerdon and Barnes 
and Gates all seem to avoid saying any- 
thing definite on the subject, from which 
I infer that they knew no more than T do. 
The fact is that when the Lark is singing, 
it is generally out of sight, or too high 



]34 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

lip to be distinguished clearly. So it is not 
easy to be sure which species it is'*. This 
last remark, however, puts too much dis- 
count on the powers of a trained observer, 
though it is to be admitted that first-hand 
information is meao-re. But the identifica- 
tion of the species may not. be so difficult 
if we take note of the maimer of ascent 
and descent, and the environments. Indeed, 
if we can take a day's outing to watch the 
Lark amidst its native environments, a 
most wonderful chapter of l)ir(l-life ihcI}' be 
unfolded to us. In the uiatiiiii' season 
specially, besides its song, the vigorous 
habits of this bird manifest themselves in 
manifold activities, its courtship being a 
?nost delicate, artistic, and elaborate affair. 
The Lark is a stepping and not a hopping 
})ird, and a hop is quite foreign to its 
disposition. But when courting, the male 
seems to regard hopping as an attractive 
sort of gait and advances towards the 
female with wings drooped, crest and tail 
raised and with a series of impressive hops. 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 



135 



At this time, a very common sight is what, 
from a distance looks like a fight between 




two birds. Selous seems to scout the 



136 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

suggestion that these birds are given to 
regular fights with beak and talons. He 
says, "Larks have what, at the worst, seem 
to be delicate little mock -combats in the 
air, carried on in a way which suggests 
sport and dalliance between the sexes. 
Sometimes, rising together they keep 
approaching and retiring from each other. 
Then in one Ml they sink to the ground 
in the grass. Or, they will keep mounting 
above and above each other to some height 
and descend in something the same way, 
bat more sweepingly — ^seeming to make 
with their bodies the soft links of a feather- 
ed chain. In each case, they make all the 
time little kissipecks, rather than ^lecks, 
at each other." 

Its sono: and vio-our, its dalliance and 
sportive habits, do not exhaust all the attri- 
butes of the Lark. It is a bird of immense 
adaptability. Climatic conditions are a 
matter of indifference to it. Speaking of 
the Ganges Sand-Lark, Hume wonders 
how the bird exists in summer on the bare 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 137 

white sand during the heat of the day. 
About the European Sky-Lark, Finn says, 
*'It bears extremes of heat and cold, 
drought and damp". This is true of the 
resident Larks of India as well, because 
the whole of Northern India (except the 
Lower Gangetic Plain) and many places 
on the Deccan Table-land have extreme 
climates. It is a great pity that these 
songsters fall victims to the epicurean wants 
of mankind. In Calcutta and other large 
towns, numbers of these birds are killed 
and sold as 'Ortolans'. This sort of whole- 
sale slaughter is to be deprecated for 
reasons more than one. 

European writers are of opinion that 
the Indian Sky-Lark {Almida gulgula ) is 
scarcely distinguishable from the 
The Sky- English bird {A. arvensis) in 
Bharat colour and is not distinguish- 

able in habit or song. Legge, 
however, is of opinion that *4t sings quite 
as sweetly as the European Lark but not 
so loudly, and its song is not so long-sus- 



138 PET EIEDS OF BENGAL 

tained. Neither does it mount so higfh 
in the air". But Oates gives a note from 
Brooks who says, *'It is quite equal to the 
EngHsh Sky-Lark, I think, and the song is 
sweeter." 

Its song and manner of delivery will 
always remain a source of admiration to 
everybody. It is always poured forth 
while the bird is on the wing. The ascent 
is perpendicular, the bird veering now to 
the right, now to the left, rising in spiral 
circles, till a height of a thousand feet is 
reached. Sometimes, it hovers with a 
continued fluttering of the wings. Right 
through the ascent— as well as the descent 
— its sweet and soothing music is kept on— 
"singing still dost soar and soaring ever 
singesf. The strain is maintained for a 
very long time and, at least in regard to 
the European bird, a continuous song of 
half an hour's duration has been record- 
ed. When the descent begins, there is a 
perceptible change of tune. The bird goes 
down with its wings kepD outspread and 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 139 

without beats ; sometimes it closes its 
wings, a movement which causes it to dip 
into the air ; but suddenly it spreads them 
out, and by several vigorous strokes, rises 
again. Thus, by a series of such sudden 
drops and hovering after each new level 
is reached, as it draws near to earth, the 
song ceases and the minstrel drops like 
a stone within a few feet of the ground. 
Before, however, finally reaching terra 
firma, it either again shoots upwards at 
once or sweeps away with an almost 
horizontal course for a few yards, and 
alighting on the ground disappears in the 
herbage. The European Sky-Lark has 
been noticed ^-at times to sing on the 
ojround or from a fence-rail or bush". 
Having similar habits, it is very probable 
that the Indian bird also does so. Though 
the Bharat frequently mounts up to an 
invisible height in its flight sky- wards, 
there is no rec ord of the altitude to which 
it ascends. The European bird has been 
seen at a height of 6,000 feet from the 



140 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

ground. The Indian bird is — -as tlio 

evidence goes — -a less aspiring bird. 

Both its song and its flight testify to 
its exuberance of spirit. Watching it 
"soaring" upwards, one cannot fail to notice 
that its wings are never still ; they seem 
to be beating time to its music, which is 
all the while being poured forth. In true 
soaring, as in accipitrine birds, the wings 
are scarcely ever moved. Day in and day 
out, and all through the year, it is the 
same lusty singer. The song never seems 
to wane, though it attains its maximum 
power during the mating season. I do 
not know if it sings when it is angry as 
the Shama does, but it seems to sing under 
excitement, even under the influence of fear. 

The Bharat frequents the same locali- 
ties as its European congener — -pasture- 
lands, stubble-fields and bare commons. 
It is found in well- cultivated districts 
oifering arable land and meadows, but it 
avoids towns, groves, and gardens. It pre- 
fers, as a favourite resort, the grassy sides of 



THE BHAKAT AND ITS KINDRED 



141 



tanks and also 
the bunds of rice 
fields, on which 
it often breeds. 
Its degree 
of sociabi- 




lity varies with the change of season. 
In spring and summer, it lives in pairs for 
breeding purposes. Towards the end of 
summer and during the rains, it may be 
found in small groups, which are probably 
family parties, as the young birds continue 
to live with their parents even after they 
are able to fend for themselves. As autumn 
advances, the bird becomes gregarious 
and large flocks keep together all through 
the winter. The Bharat roosts on the fjround 



142 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

and is rarely seen to perch. It is very fond 
of a dust-bath, but when it is raininor, it mav 
be noticed wallowinoj in the ground. 

The Bush-Lark, as its name inipHes, 
evinces a partiality for perching on bushes, 
and is, to some extent, arboreal in its habits. 
It mounts up to the topmost 
The Bush- branch of a bush or a dead tree, 
Aggin ^t^d from there, hurls itself up 

into space. It never gets up to 
a height greater than thirty or forty feet, 
nor does it romain there long. It drops 
down again with upturned wiugs, legs 
hanging down and singing with all its 
might. It would invariably descend on 
the perch it bad left, and as soon as it comes 
down, its song is hushed. But not for long. 
A stray insect or a small grain is picked 
up and the flight again begins. Repeating 
this process, it keeps to one bush for an 
hour or longer, after which it moves on to 
another. Getting up early in the morning, 
sometimes even before the dawn, it makes, 
all through the day, thousands of musical 
sallies into the air without the least sisfn of 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRRD 



143 



fatisrue and weariness. In contrast with 
the Sky-Lark which prefers the open, it 
loves grassy plots sparsely studded with 
trees and bushes, stony ground, ploughed 
land, and scrubby enclosures surrounded by 




^■^k^V 



trees. It is also found in the heart of the 
jungle, and round the borders of tanks, salt- 
water lagoons, and estuaries. 

Its song is sweet and plaintive, specially 
that of the Singing Bush-Lark, which is 
not only a songster, but also a good mimic. 
The Bencral bird has a sweet little tweeting: 
melody consisting of about eight notes, the 
first six uttered very quickly and the last 

two drawn out slowly, thus — twee twee 



144 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



twee twee twee twee tweee tweee. The 
Madras bird has a prolonged "sibilant 
whistle — tseee-tseee-tseee''. 

The Bush-Lark evinces neither con- 
vivial sociability nor peevish aloofness. 




Durino; the matin t>: -z 
season, it lives in 
pairs on account 
>f the peculiar 
demands of Nature. 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 145 

Though the Bush-Lark passes much oi 
its time on trees and bushes, it seeks its 
food on the ground where it is as nimble and 
active as the Wagtail. When approached, 
it quickly hides itself by creeping under any 
available cover. The Madras species has 
been observed to come boldly on to the 
roads in search of food. If approached, it 
runs for a short distance, then squats close 
to the ground and flies away only when 
directly and very closely approached. The 
Bengal species, however, is a heavy and 
less sprightly bird. 

The Chendools meet us in large numbers 
in winter on every bare plain and stubble- 
field throughout the drier and 
Ths CrGS" 
ted Lark better-cultivated portiona of the 

or the smilino; plains of northern India 

Chendool , n , , , , 

and on most oi the sana-banK.s 

in the rivers. It is astir with the break of 
day, shoots up at once into the air with 
a torrent of melody, and when a certain 
height has been reached, it begins its de- 
scent, trailing a flood of music behind. It 
10 



146 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

seems rather to be thrown upwards than to 
fly, and as it flings itself up perpendicularly 
into the air, its resemblance with the light 
swinojinoj motion of a shuttle-cock is for- 
ced on the mind. Its return earthwards 
is as rapid as its volley upwards and, 
unlike the Bush-Larks, it comes down 
to the o;round after each "song^-filled fliofht." 
While carolling up and down between the 
earth and sky, it is fully alive to the 
problems of hunger, but the search for 
food seems to take up little of its time. 

Its long, pointed crest imparts to it 
a o'race lackino- in the other Larks. But 
its greatest attraction is its song, which 
ranks it as a song-bird. Its call notes are 
sweet and melodious, 'not unlike the 
(English) Wood-Larks' but less flute-like 
and broken into short phrases'. The song 
is uttered both on winoj and from oround. 
Besides its ordinary song, which is not 
more remarkable than other Larks', it 
possesses an unrivalled gift of mimicry. 
*'Its song" as observed by an aviculturist, 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 



147 



"would commence with 
a plaintive warbling, soft 
and sweet as the breath 
of spring ; then the pitch 
would rise, and one would 
distinctly detect the 
sil very 
notes of 
a Black- 
cap,then 
it would 
fall and 




single 



148 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

instant to the bubbling strain of a 
Starlincr". 

The Cliendool is not fond of company 
and is therefore not seen sratherincr in flocks 
like the other Larks. It, however, does 
not keep severely to itself. A number of 
birds may be seen in the same locality, 
foraging each for itself in company with 
its mate, without gathering together on 
social terms. Its food is composed principally 
of seeds of grass, corn etc, and insects. 
The young are fed on insects and larvae. 

The Sand-Lark is common, as its name 

implies, on the large sandy churs of all the 

big rivers, and Nature gives its 

1 he Sand- plumasce a colour approximating" 
Lark or T ? . tx i 

Retal ^^^ environments. It runs along 

the edges of the sand-banks very 

swiftly, feeding on the minute insects which 

lie at the water's edge. Gates remarks, "it 

runs very quickly, and in poling up tlic^ 

river in a boat they seem to like to keep 

with one — I fancy to pick up insects which 

are disturbed by the falling sand." Its 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 149 

aerial flights are not as frequent or as high 
as the other Larks, nor is soaring one of its 
characteristics. 

Gates has dismissed this bird with the 
remark that it has a poor song, though in 
one place he says ''I do not remember to 
have heard it sing." Indians, however, find 
some charm in its notes and do not discard it 
as unworthy of attention, Blyth says "it 
ventures short snatches of sono;." 

All the Larks described above are, more 
or less, addicted to the same sort of food. 
They seem to be omnivorous, consuming 
small insects, herbage, and seeds. The staple 
food appears to be the seeds of various 
weeds. The seed is swallowed whole, the 
husk beino^ broken in the ojizzard. Earth- 
worms and insects are eaten, the young 
being fed on small moths, small grubs, and 
caterpillars. In winter, when the Larks 
congregate in flocks, they may do some 
amount of damage to sprouting corn. But 
they undoubtedly consume an enormous 
quantity of pernicious weeds and injurious 



150 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



larvae and are, therefore, most beneficial to 
agriculture. 

Terrestrial in habits, the Larks are 
terrestrial also in their nidification. Even 
the Bush-Lark has not been 
able to rise above the custom 
of its tribe and places its 
cradle on 

the g r o u n d. 
The prevailing 
type of nest 



Nests and 

Eggs 




is a slight, open, cup-shaped one, but 
exceptionally, we find domed style of archi- 
tecture. 

The breeding season of the Indian Sky- 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 151 

Lark lasts from the middle of April to 
nearly the end of June. Legge extends 
the breeding season in Ceylon up to 
August. They build twice in a year, some- 
times beginning as early as February and 
continuing till May. Then again from 
August to October and even later. The 
nest is always placed in a shallow depression 
scratched by the birds themselves, slightly 
concealed from view, under the shelter of 
some clod of earth, large stone, tuft of grass 
or other herbao:e, or dense stunted bush. 
The material they use is entirely fine grass 
twisted round and round the hole nearly an 
inch thick. Three is the usual complement 
of eggs, the maximum number recorded 
being five. Sky-Larks never lay eggs twice 
in the same nest but always build a new one 
for every brood. Both parents share the 
pleasures of building, hatching, and feeding 
the young. Even long after the latter leave 
the nest, they are fed and watched by their 
parents, and return at evening, for a week 
or so, to sleep in the nest. 



152 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Some of the eggs are of greyish or yel- 
lowish-white ground-colour ; some have a 
cream colour, while others a pure white 
ground. ''AH are densely speckled, spotted 
freckled and even blotched with pale yel- 
lowish and purplish brown or very pale inky 
purple." Most eggs are more or less glossy. 

The Bush-Larks build domed nests. 
Their nesting operations last from March 
to August. The Bengal species lays from 
the middle of May to the middle of June, 
as also does the South Indian bird. As 
all the Mirqfras have two broods in the 
year, Gates suspects that it is for the 
second brood, when rain is apprehended, 
that the dome is put up with the entrance at 
the top or sometimes at the side. The nest 
is composed of fine dry grass and grass-roots 
with or without lining. It is usually placed 
in a depression, well-concealed and overhung 
by tufts of grass. During the rains, it is 
placed on heaps of Jcankar on roadsides or 
the permanent way between the railway 
lines. The eggs of the Mirqfras have grey- 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 153 

ish, yellowish-white, or stone-cloured ground, 
very thickly freckled and spotted, and some- 
times finely streaked with yellowish or pale 
purplish brown. The young are able to fly 
in about a fortnight after hatching. Their 
parents have the habit of trying to draw off 
intruders from their nest by feigning in- 
jury and inability to fly by running along 
the ground with drooping wings. 

Though the majority of the Crested 
Larks are migratory, a certain number 
remains to breed in India. Their nests are 
to be found mostly in the Punjab and United 
Provinces, specially in the Salt Range and 
about the Sambhur Lake. They place their 
nests, like other Larks, in hollows in the 
soil under the cover of some bush, a tuft of 
grass or an over-hanging stone. The exterior 
of the nest differs little from that of other 
Larks but the interior has a lining of fine 
grass, cotton, wool, hair or feathers. This 
lining marks out the nest of the Chendool 
from that of other Larks, The number of 
es^gs in a clutch varies from three to five. 



154 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

They have a strong family resemblance to 
the Larks' eg^gs already described but are 
larger than most of them. The markings 
also are larger and more conspicuous. The 
ground-colour is the usual greenish or yel- 
lowish-white, and the specks, spots and 
blotches are yellowish or greenish brown and 
pale purple. 

The Ganges Sand-Lark breeds along the 
sandy dunes that fringe this great river and 
its affluents. A broad and tranquil stream 
with wide bare banks of sand is what it loves 
and there, amid a few stunted strao^orlinor 
shoots of tamarisk, it builds its nest. It lays 
in March, April and May, making a tiny 
circular nest in some little hollow under a 
tuft of grass or tamarisk or beside and 
partly under a stranded log, the fragments of 
some old boat, or a large stone. The nests 
are small pads composed of fine grass or 
tamarisk leaflets. Two is the normal number 
of eggs. The ground-colour is greyish or 
yellowish white and very minutely speckled 
all over with yellowish brown. 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 155 

It would seem at first that a bird, which 
seldom sings unless when soaring, will 
refuse to sing if confined within 
Cage-life the uncomfortable limits of a 
small cage. It is undeniable that 
a cage is a pitiable substitute for the open 
fields and meadows. But the experience 
of Indian bird-fanciers negatives the above 
assumption. In captivity, it sings not a 
whit with less vigour and spirit than it does 
in freedom. To the Lark its natural song- 
seems to be hereditary. In India nobody 
cages adult birds. It is generally hand- 
reared from a nestling, which does not 
give it an opportunity of learning its song 
from its parents. Yet its song seems to 
come to it instinctively. 

It sings better in the cage than in the 
aviary. In India small wicker-work cages 
with brass handles are commonly used. 
Eich people provide cages made of brass 
wires and silver handles. Most of our 
inevitable pan and biri sellers always have 
this bird hanging in front of their shops in 



156 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

a covered cage. The English reader would 
be startled to hear this ; but it is a fact, 
that these favourites of sun-shine and the 
blue sky, are kept covered up day and 
night except for the few minutes the cage 
is cleaned. Sometimes, a kindly owner 
would put it out in the sun to give it a 
taste of a long-lost joy. God knows 
whether it possesses an yearning for its 
native element. The owner knows, at least, 
that the bird sings quite lustily in its 
circumscribed surroundings. Every evening, 
these covered cages are taken out for an 
airing to a field or a park, and a number of 
cages is placed side by side. When one 
bird breaks into song, the others join in a 
hearty chorus, and a most delightful 
competition goes on for a long while. The 
Indian bird-lover, possessing little scientific 
curiosity, seems to be anxious about the 
comfort of his charo-e. He fits up the casje 
with a tight and strong piece of canvas as 
a floor for the bird to exercise its legs ; 
and in order that the bird may have 



THE BHARA.T AND ITS KINDRED 157 

sand-baths, he places a quantity of 
brick- dust in it. 

Amidst all these comforts, the bird 
grows very tame, and comes to know its 
master, before whom it is seldom bashful. 
At the sound of his fingers, it stands up, and 
puffing out its feathers, looks up with a 
knowing wink. Sometimes, it becomes so 
tame that its owner leaves the cao^e-door 
open, allowing the bird to walk around him. 
Grains and few insects with Satoo are 
given as its food in India. But in England, 
an immensely varied diet is prescribed — a 
mixture of canary-seed, some meal-worms, 
smooth caterpillars or spiders, fresh clovery 
turf and some fresh and chopped lettuce, — 
reo^ard beino; had to the kind of food it 
gets in nature. 

In India, Larks are kept singly and 
never in pairs ; so that there is no instance 
on record of the bird breeding in captivity. 
In Eno^land, where Aviculture is reofarded 
as a handmaid of Ornithology, many an 
honest attempt has been made to induce 



158 PET BIRDS OF BENOA.L 

the Larks to breed in captivity. Below 
is reproduced an account of the Crested 
Lark breeding in an aviary. It is as 
interesting as it is instructive. 

''The two birds at once made them- 
selves quite at home in the large aviary. 
About the beginning of May, the smaller 
bird, which was the male, began to carry 
large beakfuls of grass and did his best to 
induce the female to build in a secluded 
corner. The female decided to build in 
the most open part of the aviary. They 
used to flirt most outrageously. 

''The birds dug out a circular cavity 
with their stout beaks and lined the cavity 
with grass. The nest was completed on 8 th 
June ; the first eo-o- laid on the 10th. 
The clutch of four eggs was completed on 
the 13th but incubation commenced on 
the 12th. The female incubated and she 
was the most unsteady sitter that I have 
ever seen, in fact it seemed to be impossible 
that the eggs should hatch in view of the 
length of time that they were left every 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 159 

day uncovered in a thinly lined nest on the 
cold ground and in wet and chilly weather. 
The only day without rains was the 22nd. 
However, on the 24th two young hatched 
and the remaining on the following day. 
The male used to keep watch and ward 
from certain coigns of vantage and pass the 
word to the female when anyone approached 
the aviary and the latter would at once 
spring from her nest. I noticed that she 
never adopted the precaution of running 
some distance through the grass before 
taking wing. Probably on the bare, open 
stretches of country affected by this species 
the ruse would be of no avail. 

''The young did not show any protective 
coloration and were conspicuous objects 
among the green grass. They tried to 
neutralise the effect by flattening themselves 
down as if a garden roller had been passed 
over the nest. They grew fast inspite of 
little brooding and bad weather. For 
instance, on the 1st of July at 6.30 A.M. 
the rain was coming down in torrents, the 



1 60 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

wind blew hard and it was very cold. I 
wanted to ascertain how the young of 
ground-nesting birds manage to survive a 
continuous downpour of rain in open nests. 
I went and was rewarded by one of those 
rare peeps into the mysteries ot bird-life 
which are the special privilege of the 
aviculturist. The three little Larks were 
sitting in an almost erect position facing 
one another with their breasts pressed 
closely together. Their beaks, pointed 
upwards vertically, formed the apex of a 
cone. Their necks were retracted, thus 
bringing the thick tufts of down and 
feathers on the crown and back together, 
and their wings were held closely to their 
sides. You will at once grasp the meaning 
and object of those tuffcs, you will realize 
that each little back formed a cleverly 
designed water-shed and you will understand 
why rain does not kill young Larks. 

''The parent birds would feed their 
young diligently and were extremely careful 
never to approach the nest when anyone 



THE BHARAT AND IT8 KINDRED 161 

was near. Once or twice I waited as long 
as half an hour to see the young fed, but in 
vain. I was much amused by the extremely 
sensible patient and methodical way in 
which they faced the situation. They 
simply retired to a little distance, taking 
a plump maggot with them, squatted down 
on a convenient ledge and waited. The 
expiration of half an hour would find them 
in the self-same position still treasuring- 
the same maggot. On the 6th July, the 
young Larks left the nest and in a 
wonderfully short time they became 
independent and learnt how to dig for a 
breakfast". 

The Larks are birds of sober coloration. 
This want of brilliance in their plumage 
is explained if we remember that 
Coloration they are dwellers of the open, 
some even affecting deserts and 
barren tracts. Nature has provided them 
with a body-colour which serves the purpose 
of a mantle of invisiblity. Some of the 
Larks have to live in constant terror of 

11 



162 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

birds of prey, and the presence of any 
conspicuous colour on their body would 
have placed them at a decided disadvantage. 
The sexes are always alike. 

The Indian Sky-Lark (A. gulgula) is 
a dark brown bird, each feather being 
broadly edged with white. There is a deal 
of white in the tail, visible only during 
flight. The lower plumage is pale fulvous, 
the cheeks and throat slightly and the 
breast boldly streaked with black ; the 
remainder of lower plumage is very pale 
fulvous, and at times almost creamy white. 
The bill is dusky above, lower mandible 
being greyish horny, faintly yellowish at 
the tip ; iris dark brown ; legs and feet 
brownish fleshy. 

Its length is about seven inches, being 
smaller than the English Sky-Lark. Its 
size, however, is as variable throughout 
its great range as the shades of colour 
which compose its plumage. 

The Bush-Larks are brown birds without 
any white on their tails. The Singing 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 163 

Bush-Lark has rufous lateral margins to 
each feather of its upper body and a whitish 
terminal band. Shortly after the autumn 
moult, the whitish fringes of feathers wear 
away. The Bengal Bush-Lark and the 
Madras Bush-Lark are respectively dark 
ashy brown with blackish streaks and 
rufous brown with dark brown streaks all 
over. The wing-coverts and quills are dark 
brown with rufous or chestnut margins. 
Sides of the head are mottled with fulvous 
or brown. The tails are brown with rufous 
margins. The chin and the throat of the 
Singing Bush-Lark are white, while the 
Bengal bird has fulvous white and the 
Madras bird pale fulvous on these parts. 
The remainder of the lower plumage is, 
in all cases, fulvous, the breast being 
streaked with brown triangular marks. 

The iris in Mirafras is brown, the Bengal 
species having an yellow shade ; legs, feet 
and lower mandible fleshy white, the upper 
mandible being horny brown ; the bill is 
thick and short ; the wings are moderately 



164 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



rounded ; the tail is short, the lateral 
feathers longer than the central pair. 
Mirafras are smaller than the Sky-Larks, 
being about six inches in length. 

The Chendool differs in having a tuft 
of bristly feathers projecting as a crest 




^>i«%^lfet^-^- 



from the back of the head. It is an earthy- 
brown bird with blackish streaks to most 
of the feathers. The wing-coverts have 
sandy margins as have the tail-feathers 
also. The entire lower plumage is pale 
fulvous with brown spots on the cheek and 
a deal of brown sfcreaks o^n the breast. The 
bill is yellowish, feet pale brown, and iris 
dark brown. It has a long thin but very 
stronor bill and a short tail. The Crested 



THE BHARAT AND ITS KINDRED 165 

Lark is longer than the Bush-Lark by 
about an inch. 

The Sand-Lark is a greyish brown bird 
with dark brown shaft-streaks. Its wings 
are dark brown tending to be greyish on 
the edges. The tail is brown but has white 
in it visible when the bird is flying. The 
lower plumage is white but has strong 
brown streaks on the breasts, more plenti- 
fully on the sides. It possesses brown iris, 
fleshy yellow legs and horn-colour claws 
and bill, the latter having a greenish tinge. 
In size, it is as large as the Bengal Bush 
Lark, being about five inches and a half 
in length. 



THE DAMA 

( GEOCICHLA CITRINA 




A bird possessing a strikingly handsome 
appearance and a pretty song can never 
escape the notice of aviculturists. If it ha<s 
at the same time a perfectly harmless 
disposition, it at once becomes their pet. 
Such, indeed, is GeocicMa citrina, A 
school-master would award it the first prize 
for good conduct, because to him it would 
be a marvel of ideal behaviour. It is a shy 
and unobtrusive bird ; not in the least 
garrulous, being generally silent throughout 



THE DAM A 167 

the year. But during the breeding season, 
the spirit of romance finds expression in its 
song which is its only means of courtship. 
Its notes, so far as I have heard, are only 
whistles, subdued but sweet. Foreigners 
have spoken highly of it. Dr. Amsler wrote 
in the Avicultural Magazine that its "song 
is much sweeter and softer than that of our 
Thrush, but is more reminiscent of that 
bird than of the Blackbird". In the United 
provinces specially, and in Northern India 
generally, this bird is greatly prized as a 
cage-favourite. It is a pity that in our 
province, Bengal, it has received scant notice. 
I strongly recommend it for better 
consideration, and I am sure that those who 
take interest in birds will come to love it, 
specially as it can very easily be induced 
to breed in captivity. Though it is shy 
and secretive, it gradually shakes off fear 
and becomes quite bold. 

In Bengal, it is known as the Dama 
and its JSindustanee appellation is Puttoo. 
Prom the colour of its crown, it derives its 



168 PKT BIRDS OP BENGAL 

English name of the Orange-headed Ground 
Thrush. 

The Dama is a migratory bird within 
the bounds of British India. In winter it 
is found throughout the plains, 



Distribu- 
tion 



hills and jungles of Northern and 
Central India, Chota Nagpur, 
Rajmahal Hills, and is not uncommon in 
Bengal. But in Burma, Gates did not 
find it to be migratory. It is not a stranger 
in the districts around Calcutta. In summer 
it is found all alons^ the lower rano-es of the 
Himalayas from Murree to the eastern end 
of Assam. In Nepal and round about 
Darjeeling, its presence is frequently noticed. 
In Sikkim its movements are reported to 
depend on circumstances connected with 
the vegetation of the various districts. 
It has not been known to occur in the 
Punjab, Rajputana, Sind, and Guzerat. 
It is also rare in the West and South of the 
Deccan but more numerous in the Eastern 
Ghats. In Ceylon, only a few specimens 
have been obtained, and probably it is 



THE DAMA 169 

migratory there. Legge says that in his 
constant search for this bird for five years, 
he was most unfortunate in not having met 
with a single specimen. 

The Ensrlish name of the Dama is a mis- 
nomer and gives a wrong idea of its habits. 

It is not strictly a ground-bird. 
Field rpj^g connotation of the qualifying 

word is that such a bird should not 
only seek food but also live on the ground. 
A true ground-bird would possess greater 
powers of running or fieetness of foot. The 
Dama can hardly be said either to )*un or to 
walk in the manner in which a wagtail does. 
It does not confine itself solely to the ground. 
It is fonder of bushes and bouo^hs of trees at a 
medium and moderate height from the grou- 
nd and, very often, it mounts higher bran- 
ches. It is true that the Dama forages on 
the ground and may be seen hopping along. 
But it prefers being off the ground except 
when feedinsj. It does not even build its nest 
on the crround which all true orround-birds 
do, but as a true perching bird it sets up 



170 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

its temporary home oq fairly big trees. As 
this bird is spread over the plains in certain 
seasons and moves to the hills as the sun 
approfciches the Tropic of Cancer, it is no 
wonder that different people have observed 
it in different surroundings. Those who 
have watched it in the hill-districts in sum- 
mer would say that it is a denizen of heavy 
jungles where it keeps to the more open 
portions along the beds of streams near the 
forest paths, or in bamboo jungles. Others, 
who first made its acquaintance in other sea- 
sons, would assert that it does not fight shy 
of human environment altoo-ether • and there- 
fore, it is not an unfamiliar sight in shady 
gardens, bushy outskirts of villages or lone- 
ly village bye-lanes. It hops sedately and 
leisurely from branch to branch. In fact, 
when undisturbed, its movements are slow, 
measured and dig^nified. All this while, it 
would indulge in gentle whistles, occasion- 
ally throwing out a louder note of defiant 
song. The approach of man puts an end to all 
this. From a dignified philosopher, the bird 



THE DAMA 171 

at once descends into a coward. It is 
marvellously cautious in detecting dangers, 
and the least sign or sound frightens it into 
concealment. In my country-house, I have 
many a winter noticed it feeding in bush- 
covered drains. If approached, it would 
take a short flight to a stump or a bush 
where it would sit immovable like 
a rock and watch my movements. If 
further intruded on. it would scuttle along 
under the bushes with great rapidity, but, 
without going very far, try to take shelter 
under a dense under-wood. If further 
pursued, it takes to flight. As in the case 
of Thamnobia, the Dama also has the 
brighter colour on the lower body. This 
arrangement is certainly safer in the case 
of birds that feed on the ground. When 
the Dama is on the ground, the colour of 
its upper body lends itself well to conceal- 
ment in the gloom of the forest or garden 
where its silent immobility would deceive 
the eyes of the keenest scout in His 
Majesty's army. The bird, too, seems to 



172 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

know full well the use and value of its 
protective colour. While perched on a tree, 
it instinctively drops down to the ground, 
at the slightest sign of alarm or intrusion, to 
hide the brighter tinge on its lower body ; 
and before you catch a glimpse of the bird, 
it puts every available bush and tree 
between it and yourself, silently taking 
shelter in the darkness of a thick foliaofe. 
Reginald Phillips says, "it is probably 
from its customary habit of seeking conceal- 
ment on the ground at the approach of man 
that it has unfairly earned the reputation 
of being a ground-bird''. Sometimes, 
however, it would hide itself away in the 
hollow of a tree. I have already said that 
this bird neither runs nor walks. Its 
method of progress is by means of very rapid 
hops. But though it does not use its legs 
alternately like true running birds, it can 
progress with a swiftness and rapidity 
remarkably astonishing. When on the 
ground, it proceeds rapidly forward and 
then stops, makes another advance and 



THE DAM A 173 

again pauses. Each time it takes a short 
run, it lowers its head, so that the body 
becomes parallel with the ground, but at 
each halt, it stands erect, keenly alert and 
watchful. 

The Dama has a peculiar way of its own 
in looking for food. It does not catch 
insects while on the wing, nor does it pick 
them off from trees. If it happens to detect 
any quarry from a distance, it betrays no 
hasty eagerness by immediately running to 
pick it up. Sedately and leisurely it hops 
up to the object, and pauses as if to study 
its entomological qualities. After some 
time the object of curiosity is picked up and 
despatched. As a rule, it searches for 
insects on the ground among withered 
leaves, every one of which is assiduously 
turned over with its beak. In thickets or 
shrubs, it carries on its untiring search in a 
quiet fashion, — insects and small worms 
being the objects of special attention, 
though tiny berries are not neglected. It 
has also a habit of diorging for worms into 



174 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the hard dry earth. For this reason, its 
bill is generally noticed to be clothed with 
mud and, durins: the moultinor season, the 
portions of face and forehead near the base 
of the mandibles become bare and shorn of 
feathers. From an examination of the 
stomach of these birds, it has been found 
that it eats injurious and neutral insects 
and therefore from an economic view-point, 
it is regarded as a beneficial bird. 

This shy bird passes its unadventurous 

life in the solitary companionship of its 

mate. There is nothing in the Dama's 

appearance which may denote the presence 

of martial ardour in its character. But this 

unostentatious, inoffensive-lookino: bird does 

possess strength enough to protect its 

female from the objectionable advances of 

other males. In this respect, it is like the 

Shama or the Dhayal ; but it does not 

possess their cheerful spirit, and never 

betrays enthusiasm by breaking into vigorous 

song and, except in the breeding season, 

passes its time in the most severely 



THE DAMA 175 

puritanic silence. It is quite probable that 
as a great deal of the sweetest song is 
uttered in a low tone from a cover, it can not 
be heard from a distance. The louder notes 
are unmusical, uttered from higher perches, 
and are probably notes of defiance. 

A near cousin of the Dama, Geocichla 
cyatio/iot us—the White-throated Ground- 
Thrush — is a happier bird not obsessed by 
any morbid and disturbed outlook of life. 
This bird sings nine months out of twelve 
and its vocal performance is not indifferent. 
About its song Reginald Phillips says, 
''Standing tight and upright, wing-butts 
hunched, primaries pointing straight down- 
wards with the points touching the toes, head 
drawn up but with the bill close against 
the chest and pointing straight down," it 
pours out its merry warble. It is like G, 
citriria in all other respects ; even the 
coloration is the same, except that it has 
a splash of pure white on the throat, whence 
its name. 

The Dama beo-ins to mate as soon as it 



176 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

returns to the hills in summer. From the 
end of April to the end of June, it gives up 

its nomadic existence and goes 
Nests and temporarily into camp. Forky 

branches of lofty trees, like 
Oaks, Sal and wild Cherries, are its 
favourite sites for bulding purposes. Nests 
have also been found in forks in bamboo 
clusters, shrubs, and low trees. The rest- 
house or strictly speaking, the lying-in-room 
of its mate is a big saucer of coarse dry 
grass with a layer of green rock-moss 
within. The exterior is sometimes 
composed of dead leaves, a few twigs, pieces 
of decayed bamboo, all knit together with 
vegetable fibre. Very often, long dry 
grass is skilfully inter-woven on the sides 
and the strao:2:lino' ends of these hang down 
from the bottom giving the nest a shaggy 
appearance. From its life in the aviary, it has 
been observed that the incentive to building 
operations is given by the male, and the 
female finishes off the lining. During the 
last few days of building, and during 



THE DAMA 177 

incubation, the male collects and gives every 
insect to the hen. It takes no part iu 
incubation which lasts for twelve days. 

The female lays three or four eggs which 
are broad ovals, much pointed towards one 
end, and have a very fine glossy surface. 
The ground-colour is greenish white, or 
dull greyish. Specks and minute streaks 
of red-brown extend more or less all over 
the surface. 

As already said, this bird meets with 
greater consideration in Northern India. 
In Bengal, it is not absolutely 
Cage-life unknown in the cage. Quite a 
respectable number of birds is 
placed on the market in Calcutta — being 
generally imported from U. P. The birds 
in my aviary, however, were caught in the 
neighbourhood of Calcutta. In the United 
provinces of Agra and Oudh, it is carried 
about in a small covered cage — a practice 
already noticed in connection with the 
Shama. In that province the birds are 
generally reared up from nestlings by 

12 



178 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

means of hand-feeding ; wild adult birds are 
seldom caught and caged. The steadying of 
adult Damas is not a difficult affair. My 
specimens were all adults, and none of 
them is languishing. They do not seem 
to feel their loss of liberty as keenly as 
some birds. If insects be mixed in the 
satoo given to them, they will take to it 
in a short time. Fruits would be beneficial. 
They are inordinately fond of ripe bananas 
and eat guavas with relish. As soon as 
the bird takes to artificial food, it should 
be introduced into an aviary for, as it is 
naturally morose and quiet, in a small cage 
it becomes susceptible to indigestion for 
want of exercise. And as it is not a very 
diminutive bird, it will be a cruelty to 
confine it in a small cage. It can safely 
be lodged in a mixed aviary with the 
tiniest of birds, because it is inoftensive 
and never meddles in the affairs of others. 
The pleasing colour of the Dama adds to 
the beauty of its aviary. Foreign avicul- 
turists testify to its genial bursts of song in 



THE DAMA 179 

the cage and in the aviary. It is undou- 
btedly a 'beautiful songster'. Unfortunately 
for me, the birds in my possession seldom 
indulge in ecstatic utterances, though they 
have often regaled me to soft, mellow, 
almost whispering whistles. It is quite 
possible, as suggested by Astley, that vocal 
powers vary according to individuals. Like 
this bird, its cousin, the White-throated 
Ground Thrush, has also found admirers 
in Europe. There the Dama is easily 
acclimatized, and breeds freely in the 
aviary. There are numerous instances of 
its successful breeding. My specimens, until 
recently, were confined in a small and 
congested aviary. In July last, they were 
introduced into a bigger bird-house. Here 
they made an attempt to build a nest, 
but nothing came of it because their 
breeding season had been over. 

This year, I had recently the good 
fortune to notice in my aviary how the 
Dama makes love to its mate. Though 
in other seasons the male seems to ismore 



180 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



the existence of its mate, it has lately begun 
to take interest in her. March is drawinir 
to a close as I am writing. The male 
now-a-days has become gallant enough to 
feed the female as if she were a baby. It 
hops round the aviary in a very grave 
manner, showing itself off to its partner 
who is sitting silently under a hedge. It 




then slowly hops up to 

the female and stops at 

a little distance. Then 

it retreats and goes round behind the hen, 

stops there, and after a jaunty run round the 

aviary comes and stands again in front. Some- 



THE DAMA 181 

times it goes close up to the hen and makes 
her a present of an insect picked up on the 
move, which the hen snatches from the male. 
Or, when the hen is sitting on a low branch, 
the male flies up to her with the love- 
offering. The hen begins to flutter her 
wings as if seized with a tremor, raises 
her tail and utters a low whistle. After 
indulging in a few kissipecks, they sit close 
to each other in silent reverie. Such is 
their tender method of courtship as noticed 
by me. The Dama does not indulge in 
flirtations like other birds. I have also seen 
them mating, no restlessness or coquetry 
takes place before the act. It is suddenly 
done, and then both remain for some time 
facing each other, still and erect. 

Two male birds should not be kept 
together because they are likely to go for 
one another at sight. Reginald Phillips 
says, *'Those who can do so should keep 
such birds apart, even separating the sexes 
during non-breeding season. I was told last 
summer, a male orange-headed Ground 



182 PET BIRDS OF BENQAL 

Thrush at the Zoological Gardens, on being 
loosed into the same aviary with a female, 
killed her before they could be separated." 
But such squabbles never occurred when 
all my Damas — I possess two pairs — were 
housed together in the same aviary. After- 
wards when I made an arbitrary selection 
of pairs and lodged them in different 
aviaries, even then there was no quarrel. 
But now, when each pair has lived toge- 
ther for sometime, I find that if I try to 
interchange partners, it is not tolerated by 
the birds. 

The Dama. is probabl}' a mimic. I 
cannot speak from experience. But Regi- 
nald Phillips declares that its white-throated 
cousin is. Finn also, in his *'Bird Beha- 
viour" says, '*I have heard the Indian 
Orange-headed Ground Thrush, a species 
which combines the excellences of the 
Song-thrush and Blackbird, irritatingly 
repeat a most trivial and monotonous note 
it had picked up in the Zoo Gardens". 

The male Dama is a decently clad 



THE DAM A 183 

person. Its attire does not consist of any 
blazing colour but the perfect harmony of 
colours makes it very attractive. The whole 
head, neck and the lower body 
Coloration as far as the vent are orange- 
chestnut, deeper on the crown 
and paler beneath. The rest of the lowsr 
body — vent and under tail-coverts — and 
the thighs are pure white. Back, scapulars, 
rump, upper tail-coverts and lesser wing- 
coverts are bluish grey. The broad white 
tips to the median coverts form a very 
conspicuous wing-patch. The remaining 
coverts and quills are dark -brown. The 
tail is ashy brown, faintly cross-barred. 

The hen is paler chestnut throughout 
and olive-coloured on the upper surface. The 
outer webs of the tail and wing-feathers and 
the under tail -coverts are suffused with green. 

An example of an abnormal form of 
Geocichla citrina was reported by Mr. 
Inglis in the Journal of the Bombay 
Natural History Society (Vol. xii, p. 44). 
He wrote, "I shot a male of the above 



184 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

Species and noticed several long hairs spr- 
inging from the nape, in much the same 
way as they do in the White-throated Bulbul 
(criniger flaveolus). Also the feathers on 
the cheeks and sides of the chin have 
lengthened shafts of a black colour." 

The bill of the Dama is very dark 
brown. It is short, straight, and com- 
pressed towards the tip which is more or 
less notched. The culmen is gently curved. 
The tarsus is smooth ; the legs are fleshy 
pink, and the claws pink ; iris dark hazel. 
In size it is nearly nine inches. 

Indian bird-nomenclature is very loose 

and imperfect, and very confusing to 

foreigners. There is a bird in the 

A So-called central portions of the Indian 

Dama continent, the native name of 

which also is Dama. It is smaller 

than G. critina by three inches and is 

quite different in colour. I am referring 

to the Brown Rock-chat — Cercomela 

fusca which is a permanent resident of 

Central India and the United Provinces. 



THE DAM A 185 

Its southern boundary is the latitude of 
Jubbulpore and its eastern boundary is the 
lonsrtitude of Benares, and in the west I 
myself saw it as far as Muttra, while Dewar 
declares it plentiful in Lahore. From April 
to July, which are its breeding months, it 
makes very sweet music. It is found singly 
or in pairs upon buildings, stone -walls or 
rocks in the vicinity of human habitations. 
I once noticed it nesting in a building 
adjoining my place of residence in Benares. 
In Muttra and Brindadan, 1 found them to 
be household birds like sparrows, feeding 
on the crumbs and leavinors thrown out from 
kitchens. When nesting, both the male 
and the female become very pugnacious 
and fiercely attack the small birds, rats, and 
squirrels that approach the nest. It nests 
in holes, rocks, buildings, walls, and banks. 
When it selects a hole in a rock or cliff, and 
finds that the entrance is too wide, it puts 
up a wall of small stones and pellets of dry 
mud. The female alone incubates while 
the male sings to her. The former lays 



186 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

four pretty pale-blue eggs with reddish- 
browii spots thinly sprinkled over the 
whole shell. It is a brown bird, with a 
dark-brown tail and resembles a hen robin. 
In many of its characteristics, it runs close 
to Redstarts. Like them, it continually 
bobs and nods its head and flutters the 
tail. It is a lively little creature with a 
passably good voice. As an aviary bird, I 
think it will be a success. It is not a 
total stranger to bird-fanciers in India, 
for, sometimes, thouofh on extremely rare 
occasions, we notice it in the cage. 

So dissimilar from the Orange-headed 
Ground Thrush, it is impossible to say why 
it is called Dama. In certain parts of the 
Central Provinces, it is termed the Shama. 



THE KASTURA 

Two more Thrushes are favo^^rifce cage- 
birds for then* song and beauty. They are 
to some extent alike in appearance and 
habits. They are also both dwellers 
of the same localities — the Himalayas, 
Their notes are the sweetest bird-music 
that will reach the ears of a visitor to 
the Himalayan hill-resorts. They are both 
livelier and more vivacious than the Dama 
(Geocichla citrlna). Both grow very tame in 
captivity. To the Indian, both these birds 
are known by the same name — Kastura. 
The scientist would class them stages apart, 
calling the one Mywphoneus femminchii 
(the Himalayan Whistling Thrush) and 
the other Merida boulboiil (the Grey-win- 
ged Ouzel). Those who follow Gates may 
not like to accept the former as a Thrush ; 
but a Thrush it is, and, as its common 
English name implies, the ornithological 



188 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

laity also have always regarded it as such. 
The source of confusion, however, is the 
native name. The Himalayan Whistling 
Thrush may be called the true Kastura, for 
it is known only by that name throughout 
its long range of distribution. The Grey- 
winged Ouzel, bears the following local 
names — Kastura, Kasturi, Kuljet and 
Patariya masaicha. For the sake of conveni- 
ence I shall call the former (Himalayan 
Whistlmg Thrush) Kastura and the latter 
(Grey-winged Ouzel) Kasturi. 

Mingling its liquid voice with the laugh- 
ing music of springs and cascades, the 
Kastura lives in the valleys of the Hima- 
layas. The Englishman calls it the Hima- 
layan Whistling Thrush. The 
layan pre-dominant note in its song is 

Whistling g^ yppy ^^Q^ clear and powerful 
whistle — plaintive but loud. Its 
outward appearance is in keeping with its 
excellent voice. Amidst the luxuriant flora 
of the Himalayas, Nature has added to her 
own glory by providing this bird with a 



THE KA3TURA 189 

bright metallic blue plumage. - A momen- 
tary glimpse of the Kastura. may easily give 
an Englishman the impression of an English 
cock Blackbird, its yellow bill adding to 
the similarity. It is only when sunshine 
falls upon it that the glistening blue of its 
plumage dispels the mistake. 

A close kindred of the Himalayan 
Whistling: Thrush is the Malabar Whisth'no- 
Thrush, which is to be met with in the 
Deccan wherever the oppressive severity 
of the Ghats is relieved by verdant woods 
and murmuring rills. It is a cage- 
favourite in the Deccan. This species is 
but the southern representative of the 
Himalayan bird and differs not the least 
in song and habits, and has obtained from 
English residents the sobriquet of the 'Idle 
Schoolboy'. Though the Kastura is a 
Thrush, Gates, in the first edition of Indian 
Avifauna, placed it among babblers because 
its young have emancipated themselves 
from the mottled plumage of thrushes. 
But he admits, it retains, in great measures, 



190 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the habits of thrushes. Modern ornitho- 
logists have assigned to the Kastura its 
rightful place and in the next edition of 
Avifauna we will find the Myiophoneus 
shifted to its proper classification. 

As its name implies, the Kastura lives 
in the Abode of the Gods — the Himalayas. 

It is to be found from Gilgit to 
Distn- Assam and is common, except 

in the breeding season, at all 
heights up to the Snow-line. During the cold 
weather it moves down to the plains and may 
be met with here and there as a strao-orler 
throughout northern Behar, northern Oudh 
and northern Rohilkhund. But it never 
comes down to the plains of Bengal. It 
is also not very rare in Saharanpur and 
in the plains districts westwards of the 
Jumna. It has been noticed in Attock 
and the Salt Rano-es. In the breedings 
season it confines itself to the deep glens 
and valleys wherever there is running water 
below 6000 ft. and above 2000 ft. It is 
also to be found in the WW rans:es of South 



THE KASTURA 191 

Assam, Manipur and Cachar — in the last 
place it is reported to be a winter visitor. It 
inhabits also the eastern ranges of Burma. 
But to the west of the Irawaddy there is 
a difierent species — Myiophoneus eugenii — 
which resembles the northern bird very 
closely and has the same characteristics. 
The Malabar species — M. horsfieldi — 'in- 
habits Southern India up to Travancore 
but does not cross the straits to Ceylon. 
Its favourite resorts are those spring-fed 
streams that leap in torrents from step to 
step down the steep side of the plateau. 
In summer when the rivers below dry up, 
the bird is forced into the hiorher ransres 
of the Pachmari, the Vindhya or the 
Nilghiris. It is found also in Chota- 
Nagpur and Orissa hills. It differs slight- 
ly in coloration and size from temmincJcii, 
but in habits and disposition, is in no way 
dissimilar. 

In the lonely glens and gorges, or by 
the side of a mountain torrent, the limpid, 
almost human, whistles of the Kastura 



192 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

will deceive a sportsman into the belief that 

he is in the proximity of a fellow-being. 

Miss Fitzgerald says that its 

Field whistle is exceedinojly like that 

Notes , ^ "^ 

of an idle schoolboy wandering 

through the woods, whistling no particular 
tune. Some people assert that its whistle 
is like that of an organ, very rich and 
mellow. These whistles are sent forth with 
such energy, in such a torrent-like un- 
ceasing strain, that it seems as if the bird 
is putting forth its last efforts and is going 
to choke straight away. The song becomes 
most musical and alluring in the spring 
and is often indulged in while on the wing. 
Both the male and the female begin to 
sing a duet early at dawn, when it is still 
dark, from some stream-overhanging rock, 
continuing till day-light appears, when 
they fly off to some torrent-girdled stone 
in search of a breakfast. During the rains 
Darjeeling and all other hill stations are 
kept ringing with its never-failing melody. 



THE KASTURA 



193 



It is found in open rocky spots on the 
skirts of forests as also among the forest- 
depths. But it is partial to Jhoras — i. e., 
the sides of mountain stre- 
ams, torrents and water- 
falls which descend in 
cascades down the hill- 
sides. The explanation to 
this partiality 

. -ifob^ ^^^® ^^ ^^^ carni- 
"^ vorous taste, — 



'am 




snails, 
crabs and tad- 
poles being its fond 

13 



194 PET BIRDS Of BENGAL 

dishes. It seizes a shell between its bills 
and flies to a stone or rock on which, 
as on an anvil, it batters the thing into 
fragments and then picks out the animal 
within piecemeal. The regular *tap, taps' 
of the operation can be heard from a dis- 
tance. The smaller shells instead of beinor 
hammered on stones, are broken open by 
blows from its stout beaks. The piles of 
broken shells often seen on and around 
boulders and stones by the side of hill-streams 
are generally the relics of many a such 
merry feast. It is so enterprising a bird 
that it sometimes departs from the custom 
of its tribe and turns a fisher. The lively 
shrimps become the objects of its special 
attention. Dashing into the shallow water 
at the edgre of a stream or in a rock -bound 
pool, it snaps up an unwilling individual, 
lands with it on a stone and swallows it 
after pecking out its animation. Sitting on 
a torrent-girdled boulder it always picks off 
water insects, when bigger game is not 
handy. Not unusually, the bird may be 



THE KASTURA 195 

noticed skimming above the water in 
pursuit of a particularly swift insect which 
has eluded capture. 

It loves to jump from rock to rock while 
giving out many an extempore vocal perfor- 
mance, and when a good morsel of food has 
been gathered and disposed of, it flies away, 
with an up-jerk of the tail, piping out its 
loud and long-drawn whistle. Its tail- 
action is most peculiar and characteristic. 
Upon alighting on a seat or a perch, or on 
being startled, the tail is jerked up and down 
several times. It is then spread out later- 
ally into a broad fan-form and immediately 
shut up again, just as a lady's fan is quickly 
opened and shut. This action is repeated 
several times. The Kastura is very cautious 
and secretive. At the least sound, it is so 
scared that it dashes, as if for very life, into 
thick cover where, surrounded with thick 
foliage, it is effectively screened out of sight. 
It would not, like the Dama {G. citrina), 
drop down to the ground, pause and quietly 
regard you from a distance in order to be 



196 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

sure of your intentions before moving out of 
the range of your vision. 

It is completely innocent of social 
instincts and never tolerates the presence of 
any of its own tribe in its territory. Each 
Kastura confines itself ^Yithin a certain area, 
perhaps within a radius of two hundred 
yards of a Jhora, Beyond this limit is 
usually the domain of another member of the 
same species. On no account will one trespass 
into the realms of another. These birds 
possess a method, unintelligible to man, of 
determining the de-limitation of their terri- 
torial boundaries. It is only occasionally that 
a bird finds itself within the territories of its 
neighbour. This happens more unconscious- 
ly, and by inadvertence or mistake, than from 
any aggressive spirit of conquest. Not that 
it is afraid of legal proceedings, for instances 
of breach of neutrality are punished more 
swiftly and eflPectively, but it seems to follow 
a natural instinct ; and therefore these 
exclusive birds, living in adjacent territories, 
rarely find themselves at logger-heads over 



THE KASTURA l97 

questions of territorial possession. The 
Kastura's household consists only of its 
mate. A party of four or five is not an 
unusual sight but it is only the year- old 
youngsters receiving field-training under 
parental tuition, to be soon dismissed to 
shift for themselves. Though the Kastura 
stoutly refuses the society of its kindred, it 
seems to be little afraid of the usurpation of 
its territorial rights by other birds. In the 
Jhoras it may be seen feeding amicably with 
the small plumbeous Red-start {Wiyacornis 
fidiginosus) and its bigger congener, the 
dignified White-capped Redstart (Chimar- 
rhornis leiicocephalus). This triumvirate 
seems to live on extremely good terms, not- 
withstandino' the ojreat difference in their size. 
In its wanderinofs the Kastura ranches 
all elevations up to the snowline. In spring 

biological necessity drives it down 
Nests and to the depths of the glens and 
^ggs valleys where invariably by the 

side of a stream or cascade, it 
keeps home for the few months from April 



198 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

to June. In architecture this beautiful bird 
betrays a total want of all aesthetic sense ; 
for it builds a coarse and clumsy structure, 
very big in size, — too large, in fact, consider- 
iiioj its own dimension. The nest is orener- 
ally placed on some rocky snag or projecting 
ledge overhanging a stream or waterfall. 
Nests have also been found on trees. Mr. 
Basil-Edwardes writes to me from Simla 
that it comes back to build its nest in 
the same place every year. The sagacity it 
displays in site-selection and concealment is 
a proof of its natural wariness, for it gener- 
ally fixes upon the most inaccessible places 
to build its nest. If a tree is chosen, it 
sin<yles out the tallest and most towering^ 
one, where in an inaccessible hole, it places 
its cradle. If the crevice or ledge of a rock 
is preferred, the rock is generally steep and 
precipitous so as to eliminate all chances 
of intrusion. When the nest is not placed 
in a sufficiently safe and inaccessible place 
the builder tries to conceal it by choosing 
materials which would harmonise with the 



THE KA3TURA 199 

colour of the site. If an easily accessible 
spot on a sloping mossy bank is selected, 
the nest is so worked into and woven with 
moss as to be absolutely invisible both 
from above and below. But built on a 
rock, in the midst of a roaring torrent, not 
the least attempt at concealment is made ; 
the nest lies open to view, — not even the 
materials are adapted to the surroundings. 
The nest is made of coarse fibre intermixed 
with a little green moss. When the nest 
is so placed that it is entirely concealed 
from view, the externa] coating of green 
moss is discarded, being unnecessary^ Birds, 
it seems, exercise not only ingenuity but 
intelligence also in such activities. The 
interior lining is composed of dry roots, dead 
leaves and all sorts of decaying vegetation. 
The egg-cavity is saucer-shaped and shallow. 
Tlie female Kastura lays two to three eggs, 
and the male has courtesy enough to assist 
her in incubation. The eggs are the largest 
of Indian Thrushes' eggs. They are long 
ovals and possess no gloss. The colour is 



200 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

difficult to describe. The ground is pale- 
greenish or greyish-white, freckled, either 
thinly or thickly, with various shades of 
pinkish-brown specks. Most eggs have a 
cloudy purplish-pink zone or cap at the 
large ends. 

This Kastura is not easily available in 
Calcutta. It is a big bird and best housed 
in an aviary, but never with 
Cage-life smaller birds. For it is a flesh- 
eater, and though in its wild 
life it does not generally prey upon small 
birds, it develops in the aviary ( it is 
invariably so if the bird is hand-reared 
from a nestling) quite a murderous propensity 
against them. In the absence of an aviary a 
big cage is always preferable. 

The best food for it would be insects, 
shrimps and crabs. Snails and cockroaches 
are regarded by it as dainties. The ordi- 
nary Satoo mixture, too, is not disregarded. 
Occasional fruit-rations are highly appre- 
ciated. It enjoys a dip in water immensely 
and a bath in the aviary will help to brace 



THE KASTURA 201 

it up. It accepts a life of captivity quite 
philosophically and never deplores the loss 
of liberty by ineffectual moping and sul- 
king. It is quite bold and free in its move- 
ments and its graceful Thrush-like pose in 
addition to its beautifully coloured body 
lends a charm to the aviary to which it 
belonors. It is also a o-ood mirnic and 
mocks other birds to perfection. "The 
young birds", says Miss Fitzgerald, "are 
very difficult to rear, being very delicate 
and require to be fed on worms, land -crabs 
and tadpoles. The only person I have ever 
known who has reared them is a coffee- 
planter in the Nilgiris. He taught them 
to Y^histle tunes beautifully with the help 
of a flageolet ; among other tunes he taught 
them 'Merrily danced the Quaker's wife* 
and 'Ehren on the Rine' which they 
whistled very well." 

A great feature of the Kastura is its 
tameness in captivity. I give here a brief 
account as recorded by Astley in the 
Avicultural Masrazine. He writes: — 



202 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

''Through Mr, Phillips' courtesy I be- 
came the possessor, last September (1902) 
of two Blue Whistling Thrushes (Temmi- 
nck's) which at that time, and indeed it 
may still be the case, were, I believe, the 
only specimens in Europe. 

*'Both birds were in a precarious condi- 
tion. Mr. Phillips wrote to me that the 
bird he considered the male was less shy 
than the other (whose sex he was doubtful 
about), which was terribly timid and suffered 
from fits. Both the birds underwent rapid 
recovery to robust health. The bird which 
was evidently a male had a half-inch of 
broken stump instead of tail. I removed 
these stumps. 

''On the following day, he very much 
enjoyed a bath in the sunshine. I had 
named him Tommy. Two days after they 
arrived, I let Tommy come out of his cage 
in the dining room. He hopped about the 
floor as if he had been there all his life. 
A small piece of cheese was thrown to 
him, which he at once swallowed. After 



THK KASTURA 203 

lunch bis protector (on the journey) sat 
down on a sofa and placed a piece of 
cheese on his knee. Tommy, from the floor, 
stretched himself up on tip-toe, peered 
about, and without more to-do hopped on 
to the sofa by his side and thence on to his 
arm where he very quickly seized the piece 
of cheese. After a fortnight I hardly 
dared let him out, because he had become 
so arrogant and autocratic that he flew at 
me like a furious game-cock, settling on my 
hand and pecking till he drew blood. In 
three days' time after arrival he began to 
sing sotto voce ; to record, as they say, 
and a very pretty warble it was, some- 
times like a Black-bird's, but intermingled 
with curious bubbling and guttural notes 
which remind me of the manner in which 
a Blue Rock-Thrush sings. By the 10th 
November his new tail was full-grown, 
and his whole plumage, from daily baths, 
wholesome food and fresh air by day and 
nio^ht, in beautiful condition. 

"A more charming pet I have never 



204 PET BIRDS OF BENGA.L 

possessed, for it combines great beauty, 
audacious tameness and a char minor sons:. 

"I feed these two on Abraham's egg- 
bread, ants' cocoons and silkworm cocoons 
( chrysaHdes or pupse ). In Italy the last 
is sold pounded up and dry, and is given 
with a mixture of*^^ orrounded maize. The 
birds are very fond of fruits. They are 
birds that love their baths very much and 
fine splashing they make in a fair-sized 
pie-dish." 

The Kastura retains a constant plumage 
throughout the year. The sexes, being 

alike, are not distinguishable. The 
Coloration whole plumage is rich deep-blue, 

each feather being tipped with 
glistening blue. The lesser wing-coverts are 
black, while the median ones are tipped 
with white. Lores and base of forehead 
are black ; forehead higher up bright cobalt- 
blue. The wings and tail, which in the 
shade appear to be almost black, flash out 
into superb and brilliant deep blue in the 
sun-light. The general appearance is black 



THE KASTURA 205 

with azure reflections. The feathers on 
the back and chest, being glazed along the 
centre, produce a metallic lustre. The bill 
is stout and considerably hooked at the 
tip. It is yellow in colour, but the culmen 
and the base of the upper mandible are 
black. Iris brown, the legs and feet are 
remarkably strong and are coloured black. 
The young bird is dull blue above and dull 
black beneath without the glazed tip to 
the feathers. It is a fair-sized bird being 
as laro'e as thirteen inches and a half. 

THE KASTURI— The Grey-winged Ouzel 
(Merula boulbouT) counts many an English 
resident of this country among its admirers, 
some of whom regard it as the finest songs- 
ter in the Himalayas. It is a very great 
cage-favourite among the people 
winged ^^ ^^^ Himalayan districts, who 

Quzel or r^^Q so fond of their pets that they 

Black-bird ^ ^^ ^ ^ 

are rarely persuaded to part 

with them even for highly tempting offers. 

In Ben oral it is sold as. the Kastura and 



206 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

is a high-priced bird as very few are 
available for purchase. 

This sable bird has no mournful associa- 
tions about it. Its black colour, relieved 
by grey on the wings, possesses gloss en- 
ough to make it handsome and give its 
attire a dainty finish. Its vocal attainments, 
if not superbly enchanting, are yet of a 
high order. Possessing -a sweet and power- 
ful voice, it is always trying its vocal strength 
against the music of the rills, brooks and 
cascades. In fact, there is a very close 
connexion between its song and the melody 
of running water, which seems to give the 
bird an impetus to sing. 

The Kasturi is a resident bird of the 
Himalayas, its range varying according to 

season up to the snowline. It 
tion" "' occurs wherever the Whistling 

Thrush is to be met with. Its 
ranofe also extends throug^h the Bhutan 
Doarsinto Assam and Manipur. In Southern 
India it is represented by Menda simillima, 
which is a bird of the Nilsjliiri Hills and 



THE KASTURi. 207 

M, hourdillotii, which is confined to Tra- 
vancore. 

Almost with the first streaks of day- 
light, the Kasturi breaks into song and 

makes the hill-sides ring with its 
Notes melodious whistles. Its song 

consists of a very clear loud 
whistle, running down the scale of four 
notes with a sudden break. The variety 
and mellowness of its notes are remarkable. 
Sometimes it discards its own beautiful 
whistle and takes to imitating: the notes of 
other birds. It possesses a perfect power 
of mimicry. 

It does not like open rocky spots like 
the Kastura (Jf. temmincki). It seems to 
prefer tree-forests on the hill-sides and pass- 
es its existence among the lower branches 
and in thick under-growths, searching for 
insects and berries. It repairs to the higher 
branches for relaxation and for indulging in 
its song. It has a very vigilant way of look- 
ing for prey. It suddenly makes a short 



208 



PET B1RD3 OF BENGAL 




run and pauses, with head 
on one side, intently watch- 
ing, and then snaps up the 
insect. This habit some- 
what resembles the Dama s 
method of catching insects, 
as I have already described. 
The Kasturi's attitude is, 
however, always alert and 
attentive, and not* lack-a- 
daisical like that bird. It 
is as secretive and shy as 
the Whistlino; Thrush. In 



THE KASTURA 209 

its hunt for insects it always pauses between 
runs and hops, erect and watchful, fanning 
out the tail with an up-jerk and appears to 
be intently listening. The slightest rustle 
would give it a scare and it would fly quick- 
ly through thick bush- jungles stopping far 
away from the spot where it was frightened. 

In Sikkim and in the district around 
Darjeeling it is usually met with near soli- 
tary Lepcha homesteads where it seems to 
be semi-domesticated, but retains its shyness 
and fear of man. What it seems to fear in 
him is not his sight but his proximity. 

Though it does not pass its days in and 
around the Jhoras like the Kastura, it 
keeps to woody places not far from a Jhora, 
For it is very fond of bathing and daily 
repairs for this purpose to a stream or 
cascade with marked regularity as soon as 
the sun becomes fairly hot. 

Like the Whistling Thrush, again, it is 
not fond of company. It is generally seen 
singly except in May and June whan it 
keeps in pairs. During the nesting season 

14 



210 



PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 



its temper becomes high- 
strung on account of 
its anxiety for the 
safety of its children. 
Like the EngHshman it 
believes its home to be 



^^■'- x'^-iS 




its castle ; if any bird, whose pre- 
sence is not welcome, pays an 



THE KASTURA 211 

unwanted call, it is forthwith taught to res- 
pect the alphabet of etiquette. This is 
what an observer writes, *' I was watching a 
male bird singing while his mate sat on the 
nest close by, when an inquisitive Black - 
throated Jay {Garrulus lanceolatus) invaded 
the precincts of the nest. Wifch an angry 
^churr' the male bird hurled the Jay into 
the Viburnum faetens scrub below and, to 
judge from the sounds that issued therefrom, 
*boulbou? was having all the fun. Presently 
the combatants separated and the Jay re- 
appeared flying unsteadily down the khud 
and minus some of his pteryllic adornment, 
while gallant Ouzel returned to his perch 

and resumed his song At 

Dunga Gali I saw a Himalayan 
Whistling Thrush attacked in much the 
same way for unwittingly venturing into 
the vicinity of a nest of the present 
species." 

The South Indian Black-bird is not 
as exclusive as its northern cousin. In 
winter it meets in flocks. The Ceylon 



212 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Black-bird {31. klmiisi) occurs in larger 
parties for we find it described as " collect- 
ing in considerable flocks in the loftiest 
trees, and while some greedily pluck the 
berries from the top-branches, others 
remain in the underwood beneath and reap 
a harvest on those that fall," This habit 
of flocking is probably due to the 
abundance of favourite food in a particular 
locality rather than the presence of any 
social instinct. 

The Grey- winged Black-bird nests from 
April to August, throughout the forest-clad 
ranges of the Himalayas, at elevations 
ranmno: between 5000 and 8000 feet. In 
Kashmir it is known to breed almost on 
snowline. On a foundation of 
Eafs^ ^^ tlead leaves or fern it sets up a 



•&&'■ 



skeleton nest by twisting to- 
gether a few coarse grass-roots thickly 
plastered with mud. The outside wall is 
then covered up thickly with a mass of 
dry slender ferns and grass or other roots. 
Over this, as a sort of paint, is used 



THE KASTURA 



213 



some soft green moss which becomes a 

most effective camouflage, making 

I the whole structure quite invisible. 

j\ The interior of the nursery is first 

J cushioned with dry coarse grass 

and then draped with fine grass. 

The nest is placed in forks at the 

junction of four or five smaller 

branches which serve 

to ensure its privacy. §Mi 




Not infrequently the 
Kasturi places its nest 



214 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

at a height of twenty or thirty feet from 
the ground on the stump of a tree, from 
which the top has been cut. The new- 
shoots springing up from below the stump 
serve as cover. Other sites known to be 
selected by it are the roots of a tree or 
the ledge of a rock. 

The number of a clutch of eggs seems to 
be four. The ground-colour is a pale dirty 
green, so thickly streaked and blotched 
with dull brownish red that sometimes the 
ground colour becomes invisible. The blot- 
chings form a cap at the large end. 

The Kasturi is a very attractive cage-bird. 
It has a striking appearance, a beautiful 

voice, bold demeanour and grace- 
Cage-life ful movements and an admirable 

power of adaptability. It developes 
into a very tame pet and has been known 
to live as long as nine years in the cage. 
In India it is kept in a large dome-shaped 
wicker-cage, always covered up with a piece 
of cloth. In spite of this covering it sings 
splendidly. The food that is given to it 



THE KA3TURA 215 

is entirely satoo and a few maggots, and it 
seems to thrive quite well on that diet. 
It has a vulgar way of feeding, — it never eats 
from the pot but scatters the food all over 
the cage and then begins to eat leisurely. 
It would make the cage most inconceivably 
dirty as soon as the food is placed in. Besides 
satoo, it may be given chhena (soaked gram), 
bread-crumbs and, occasionally, scraps of 
banana and shreds of meat or a few earth- 
worms. This bird, too, is very fond of 
bathing for which provision must be made. 
How fond it is of a bath may be gathered 
from Butler's account of his specimen which 
used to bathe even in mid-winter. 

It is a very early riser and begins its 
song with the first glimmerings of day-light. 
At noon it becomes comparatively silent. 
My bird used to arouse me from sleep with 
its trilling notes every morning as soon as 
the eastern sky -became splashed with Ver- 
million and pink. The sound of falling 
water seems to me to be in some way con- 
nected with this bird's impetus to sing. 



216 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Durinor the monsoon the bird used to sinsf 
lustily whenever there was a heavy down- 
pour. Not only this ; the corridors on my 
first floor were occasionally washed with 
water and, I used to notice that, as the 
water was swept down and fell patter- 
ing on the court -yard, the bird used to break 
into song. Its native pugnacity lingers 
even in captivity and developes into strange 
conduct. Major Magrath writes of his bird, 
— ^' A tame one I have possessed for some 
years, used when allowed out of his cage, 
to "go for" the bare toes of the native 
servants and on one occasion he fairly put 
a man to flight. Curiously enough, a pair 
of boots or shoes invariably excited his ire 
and it was most amusing to see him worry- 
ing the laces, the only part where he 
could get a good grip of. He is always 
ready to ''square up" to one's finger if 
introduced between the cage-bars and, as 
he daily devours almost his own weight in 
earthworms, he keeps in beautiful feather 
and fiofhtinof trim." 



THE KASTURA 217 

Dr. A. G. Butler once raised hybrids by 
crossing a male Grey-winged Ouzel with a 
female English Blackbird. The birds pair- 
ed up very soon after their introduction. 
The Ouzel took the initiative in building 
the nest and induced the hen Blackbird to 
join in. The nest was built high up in a 
well-sheltered corner, the structure being 
composed of hay and twigs with a mixture 
of mud and dead leaves and an inner lining 
of finer hay. Three eggs were laid and 
hatched, and the young were fed with the 
yolk of egg selected by the cock. Later 
they were given worms and cockroaches. 
Two of the young died, the third grew up 
and proved to be a hen. Next year the 
same pair raised again a brood of three 
which were completely reared. Two of these 
were males and the other a female. The 
males were black but much browner than 
either of the parents, specially on the lower 
body and the grey wing-patch of the male 
parent was replaced by red-brown. The 
first year's female was almost of uniform 



218 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

olive-brown colour, the second year's hen 
was almost like a typical hen Grey-winged 
Ouzel. The voice of the young hybrids 
was harsher than that of the male parent. 

The male Grey- winged Ouzel puts on 
a livery of deep glossy black on the upper 
body except the tips of wing-coverts which 
form a silvery ashy-grey wing- 
Colorotion patch. The lower plumage, breast 
downwards, is dull black — each 
feather narrowly margined with white. 

The female is brownish ashy, the wing- 
patch being buff instead of grey. 

The bill of the male is coral-red with a 
black tip; that of the female, orange with 
horny tip ; the legs of the male are brownish 
in front, yellow behind; of the hen, bright 
sienna ; iris brown in the male and hazel- 
red in the female. The Kasturi is quite a 
big bird, being almost one foot in length. 

Yet another Thrush with a very good 
voice is what systematists call 
Ou^ef ^ Jf^r'Z^Za unicolor or Tickell's Ouz- 
el. This bird has had to change 
its technical name many times and, we fear, 



THE KASTURA 219 

in the next edition of Avi- fauna under pre- 
paration, it will assume a new alias making, 
we hope not, the confusion worse confound- 
ed. Jerdon classed it under the genus Geo- 
cicJila and called it the Dusky Ground- 
Thrush. It is not as chubby as the Dama 
but is slim-built and in its movements and 
habits, approaches Blackbirds. It has a 
fine sweet song much resembling the Black- 
bird's, but the notes are short, few and with- 
out any variety. In winter ifc is found 
throughout the whole range of the Himala- 
yas from Kashmir to Sikkim up to an alti- 
tude of 7000 ft. It is the Song-Thrush of 
Kashmir, where its voice is heard in every 
garden and grove. It does not stray very 
far from human dwellings but lingers around 
villages. It never penetrates into deep 
forests but keeps generally to the outskirts 
of woods. It seems to prefer places with 
big trees growing over bushy under-growths. 
For it seeks its food on the g-round under 
cover of bushes where it runs and hops about 
with extreme quickness. Like the Dama 



220 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

it has the habit of dig^o^ino^ into the earth 
for worms and therefore it likes feedins: on 
damp spots. When inchned to sing, it flies 
up to the topmost branches of big trees. In 
the mating season its Hquid notes gush out 
at regular intervals every morning and 
eveninor. 

This Ouzel is not rare in Lower Bengal. 
In early autumn it migrates from the hills 
to the plains and spreads over the whole of 
the Indian Peninsula except the southern 
parts of Deccan. 

It breeds in May and June, laying three 
or four eggs in a cup of green moss and 
roots, lined with finer roots, placed against 
the trunk of the tree at a place from which 
two or three twigs spring, serving to conceal 
the nest. The eggs are greenish or greyish 
white, more or less thickly streaked or ir- 
regularly blotched with dull reddish brown. 

The bird is not a very common cage- 
favourite. But it is not altog^ether unkown 
in the bird-market of Calcutta. It is as 
hardy as its grey-winged cousin and thrives 



THE KASTURA 221 

well on the same dietary. My pair pass 
much of their time on the ground under 
the living shrubs in my aviary. When 
loitering about in the open they quickly 
fly under cover, whenever anyone approaches 
the aviary. 

The colour of the bird is ashy-grey 
throughout the whole upper body. Its 
lower plumage is slaty grey, paler on the 
chin and tending to become white on the 
abdomen and vent. The female differs in 
having an olive tinge on the upper body, 
and a white chin and throat with their 
sides streaked with black. It has yellow 
bill and leo;s and is nine inches in leno^th. 



THE BHIMRAJ 

(BISSEMURUS PARADISEUS) 

It is stranore that some of the forest 
birds, properly so-called, living far away 
from the haunts of man, are our dearest 
and most loving pets. The Shama is one 
of this class, the Bhimraj or the Racket- 
tailed Drongo is another. The perfect 
sang:froid with which both these birds 
accept the fellowship of man is remarkable. 
Both seem to regard the love and confidence 
of their keeper as sufficient compensation for 
their loss of liberty, and both become most 
intimate with their master. To win the 
confidence of naturally shy birds, no 
little tact is required. Great credit is 
therefore due to the Indian bird-fancier 
who accomplishes this feat. He is un- 
acquainted with the modern process 
of bird-keeping, yet he seldom fails 
in his attempts to bring up the most 
delicate birds, the rearing of which baff- 



THE BHIMRAJ 223 

les the skill of even an up-to-date avi- 
culturist. His lack of scientific knowledge 
is counter-balanced by a loving heart, 
patient care, and the wisdom ; of following 
the traditional methods instead of hazard- 
ing innovations. He, at times, works 
wonders by his primitive methods. His 
protege is often as tame as a cat or a dog. 

The Bhimraj is quick in reciprocating 
the caresses bestowed on it by its mas- 
ter. Under the latter's guidance, it grows 
to be a most alluring pet. Nature has 
endowed it with a boldness of spirit, a 
sense of aggressive self-defence, a charming 
song and an unlimited power of mimicry, — 
traits which become prominent even in 
captivity. The peculiarities of its body 
are found at the head and the tail. The 
head is ornamented with a raised and some- 
what incurved crest, while the posterior 
appendage has two of its feathers unusually 
exaggerated to a length of over a feet 
and a half, the shaft being bare for a 
few inches and ending in a racket-shaped 



224 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

expansion. Its dense black colour with 
dark steel-blue sheen makes it a very 
handsome bird. 

A bird of many qualities, can scarce- 
ly fail to attract notice. The Bhimra-j's 
fame has crossed the seas, and foreign 
writers have spoken of it in superlative 
terms. 

To the scientist, the Bhiniraj is known 
as Dissemurus paradiseus. On the main- 
land of India, two types of the Bhimraj 
are seen, — the continental and the peninsu- 
lar, the latter having the crest and tail 
shorter. Scientists had a controversy over 
its division into more species than one. 
But Oates, in the Fmma of British India^ 
rather arbitrarily included both the types 
into one single species under the genus 
Dissemurus. Mr. Stuart-Baker, who is at 
present editing the second edition of the 
Avifauna of British India, in his Haiid- 
list of liidiaii Birds, published recently 
in the Journal of the Bombay Natural 
History Society, has split up the genus 



THE BHIMRAJ 225 

into seven species. Under the trinomial 
system of nomenclature adopted by him, 
the bird known as Bhimraj in Bengal 
has received the appellation Dissemurus 
paradiseus grandis. 

Its range may roughly be said to 
extend over all the forest-regions of In- 
dia, Burma, and Ceylon. All 
Distribu- ^j^g birds have a crest, and two 

tion 

racket-like tail-feathers, but both 
are shorter in the South-Indian and 
Tenasserim specimens. 

The Bhimraj is found in lower Bengal 
and the Sunderbans, in Central India, 
Orissa, Chota Nagpur, and Assam. From 
Khandesh all along the Western Ghats 
up to Travancore it is numerous, but the 
birds of the Deccan are smaller than 
those of Northern India. Along the Eastern 
sides of the Peninsula, however, the Bhimraj 
is comparatively rare. Ceylon is inhabited 
by the Peninsular form of the bird. From 
India its range extends eastwards to 
Burma, and through Tenasserim to Siam 

15 



226 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

and Malaya, but here again, the continental 
type is replaced by the Peninsular. 

Thick and luxuriant forests or jungles, 
jungle-clad river-sides or low hills which are 

full of tall trees are the favourite 
Notes resorts of this bird. In certain 

localities, for example in Burma, 
it does not absolutely avoid the neighbour- 
hood of man, straying sometimes into 
the outskirts of villages on the borders 
of a jungle. In the outlying groves of 
the villages or in the trees bordering an 
unfrequented tank, it may be seen chas- 
ing an unfortunate Woodpecker which had 
the audacity to trespass into its domain. 
The Bhimraj has a special dislike for the 
Woodpeckers. It is not an unusual sight 
to see these short-tailed, many-coloured 
birds dashing, as if for very life, with a 
long-tailed swarthy Bhimraj in hot pur- 
suit. Even the hen Drongo is a perfect 
amazon and heartily joins in the chase. 
This Drongo is a highway-man of the 
bird-world and a veritable swash-buckler. 



THE BHIMRAJ 227 

It seldom allows its neighbours a peace- 
ful life. As soon as it notices a smaller 
bird from its lofty perch, it charges down 
to secure perhaps the insect which the 
latter has in its beak. Robbery is not 
always the purpose in its pursuit of other 
birds. It often would give chase in sheer 
mischief, only to enjoy the discomfiture of 
the frio^htened birds. For it has been 
noticed that though the Bhimraj sweeps 
down on other birds, it does not always 
follow them upwards. Its boldness increases 
during the nesting season when, with 
its mate, it attacks and drives off, from 
the neighbourhood of its nest, preying 
birds like Harriers or Eagles. Its anxie- 
ty for its brood would even lead it to 
attack quadrupeds. Major Bingham, when 
out for an excursion in a jungle in Burma, 
passed close to a tree in which a pair of 
Racket-tailed Drono:oes were nesting:. 
Says he, ''I was wading across the mouth 
of the Theedoquee, when my attention 
was attracted by seeing a pair of above 



228 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

birds dart from a small tree and sweep 
down at my dog, not actually striking 
him, but nearly doing so." 

Its predatory nature, however, does 
not make it an unsociable bird with its 
own kith and kin. The Drongoes as a 
class are not over-fond of company. It is 
otherwise with the Bhimraj. Generally, 
it goes about in pairs. But it is not 
unusual to see parties of four or more 
together. These birds seem to care little 
about territorial possessions and never 
restrict their movements to any limited 
area. Flying from tree to tree in search 
of food, they cover daily a wide range 
of ground. Ocassionally, one sweeps down 
and picks up an insect on the wing 
swallowing it as it mounts up again. 
Sometimes the prey is carried to a 
a branch to be eaten. It seldom alights on 
the ground for its prey. It is an ex- 
cellent catch and is very clever at 
taking flies on the move. Frequently, 
it feeds like the common king-crows 



THE BHIMRAJ 



229 




from a fixed position on a branch whence 
it whips up insects or makes swoops 
at those flying past. Its flight is usually 
undulating, when proceeding any distance, 
but when making short sallies after 
insects, they shoot up rocket-like. At such 
times, one cannot help admiring the ease 

tail which does 
not seem to obstruct 
its movements in the 
least. A writer remarks, 
'*No high-born dame 
ever carried her court- 



with which it uses its lonof 




230 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

train with greater grace". The food of 
the Bhimraj consists of large bees and 
wasps, locusts and dragon-flies. Lizards 
and rats also occasionally form its menu. 
It is always restless, flying from branch 
to branch, jerking up the tail and mak- 
ing frequent plunges for insects from its 
elevated position. Between these move- 
ments, it is repeatedly calling to its 
mate who is ensrao^ed in similar activities 
ill a tree close by. 

Its notes deserve mention, though it 
is difficult to hit off an exact description 
in a few words ; for it can produce an 
immense variety of sounds from lass to 
soprano, some of which are beautifully 
clear and melodious. Oates gives it the 
premier place among the song-birds of 
India. Its general note is a deep sonorous 
cry like tse-rimgi tse-rung, tse-rimg. Jer- 
don describes it as ^'consisting of two parts, 
the first, a sort of harsh chuckle ending 
in a peculiar metallic sound, something 
like the creaking of a heavy wheel." It 



THE BHIMRAJ 231 

indulges in these metallic calls early in 

the mornings and evenings. A favourite 

pastime with the Bhimraj is mocking all 

sorts of birds around it. It has been 

heard to imitate perfectly such different 

birds as the Malabar Black Woodpecker, 

Malabar Grey Hornbill, Cuculus mic- 

roi^terus and Eudynamis honor ata. 

This stalwart bird breeds and rears 

up its young between the months of April 

and June. It always selects 
Nests and i • x o ,- ^ ,t 

Eo^as ^^ nestmg, and the 

nest is built at inaccessible 
places. The extreme tip of a branch, 
on the top of a tree about 20 to 25 
feet from the ground, is the place 
generally chosen. Here in a fork, the 
cup- shaped nest is clumsily built up of 
twigs and creepers, with an inner lining 
of dry grass. The nest hangs like a cradle 
below the fork to which it is strongly 
attached. Three is the usual number of 
a clutch of eggs, which are long ovals, 
pointed towards the small end and without 



232 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

any gloss. These eggs are seldom uni- 
form in colour, varying from white to a 
rich pink and spangled with markings of 
red, purple, reddish brown or inky grey. 
These marks are in some cases large blot- 
ches, while in others mere specks sprinkled 
over the surftice thickly in some, thinly 
in others, but as a rule, the largest blotch- 
es are about the large end. 

A large cage, at least three feet square, 
is the most suitable dwelling for the 
Bhimraj. In an aviary, it would 
Cage-life no doubt thrive splendidly, but 
if it be a mixed one, this ruffian 
would make the place hot for the less 
sturdy inmates. With pigeons and chukor 
partridges, it will readily form an entente 
cordiale ; but if other species of Drongoes 
or smaller birds like Magpie-robins be 
there, bloody strife is sure to occur. There- 
fore, this Knight-Templar should be 
housed with such birds as can hold their 
own against it. 

Though its behaviour towards its kin- 



THE BHIMRAJ 233 

clred is typically honnish, it is a marvel 
of good conduct with its keeper. With 
him, the bird is perfectly sociable and 
its knowing and intelligent ways afford 
him a efreat deal of amusement. It loves 
to be noticed and fondled and is never 
so happy as when carried about on the 
finger and petted. Under the fostering 
and almost paternal care of its keeper, 
its naturally robust disposition gets full 
play to develop all its good points. A 
life of captivity does not at all dull its 
talents. Its power of mimicry not in- 
frequently enables it to indulge in fun at 
the expense of other birds. A Bhimraj 
was known to frighten a Shama by mew- 
ing like a cat. As a ventriloquist, it gives 
the palm to no Indian bird. It can 
render with perfect fidelity, and perhaps 
with added charm, not only the songs 
of other birds within hearing, but various 
other sounds. It can yelp like a puppy, 
mew like a cat, bleat like a lamb, and 
imitate the voices of poultry. 



234 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

The Indian bird-keeper does not find 
much dij6B.culty in steadying the Bhim- 
raj. The ordinary satoo mixture with a 
constant supply of insects, maggots, and a 
few cockroaches keeps it fit. In the 
Calcutta Zoo Gardens, it was noticed to 
hawk upon rats and lizards straying into 
its aviary. It will never come down to the 
ground for picking up its food. So its 
food-cups must be tied high up near 
itvS^ perch. Occasionally, but sparingly, 
very finely minced meat may be given. 
Too much of this food may bring on 
indigestion. It is not a frugivorous bird, 
though it has been, in captivity, noticed 
to take fruit. It loves bathing and 
should be provided with a fresh-water 
bath. It does not ail much in our cli- 
mate except for bad moult. The only 
treatment for this seems to be good food 
and cleanliness. 

In England, successful attempts have 
been made to acclimatize the bird. 
There it requires a good deal of careful 



THE BHIMRAJ 235 

treatment. It cannot stand cold at all, 
and so, except in summer, artificial heat is 
necessary to keep it warm. Reginald 
Phillips prescribed for it the follow- 
ing diet — ^'cockroaches, earwigs, chafers, 
wood-lice, flies, beetles, grasshoppers, 
grubs, almost any living creature. Naked 
nestling canaries and sparrows would 
form a valuable change, also baby mice 
cut up would help. Mealworms are 
indigestible. A grape or two may be 
placed within the reach of the bird as 
medicine." 

The Bhimraj is the finest and the 
most sightly bird of the Drongo family. Its 

whole body including the bill, 
Coloration feet, and claws, is clothed in 

sable, but the colour is not the 
funeral black of II penseroso. Except 
the throat, lower abdomen and vent, the 
rest of the body is glossed with blue, 
which shows brilliantly in sunshine. 
Its forehead is tufted with feathers of 
varying length, — the bird.^ of Northern 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



India 
havins: 
the tuft 
quite two 
inches loner, 
while those 
of Southern 

India and Burma have one or 
even less than one inch. The 
characteristic feature of the 
bird is the great elongation 
of its outer tail-feathers like 
those of the Bird of Para- 
dise. The inner webs of 
these two tail-feathers gradual- 
ly thin off and the shaft 
is bare for some length. The 
terminal portion is webbed and 



twisted 



THE BHIMRAJ 237 

upwards. The web on the inner side of 
the shaft is very narrow. The bill is 
large, strong, and compressed towards 
the tip. The culmen is well-curved, 
hooked, and distinctly notched. Iris is 
red in the adult and brown in the young. 
The crest of the young birds just after 
leaving the nest (in July) is not long 
enough to curve backwards, the long 
tail-shafts are not denuded in the middle 
as in adult birds, and the wings have a 
green tinge. 

From tip to tip, the Northern bird 
is about 26 inches in length. This dimen- 
sion is due to the long tail-shafts which 
alone sometimes extend up to twenty inch- 
es. The middle tail-feathers are not more 
than five or six inches, and the body 
proper does not exceed a foot. 

In Yol. XIII of the Journal of the 
Bombay Natural History Society, Finn 
records a case of albinism in the pre- 
sent species. In the specimen, the upper 
and lower wing-coverts except the primary 



238 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

coverts, inner scapulars, axillaries. upper 
tail-coverts and the lower plumage from 
breast downwards were white, edged 
with black ; the rump and the under 
tail-coverts were entirely white. There 
were also some w^hite streaks on the 
lower breast and a shading of white 
on the inner webs of the tail-feathers 
and innermost secondaries, and on the 
outer webs of the outer secondaries. 
The bird was obtained from a bird-dealer 
of Calcutta. Finn was not inclined to 
accept it as an aberration. He writes, 
**Takino^ into consideration the extreme 
rarity of symmetrical albinism (except in 
the case of albinoid or pallid varieties) 
and the fact that the appearance of 
this specimen is not suggestive of ordi- 
nary albinism, but rather of specific differ- 
ence, I venture to characterize it as 
new, and name it Dissemurus alcocJcL '* 
Birds with black plumage are not 
infrequently prone to albinism. But a 
symmetrically albino specimen is a case of 



THE BHIMRAJ C39 

extreme rarity. Finn says that he was 
informed of three similar other birds 
having passed through his bird-dealer's 
hands, all of which were procured from 
Sigowli in the Gorakhpur district. I am 
inclined, however, to put little trust in 
the testimony of his bird-dealer, and in 
the absence of sufficient data, I cannot but 
regard Finn's specimen as an aberration. 
The occurrence of a couple or two of 
birds with symmetrically white parts 
(even if we believe the bird-dealer) is 
not sufficient, in my judgement, to war- 
rant the haste, as Finn has shown, for 
species-making. 



THE KHANJAN 

(WTACILLA MAOERASPATENSIS) 

The term Khanjan loosely denotes 
Wagtails, though it has a restricted 
application to a particular Indian species. 
The Khanjan has always been a favourite 
bird with the old Sanskrit authors, who 
never lost an opportunity to portray it 
in their descriptions of natural scenery. 
In describing the eyes of their heroines, 
they always found in this bird a pet 
simile. ''Khanjan-eyed" connoted in their 
phraseology one of the best excellences of 
the human eyes ; but it is a moot point 
whether the sparkling gaiety of the 
eyes suggested their resemblance with 
the restlessness of the bird or whether 
the anatomical likeness between the shape 
of those eyes and the body-contour of 
the bird was the subject of comparison. 
Havino^ a wide distribution, the Waojtails 
are so very familiar to the people of 



THE KHANJAN 241 

this country that the latter feel prejudiced 
against caging them, and whenever any 
such bird is put up in the market, it is 
not unuBual to find a benevolent person 
losing no time in buying it up or, if 
there be more, the whole lot, simply for 
liberating them. Consequently a Wag- 
tail is not a common cage-bird in any 
part of India. The Large Pied Wag- 
tail, however, is sometimes caged, and 
is considered a respectable bird in Behar 
and some parts of the U. P. , where 
it is specially known as ^the Khanjan'. 
This bird is much larger for a Wag- 
tail and closely resembles the Dhayal 
as regards the arransfement of the black 
and the white colours upon its body. It 
has a superbly beautiful canary-like song 
which, if widely known, would earn for 
it a popularity that would probably be 
in an inverse ratio to the undeserved neg- 
lect in which it has hitherto been held. 
In Bengal, few people can make its 
acquaintance even in nature, chiefly on 
16 



242 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

account of its restricted range which, 
if not altogether outside Bengal, merely 
touches the western fringe of its present 
political boundaries. As Wagtails are 
never popular cage-birds, they are seldom 
caught and are hardly available for ex- 
portation. Consequently, the qualities 
of Motacilla maderaspate7ms are a sealed 
book to the European aviculturist, who 
has thus been deprived of the acquaint- 
ance of a really efficient singing bird. 
For, as a chorister, the Khanjan in 
question is as much superior to its 
kindred as the canary to the sparrow. 
Its notes possess a sweetness and cadence 
like those of the Dhayal, though with- 
out the latter's variety. An English 
gentleman says, "A more cheerful and 
engaging little pet it would be difHcult 
to imagine, to say nothing of its singing 
powers which, in my opinion, excelled 
those of a canary." It is such a charming 
bird that it can not fail to recommend 
itself to the most fastidious of avicultur- 



THE KHAN JAN 243 

ists. It has the requisite qualities of the 
cage-birds of a high order, and without 
it, no book on cage-birds would be 
complete. 

In the Fauna of British India, Oates 
recognises Motacilla maderaspatensis as 
a species. But Mr. Stuart Baker regards 
it as a sub-species and calls it Motacilla 
alha maderaspatetisis. According to him, 
this Wagtail belongs to the alha group. 
Mr. Claud B. Ticehurst justly criticises 
this grouping in the Journal of the 
Bombay Natural History Society (Vol. 
xxviii, p.l090) — "Mr. Stuart Baker puts 
this wagtail as a race of alha : with this 
I cannot agree. In many points this 
species differs from the alha group. Firstly, 
this bird is in habits unlike the latter 
in being practically confined to water- 
courses. Secondly, it is resident through- 
out its range, while all the alha are 
migratory. Thirdly, its very superior size. 
Fourthly, total absence of white forehead 
which all alba show in winter. Fifthly, 



244 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

summer and winter plumages are alike 
in this bird. * Sixthly, this bird has no 
spring moult." 

Motacilla maderaspatensis is the 
largest bird of the Wagtail group in 
India. While all the other 
Distnbu- species of Wagtails move out 
of India with the advent of 
summer, this bird has made this country 
its permanent home, adding its merry 
and musical voice to the minstrelsy of 
the Indian countryside. Its range ex- 
tends from Sind and Kashmir in the west 
to Behar and Chota Nagpur in the east, 
and from the lower ranges of the Hima- 
layas in the north to Ceylon in the south. 
Though one is likely to meet with the 
bird everywhere in India, it is more 
locally distributed than many birds with 
as wide a range. In certain places they 
are to be found in large numbers, 
wdiile in others only a few stragglers are 
to be seen. For example, in the town 
of Poona, large numbers of the Large 



THE KHAN JAN 245 

Pied Wao:tail live and breed in and around 
the river Sangam which flows past that 
city, while ten miles out of it, you will 
have to search hard to find a single 
bird. The city of Madras, for some 
reason or other, attracts large numbers 
of these birds, while many other towns 
of the Madras Presidency are not as 
lucky in harbouring these lively crea- 
tures as that city. This bird is very 
common on the shrunken river-beds of 
Chota Nagpur. In the Himalayas, it 
does not range very high up, though 
it has been noticed in Sikkim and Mus- 
sorie. It is rare about Darjeeling. In 
the hills of the Deccan, it has been found 
as far up as 8000 ft. It is scarce in the 
desert-lands of Rajputana, but a few live 
and breed about the lakes of Mount 
Abu. It is plentiful in all the well- 
watered portions and the great river 
systems of Northern India. In Bengal, 
a few stray birds are likely to be met 
with in those portions of the border dis- 



246 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

tricts of Midnapore and Bankura which 
wedge into Chota Nagpur. Finn saw 
only one bird in the vicinity of Calcutta 
but perhaps it was an escaped convict. 
It is plentiful in Orissa. I have heard 
its melodious notes minojlini^ with the 
music of the sea at Puri. 

Legge characterises the Large Pied 

Wagtail as ''essentially a water Wagtail 

— rarely found away from water". 

Field J i-^g^yg never noticed it far 

Notes 

away from water-courses, though 

it may not always remain actually by 

the water's edge. Banks of rivers, sides 

of brooks, ponds, tanks or wells are 

where it may be seen. It is neither 

like those birds which always love to 

be within sight of man, nor is it like 

others which reo^ard human beinscs as 

repugnant creatures and betake themselves 

to solitary glens or dense forests, away 

from 'the maddins^ crowd's imoble strife/ 

It is completely at home by the side 

of a thin, meandering stream, rippling 



THB KHANJAN 



247 




along the boulder-strewn sandy 
bed of a spring-fed river in 
Chota Nagpur — rwhere there is 
not a human habitation within 
miles. It is as much at ease 
on the house-top or a telephone 
wire in the busy area of Myla- 
pore in Madras, where the 
presence of man does not in 
the least affect its composure. 
It is to be seen behind your 
bungalow or in front, in your 



248 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

courtyard or in the garden, emd may also 
be found feeding in a field close by. In 
the month of November, I have seen in 
Madras a few cock Wagtails perched, 
on the parapet of a house, at a 
little distance from a very serious- 
looking hen and pouring out their 
impetuous love-songs with that hypnotic 
ardour which only the longing for posse- 
ssion and spirit of rivalry can give. 
These song-contests reminded me of the 
ancient Indian ceremony of Svaya^mhara. 
At the approach of the marriageable age 
of a particularly accomplished princess, 
for whose hand aspired many eligible 
suitors (among whom it was difncult to 
make a selection), it was usual to allow 
the bride to choose her consort. Invita- 
tions used to be issued to all royal 
houses. On an auspicious day the suitors 
used to gather in the audience-hall 
when the princess came out with her 
attendants, passed through the ranks of 
the expectant guests, stopped before each 



THE KHAN JAN 249 

to hear the heralds recount the srreat 
deeds done by him. She carried a 
garland in her hands for placing it over 
the head of the person of her choice. 
When the selection was over, it was 
sometimes necessary for the successful 
suitor to defend himself against the 
combined attacks cf the disappointed 
aspirants. I cannot say that the Wagtails 
are so methodical in selecting their 
mates, but they are no less artistic. 
Many species of Wagtails flirt out- 
rageously to capture the imagination of 
the hens of their choice. They gener- 
ally puff out their feathers and indulge 
in various acrobatic flights. The Khan- 
jan, however, appears to trust to its vocal 
power as its greatest amatory asset to win 
for it the favour of its mate. In the 
mating season it becomes gregarious to 
some extent, though at other times it 
prefers to live in pairs. In the river 
that runs past Poona, large numbers 
breed in the small rock-islands below the 



250 PET BIRDS OF BENGA^L 

embankment. Some half a dozen males 
regularly run after a hen, trying to 
hypnotise it with their songs. Perhaps 
a cock has found a mate and is happily 
engaged in professing its love in melo- 
dious tunes, when suddenly there arrive 
a few other males who begin their song 
with a loud defiance. The first cock 
ill affords to bear such interference in 
silence, and therefore duels, which are 
never out of date in the bird- world, fre- 
quently occur. The jilted suitors do 
not take their disappointment lyiug 
down, but make every attempt to justify 
the time-w@rn adage, Might is right. 

The writer who described 3Iotacilla 
maderaspatensis as the most lovable 
species among wagtails was not at all 
hyperbolic in his admiration. I have 
seen this bird at Pari, sitting on the 
top of a tiled house and singing most 
crloriouslv, while its mate was enocao-ed 
in epicurean hunts a little ahead on the 
beach. As the hen moved on, the 



THE KHANJAN 251 

male also followed in a parallel 
line, keeping to the house-tops. Occasion- 
ally, the cock flew down to the female 
to share with her a particularly dainty 
eatable. Suddenly, the female left the 
beach and made straight for the city. 
The cock noticed this in the midst of 
its song which came to a sudden stop. 
It turned its head this side and that, 
probably to find out the cause of its 
wife's sudden flight ; and unable to catch 
sight of any disturbing element any- 
where, it looked straight ahead at the 
receding figure of its companion. Then 
uttering a sharp chirrup, which might 
have denoted 'Eccentricity, thy name is 
woman ' — it lefo the place. Its flight 
was most charmins; and o;raceful. Ifc 
scudded along in undulating curves, as if 
progressing on the crests of waves, closing 
the winofs on the downward motion and 
spreading them out while swinging up. 
On the ground, its lio-htnins^ movements, 
as it catches insects most deftly 6n the 



252 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



run, are a charming sight. U 
An easier, and a more grace- 
ful gait is incon- 
ceivable. Sud- 




denly darting forward, it twists and 
turns with wonderful agility in pursuit of an 
insect. It is so quick-sighted that though 
incessantly moving, the slightest stir on 
the ground ten feet ahead, which would 
escape our most searching gaze, would 
draw its attention. Before you could say 
Jack Robinson, the bird has run up to 
the spot, caught the insect, and moved 
away with its tail see-sawing in a most 
self-satisfied manner. 

Its supreme agility is in keeping with 



THE KHANJAN 253 

its indefatigable activity. But it is not 

a fussy bird like the Mynah or the 
Sparrow, and does not dissipate its 
vigour by useless and unnecessary 
restlessness. Nature has not for nothing 
endowed it with a superabundance of 
energy ; it is necessary for its very 
existence. And therefore we never find 
it at rest for any two seconds, and it 
is busy hunting for food from sunrise 
till sunset. And what a feed it has I 
"Live to eat" is perhaps the philosophy of 
life of this bird. The number and variety 
of insects devoured by it in a day is 
appalling. It is keen on catching very 
minute winged insects, large numbers of 
which daily fall victims to the Khanjan's 
appetite. Of the large insects, grass- 
hoppers, mantidae, caterpillars, crickets, 
flies, butterflies and wasps are considered 
edible. It seems to avoid harder insects 
like metallic coloured wasps and beetles, 
nor does it touch bugs or cockroaches. If 
it happens to catch a particularly fris- 



254 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

ky or a big unmanageable creature, it 
never uses its claws to tear the prey 
into pieces, but hammers the object 
with its beak till portions give way. It 
catches many insects in quick succession 
and does not stop to swallow one before 
it baors another. What it does is to 
stow them away in its mouth till a 
dozen or so are caught ; these are 
afterwards leisurely swallowed. When 
feeding its young, it has to bring as 
many insects at a time as possible 
to satisfy the ravenous hunger of its 
youngsters, because the insects cought 
by it are mostly minute. It is this pre- 
ference for minute insects that leads it 
to frequent water-sides which abound 
with them. 

In its own particular feeding area, 
the Khanjan refuses to concede to others 
of its ilk the privilege of even an occasion- 
al visit. It is fully conscious of the 
circumscribed supply of its food. This 
fear of short rations makes the Khanjan 



THE KHANJAN 255 

a cruel parent. It is loving and consider- 
ate as long as its children are helpless 
and unable to hunt on their own account. 
But as soon as the youngsters are able 
to do so, they are mercilessly driven out 
of their paternal territory. 

The Khanjan takes to its domestic 
duties in March and its family cares last 
generally till May and some- 
Nests and times later. It raises several 

JiggS 

broods in a season. In Southern 
India, these birds nest during the North- 
eastern Monsoon, which gives rain to 
the eastern portions of the Deccan Penin- 
sula between the months of November 
and January. 

The Khanjan is not at all fastidious 
about its nesting site. The neighbour- 
hood of water and something solid to 
place its nest on, appear to be the two 
sole reservations for which it cares, and 
if these are available nothing else matters. 
Its nests have been found in holes in 
banks and walls, crevices in rocks, under 



256 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

stones and clods of earth, in the timber 
of bridges, in drains, on roofs, — in fact, 
"anywhere except on trees, shrubs, and 
bushes." "When this bird makes up its 
mind to build in a particular spot, no 
amount of adverse circumstances will 
deter it from carrying out its plans." 

A friend of Leo-gje wrote to him that at 
Futtehgur, a favourite situation was the 
bridge of boats, the nests being placed 
inside a pigeon-hole either at the bow or 
stern of a boat. A pair of large Pied 
Wao'tails nested for several successive 
seasons in an iron ring attached to the 
top of a buoy in the middle of the river 
Jumna at Agra. Another pair built their 
nest in a ferry-boat which daily crossed 
the Chumbal. The female used to sit 
on its eggs most non-chalantly when the 
boat plied across the river. The male 
entertained the passengers the while by 
its song, sitting on the gunwale, occasion- 
ally taking short jerky flights over the 
water. Here is a note on its nesting^ from 



THE KHANJAN 257 

Poona — "Very favourite places are the 
little islands which stud the river (San- 
gam ) below the Bund ; to obtain the 
nests one has to wade out. The nests 
are very massive structures, usually having 
large foundations of all sorts of rubbish, 
on which the nest proper is built." 

The European representative of the 
Pied Wagtail — M. luguhris — has been 
known to utilise the nests of the Swallow, 
Robin, and Blackbird for its own pur- 
poses. Its Indian congener, however, has 
not been known to do any such thing. 
But in Hume's Nests and Eggs of 
Indian Birds (edited by Gates) we find 
a solitary record of a Grey Wagtail — 
31, melanope — using a Finch's nest for 
the foundation of its own building. 

The character and materials of its 
nest are as various as the site chosen for 
it. The nest varies from a mere pad to 
a neat well-formed saucer or shallow cup. 
As for materials, it would pick up any- 
thing that is soft, — fine twigs, grass, roots, 

17 



258 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

wool, feathers, hair of either horse, cow 
or man, string, coir, rags and all sorts 
of vegetable fibres. 

Three or four eggs usually form a 
clutch but five also have been found. In 
size and shape, they are widely different, 
but most of them generally resemble 
Larks' eggs. They vary from a long to 
a rather broad oval, but as a rule, all are 
more or less pointed towards the small 
end. Their ground-colour varies from 
brownish to greenish white, and the marks 
thereon are clouds, smudges, streaks, 
spots and specks. The colour of these 
markings is sometimes earthy brown, 
sometimes dark olive-brown, and some- 
times purplish-brown. In some eggs the 
markings are uniform, while in others they 
are more dense on the large end and 
comparatively sparse elsewhere. 

Gay, bold, elegant, and engaging, the 
Khan j an possesses the requisites of an 
ideal aviary bird. Butler considers that 
Wagtails are far more pleasing when kept 



THE KHAN J AN 259 

in aviaries than in cages. The Indian bird- 
lover never dreams of accommodating his 
pets in aviaries. He thinks that 
Cage-life anything bigger than his tradi- 
tional cage is a superfluity. 
Yet, the wonder is that birds do thrive 
under the conditions provided by him. 
Take the case of the Lars^e Pied Wa'^-tail. 
or the Lark. One naturally thinks that 
the cage is the most undesirable place 
for such restless birds ; they require 
plenty of space for their very existence 
and the Wagtail, in addition, needs water 
to paddle in. But in the small, crampy, 
and covered cages in which these birds 
are kept in India, they sing with all their 
natural vigour and sweetness. However 
successful the ordinary bird-keeper may 
be, I would recommend for the Khanjan 
a large cage in which it can freely run 
about. 

I possessed, at different times, only 
two specimens of the Khanjan, one of 
which came to me in a very bad condition 



260 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

and died shortly after. The other lived 
with me for sometime but as I could not 
keep up a sufficient supply of insects, it 
eventually died. In India, adult birds 
are seldom welcomed, because they are 
far less adaptible than nestlings. But 
wild adult Khanjans, caught by bird-lime, 
are less shy than many other birds ; for 
they begin to sing quite freely a day or 
two after their capture. And they do 
not take long to adapt themselves to 
artificial rations. The Khanjan is in- 
tolerant of the company of its kind 
and of other wagtails. So it is never wise 
to keep more than a pair together. A 
Khanjan, in my aviary even when it was 
a very young bird, showed fight with a 
perfectly healthy and adult White Wag- 
tail {Motacilla alba), 

Butler prescribes biscuits, eggs, ants' 
eggs, and dried flies, and adds that a 
small quantity of ground lentils would 
not be injurious. He understands that 
the Pied and Grey Wagtails successfully 



THE KHANJAN 261 

crossed at the London Zoological Gardens 
and the hybrids proved to be fertile. 
If this be the case, I believe the Larsfe 
Pied Wagtail of India might prove an 
interesting study for the mule-breeder. 

Below I ojive an account of this 
Wagtail in captivity as recorded by an 
European in the Journal of the Bom- 
bay Natural History Society — 

"One day I saw hung up in a cage in 
the Neemuch Bazaar two half-fledged 
specimens of the bird. They were being 
fed on a mixture of ground parched 
gram (satoo) moistened with ghi. I was 
informed that they had been taken from 
their nest only a few days before, and 
fed on nothing else. I passed on thinking 
that of course such a purely insectivorous 
bird would never flourish on this diet. 
However, a fortnight after I found one 
still living, the other having died. The 
owner seeing me interested in it offered 
it to me, so I took it home and had a 
spacious wicker cage made for it. 



262 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

"It became, or rather it always was, 
excessively tame, not to say fearlessly 
contemptuous of man, and would at any 
time take insects from one's fingers, or if 
it found them empty attack them with 
mock ^fierceness, opening its beak, ruffling 
up its feathers and drooping its wings. 
I found that an effectual way of feeding 
it was to sweep with a large net in long 
grass and then place the cage over the 
mouth of it. As the insects gradually 
extricated themselves and struggled up 
to the light they were pounced upon and 
captured by the Wagtail. The quickness 
and accuracy of its movements were 
something wonderful. It was a most in- 
defatigable songster, with loud clear pipe 
and considerable variation of song. On 
being transferred to this barren rock 
(Aden) I found it impossible to procure 
insects in sufficient numbers, so tried 
giving it sand-hoppers, annelids, small 
Crustacea but nothing came amiss to this 
most accommodatinof little bird who ate 



THE KHANJAN 263 

these readily, occasionally varied with 
pluin-pudding, raw meat, and chopped 
egg, though satoo continued to form the 
basis of its meals. I had had it for two 
years, but the climate proved too much 
for it and it died." 

Black and white are the only colours 
that make up this bird's dress, much 
after the fashion of a Dhayal. 
Coloration The sexes have different attires. 
But the male does not put 
on a new dress when it goes courting. 
Motocilla maderaspatensis, unlike other 
Pied Wagtails, has no seasonal change of 
plumage. It has a broad supercilium from 
the nose to the end of the ear-coverts. 
The whole head, neck, upper plumage, 
the lesser and median coverts are black, 
while the greater wing-coverts are entire- 
ly white and the quills black with white 
edges. The middle four pairs of the tail- 
feathers are black with narrow white 
margin, while the other two pairs are 
white. The breast and the lower pluma^ e 



264 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

are white ; the sides of the l3reast and 
upper body are iiifuscated. 

The female differs in only having the 
upper plumage more or less greyish. 

Young birds have an adult pattern of 
plumage, but in the place of black, the 
colour is everywhere greyish brown. The 
supercilium again is not indicated in front 
of the eye, and the white portions are 
fulvous. Some black plumes on the head 
in the first spring herald the assumption 
of adult plumage, but the full livery is 
not assumed till the next autumn moult. 

Legs, feet, and bill are black. The 
bill is long and slender ; feet scaly ; iris 
dark-brown. The male is generally about 
nine inches in length, the female being 
much smaller. 



THE TUTI 

( CARPODACUS ERYTHRINUS ) 

The Finches are a big family of birds. 
Many of them find their way into man's 
home. They are all hardy, little, seed- 
eating birds giving no anxiety to their 
keeper as regards their food. Cheap as 
they are, they are as common cage- 
favourites in this country — specially among 
poor people, — as in England, where, how- 
ever, many of the Finches e. g., the 
Gold- and Bull- Finches possess a good 
voice and are kept for that reason. India 
is visited, no doubt, by many species of 
Gold- and Bull- Finches, but they are 
different from those obtaining in England, 
and make no pretensions as choristers. 
The only individual among our Fringil- 
line guests, that has a claim to our ad- 
miration as a song-bird is the Tuti or 
Hodgson's Rose-Finch known in science 
as Carpodacus erythrinus roseatus. 



266 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

This bird is a general favourite, a bird 
preferred and kept by all people, rich or 
poor. In India there are roughly speak- 
ing two classes of people infected with the 
hobby of caging birds viz., those who form 
the top and the bottom of the social edi- 
fice. The ordinary middle-class man is 
too busy with bread-earning to give any 
thought to the pleasures of aviculture. 
The life of the Indian Plebeian may not 
be an object of envy but yet he is a 
contented person, possessing no disturb- 
in^ ideas about a standard of livino' 
and cherishing no unholy sentiments 
against the better-placed and better-fed 
members of his society. He has his 
small joys of life, one of which is the 
care of birds. If you take a stroll 
through the slums of an Indian city, or 
the coolie lines of an industrial centre, or 
the bazaar of a cantoment station, you 
vvdll never fail to see birds of some kind 
or other hano^ino^ in eagles, covered or 
uncovered, in front of small shops, bar- 



THE TUTI 267 

racks and huts. These birds come 
from bird-catchers and often direct from 
the nests when very young. The ordi- 
nary Indian is a good judge of birds 
and appreciates merit when found. So, 
we find the Tuti — a perfectly lovely bird 
like a 'red, red rose' — to be as popular 
with the artisans and labourinof classes of 
this country as the canary is in England. 
The Tuti is a bird with possibilities. By 
means of artificial selection, more beautiful 
or completely scarlet types may possibly 
be produced, as has been done with the 
finches and canaries in Europe. But in 
India the bird-lover is not a fancier in 
the English sense of the word. He is 
not willing to take the trouble of in- 
ducing his pets to breed under his care. 
He would hardly believe, if told, that 
many birds breed in captivity under 
favourable conditions. The production of 
hybrids and mules is altogether beyond 
his imas^ination. But considerino; how 
adaptible the Tuti is, it is strange that 



268 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

no attempt has been made in Europe 

in this direction with this bird. 

All the species of Indian Rose-Finches, 

except one, are found in the Himalayan 

districts only, and never in the 

Distribu- plains. The one exception is 
tion ' . . 

the Hodgson's Rose-Finch which 

winters in the plains as far south as 
the extreme Southern end of the West- 
ern Ghats. In summer, it moves up to 
the western Himalayas, the Karakoram, 
the Hindukush and Tibet at an ele- 
vation of 10,000 feet for the purpose 
of raising its brood. 

The Tuti arrives in the plains in 
September and large numbers continue 
to pour in up to October. Different par- 
ties follow different routes. The birds 
that breed in the Hindukush regions 
enter India through the Kurram and 
Kabul Valleys and through the Afridi 
territories ; those that summer in Kash- 
mir and Western Tibet come straight 
down to Punjab, where lingering a few 



THE TUT! 269 

days in the various towns and villages 
they probably pass on, either towards 
the United Provinces or to Central 
India and the Deccan. They do not 
seem to prefer the plains of North 
Western India and the neighbouring 
arid districts of Rajputana and Sind. 
The birds that breed in Tibet appear 
to enter India across Nepal and Sik- 
kim, but they do not tarry there long. 
Parties arrive at short intervals and 
after a very brief sojourn in Jalpaiguri 
and Northern Assam, pass on to the 
plains of Bengal below, or to Burma. In 
winter these birds spread over the 
whole of India extending up to the 
Nelliampathy hills, the southern boun- 
dary of the Palaghat Gap, but their 
range does not cover Cochin and Tra- 
vancore. During the autumn migrations, 
the arriving flocks are mostly composed 
of young birds. The exdous begins 
early in March and continues through- 
out April. The birds of the Gangetic 



270 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

plains begin to depart in the latter 
month, and in May the last bird has 
left the plains. Hume and Henderson, 
during their famous expedition, found 
the birds breeding in Kashmir and 
Ladak in the months of June and July. 
And, during their return journey in 
September, they failed to notice a single 
bird in those regions. At this time of 
the year, these bright scarlet birds 
appear for a few days in those nor- 
thern districts of the Punjab, U. P. , 
and Bengal which are immediately to 
the south of the Himalayas. 

The Tuti is a ojregjarious bird, and no 
wonder. It has to cross hundreds of 
miles over unknown countries 
Notes twice every year. Such jour- 

neys are not possible for soli- 
tary birds and Nature therefore has or- 
dained that migratory birds should live 
in flocks. The Tuti is not only small 
in size but is wantino* in couraQ-e which 
one naturally expects in a bird which makes. 



THH TTJTI 271 

every six months, a dash of considerable 
length across the country. The long and 
arduous journeys undertaken by it do 
not imply that it possesses an intrepid 
nature like the Bhimraj or the Kastura. 
The bird is, on the contrary, a bundle 
of nerves. When it is feeding in a field 
on the fringe of a grove or wood, it 
takes alarm at the least sound and the 
whole flock flies helter-skelter into the 
neighbouring shrubs for concealment. The 
screech of some bird or the shadow of 
a large bird flying overhead gives the 
Tutis the blue funk and sends them 
into the shelter of trees. After a minute 
or two when they see that there 
is no real danger, they again noiselessly 
drop down like falling leaves to the 
ground in fours or fives. Their existence 
seems to be one of constant terror. 
They hide themselves more than a dozen 
times in an hour and most times for no 
apparent reason. The much criticised 
'protection' theory will probably explain 



272 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

the cause of this nervousness. The Tuti 
cannot be said to possess a 'protective 
coloration' . Its briUiant crimson colour 
makes it a very conspicuous target for 
any bird or animal that may be inclined 
to investigate its dietetic value. This 
bird in the remote past possibly, led as 
tormented a life as that of a new cele- 
brity who suffers in modern times, un- 
told agony in trying to dodge innumer- 
able autograph-hunters. The primitive 
Tuti's habit of being always ready against 
the attacks of dano-erous creatures was 
probably transmitted to its * progeny in 
whom it appeared in the form of a latent 
nervous feeling in its sub-consciousness. 
The nervousness of these birds was 
accentuated by their experience of constant 
danojers all throuo^h their life. The ins- 
tinct of self-preservation taught them to 
be suspicious of every shadow and sound ; 
and by hereditary transmission suspicious- 
ness has now become part of their 
nature. The defensive armour of some 



THE TtJTI 





birds is the 
colour of their body, 
which by making them 
invisible amidst their 
surroundings protects them 
\-^ from danger. But as the 
Tuti possesses no mantle of 
^/min'Syk invisibility, it is endowed with 
v-^X^ timidity and alertness which 
are positively "protective'* 
characters. 

But the Tuti seems to 
18 



\\ 



274 FET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Garry things with a high hand among 
its own tribe. It is as quarrelsome as the 
house-sparrow, and squabbles are very 
frequent among its kind. That these 
quarrels are not due to amatory reasons 
is certain, because they occur even in 
the non-breeding season. 

This timorous bird frequents groves, 
jungles, and gardens. Davison writes, 
*^I have never seen it feeding except 
when there was a good deal of cover 
close at hand to which it could easily 
retreat when alarmed'*. In Southern In- 
dia, its favourite resorts have been noticed 
to be bamboo jungles, the seeds of which 
are regarded by it as a delicacy. The 
Telegu name of the bird, translated into 
English, means "bamboo sparrow". It 
loves to be in the vicinity of grain-fields, 
where it feeds all through the day on 
rice and other grains and seeds. Flower- 
buds and tender leaves are also included 
in its dietary. During its migrations in 
Spring and Autumn, it has been known 



THE TUTI 275 

to do soQie damage to fruit trees by- 
eating up the buds. In autumn, it eats 
berries, and other fruits. It is, however, 
not a vegetarian all through the year. 
In spring, it takes to eating insects. The 
food of the family Fringillidae as a whole 
consists of both seeds and insects, the 
latter being the main food during the 
nesting season when the young are rear- 
ed on an insect diet. Several English 
Pinches feed their young with insects. 
Field observation on the Tuti in this 
respect does not exist at all. Very likely 
the Tuti also brings up its young on an 
insect diet, for at the altitude where it 
breeds in the Himalayas, grains or seeds 
are not available. The vegetable food 
found there is possibly unsuited for the 
stomach of the young and hence necessity- 
drives the Tuti to be exclusively insecti- 
vorous during a part of the year. 

I have already said that the Indians 
admire its soft and thrilling song but 
there seems to be a difference of opinion 



276 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

about it among English observers. Blyth 
says — "The Tuti has a feeble twittering 
song, but soft and pleasing — being inter- 
mediate to that of the Gold-Finch and 
that of the Redpole-Linnet, the call 
note much resembling that of a canary." 
Seebohm's testimony is as follows: — "The 
song of the Scarlet Rose-Finch is a 
very striking one and not to be confused 
with that of any other bird. It is a 
loud, clear whistle — tu-whit, tu-tii-i. It 
does not require a great stretch of imagi- 
nation to fancy the bird say — 'I am 
pleased to see you', the word *see' 
being strongly accented and slightly pro- 
longed. The song is never varied but is 
sometimes repeated twice in rapid succes- 
sion". But that great aviculturist Dr. 
Butler seems to have been disappointed 
in this bird. One of his remarks aocainst 
the Tuti as a cage-bird is that "there is 
nothing specially beautiful in its song." 
"A specimen'' he adds, "my sister Dr. 
Fanny Butler, brought me irom India 



THE TUTI 277 

never got beyond its rather plaintive, 
though musical call-notes". I am quite 
sure, if Butler had tried more specimens, 
his verdict would have been different. 
That was perhaps the first attempt to 
acclimatise the bird in Enorland and from 
his account it seems his bird never got 
on well, and failed to make an impression 
on him. 

The Tuti is a bird which combines a 
beautiful body-colour with a fine song. 
Vocal and artistic charms in the males 
of many birds have great amatory signifi- 
cance. But some people are of opinion 
that birds that possess the one can dis- 
pense with the other and, therefore, the 
combination of both those qualities in one 
bird is scarce in Nature. It has for long 
passed as an axiom that these two means 
of attraction are not found in a high or 
an equal degree united in any bird. But 
this is a mistake. Leaving aside many 
other birds that possess a very gaudy 
plumage with melodious and soul-enchant- 



278 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

iog song, the birds of the family Fringi- 
llidae alone can give the lie to the 
theory. Many species in this family com- 
bine vocal and artistic charms, proving 
that, to quote Selous, ''there is necessary 
antagonism between the one and the 
other." 

The Tuti nests in remote mountain 
regions far away from civilisation. Its 

nests and eggs have been collect- 
Nests and ^^ throucch the enterprise of 

the Europeans. It fixes up its 
nest either in the fork of a low bush 
among stems of coarse grass in scrub- 
jungles, or amongst climbing plants within 
a foot of the ground. Sufficient informa- 
tion about the architectural design of the 
nest is not available. The few nests 
discovered were neat and rather deep 
cup-shaped structures of grass, lined only 
with finer roots and stems. Sometimes 
a good deal of hair is used as lining. 
It seems that the Tuti regards hair 
as a desirable material for upholstery 



THE TUTI 279 

and uses it i»^henever available. In the 
aviary of Dr. Russ, the Tuti once reared 
a brood. The nest was placed tolerably 
high up in a thick bush against the 
wall, and was formed of flowering heads 
of reeds, soft strips of paper and thread 
with a lining of horse hair. Tho nests 
are so slender as to be semi-transparent 
when held up to light. 

The bird sometimes lays four eggs, 
usually five, and occasionally an addition- 
al egg goes to form the clutch. The eggs 
hatch out in twelve days. They vary 
a good deal in shape from regular to 
broad ovals, but all are a good deal 
pointed towards the small end and there 
is little gloss on them. The ground- 
colour is a pale clear blue — of a deeper 
hue than the colour of the eggs of an 
English Bull-Finch. The markings are 
lew and wholly confined to the broad 
end ; these are either good-sized spots 
and specks or a few hair4ike lines, 
their colour being either chocolate, inky 



280 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

purple, reddish brown, blackish brown, 
or black. 

The bird is brought down to the 
Calcutta bird-market in large numbers and 

finds a ready sale here. It is 
Cage-life also frequently exported to 

Europe. It is a very great 
favourite among all classes of people in 
this country and no one has anything to 
say against it. But Butler writes, "After 
the first moult, all the rose colouring 
disappears and is replaced by yellow ; 
and there is nothing specially beautiful in 
its song/' I have already said much 
about its song. As to the first point I 
must say that Butler's specimens were 
either unhealthy or aged, for in such 
birds, I have noticed the fading away of 
the brilliant tints. He should not have 
laid down a proposition from the study 
of only two birds. If it were true that 
all Rose-Finches lose their brilliant colour 
in captivity and that they have nothing 
specially beautiful in their song, 1 do not 



THE TUTI 281 

think these bu'ds would have been so large- 
ly imported to England. In our country, 
the Tuti retains its brilliant plumage 
for a long time. Roughly speaking, its 
longevity in bondage is four or five 
years, but with care and attention, it 
ma.y live longer. 

The Indian keeps his Tuti much as 
he does a Munia on Kangni {Setaria 
italica ) and various other seeds, such 
as millet and canary seeds. It will eat 
berries and fruits and is fond of nib- 
blin^^ cabbaofe leaves. In its wild state, 
the Tuti has been known to devour 
Joioaree {Andropogon sorghicm) and rice 
and various other grains and seeds. Jer- 
don says, "This gives a clue to the best 
seeds on which to feed the Scarlet Rose- 
Finch in captivity — white millet and paddy 
rice ; to these, canary-seed makes a good 
addition and I should include oats and 
sunflower seeds. Unless the bird can be 
turned loose in an aviary, no soft food 
should bj regulary supplied, as it then 



282 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

tends to produce an excess of fat." 

It is a very tanae and gentle cage- 
bird. A cage is economically the best 
place for this nervous and timid bird. An 
aviary will suit if only the other inmates 
are as gentle and well-behaved as itself. 

Butler says that he paired it up with 
a hen canary in the hope of breeding 
mules but unfortunately he lost his speci- 
men. 

When the Tuti arrives in India in the 
months of September and October, it has 
already discarded its summer suit. 
Coloration Its forehead, crown, and neck 
are then dull crimson ; wings and 
tail brown ; lower back rosy red ; cheeks, 
chin, throat, and upper breast beautiful 
rose-colour ; lower breast pale rose, fading 
off into albescent on the abdomen and un- 
der tail-coverts. After Christmas, owing 
to the wearing away of the margins 
and the deepening ot the colour of the 
feathers, the whole head, neck, chin, 
throat, hud upper breast become bright 



THE TUtI 283 

crimson ; the back, wings, rump, and upper 
tail-coverts become very dark crimson. 

The hen is an olive-brown bird with 
brown streaks, the wing-coverts being 
broadly tipped with yellowish. The 
youngsters are like their mother in appear- 
ance and retain such looks during the 
first summer. 

The Tuti's iris is dark brown ; legs 
and feet are dusky brown, and the bill is 
dark horny brown. The bird is a little 
above six inches in length. 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 







,w 



■m 



The English 
reader will perhaps 
wonder at the in- 
clusion of the much- 
despised Koel (^Eudynainis kouorata) among 
son^r-birds. But as I am writin<^ of the 
song-birds that are common cage-favourites 
in Bengal, I cannot but include this bird in 
my list. Indian poets, ancient and modern, 
have immortalised this bird in their writ- 
ings. They like to paint how the cuckoo's 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 285 

iiotes^ are most tantalizingly pleasant to 
the i ver-wrought imagination of a pining 
lover. The Indian thrills at the high- 
pitched call of the Koel and gives himself 
up to the sweetest day-dreams. The 
European staying in India, on the other 
hand, has not a single good word for this 
bird. In summer, when the cool morn- 
ing is trying to soothe him into sleep 
after a night's restless tossing in bed, the 
koel's sudden torrent of loud hilarity jars 
on his tired nerves and fills him with 
resentful intentions ; unable to get at his 
tormentor, he breaks into words which, 
instead of hitting their objective, hit 
King's English very hard. These un- 
pleasant associations have lowered the 
cuckoo in his estimation. The deliberate 
opinion of an English writer is, *'The 
villainy of the cuckoo is most thorough- 
going and consistent... He begins his days 
with a sin and passes through life steeped 
in iniquity." This judgement is not likely 
to be reconsidered, since the Koel will lead 



286 TRT BIRDS OF BENGAL 

an absolutely Bohemian life in utter 
disregard of all public opinion. Its iniqui- 
tous life did not escape the notice of the 
Sanskrit poets, who expressed their convic- 
tions in no less uncertain terms. But 
with all its faults, the Indian loves it 
dearly, and will continue to do so. 

Four species of the Cucididae are 
commonly caged in India. These are — 
(1) the Koel (Eudynamis honorata), (2) 
the Papiyil or the Hawk-Cuckoo (Uiero- 
€occyx varius)y (3) the Bou-Katha-Kao or 
the Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus mio'opterm) 
and (4) the Shah-bulbul or the Indian 
crested Cuckoo {Coccystes jacohmu^). 
Among these, the Koel and the Bou- 
katha-kao are the most popular eage- 
favourites, the other two being next in 
importance. 

The Cuckoos form a large community 
among the aves of India. The total num- 
ber of the various species of the cuckoo 
is more than fifty. Many of them have 
a wide range of distribution, while some 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 287 

are locally distributed. The four species 
mentioned above are Partial 

tion^ ^^^^^'^^^^'^' "^^^^ expression has a 

specific application in Indian 
Ornithology. Migratory birds have been 
placed in three classes — (1) The Ti^ue 
migi'antff, — those palsearctic species that 
chiefly breed beyond Indian limits ; (2) 
Migrants, — those Palsearctic species that 
chiefly breed in the Himalayas ; and (3) 
JPartial migrants, — those that confine their 
movements in India. It is to the last class 
that the cuckoos described here belous;, 
but the Hawk-cuckoo or the Papiya. 
{Sierococcyx varius) appears to be a resi- 
dent bird throughout its range except in 
Ceylon, where it goes in November and 
whence it comes back to the continent 
with the approach of summer. It is found 
everywhere in India up to Kajputana in 
the west and East Bengal in the east. 
On the one hand, its range does not 
reach the Punjab and Sind, on the other, 
Assam and Burma. Instances of its occur- 



288 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

rence in Burma have been reported, but 
they are, as Blanford says, '^probably due 
to error." The Indian Cuckoo {Cuculus 
micropterus) is commonly found all over 
continental India except the driest provin- 
ces of the Punjab, Sind, and Rajputana. 
In Peninsular India, it is not uncommon. 
Stuart Baker says that ''it doubtless breeds 
over the whole of its habitat, ascending 
higher up at the breeding season and 
migrating locally from places where there 
are no suitable forests or hills." In 
Ceylon it is a winter migrant. Oatea 
supposed that it went to China, Japan 
and Eastern Siberia in summer. But it 
has been reported from Travancore in 
April and May, and has been noticed 
to be very common all along the Sahyadri 
Range, where also it is supposed to be 
a resident bird. 

The range of the Koel — Eudynamis — is 
much wider. Six species of this bird in- 
habit the oriental regions. India possess- 
es one of them — Eudynamis honor ata — 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 289 

which, though the Enghsh residents of 
this country would be incHned to consider 
to be one too many, is yet the bird of 
Indian romance. Its range extends all 
over India except the western provinces 
of the Punjab and Sind, where it is very 
rare. It is not known to occur farther 
west. Eastwards, however, its habitat 
includes China and the Malay Archipe- 
lago. 

The most handsome of the four 
Cuckoos is the Pied Crested Cuckoo or 
Shah-bulbul {Coccystes jacohinus) which 
also has a range all over India. In Ben- 
gal and other parts of Northern India^ 
it is common during the rains. Gates 
says — ''Although there is no reason to 
suppose that it migrates out of India, it 
moves about a great deal at different 
seasons ; and in some parts, e.g., in Sind, 
Indore, parts of the Deccan, around 
Calcutta, at Faridpur and at Shillong, 
it is either met with only during rains 
or more abundantly in that period." It 
19 



290 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

is no doubt a partial migrant in this 
country. It visits the Deccan only in the 
rains. It is generally distributed through- 
out that region but is much more common 
in the north than in the south. In fact, 
in many of the southern districts e.g., 
Ratnagiri, Belgaum etc., it is found only 
as a straggler. Fergusson, however, writ- 
ing in the Journal of the Bombay Natural 
History Society ( Vol. xv, p. 655 ), of the 
birds of Travancore, says — "(7. jacolimts 
is a resident and is fairly common in the 
low country, more specially in the ex- 
treme south." In Ceylon also, it is resi- 
dent, but its movements about the island 
seem to depend on the rains. 

Sometime back, the Bombay Natural 
History Society issued an appeal to its 
members to note the movements of birds 
in this country. They appended thereto 
a list of migrants in which we find that 
the Koel and the Papiya have been 
placed among partial migrants. But in 
some places in the district of 24 Per- 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 



2^1 






gannahs in Bengal, I find the 
two species resident. At 
Agarpara, a village seven 
miles to the north of Cal- 




cutta, and 

in the vil- 

lao^es about it, 

I have noticed 

both the said species all 

through the year. 

The Koel (B, honorata) 

is the most common and 

widely known cuckoo in 

India, and it is also the most vociferous. 
There is perhaps not a garden, 
grove, avenue or jungle in India 
where this bird is not found. 



Field 

Notes 



292 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Of course its presence depends on the 
nature of the trees constitutmg the groves 
and gardens. Leafy trees affording effec- 
tive cover are necessary for protection 
against the wrath of crows. And as it 
is pre-eminently a frugivorous bird, with 
a predilection for jiciis fruits — these 
trees also are indispensable. If these 
conditions are fulfilled, the Koel will feel 
itself quite at ease. During a certain part 
of the year, another condition has got to be 
fulfilled- — the existence of a goodly number 
of corvine households. The crows have an 
instinctive aversion to the Koel and always 
give it chase but they are never able to 
come to grips. The Koel's cleverness in 
dodging pursuit increases its impudence, and 
all through summer, it laughs merrily 
from thick covers, booing derisively at all 
the grey-necked crows that happen to be 
busy with their domestic duties in the 
neighbourhood. From man's standpoint 
the crow is perhaps the most clever and the 
most nefarious bird in existence. But the 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 293 

Koel out-crows the crow in cunning and 
stratagem : and its iniquities seem to 
be a sort of nature's revenge on the 
iniquitous life of the crow. While all 
other parasitic cuckoos select weaker 
and inoffensive birds on which to foist 
off their eggs, the Koel only finds 
delight in incurring the risks of imposing 
on a laro'e, and more vioforous bird. Ins- 
pite of all their faults, the crows are fond 
parents and devote themselves heart and 
soul to the nursing of their children, only 
to find out that all their labours have been 
in vain, that those they were nursing and 
feeding with so much care and attention, 
are not their own flesh and blood but the 
offspring of their detestable enemies. They 
are unable to fathom how this calamity 
comes to pass and how they are tricked 
into brino^ins: ud the children of others. 
They, therefore, nurse in their bosom bitter 
hatred against the Koel, which they 
pursue in rage at the very sight. The 
cuckoo never tarries to make a stand but 



294 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

takes to its wings. Though the ordinary 
flight of the Koel is slow, clums}^ and 
shuffling, it always evades pursuit. The 
crow's habit of pursuing the Koel at 
sight affords the latter the opportunity 
to hoodwink the former. In the nesting 
season, the male cuckoo tries to become 
very prominent. When the female Koel 
feels like laying, the male presents itself 
before a crow's nest and flings a volume 
of outrageous vocabulary at the corvine 
pair, while the soberly clad female lurks 
in some neighbouring leafy cover. As 
soon as the crows catch sight of the Koel 
they start out in hot pursuit. The male 
Koel flees before them, keeping a very 
slight lead. The crows, hoping soon to 
overtake their enemy, dog its heels and 
are thus led far away from their nest. 
This gives the female the desired oppor- 
tunity to carry out its nefarious scheme. 
The male Koel seems to possess a precise 
idea of the time the female will require to 
accomplish its purpose, for it invariably 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 295 

keeps the crows engaged just sufficiently 
to allow the female to finish its job. 
When it thinks that the chase has been 
sufficiently long, it swerves to one side 
and takes cover in a thick foliage, whence 
it quietly escapes. The baffled crows 
return to their nests to hatch to life the 
eggs of their arch-enemy. Sometimes it 
happens that the crowds return before 
the female Koel has finished its task 
and it is then that the crows get their 
opportunity for wreaking their vengeance. 
The female Koel is not as swift a flier 
as its husband, and has occasionally to 
pay with its life for its foul deed. CoL 
Butler once saved a fugitive female Koel 
from a pair of crows. Other observers also 
have recorded instances of similar catas- 
trophies. 

When the male Koel has enticed away 
the crows, the female bird, while depositing 
her own eggs, destroys the eggs of the nest- 
owners. Blyth held to this view, while 
Oates denied that the Koel did anything 



296 PET BIRDS OP BENGAL 

of the kind. But since then, so many ob- 
servers have seen the female Koel actually 
committing the felony that no ground for 
doubt remains any longer. Dewar says, "1 
consider it proven that the Koel undoubted- 
ly destroys or tries to destroy some of the 
crow's eggs it finds in the nest. My idea 
is that, given the opportunity, the Koel will 
destroy all the crow's eggs." It is not the 
Koel alone that does this. Other cuckoos 
also have the same habit. The Shah-bulbul 
or the Pied Crested Cuckoo has also been 
known to act similarly. At Durbhanga, 
Lindsay Harvey once noticed a Babbler's 
nest which contained three eggs of the 
bird, all of which he marked with pen- 
cil and retired to a distance to watch 
another bird. Suddenly he heard the 
Babblers making a tremendous noise. Tur- 
ning round he saw a Coccystes jacolinvs 
seated on a twig near the nest and the 
poor owners of the nest hopping around 
it, chattering. The cuckoo hopped on to 
the nest and after a while flew down to 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 297 

the foot of the tree where the observer 
lost sight of it in the long grass. Al- 
most immediately after, it flew up again 
to the nest and remained about half a 
minute, and then flew away. Mr. Harvey 
walked up to the foot of the tree and 
looking down to where the cuckoo had 
settled, saw an egg on the ground ; it 
was one of the Babbler's he had marked. 
He got up to the nest and found three 
eggs ; the third, a large one, was un- 
marked. It may, therefore, be presumed 
that destruction of the eggs of the host 
is a common habit with the parasitic 
cuckoos. 

It has been asked whether the Koel 
lays its egg elsewhere and carries it in 
its beak to place it in position. This 
question has yet to be definitely answered 
from actual observation. Except the Koel, 
the other cuckoos select nests which are 
too small for them to sit comfortably with- 
out damaging them to some extent. So, 
as Stuart Baker puts it — "We must take 



298 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

it for granted that the cuckoo lays its 
egg on the ground and then places it 
in the nest selected for its reception. In 
no case have I found a nest in any way 
damaged by the cuckoo and often the 
only way it was possible for the egg to 
have been deposited in the nest, without 
considerably spoiling it, would have been 
in this manner." The Koel, we must re- 
member, victimises a strong and vindictive 
bird. The fear of being caught at the 
game is always present in its mind and 
the only way in which it can hurry 
through the operation is by bringing the 
egg in its beak after laying it elsewhere 
on the ground. 

Another matter of controversy is whe- 
ther the young Koel ejects the children 
of its foster-parent. Gates thought that 
the young crows are probably got rid of 
by the young Koel. The young of the 
Common Cuckoo ( Cucidns canorus ) is 
in the habit of doing this. Stuart Baker 
says that ''it has practically been as- 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 299 

certained that the young cuckoo turns 
out the fellow nestlings/' Cuckoos are 
generally brought up in nests which are 
too small for their body. It is quite 
possible that being sardine-packed into a 
small nest, the nestlings struggle for 
room, and the cuckoo nestlings being the 
stronger and generally earlier-born win 
the day and the others are thrown out. 
That this is not invariably the case is 
proved by the fact that in the majority 
of instances both the cuckoo and the 
children of the real owner of the nest 
successfully grow up to be reared and 
fledged. People have urged that the 
parasite youngster has a sensitive back, 
and when its foster-brother comes to sib 
on it, the former instinctively pushes out 
the latter. This may be true in the case 
of Cuculus canorus but, according to 
Dewar, not true of the Koel. He says, 
"The young Koel does not eject its fellow 
nestlings. It is true that many young 
crows disappeared but in every case this 



300 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

disappearance can be otherwise accounted 
for." 

With regard to the nursing of young 
Koels, Oates writes, '^I have never seen 
crows feeding fully fledged Coels out of 
the nest, whereas I have repeatedly 
wititched adult female Coels feeding young 
cries of their own species. I am pretty 
nearly convinced that after laying their 
eggs the females keep somewhere about 
the locality and take charge of the young 
directly they can leave the nest." This 
supposition can be true if the female lays 
only one egg in only one nest, so that 
it may be on the look-out for that one 
alone. What actually happens is that 
the female Koel lays more than one egg 
in more than one nest. Does it keep an 
eye on all the nests ? What Oates says 
cannot be accepted as a general rule 
but only as an exception. It is a 
wonder that Oates never saw crows 
feedins: fullv fledo-ed Koels out of the 
nest. I have and many others also. 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 301 

But neither any one else, except Gates 
so far as I know, nor myself have yet 
seen a female Koel feeding her nestlings, 
I have seen young Koels fed assiduously 
by their foster-parents at a time when 
they are just begining to fly from tree to 
tree. The young Koels keep up an in- 
cessant whimpering for food and more food. 
They do not allow their foster-parents, 
the crows, a minute's rest, and probably 
the latter have to deny thomselves many 
a tempting morsel to quiet the unruly 
children. It is a wonder that the crows 
continue to feed the Koels even when 
the latter are in full plumage and have 
developed the characteristic cucuUne 
movements and even their specific calls, 
Dewar says that when the young Koel 
first leaves the nest, it tries to imitate the 
call of its corvine fellow-nestling, but 
this has never come to my notice, nor 
have I found it recorded anywhere else. 
The difference in the coloration of the 
male and the female Koel is connectedj 



302 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

according to Cunningham, with their para- 
sitic tendency. Says he, *'The possession 
by the male cuckoo of an insistent and 
distracting call is not enough to give the 
female such a good chance of doing her 
part, as it will where she has to deal with 
birds of lower mental and physical power ; 
and it has accordingly been reinforced by 
the evolution of differences in plumage, 
serving to render the one sex very cons- 
picuous, and the other protectively obs- 
cure. The shining black plumage and 
bright red eyes of the male Koel are 
specially adapted to attract attention in 
the sites he chooses to call from, while 
the subdued greenish- grey tints and white 
spots and bars of the feathering of the 
female serve to make her almost invisible 
among the broken lights and shades of 
the coverts in which she lurks when await- 
ing a chance for depositing her eggs". 

If this sort of 'adaptive' coloration be 
true of the Koel, it is not true of the 
common Hawk-cuckoo — our Papiya, {Hiero- 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 303 

coccyx varius) which is the ^'Brain-fever 
bird" of Europeans residing in this coun- 
try. When on the wing, it looks like a 
Shikra fAstur hadiusj but its accipitrine 
looks do not save it from being pur- 
sued and mobbed by smaller birds, speci- 
ally by Babblers who have an innate 
repugnance for it, just as the crow has for 
the Koel. But the w^ary and alert Bab- 
blers, though they move about in flocks 
and parties for the sake of safety, are 
outwitted by this double-faced cuckoo. 
This bird keeps to our gardens and 
avenues and its presence in any locality 
depends on the number of Babblers there. 
However much it may ape the hawk 
in looks while flying, it cannot keep up 
the deception when it comes to perch. 
''It has all the furtive, peering ways of 
common cuckoos when it sits down, 
constantly jerking itself from side to side 
as Koels do and, at the same time, puffing 
out its throat in a strange way. The 
Common Indian Cuckoo or Bou-katha-kao 



304 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



( Cuculus micropterus ) 
avoids inhabited local- 
ities and confines itself 
to jungly tracts or to 
large unfrequented gar- 
dens. It is more 
shy and retir- 
ing than the 
two foreejoino: ] 




birds, ; and 
hence in our country- 
side, it is rarely seen. 
It generally selects the 
top-most bough of a 
large tree and keeps calling for a quarter of -J 
an hour or more. Both this bird and the 
Papiya dislike conspicuous positions. The 
Shah-bulbul or the Pied Crested Cuckoo 
resembles the Koel in this respect. In 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 



305 



Bengal it arrives in May and is in 
evidence up to the rains, after which, in 
September, it moves down probably to- 
wards the south. I have noticed that 
grassy and cultivated plains with small 
trees and bushes scattered about are 
its favourite resorts. ^^ 

But Stuart Baker writes, 
*'It haunts mdiff- ' / 

n 
1 



erently lof- 
tiest of trees 





'^'HM-'{%^'^,m'^^ 



secondary growth and small saplings or 
mere scrub jungles". It is most numerous 
in the more wooded districts. It hunts 
singly or in pairs, and unlike the last three 
Cuckoos, it generally feeds on the ground. 
Somehow or other, Coccystes jacobinus also 
is an eyesore of the crows, though they 
20 



306 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

have no real grievance against it, and is 
persistently attacked by the latter. Even 
Bulbuls dislike it and raise a hubbub 
at its approach, probably with a good 
reason. 

The Koel or, as it is called in 
Bengal, the Kokii is a very insistent 
caller ; it calls at all times, by day and 
by night, as also does the the Papiya ; 
and we, in Bengal, hear it in most sea- 
sons, even in winter. Generally it begins 
as early as Eebruary to find its voice 
which from March onwards works in full 
swing and breaks in September and 
then gradually ceases. Englishmen do not 
like its music, which some characterise 
as 'an introductory poem to Hades !' 
But many of them have to admit that 
*when heard sufficiently far off it is not un- 
melodious. It has three distinct calls. One 
is what Cunningham chooses to style its 
'nest-note' or name-call, i.e., from which 
it o'ets its name. This rises in a slow 
crescendo and wlien the highest pitch has 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 307 

been reached it is finished off in a rapid 

downward scale, thus — Ku-ooo, ku-ooo 

ku- 000, kooo, kooo, kooo and so on. If this 
note is mimicked the bird answers with 
gusto, and our village boys often tease 
it by so doing, with the result that it 
becomes more insistent and vociferous. 
Its second note is a series of shrill nn- 
melodious kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk which is 
generally to be heard at dawn. The 
third is an ear-splitting shriek of terror, 
uttered by both sexes, specially on the 
wing when pursued by the crow. 

The Papiya has two distinct notes, one 
of which is its name-call, which has earned 
for it the name of ^'brain-fever bird". This 
sounds like pa-pee-ha. This trisyllabic 
cry is "repeated many times in as- 
cending semitones until one begins to 
think that the bird is going to burst". 
The other call begins with one or two 
of the trisyllabic utterances and then 
passes on into a volley of single descen- 



308 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

ding notes, or sometimes consists of the 
latter alone. The cry of the above two 
birds is connected with the spring season 
from which Indian poetry weaves a halo 
of romance round them and, Mrs. Sarojini 
Naidu, the Indian poetess of European 
fame, has immortalised the Brain-fever 
bird in English poetry in one of her 
loveliest of love-songs — 'Pajpeeha. 

The call of Cuculus micropterus is 
regarded by all as sweet. According to 
Stuart Baker, "it is very melodious and 
distinctly cuckoo-like in sound but the 
bird reiterates it with so great persever- 
ance that it becomes monotonous. Bou- 
katha-kao in Bengali and 'Broken-pekoe' in 
English are two of the best representa- 
tions.'^ According to Tickell, its note 
may be styled a melodious deep-toned 
whistle, agreeable to hear despite its 
monotonous reiteration. 

While all the above Cuckoos utter 
their characteristic caJls from a fixed 
position, the Pied Crested Cuckoo becomes 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 309 

silent when it finds a perch, and cons- 
tantly calls only when flying. Its flight, 
on account of its long crest, beautiful 
pied coloration, and its long tail, is very 
graceful. Its cry is a whistling sort of 

trisyllabic pee-pee-pee which, being deli- 
vered from a pretty great height when 
the bird flies through space, hears quite 
melodious. 

All these birds, except the Koel, are 
regarded as economically very beneficial ; 
they need all the protection we can give 
them. The cuckoos of the Cuculinm 
group are the only birds that habitually 
eat hairy caterpillars which, being mostly 
defoliators, are very injurious to crops. 
The Hawk-cuckoo is undoubtedly benefi- 
cial. Only a few, if at all, beneficial in- 
sects are taken by this bird, its food 
consisting almost entirely of injurious 
insects or those allied to them. The 
fruits that are eaten are mostly fici. By 
the examination of the stomach of seven- 
teen specimens, it was found that, of 300 



310 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

insects taken by them, 253 were injurious 
and only 1 beneficial. Both Cuculus 
micropterus and Coccystes jacohiniis are 
similarly beneficial. The young of the 
latter bird have been observed to be fed 
on caterpillars by its foster-parents, the 
Babblers. How is it that the foster- 
parent selects insects suited to the stomach 
of its foster-child instead of selecting 
those that are agreeable to itself ? The 
Koel, however, is not insectivorous, but 
lives exclusively on fruits. It generally 
feeds on ficus fruits, specially those of 
banian {ficus indica) and peepal {ficus 
religiosa), Ficus nitida, Ficus comosa^ wild 
date palms, berries of various species of 
Livistona, red-coated seeds of Amoora 
rohituka, and berries of Bokul {Ilimusops 
elengi). Of cultivated fruits it has been 
known to devour Litchies, Mulberries and 
Guavas. Mason is of opinion that "it is 
only of economic importance in that 
it has the habit of depositing its Qgg^ 
in the nest of the common species of 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 311 

erows and may thus help to limit their 
numbers to some extent". 

All the Cuckoos under review shirk 
parental duties and get other members 

of the bird-world to bring up 
Nests and ^j^^-^, children. Parasitic Cuckoos 

are therefore regarded as social 
pests by other birds which, though fully 
conscious of the stratagem played on 
them, are yet helpless and become unwi- 
lling dupes at the hands of the Cuckoos. 
Birds are strangely lacking in a sense of 
proportion and, unable to discriminate 
between their own eggs and those of 
their deceivers, unconsciously rear up the 
children of the latter. Nesting operations 
and the nursing of the young are a 
blind instinct with birds. They are im- 
pelled to these actions by Nature, and 
engrossed in them, they never stop to 
see whom they are bringing up. Other- 
wise, how can the crow which is otherwise 
a very clever and cunning bird fail to 
notice its mistake and feed the young 



312 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

Koel even when the latter has attained 
full plumage ? The Koel victimises the 
two common crows — Cor mis splendens and 
Corvus macrorhyncus. Cuculus micropteriis 
uses the nests of the Indian Blue-chat 
(Larvivora brunnea), the Himalayan Str- 
eaked Laughing Thrush {Trochalo]3terum 
lineatum) and the Western Variegated 
Laughing Thrush {T» simile) as also those 
of the Brown Hill Warbler {Suya crini- 
gera), the Golden Bush-Robin {Tarsiger 
chrysocus) and Niltava sundara. Both 
the Hawk-cuckoo and the Pied Crested 
Cuckoo invariably deposit eggs in the 
nests of the Argya or Crateropus group 
of Babblers, the species being apparently 
a matter of indifference. Eggs of the latter 
bird have also been taken from nests of 
Bulbuls {Molpastes hengalensis), the lora 
(Aegithina tiphia) and oi Alcippe nepalensis. 
The eggs of the Koel roughly resem- 
ble crow's eggs, but are smaller and 
broader. The ground-colour is a tint of 
green or greenish yellow, densely marked 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 313 

all over ivith blotches. The eg^o^s of 
Bou-katha-kao are a very pale hedge- 
sparrow green -blue, some rather more 
blue, varying but little in the range of 
colour. The eggs of the Pied-Crested 
Cuckoo are a good deal darker and 
deeper blue, the intensity varying little 
in different eggs, As to the eggs of the 
Hawk-cuckoo, Stuart Baker says ^'I do 
not think they can be discriminated with 
any certainty from those of Coccystes 
jacohimis, though they average larger 
and perhaps average lighter." 

As to the question whether the colour 
of the eggs of Cuckoos has any rela- 
tion to the colour of the eo^scs of the hosts 
selected, Stuart Baker gives an affirmative 
answer. In his opinion our Cuckoos 
which lay blue eggs — H. varius and C 
jacobinus and also C micropte7^us, — almost 
invariably deposit their eggs in the nests 
of such birds as themselves lay blue 
eggs. Of course there are exceptions but 
these are few. 



314 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

In India there is perhaps not a more 
common cage-bird than the Koel. As 
with the Tuti, the food pro- 
Cage-life blem of the Koel is not a 
problem at all. Boiled rice in 
milk with a few bananas is all that is 
required to satisfy its taste and keep 
it in health. Being as inexpensive to 
keep as the bird described in the last 
chapter, it has a favoured place in the 
home of the poorest of the poor. Though 
a favourite of the proletariat, the doors 
of the rich are not closed on it. Its 
presence is welcome everywhere. 

Indians do not generally catch adult 
birds for caging them. They know from 
experience that such birds refuse to 
reciprocate the kind attentions of the 
keeper, and most of them pine away in a 
short while. Therefore nestlings are pre- 
ferred almost in all cases, as they grow 
up into very confiding pets. The Koel fed 
on Satoo pulp developes into a very bold 
and faithful creature. Young Koels re- 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 315 

quire hand -feeding for a longer period 
than other birds. As they grow old, 
their food is varied with various fici, 
the fruit of Bokul {lUmusops elengi) and 
Telakucha {llomordica monadelpha ), — a 
sort of creeper which grows wild in this 
country during the rainy season and the 
fruits of which become cherry -red when ripe. 
The Koel is a perfect gourmand and, when 
feeding, devours more than the capacity 
of its stomach. But as it soon disgorges 
much of what it has eaten, the habit 
results in little harm. The Cuckoos are 
kept in this country in large, round, 
bamboo cages, which are generally cover- 
ed up. In the case of the Papiya 
(Hawk- cuckoo) or the Bau-katha kao (Indian 
Cuckoo), this covering is a necessity, for 
they are delicate birds and, unless kept 
warm, are not able to bear the exteme- 
ly humid atmosphere of this country 
during the rains. The Koel, however, 
is a wonderfully hardy and long-lived 
bird and has been known to live up to 



316 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

fourteen years in captivity. It seldom 
suffers from any disease. The Papiyas, 
on the other hand, generally suffer from 
cold and rheumatism- — the results of careless 
feeding and exposure. 

The Papiya and the Bau-katha-kao are 
not frugivorous like the Koel. They 
are delicate birds and their diet-supply 
becomes a problem to their keeper. 
Grass-hoppers, insects and Satoo form 
their menu, the basis of food being 
the insects. They are kept in large 
and costly cages. Both these birds 
call freely in covered cages but as 
the Bau-Katha-kao has a sweeter voice, 
it is held in o^reater esteem. The 
Koel is a vociferous singer and sings in 
all seasons. When it begins calling, con- 
versation becomes impossible in the house. 
The Shah-buibul (Pied Crested Cuckoo) 
is never available for sale in this pro- 
vince in large numbers, and is, therefore, 
less commonly seen as a captive. For 
that very reason it is a bird for which 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 317 

one has to pay a handsome price. How- 
ever much ordinary people may covet to 
possess this bird, its high price serves 
as brake on their inchnation. It is be- 
sides an insectivorous bird and as it 
does not take to Satoo as kindly as the 
other Cuckoos, it is difficult to keep it 
alive. If a proper and constant supply 
of insects can be maintained, these Cuc- 
koos turn out to be excellent cage-birds. 
The Koel is probably a bird fit for 
aviaries ; but in India it is so common 
that it is a superfluity to keep it confined 
for show purposes in the aviaries of the 
Zoological Gardens. The Papiya has the 
risk of being harassed by other birds on 
account of its unhappy resemblance to 
a hawk ; its presence in a mixed company 
may also lead to the disquietude of 
very small birds. The Bau-katha-kao 
is too secretive for open aviaries. But if 
proper arrangements are made according 
to the habits of these birds, providing 
thick cover and choosing: for their com- 



318 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

panions a few of the hosts upon which 
they usually foist off their eggs, I expect 
that much about their life may be re- 
vealed to us. 

The Papiya and the Koel are poles 
asunder in plumage. In the case of the 
former the sexes are like ; but 
Coloration male and female Koels have 
different dresses. The male 
Koel is altogether black with a bluish- 
green gloss, a stout bill, and a bright 
crimson iris. The female is less showy, 
being of brown body-colour with white 
spots on head, neck, back, and wings. 
Its quills and tail are barred with white, 
with similar bars on the glossy brown 
surface of the breast and abdomen. The 
common folk of this country are under 
the impression that the female is a differ- 
ent bird, and call it "Tilia-kokil" or the 
''Spotted cuckoo" . 

The nestling Koel is born with a black 
skin. According to Dewar, its earliest 
feathers are tipped with white or a kind 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 319 

of reddish fawn. Those with white tips 
are females. But he is not sure if the reverse 
is true viz., whether all birds, whose 
early feathers are tipped with reddish 
fawn, are females. It seems that the 
nestlings assume the adult female coloration 
from which both sexes pass into adult 
plumage without moulting. A full-grown 
Koel is seventeen inches in length, of 
which about half is taken up by the tail. 
About the coloration of the Papiyas, 
Gates says, "The coloration is remarkable 
even amongst cuckoos for its close imita- 
tion of Hawks and Ealcons The 

resemblance is quite unexplained, though, 
as it is sufficient to cause great alarm 
to small birds in general, it is probably 
connected with breeding habits." Grey 
predominates in its upper plumage. Sides 
of head are ashy with whitish lores and 
cheeks ; chin and throat white with an 
ashy tinge ; foreneck and breast rufous 
with an ashy admixture ; lower breast 
barred. The abdomen is white with bars, 



320 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

and the under tail-coverts, like the edge 
of the wings, are white. Quills of the 
upper plumage are brown with broad 
white bars on the inner webs. The tail 
is grey with rufescent tips and with four 
or fives bars beyond the upper tail- 
coverts, where there is some white. 

The young are dark brown above with 
rufous cross-bars and white below, tinged 
with rufous and spotted brown ; but the 
tail is barred as in the adult. The bill 
of the adult is greenish except the tip 
which is black; iris yellow or orange 
in the adult and brownish in the young ; 
feet and claws yellow, pale or bright 
according to age. The Papiya is thirteen 
inches in length, the tail taking up half 
that length. 

The Bau-katha-kao — the Indian Cuckoo 
— is a rich brown bird with a dark- 
ashy head and neck. The tail has a 
broad sub-terminal band of white, and 
white tips. Chin, throat, and upper 
breast are pale ashy, the rest of the 



THE KOEL AND ITS ALLIES 321 

lower parts being creamy white with 
Hack cross-bars. The female differs only 
in having the throat and breast browner. 

The young have head and neck broadly 
barred with reddish white or white ; 
feathers of the upper plumage are tipped 
with rufescent ; the lower plumage is 
buff, barred broadly with dark-brown. 
The tail of the young has more rufous 
spots than, there are bands in the adult. 
Nestlings that leave the nest in May 
get full plumage in October. The upper 
bill of adult birds is horny black, the lower 
dull green ; iris rich brown ; legs yellow. 
The size of the Indian cuckoo equals that 
of the Papiya. 

The Shah-bulbul is so called because 
of its beautiful pointed crest. As our 
common bulbuls have crests, ordinary folk 
are under the impression that all birds 
with a crest are Bulbuls. The colour 
arrangement of this bird is much as in 
the Dhayal. Its upper plumage is through- 
out black with a cjreenish oloss. The 



322 PET BIRD3 OF BENGAL 

quills are dark brown with a broad 
white band near the ' base across the 
inner webs of all except the innermost 
and across the outer webs of all except 
the first. The tail has w^hite tips, these 
being very broad on the outer feathers^ 
and narrow on the middle pair. The 
lower parts are white. 

The young are brown above, buff 
below, the chin and throat being grey. 
The bill of an adult bird is black ^ 
iris red -brown ; legs leaden blue. Sexes 
are alike. Coccystes jacobinus is of the 
same size as Cuculus micropterii^. 



APPENDIX 




Shama and nest 



Additional aviary Notes 

1. THE SHAM A 

A male and a female Shama were inmates 
of adjacent aviaries. They were kept separate 
because I found that in the non-breeding sea- 
son the male refused to keep company with 
the female. In March 1923, noticing an amor- 
ous change in their attitude, I brought them 
together in the hope of raising a brood of 
young Shamas. The hen showed no fear 
of the male ; on the contrary, in a few 
days she seemed to order the cock about. 
The latter had evidently lost all his imperious- 
ness. But, however gentle he was to his 
mate, he was most overbearing towards strong- 
charactered and sturdy birds like the Dhayal. 
Chats also and even the gentle Dama — Orange- 
headed Ground Thrush — seemed to irritate him 
and had to be removed elsewhere. But small- 
er birds like the Finches were never molested. 
The male was a very jealous husband, and 



326 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

if he heard, or fancied he heard, the voice of 
another male Shama close by, he worked him- 
self up into a great fury. A friend of mine 
took it into his head to whistle the Shama's 
love-notes when he came to my aviary. When- 
ever he did this, the cock Shama would at 
once stand up alert and give out his peculiar 
notes of anger — fchat fchat. As my friend 
continued, the anger of the bird increased. It 
puffed out all its feathers, furiously worked its 
tail up and down and peered around for the 
supposed rival. The first day my friend be- 
gan the game, he was outside the aviary and 
noticed that the bird became very restless 
and flew about the aviary occasionally going 
to the female, as if, to protect her from the 
advances of the invisible lover. The next day 
he went into the aviary and the Shama was 
not long in finding out whence the notes 
proceeded. But the bird's uneasiness was not 
removed. It probably thought that my friend 
had a male Shama concealed somewhere on 
his person and flew up to very hear him and 
stood in an attitude of defiance, calling as 
loudly as it could in order to outdo my 
friend. Not satisfied with wordy combats, it 
began to sweep down on my friend trying to 



ADDITIONAL AVIARY NOTES 327 

peck at his head as it flew past. My friend 
liad to throw up his hands to save himself 
from being scratched by the bird. At times 
he would extend his hand towards the bird 
which spent its fury on the fingers of my 
friend by pecking them with all its might. 

But to return. When the hen was intro- 
duced into the aviary, the cock began to 
court her favour in right earnest. His song 
iDecame loud and insistent. Besides the usual 
call-notes, he used to utter a very loud 
tremolo whistle with a sharp and sudden en- 
ding. This evidently used to excite sexual in- 
clinations in the female ; for these calls generally 
•excited the latter very much. At the time of 
pairing, the male used to shoot down like an arrow 
from a high perch with such a call, and then 
-uttering a short, sudden whistle, he sprang 
upon the hen. Among his coquetish displays, 
one of the attitudes was to drop suddenly down 
in front of the female ( if she were on the 
ground ) with a loud whistle. Then he would 
stretch out his head and gradually bend it 
till the chin and bill rested on the ground 
while the hinder parts went up, the tail being 
held straight uplifted. The hen would remain 
still all the while. 



328 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

To afford them a suitable nesting site I 
nailed up in the wall a long piece, of very 
fat bamboo with three holes in it, one above 
each joint. The male bird, after inspection^ 
fixed upon the middle hole and invited the 
female to have a look at it. In a short 
time I noticed the latter carrying nest materi- 
als which consisted of fine cocoanut fibres. 
The upholstering of the cavity began on the 
25th March and continued till the 30th. The 
hen Shama became so bold as to accept 
cocoanut fibres from my hand. If I gave a 
rough one, she would smooth and clean it by 
beating it on the ground. She would carry 
to the nest four or five fibres at a time and,, 
after arranging them in the hole, invariably 
came back with one in her bill. 

On the 31st the hen laid the first egg and 
on the 4th April she completed a clutch of 
five. I removed one and left her four to 
hatch. She alone incubated. The first egg was 
hatched out <jn the 14th and the rest by the 
1 6th April. After this the behaviour of the 
fefnale was most unmotherly. She beat one 
nestling to death and killed the others by drop- 
ping them from a height. 

On April 22nd the hen began nest-building. 



ADDITIONAL AVIARY NO^ES 329 

again. Strangely enough, she carried materials 
to three different holes in none of which a nest 
was completed. On the 27th I found two eggs 
in two different holes and another lying broken 
on the floor. I placed the eggs together but 
the next day, they were thrown out bs' the 
bird ! 

I gave the bird one more chance to raise a 
brood, as, even after the above two abortive 
attempts, the hen still seemed to possess a 
strong inclination for nesting. But, this time again, 
the eggs were destroyed as on the previous 
occasion. Thereupon I locked the female bird 
up in a cage. I had another hen which had 
come to me as a nestling. I introduced her tO' 
the cock bird's aviary on the 9th May. 

This bird was able to rear up two young 
ones sucessfully. It was a better-behaved bird, 
sat on the eggs more closely and took greater 
care of its children. It laid twice, — the first 
clutch consisting of four and the second of 
three eggs. The first clutch began on the 13th 
May. One egg was destroyed. On the 27th 
the first young came out and two more followed 
the next day. One of these died and was remov-^ 
ed from the nest by the mother. On the 8th June, 
the two surviving nestlings were completely 



330 PET BIKDS OFBKNC.AL 

feathered and tlie next day they left their nest. 
I confined them in a large cage with the mother- 
bird. On June 12th, the youngsters began to 
feed themselves, and I observed that thenceforth 
their mother occasionally fed them on egg-food 
and satoo. Before this date no artificial food was 
given. The hen used to show great care and 
discrimination in feeding the young. For the 
first two or three days after birth, the mother 
fed them only wath ants' eggs. Then for a few 
days beetles, ants' grubs and a few grasshoppers 
were given. As the chicks grew older, ants' 
eggs were discarded and grasshoppers and 
beetles only composed their diet. Not until 
a fortnight after their birth did the mother give 
them prepared food. 

From the 14th June, the youngsters 
began to emit fchat fchat sounds. At this 
time the cock began to court the hen again 
and the latter responded from within the 
cage. So, I let her loose with the children. 
On the 15th she began nest-building. The 
youngsters fed themselves but were still impor- 
tunate. So. the cock used to feed them at 
times. The youngsters used to sit on a high 
perch crying for food. The cock used to fly 
up with a grasshopper and as there was no 




\ 



^w 



Shania feeding young* 




Sliama nestling 



Photo by S. C. Law. 



ADDITIONAL AVIx^llY KOTES o3l 

room beside the young birds for him to sit, he 
"thrust insects into the baby's mouth as he 
flew past. How deftly he did this ! 

On June 19th the hen began her second 
■clutch. On July 3rd, one young appeared and 
two more (3n the next day. Unfortunately 
all the nestlings died for some unaccountable 
reason. This catastrophe marked a distinct 
change in the conduct of the female. Up 
till then she was bold and fearless, taking food 
from my hand. Now she suddenly became 
morose, retiring and shy, shunning human proxi- 
mity. She also ignored all the amorous advan- 
•ces of the male and soon after began to moult. 

Elsewhere I have noted that according to 
Mr. Reginald Phillips the incubation period of 
'the Sham a was twelve days. But I find that 
'with my birds the period wsls /o2frU'cn days each 
•time, neither more nor less. 

2. THE DHAYAL 

Two pairs of Dhayals in my aviary^ raised 
a brood each. The nestlings, unfortunately, did 
not live long. One of the pairs was lodged in 
the same room with the Shama and another 
In an adjoining room. The hen of the first 



832 PKT BIRDS OF BENGAL 

pair was rather shy and, though the breeding- 
season was on, showed no sign of taking 
advantage of tl:e cock's restlessness to become 
a mother. But I noticed that the hen of the 
second pair in the adjoining room frequently 
flew up to the wire-netting separating the two 
compartments ; and her behaviour clearly showed 
that she wanted the company of the first cock- 
bird more than that of the one with which she was 
lodged. Thinking they might pair up, I let this, 
flirt into the first cock^s room. It seems that a 
female bird occasionally declares her love to a 
cock and persists in it even though beaten and 
insulted. The cock seemed in no mood to- 
respond to the advances made b}- the forward 
female and became more irascible. Fights with 
the Shama became very frequent, and so I moved 
the three Dhayals into the second compartment 
which now contained two pairs of these birds. 
This arrangement led to more unpleasantness. 
The two cocks frequently indulged in free fights 
with serious consequences to the original occupant 
of the room — the second cock. The first and stur- 
dier cock, furious with jealousy, began also tO' 
chase both the hens. The second cock was there- 
fore removed to a third compartment which ad« 
joins the second one. The first cock showed his. 



ADDITION i^L AVfARV NOTES ooo 

favour to the shy hen by displaying before iier 
and singing at his loudest But the hen held him 
in dread and always fled in terror whenever he 
approached. She was in evident danger of losing 
her life from extreme exhaustion. Therefore, 
I shut her up in a cage. 

Her rival being thus confined, the other bolder 
hen now had the cock all to herself. The cock 
tried to handle her also roughly. But this wily 
bird stood the cock's browbeating admirably, 
eluded all attacks and even freely indulged in 
coquetry, whistling persistently all the while. As 
the cock evidently paid no heed to her overtures 
I re-introduced the shy hen to see if she could 
shake off her fear. As soon as she was let loose, 
the cock flew towards her with a joyful whistle ; 
but the hen fled in sheer funk and, after being 
pursued around the aviary, fell panting to the 
ground. I had no alternative now but to take 
her out of the room and try if she could pair 
with the other cock. 

After her removal the first cock would fre- 
quently cling to the wire-netting separating him 
from the shy hen and burst into rapturous melody. 
This naturally provoked the wrath of the second 
cock which also would fly up to the wire-netting 
and sing defiantly ; and the two spent their 



334 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

time in hurling loud abuses at each other. When- 
ever the first cock bird flew to the wire-nettings 
the bolder female would fly up to its side and 
whistle, as if to attract it away from its rival 
hen. At last the persistent attentions of the 
bolder female overcame the cock's dislike for 
her. The shy hen in the adjacent cc)m{)artment 
responded, in the meantime, to the second cock's- 
wooing and made up a good match. In a short 
while both pairs began to build nurseries for 
their coming offspring. 

The first cock chose an aperture in the wall 
and began to enter it frequently on the 22nd 
April 1923. On the 3rd May the hen was 
noticed to follow suit. On the 14th she began 
to carry cocoanut fibres. A semi-circular wall 
of these fibres was built up around a corner of 
the selected aperture, leaving some space in the 
middle. The eggs were laid here on bare floor^ 
no padding being used. 

The cock used to indulge in frequent displays 
about this time. He would crane his neck forward 
and sing with all his might after swelling him- 
self out. On the 13th June the hen laid the first 
egg. In the next two days she completed a 
clutch of three. I left her two eggs to hatch. 
On the 27th the first young came out and the 



ADDITIONAL AVIARY NOTES 335 

other on the following day. The period of 
incubation was 14 days. Two days later one 
youngster disappeared and on the 2nd July 
the other was found in a decapitated condition 
on the floor. 

The second pair chose a cavity in a bamboo 
pole similar to the one used by the Shamas. 
They merely padded the floor of the cavity with 
grass and a few cocoanut fibres and thereon laid 
the eggs. This pair began to build their nest on 
the 17th May. I used to look in occasionally 
for the eggs ; but none were laid during the month. 
In June I could not inspect the nest in the first 
week and on the 8th I discovered three eggs. 
I removed one from this clutch also. The eggs of 
this clutch differed from those of the other in that 
the speckles were not sprinkled all over the 
surface but were concentrated in a zone at the 
thick end. The eggs were hatched out on the 
"i6th and 17th June. But on the 19th I missed 
the young ones. I strongly suspect, though I 
have no actual ocular proof, that in both cases 
the male parents were responsible for the death 
and disappearance of the nestlings. On p. 32, 
I have already stated that cock Dhayals kill 
their own young. That the cock has carnivorous 
tastes was apparent from his conduct in my own 



336 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

aviary. A pair of Bulbuls {Molpastes leucotis) 
nested and raised two nestlings in the aviary 
in which the first pair of Dhayals was breeding. 
One day I noticed the cock Dhayal on the 
floor beating to death a Bulbul's nestling. The 
Dhayals are, therefore, not fit to be in a mixed 
aviary containing inoffensive birds ; and, as the 
cock is an unnatural father, he should be 
segregated as soon as the young ones come out 
of the shells. 



3. HAREWA 

On p. 100 I have quoted a passage from 
the new edition of the Avi-fauna of British India 
( edited by Mr. Stuart Baker ) in which it is 
stated that Gold-fronted Chloropsis {C. aurifrons 
aurifrons) becomes gregarious in the non-breeding 
season. But the male Harewa has been known 
to be a very sturdy little creature with an auto- 
cratic temper and never associates with others 
of his ilk (vide p. 104). According to Legge 
we find that females of C. Jerdorii collect in 
small flocks. Since the habits of closely related 
species are generally the same, I made bold to 
suggest the possibility of Mr. Baker having seen 



ADDITIONAL AVIARY NOTES 337 

.parties of female Harewas only. Since writing 
the cliapter six months ago, I got half a dozen 
of these birds for my aviary and had ample 
opportunities to observe their habits on this 
point. I find that the males assume a stand- 
offish attitude towards each other not only in 
the breeding season but in the off seasons for 
breeding as well. They are impatient of each 
•other's company and can not be lodged together. 
But my four female Harewas associate together 
and live in the same aviary in admirable 
harmony. It is very likely that regarding 
gregariousness the habits of Jerdon's Chloropsis 
and the Gold-fronted one are similar viz., that 
the females only collect in small parties in the 
3ion-breeding season. 



4. THE DAMA 

In describing the coloration of the female 
•Orange-headed Ground Thrush in the Fauna 
of British India (Birds, Vol. II., p. 140), Gates 
writes, "the back and scapulars greenish brown 
with yellowish margins". I possess two pairs 
of Damas and I notice that the yellow to the 
of the back and scapulars is put 



3o8 PET BIPwDS OF BENGAL 

on during the breeding season, and is not retain- 
ed all through the year. The yellow splash,, 
therefore, indicates breeding plumage. 

In distinguishing males and females, the 
colour of the lower body does not seem to be 
the criterion, for I have found that the female 
of one pair has the chestnut colour deeper than 
the male. So, when bu}'ing these birds or 
choosing pairs reliance should not be placed 
on this point. 



5. TICKELL'S OUZEL 

I have two specimens of Merula unicolor. Up 
till last spring they were kept separately in differ- 
ent aviaries. But in June last I heard ox\^ of 
them attempting to sing. The attempt resulted 
in short and frequently-uttered whistles which 
were a mixture of guttural and sibilant sounds. 
Hoping that the season might not pass in vain^ 
I brought the above two birds together. For 
the first few days, I noticed the male chasing 
the female about. The hen was evidently 
dallying with the male. In a short while there 
was no more pursuit and dodging ; the birds 
lived together quite peacefully in evident harmony. 



ADI)1TI0NA.L AVIARV NOTES 331* 

For a long time I did not see them making 
any attempt at nesting. Late in July, on the 
27th, I saw the female perched on the top of 
a long bamboo-pole. Entering the aviary, I 
went up to the pole but the bird did not move. 
Curious to see what made the erstwhile sh\' 
bird so indifferent to my proximity, I brought 
a ladder and placing it against the pole, climbed 
up to discover the bird sitting in a beautiful 
nest. The top of the fat pole had a slight 
depression in the middle. Around this depression 
the bird had created a wall of soft grass and 
the cavity had been upholstered with very fine 
coir-fibres. That very day the two birds m^ited 
in my presence. The restless male was in evident 
heat. It was following the female everywhere. 
They were first on the ground. The hen sudden- 
ly flew up to the nest. The male came up to 
her with a loud note and perched on the edge of 
the nest. The female moved off and flew on 
to the top of a hanging cage. The male followed 
her there with a strange guttural sound and, with 
mouth agape, attempted to pair. The female 
however, slipped down to the ground. The cock 
followed and, alighting at a little distance, made 
a quick run towards the hen. When close up 
to her side the cock opened his mouth again and 



340 PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 

I heard a distinctly audible sound, such as that 
mentioned above, issuing from his throat. In 
a second they mated. N^^xt day I found an 
egg in their nest. The hen laid three eggs 
oonsecutively and sat very close. During this 
period I noticed a change in the conduct of 
these extremely shy birds. They became quite 
bold and fearless. If I climbed up to inspect 
the nest, the female bird would not stir till I was 
actually upon it. On its leaving the nest, the 
cock would fly up and sit in front of my nose 
and make a noise. Though not actually aggressive 
towards other birds they jealously guarded their 
nest at this time from intrusion. For over a 
fortnight the hen sat on the eggs but un- 
fortunately these proved to be clear. 

As in the case of the Shama, the female 
Ouzel alone built the nest and took part in 
incubation. The cock, though not obsequiously 
attentive, kept watch over the nursery and, 
whenever the hen was away, he went up close 
to the nest and sometimes perched on its edge. 
But I never found him brooding on the eggs. 



GLOSSARY 



Biri 

Bunds 



Indigenous cigarettes 
Embankments between 
two plots of cultivated 
land marking their 
boundary 



Chenna 


Gram 


Ekka 


A two- wheeled horse- 




driven gig 


Ghee 


Clarified butter 


Jheels 


Large water-s h e e t s, 




natural or artificial 


Jhora 


A hill-stream running 




through a gorge 


Khuskhus 


A kind of sweetly-scen- 




ted grass 


Knnkur 


Gravel for metalling 




roads 


Lal-pugrec 


Lit., red turban ; police- 


\ 


man, so-called from 




the head-gear 


Lepcha 


A hill-tribe of Sikkim 


Pan 


Betel 



342 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



PurdaJi 
Rahar 
Satoo 
Svayambara 



Screen 

A kind of cereal 

Flour of grarn 

Ancient Indian cere- 
mony of selecting bride- 
groom by the bride 



SCIENTIFIC NOMENCLATURE 



According to Oates 

^githina tiphia 
Alauda arvcnsis 

Alauda gulgula 
Alaudula raytal 
Alcippe tiepalc?isis 

Asiur badius 

Calliope camatschatkensis 
Carpodacus eiythrinus 

Cercomela fusca 
Chimarrhornls icuace- 
phalus 
Chloropsis anrifrons 

Chloropsis hardwickii 

Chloropsis jcrdoni 
Cittocinda vi acru ra 



According to Stuart 
Baker 

^'Egithina tiphia tiphia 
Alauda arvensis cineras- 

ceiLs 
Alauda gulgula gulgula 
Alaudula raytal raytal 
Alcippe nepalcnsis ncpa- 

Icnsis 
Astur badius dussjimieri 
Callliope calliope 
Carpodacus crythrinus 

roseaius 

Cercomela fusca 
Chaimarrornis Icucoce- 
phala 
Chloropsis aurifrons au- 

rifrons 
Chloropsis hardivickii 

hardwickii 
Chloropsis ferdoni 
Kittocincla macroura 

tricolor 



B44 PET BlllDS 


OF BEXGA.L 


According to Oat es 


According to Stuart: 




Baker 


Copsychiis saularis 


Copsychiis saularis saula* 


Coccystes jacobinus 


Clamator jacobinus 


Corvus inacrorhynchus 


Corvus coronoides kvail- 




lanti 


Corvus spUndens 


Corvus splctideiis splen- 




dens 


Crinigcr flaveolns 


Crinigcr tcpJirogenis fla" 




vcolus 


C^iculw^ canorus 


Cncnlus canorus telephon-- 


Cuculns micvoptcrus 


us 
Cuculns inicropterus mi^ 




croptcrus 


Cfanecula succica 


Cvanosylvia succica sue* 




cica 


Disseinurus paradlseus 


Disseniurus paradlseus 




grandis 


Eiidynamis Jionorata 


Eudynamis scolopaceus 




scolopaccus 


Galcrita cristata 


G alert da cr is fata chen- 




doola 


Garrulus laiiceolatus 


Garrulus lanceolaius 


Geocichla citrina 


Geocichla citrina citrina? 


Geocichla c\>anonot7is 


Geocichla citrina cyanotic 



SCIENTIFIC NOMENCLATURE 
According to Oates 



34S 



Hierococcyx varlits 

Larvivora brunnea 

Merula boidboul 
Merula botirdilloni 

Merula kinnisi 

Merula siniillima 

Merula unicolor 
Mirafra affinis 
Mirafra assaniica 

Mirafra cantillans 

Mirafra etythroptcra 
Molpastcs bengalensis 

Molpastes leticotis 
Motacilla alba 

Motacilla vtaderaspatcn- 
sis 



According to Stuart 
Baker 

Hierococeyx varitis 

Larvivora cyajze cyane 

Planesticus boulbotd 
Planes liens siinillima 

bc2irdillo7ii 
Planesticus simillima 

kinnisi 
Planesticus simillimus 

simillimus 
Planesticus unicolor 

Mirafra assaniica affinis 

JMirafra assaniica assa- 
niica 

Mirafra cantillans canti- 
lla7is 

Mirafra erythroptera 

Molpastes haemorrhous ■ 
bcjigalensis 

Molpastcs Icucoiis 

Motacilla alba dukhu- 
nensis 

Motacilla alba maderas-- 
patens is 



:346 PET BIRDS 

According to Oates 

JMotacilla melanope 
.Myiophoneus cn^euii 
2Iyiophonens liorsjleldi 
Myiophoneus toii ininckii 

Niltava sundara 

Prat'mcola caprata 
Pratincola luaura 
PyctorJiis nasalis 

Py dor his si/i.cfists 

Rhyacovnis fidigitiosu s 

Suya crinigcra 

Tarsiger crysaus 
Thanmobia cambaieusis 

Thaninobia fnlicata 

Trochaloptcruin liucalniii 



OF BENGAL 

According to Stuart 
Baker 

Motacilla cinerca melan- 
ope 

Myiophoneus horsfieldi 
eugenic 

MyiophoTieus horsfieldi 
horsfieldi 

Myiophoneus horsfieldi 
teniini7ickii 

Niltava sundara 

Saxicola caprata bicolor 
Saxicola torquata indica 
Pycotrhls sinensis nasa- 
lis 
Pyctorhis sinensis sinen- 
sis 

RJi) 'acornis fuliginosa 
Suya crinigcj'a crinigera 

Tarsiger crysccus 

1 Jiamriobia fulicata cani- 
baiensis 

Thamnobia fulicata fuli- 
cata 

'1 yochalopteruni lineatum 
gtiseiccntior 



SCIENTIFIC ^■OMENCLATURE 347 

According to Oates According to Stuart 

Baker 

Tfochaloptcrinn simile Trochalopteruui vanega- 

turn simile 



INDEX 



JEgithina tiphia, 1 1 o, 
125, 312 

Aggia, 128, 130 ; colora- 
tion 162-64 ; flight 
142 ; ground-feeder 
145 ; habitat of Ben- 
gal Bush-Lark 130 ; 
habitat of Madras 
Bush-Lark 131 ; nidi- 
fication 150-53 ; perch 
142 ; resorts 143 ; 
song 142 

Aggin, 128, see Aggia ; 
habitat 130-31 ; song 
143-44 ; mimic 143 

Jilauda a vvensis^ 1 2 J, 
129, 137 

Alciuda gulgiila^ 127, 
137, see Bharat 

Alaudula raytal, 132 

Alcippe ?iepale?isis, 3 1 2 

Amsler, Dr., 167 



Argya, 312 
Astley, 179, 201 
Astur badius, 303 
Avicultural Magazine 

167, 201 

Babbler, 81, Z2y 296, 

303> 3io> 312 
Babbler, Golden-eyed, 

see Gu lab-chasm 
Babbler, Yellow-eyed, 

77-91 ; S9 
Balder, E. C. Stuart, 

100, 125, 224, 243, 

288, 297, 298, 305, 

308,313, 336 
Ball, 130 
Barnes, 133 
Basil-Edwardes, Mr. S,, 

198 
Bee-eater, 97 
Bliaradwai, 128 



350 



PST BiuDS OF be:ngal 



Bharat, 126-165 ; alti- 
tude of flight-ascent 
139-40 ; coloration 
162 ; compared with 
European Sky-Lark 
137 ; dust-bath 142 ; 
flight 138-39 ; habi- 
tat 129 ; nidification 
151-52 ; resorts 140- 
41 ; roosting 141 ; 
Sanskrit name 128 ; 
sings under fear and 
excitement 140 ; soar- 
ing compared with 
birds of prey 140 ; 
sociability varies with 
season 141 ; song 

137-39 
Bhimraj, 222-39, 271 ; 
albinism 237-38 ; at- 
tacking a dog 227-28 ; 
attractive character 
and plumage 223 ; 
captivity 232-35 j care- 
less about territorial 
rights 228 ; colora- 
tion 235-39 ; differ- 



ence between birds 
from Northern and 
Southern India 235- 
36 ; dislike for 
Wood-pecker 226 ; 
division into species, 
of the genus diss- 
emnrus 224-25 ; food 
230; food in captivi- 
ty 234, 235 ; flight 
229 ; habitat 225-26; 
idea of fun 227 ;■ 
Indians adept in 
bird-keeping 222-23 ; 
manner of preying 
228-29 ; mimicry 

231, 233 ; nidifica- 
tion 231-32 ; not 
unsociable 228 ; pre- 
datory nature 226-27; 
resorts 226 ; song 
230-31 ; tail 229-30 ; 
tameness 233 ; unfit 
for mixed aviary 
232 
Bingham, Major, 227 
Blackbird, Ceylon, 212 



INDEX 



351 



Blackbird, Grey-winged, 

see Kasturi 
Blackbird, South-Indian, 

211 

Blanford, 288 

Blue-throat, Indian, 67, 
73, see Hussaini 
Piddah 

Blyth 35, 130, 149, 276, 
295 

Bombay Natural His- 
tory Society 290 
„ Journal of, 183, 23/, 
243, 261, 290 

Bou-katha-kao, 286 ; 

beneficial bird 309- 
10 ; birds generally 
victimised by it 312 ; 
call-notes 308 ; cap- 
tivity 315 ; coloration 
320 ; cover for cages 
a necessity during 
rains 315 ; eggs 313 ; 
food in captivity 316 ; 
habitat 288 ; held 
in great esteem 316 ; 
resorts 304 ; sweeter 



voice 316 ; too secre- 
tive for aviaries 317 ; 
winter migrant inv 
Ceylon 288 
Brain-fever bird, 303,. 

307. 308 
Brooks, 138 
Bulbul, 92, 94, 98, 122,. 

306, 312 
Bulbul, Bush, 122 
Bulbul, Gold-fronted 

green, 92 
Bulbul, Green, 99, 102 
Biitea frondosa^ 60 
Butler, Dr. A. G., 104, 

217, 258, 276, 280. 
Butler, Dr. Fanny, 276- 

Calliope camatschatken- 

sis, 73 
Carpodacios erythrimis^ 

265 
Carpodacus oythrinus 

roseatiis, 265 
Cerconiela fusca, 184 
Chat 48, 7^, 325 
Chat, Common Pied 

Bush,35-47, 53, 54 



:352 



PET BIRDS OF Bt'SCA.h 



Chat, Indian Blue, 312 
Chat, Indian Bush, 49, 

see Kher-piddah 
Chat, The Brown Rock, 

184 

Chat, Stone, 55 

Chatak 115, 123 

Chendool, 128 ; colora- 
tion 164-65 ; flight 
145-46 ; food 148 ; 
habitat 131-32 ; mi- 
gratory 153 ; mimi- 
cry 146 ; nidifica- 
tion 153-54 ; not 
gregarious 148 ; resor- 
ts 145 ; song 145-48 

■X^Jihnarrliomis leucocc- 
phahiSy 197 

Chloropsis, 122 

Chloropsis auvifrons^ 
92, 92-109, 107, 336 
•Chloropsis, gold-fronted, 
100, see Harewa 

Chloropsis hardwichii^ 
107 

Chloropsis }erdoni, 97, 
100, loi, 336, 



Cittocliicla iiiacrura, r 
Coccystcs jacobiims^ 115, 
286, 289, 290, 296, 
305, 310, 313, 322 
Copsyclius saularis^ 19 

CorvHs inacrorJiyncuSy 
312 

Corvns splcndc7iSy 3 12 

Crateropns, 312 

Criniger jiavcolus, 184 

Crow, 292 ; attacking 
Shah-bulbul 306 j 
hatred against the 
Koel 293 ; how out- 
witted by the koel 
294-95 resemblance 
of its eggs with 
those of koel 312 ; 
two species victimi- 
sed by koel 312 

Cuckoo, 284-321 ; rela- 
tion of the coloration 
of their eggs with 
those of their hosts 
313 ; four species 
commonly caged in 
India 286 



INDEX 



Cifckoo, Hawk, see 

Papiya 
Cuckoo, Indian, see 

Bou-katha-kao 
Cuckoo, Pied Crested, 

see Shah Bulbul 
Cuculidae, 286 
Cuculus canorus, 298, 

299 
■Cuculus micyopterus^ 231, 

286, 288, 304, 308, 

310, 312, 313, 322 
Cunningham, 302, 306 
Cya7iccula suecicay 67 

Dama, \66-Z6, 187, 195, 
208, 219, 325,337-338; 
abnormal form 1 83- 
84 ; beneficial bird 
174 ; breeding in 
captivity 179 j cap- 
tivity 177-82 J colo- 
ration 183-84, 338; 
coloration of White- 
throated Ground 
Thrush 175 ; court- 
ing habits 179-81 ; 



feeding habits 173- 

74 j food in captivity 
178 J habitat 168- 
(X) ; Indian style of 
caging ijy-'jZ ; Is it 
a mimic ? 182 
mating season 176 
movements 170, 172 
nidification 17^77 
not strictly a ground 
bird 169 ; partial 
migrant 170; protec- 
tive coloration 171- 
72 ; quarrels between 
males 181-82 ; resorts 
169-70 ; shy and cau- 
tious 1 7071 J so-called 
Dama 184-86 ; soli- 
tary and silent 174- 

75 ; song 167, 175, 
178-79 ; song of 
White-throated Grou- 
nd Thrush 175 ; 
White-throated Grou- 
nd Thrush a mimic 
182 ; why called a 
Ground Thrush 172 



354 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



Davison, 274 

Dewar, 59, 114, 132,185, 
296, 299, 301, 318 

Dhayal, 19-34, 35, 36, 
37, 42, 45, 50, S3, 
56, 59, 61, 64, 66, 
77, 83,92, 174, 241, 
242, 263 325, 331- 
36 ; always nests in 
the same locality 
29 ; argument against 
caging 31 ; bath 30 ; 
beneficial 28 ; breed- 
ing in captivity 31-32, 
331-36.J captivity 30- 
32; cock killing nestl- 
ings 32, 336 ; colora- 
tion 32-34 ; favourite 
haunts 19, 20, 22, 
26 ; feeding habits 
23. 25 ; fighting bird 
in Nepal 21 ; fights 
with the Shama 332 ; 
flight 27; gregarious- 
ness 24 'f habitat 2 [ ; 
idea of territory 27 ; 
incubation period 



335 ; love-displays 
by a hen 332 ; by 
cock 334 ; mating 
period 28 ; mimic 
20 ; monogamous- 
29 J nesting in cap- 
tivity 334-35 ; nidi- 
fication 29-30, 334- 
36 ; pugnacity 20, 
23, 24, 25-26, 332- 
33 ; pugnacity lead- 
ing to capture 24- 
25 ; song 19-20, 22- 
23, 26, 28 ; tail-play 
26; tournament 24 ;. 
why called Magpie- 
Robin 19 
DisseTmiriis alcocki, 238 
Disscmurus paradiseuSy 
222, 224 

Diss emu ms pa radiseus 

grandzs, 225 
Drongo, 99 
Drongo. Racket-tailed,. 

222, see Bhimraj 

Eha, 114, 119, 133 



INDEX 



855 



Eudynamis 288 
Eudynamis honor ata, 331, 
284, 286, 288, 291 

Fatik-jal, 110265 an- 
cient classification 
with Chloropsis 112 ; 
beneficial 117 3 cap- 
tivity 120-23 ; cclora- 
tion 123-26- conduct 
when disturbed 118 5 
controversy about 
breeding plumage 
124 26 ; family party 
1 16-17 J flight 117, 
118 3 food 117 ', habi- 
tat 111-12 3 habits 
1 15-18 ; haunts 112- 
73 , identity with 
Chatak 115 3 lan- 
guishes in captivity 
no, 120-21 ; mating 
period 119 j meaning 
of the name iiOj 
nidification 1 19-20 ^ 
roosting 117 3 soft 
feathers 121 3 song 



III, 1 13-14 3 strange 
way of drinking 123 ; 
two moults a year 
122; whether a 
songster 114 
Fauna of British India, 

224, 336, 337 
Fergusson, 290 
Finch, Hobson'^ Rose, 

265, see Tuti 
Finch, Rose, 26S 
Finch, Scarlet Rose, 

see Tuti 
Fitzgerald, Miss., 192, 

201 
Flacourtia ramontchiy 99 
Fly-catcher, ^j 
Fringillidae, 275, 278 

Galerita cristata, 131 
Garrulus lanceolatiis, 211 
Geocichla citrina^ 166, 

17S: 183, IS4, 187, 

„ cvationotuSy 175 
Gould, 20 
Gulab- chasm. 77-91 3 bold 



356 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



in captivity 79, 88 5 
captivity 88-90 ; co- 
loration 90-91 ; esprit 
de corps 83-85 ; food 
in captivity 90 j 
gregariousness 'jZ, 
83 'y habitat 79 ; 
habits 78 ; how cap- 
tured 89 ; mating 
season %6 ; meaning 
of the name jS ; 
nidification 86-88 ; 
quarrelsome temper 
90 5 resorts 79-81 ; 
shyness 78 j song 
and call-notes 81, 
83, 85, 89 ; way of 
feeding 82-83 

Harewa, 92-109^ 336-37 
bath 105 ; beneficial 
in tea-plantations 96 -, 
cage vs aviary 104- 
05 5 captivity 102- 
07 J chlorcpsis hard- 
wickii 107 J colora- 
tion 107-09 ; disease 



in captivity 107; 
effect of light on 
plumage 105-06 ; 

food 95-97 ; food in 
captivity 106 ; gre- 
garious or not 100, 
336-38; habitat 93-94; 
haunts and habits 
94-95, 97-98 ; Indian 
way of caging 103 ; 
markets for sale 
104 ; merits as cage- 
pet 102-03 ; mimi- 
cry 92, 99, 102, 103 ; 
nidification lOO-CJ ; 
protective livery 93, 
95 ; quarrelsome 

104. ; scuffles with 
parrots 99 ; song 92, 
98-99 ; term 'green 
Bulbul' a mistake 
93 ; unsociability 99 

Harvey, Lindsay, 296, 
297 

Hawk-cuckoo, see Papi- 
ya 

Henderson, 270 



INDEX 



S57 



Hierococcyx varius, 286, 

287.302,313 
Honey-sucker, 106 
Hornbill, Malabar Grey, 

231 
Hume, 52, 136, 257, 270 
Hundred-tongued, 15 
Hussaini Piddah, 67-72 ; 
captivity 70-71 ; co- 
loration 71-72 ; habi- 
tat 68 ; migration 
68 ; mimic 69, 70 ; 
movements 68 ^ re- 
sorts 68 ; song 69 ; 
song-flight 70 ; stea- 
dying new captives 
71 ; tail-play 68-69 

Inglis, 183 

lora, no, 110-26, 112, 
312, see Fatik-jai 

Jay, Black-throated , 
211 
„ Blue, 64 
Jerdon, 130, 133, 219 

Kala-piddah, 36, 48 



Kali-Shama, 56-66 ; 

appearance 57, 63 ; 
bath 63 ; boldness 6r, 
64, 65 ; captivity 63^ 
65 ; coloration 65-66 j 
comparison with the 
Piddah 57-58 j dis- 
tribution of Northern 
and Southern species 
58-59 ; habitat 58- 
59 3 interpretation 
of the name 57 ; 
manner of insect- 
catching 60 ; nest- 
ing period 62 ; ni- 
dification 62-63 • pro- 
tective coloration 65 5 
resorts 59-61, 6'^^ 
64 ; song 61 ; sun- 
bath 61, 64. ; tail- 
play 59, 61, 64; un- 
sociability 61-62, 64 

Kastura, 187, 188-205, 
207, 209, 271 3 bath 
200 ^ captivity 200- 
04 ; carnivorous tas- 
te 193 : coloration 



358 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



20405 3 contrast with 
Dama 195-96 • feed- 
ing habits 194, 195 ; 
fisher 194 ; food in 
captivity 200, 204 • 
habitat 190-91 -, idea 
of territory 196 -, mi- 
mic 201 j murderous 
inclination in aviary 
200 ', nidification 

197-200 j resorts 193- 
95 • secretive 195 • 
song 188, 192 ; tail- 
action 195 ; tame- 
ness 201 ; thrush 
and not babbler 189- 
90 j whisth'ng note 
191-92 
Kasturi, 188, 205-18 ; 
attacks Himalayan 
Whistling Thrush 
211 ; attractive qua- 
lities as a pet 206 ; 
bath 215 j captivity 
214-18; coloration 
218 3 food in capti- 
vity 215 ; habitat 



206 07 ; how caged 
in India 214^ hybrid 
with English Black- 
bird 217-18 J mann- 
er of bathing 209 ; 
mimicry in nature 

207 ', nidification 
212-143 pugnacity 
210-11, 216 ; resorts 
207 ; secretive 208- 
09 ; solitary habits 
209 ; song 207, 209, 
215-16 ; song con- 
nected with sound 
of falling water 215- 
16 3 tail-play 209 3 
vulgar ^^ay of feed- 
ing 215 

Khanjan, 240-64 ; cap- 
tivity 258-63 ; colo- 
ration 263-64 3 cross 
between Pied and 
Grey Wagtails 261 ; 
flight 251 ; flirtation 
249; food 253-54; 
gait 251-52 ; grega- 
rious ness 249-50 3 



INDEX 



359 



liabitat 244-46 ; idea 
of territory 254 ; 
ideal aviary bird 
258 ; Indian cages 
259 ; Indian pre- 
judice against caging 
it 241; Is Motacilla 
inaderaspatensis a 
sub-species ? 243-44 ? 
love-song and song 
contests 246, 250 ; 
nidification 255-58 ; 
queer nesting sites 
25^57 ; quest for 
food 254 ; resem- 
blance with the 
Dhayal 241 ; resorts 
246-48 ; restricted 
application of the 
term to a particular 
species 240 ; restrict- 
•ed range in Bengal 
242 ; song 241, 243 ; 
super-abundance of 
•energy 253 ; uncom- 
panionable with other 
Khanjans 260 j un- 



like Its European con- 
gener does not use 
the nests of other 
birds 257 

Kher-piddah,49-55 5 app- 
earance 50 ; captivity 
53-54 ; coloration in 
summer 54, in winter 
55 ; habitat 52 ; mi- 
gration 51 ; nesting 
time 52 5 nidification 
52-53 ; resorts 50 ; 
song 49, 53, 55 ; 
tail-play 50 

Koel, 284-322 ; and its 
allies 284-322 ; bene- 
ficial bird 309- 10 ; 
call 306-07 ; captivi- 
ty 314-16; colora- 
tion 318-19 J colora- 
tion connected with 
parasitism 302 ; cunn- 
ing 293 ; does young 
koel eject foster- 
brothers ? 298-300 ; 
disliked b)^ English 
residents 285 ; female 



360 



PET BIRDS OV BENGAL 



destroying eggs of 
hosts 295-96; female 
takes charge of you- 
ng, according to 
Gates 300-01 ; flight 
294, 295 ; food in 
captivity 314, 315 ; 
frugivorous 292,310 ; 
habitat 288-89 ; In- 
dian cages 315 ; me- 
thod of outwitting 
crows 294-95 ; popu- 
lar with Indians 284- 
S5, 314 ; resemblan- 
ce between koel's and 
crow's eggs 312; 
resident in some 
places of Bengal 
290-91 ; resorts 291- 
292 ; song in captivi- 
ty 316; superfluous 
in aviaries of Indian 
Zoo Gardens 317 ; 
victimises two speci- 
es of crows 312 ; 
whether female carries 
eggs in bills to place 



in nest 297-98 ; ycung- 
hand-fed for longer 
period 315 ; young 
very clamorous 301 
Kokil, 306 

Lark. I2(>65, 258, 259 ^ 
adaptibility to cli- 
matic conditions 136- 
37 ; breeding in capti- 
vity 158-61 ; capti- 
^'ity 155-61 ; eco- 
nomically beneficial 
150 ; Eha on the 
field -observation of 
Larks 133-34 ; first- 
hand field observa- 
tion meagre 133-34 > 
food 149 ; food in 
captivity 157 ; Indi- 
an cages 155-57 J 
intimate with keeper 
157 ; Is caging Larks 
a cruelty ? 128- 
29 ; Larks as food 
137; mock-combats^ 
136 



XJTDEX 



36t 



Lark, Bengal Bush, see 
Aggia 
„ Crested, see Chendool 
„ Ganges Sand, see 

Retal 
„ Madras Bush, see 

Aggia 
,) Red-winged Bush, 131 
„ Singing Bush, see 
Aggin 
Larvivora bnmnca, 312 
Layard, 20, 114 
Leaf-bird, 95 
Legge, 6, 20, 100, 114, 
122, 124, 137, 151, 
169,246,257, 336 
Leothrix, 122 

Magpie, 19 

Magrath, Major, 216 

Mandal, G. C. , 1 1 

Mason, 310 

Meriila boulboul, 187, 205 
„ hourdillonl, 207 

Menila kinnisi, 212 
„ simillima, 206 
,^ untcolor, 218, 338 



Migrants, 287 

„ partial f 287 

„ irtie, 287 
Mirafra afflnisy 131 

„ assamicay 130 

_,, cantiUaftSy 1 30 

„ crythroptera^ 131 
Molpastes lengalensiSy 

312 
Molpastes Iciicotis 336 
Motacilla alba, 260 

„ alba madcraspatcnsiSi. 

243 
„ higubris, 257 
,_, maderaspatcnsis, 240,-. 

242, 244, 250, 263 
„ melanope, 257 
Munia, 281 

Munn, P.W.,74, 118, 124 
Myiopho7tetis eugenii, 191 
„ Jiorsfieldi 191 
., tcmniinckii, 187, 191^, 
207 

Naidu, Mrs. Sarojini,3o8 
Nightingale, i 
Nilkanthi, 6^ 



^62 



PET BIRDS OF BEXuAL 



Niltava sundara, 312 

Gates, 42, 74, 100, 123, 
124, 130, 132, 133, 
138, 148, 149, 152, 
168, 187, 189, 224, 
243, 288, 289, 295, 

300, 30i> 3195 337 

Ornamojit of the forest, 
102 

Ortolan, 137 

Ouzel, Grey-winged, see 
Kasturi 
„ Tlckell's, 218-221, 
339-41 ; breeding in 
captivity 338-40 ; 
captivity 220-21 ; 

coloration 221 ; habi- 
tat 219, 220 ; manner 
of feeding 219-20 ; 
nidification 220, 339- 
40; song 219,220,339 

Palas, 60 

Papiya, 286 j ailments 
316 ; beneficial 309- 
10 ; birds victimised 
by it 312 5 call 306, 



307-08 ; captivity 
315 ; coloration 319- 
20 J covering for 
cages a necessity du- 
ring rains 315 ; eggs 
313 ; food in capti- 
vity 31 6^ habitat 287- 
88 ; may frighten 
smaller birds in avia- 
ries 317; mobbed by 
Babblers 303 ; per- 
ching habit 303 5 re- 
semblance with As- 
iur haditis 303 ; resi- 
dent bird 287 5 risk 
of being mobbed in 
aviaries 317; "^i^- 
timises Babblers 303 
Parrots, 20, 99, 100 
Phillips, Reginald, 12, 
172, 175, 181, 182, 

235,331 
Piddah, 35-48, 50, 56, 57, 
58, 64, 66 y appear- 
ance 36 j boldness 
39 ; captivity 44-46 ; 
coloration 46-47^ food 



INDEX 



363 



39; habitat 36-37 ; 
movements 39-40 ; ni- 
'dlfication 42-43 ; pug- 
nacity 41, 45 ; re- 
• sorts 37-39 ; song 35, 
41-43 ; sounds of an- 
ger 40 ; tail- pi ay 40 
.„ Hussaini, 67-72 
„ Kala, 36, 48 
„ Kher, 49-55 
P ra£i?icola cap rata, 35, 

48, 57 
„ mauray 49 
Protective coloration, 65, 

93» 95, 171-72, 272 
Futtoo, 167 
Pyctorhis nasalis^ 79 
„ smc?isis, 77 

Red-start, 45, 186 
Red-start, Plumbeous, 

197 
„ White-capped, 197 
Retal, 128 J adaptibility 
to climatic conditions 
136 } coloration 165 ; 
flight 1-^9 ; habitat 



132-33 ; nidification 

154 ; resorts 148 ; 

song 149 
Rhyaco mis fidiginosus^ 

197 
Robin, 14, 19, 35, 45>4S, 

61,67 
„ Golden Bush, 312 
„ Indian, 56-66 
„ Indian Black-backed, 

58 

„ Brown-backed, 5^ 

„ Magpie, 19, 232, see 
Dhayal 

Ruby throat, the Comm- 
on, 72i'7^^ 'i captivity 
76', coloration 74-76 ; 
liabitat 74 ; shyness 
74 ; song 74 ; winter 
visitor 74 

Russ, Dr. , 279 

Ruticillas, 45 

Sand-Lark, see Retal 
Sanyal, 107 

Satoo, 13, 14, 54,63, 106 
Seebohm, 276 



364 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



Selous, 135, 278 

Seven Sisters, 83 

Shah-bulbul, 2865 arrival 
in Bengal 305 ; 
attacked by crows 
306 ; beneficial 309- 
10 ; birds victimised 
by it 312 ; coloration 
321 ; disliked by bul- 
buls 3065 eggs 313 J 
feeds on ground 305 ; 
flight 309 ; food in 
captivity 3175 habitat 
289-90 J habit of des- 
troying eggs of hosts 
296-97 J insectivorous 
3175 notes 309; 
partial migrant 290 -, 
rare as a captive 316 ; 
resident in Ceylon 
290 ; resorts 305 ; 
silent when perching 
309 J young fed on 
caterpillars by foster- 
parents 310 

Shama, 1-18, 19, 20, 22, 
23, 30, 33. 34, 35, 37, 



45, 53, S7> 64, 77, 83, 
92, 103, 122,133,140^ 
174, 186, 222, 233, 
325-331, 340 } bath 
15 ; breeding in cap* 
tivity 1 1- 12; capti- 
vity 9-16 ; coloration, 
male 16 17, female 
17-18, young 18 ; 
coquetish displays 
327 ; courtship 327 ; 
diseases 14 ; fights 
with Dhayal 332-33; 
flight 6, 7 ; food 7 -^ 
food in captivity 12, 

14 ; food of young 
12-13, 330 ; habitat 
4-5 ; incubation period 
12, 331 ; idea of 
sanitation^! 3 ; Indian 
way of caging 2-3 j 
manner of feeding 
7 ; manner of feeding 
young 331 ; mating 
period 8 ; meaning of 
the name 2 ; mimicry 

15 ; nests in captivity^ 



INDEX 



365 



. 328; nidification 8-9, 
328-331 ; resorts 5-^ ; 
f^ong 1*2, 6-7, 14- 
15, 327; tail-play 
7, 10 ; winter visi- 
tant to Cachar 5 ; 
unmotherly hen-bird 
328-29 ; unsociability 
y-S, lo-ii, 15-16 

Shikra, 303 

Shrike, 123 

Sky- Lark, 127, 129, see 
Bharat 

Sonepur fair, 104 

Stone-chat, 55 

Sunbird, 97 

Suya crinigcra^ 312 

Sylvidac, 122 

Tarsi^er ciysocuSy 312 
Ihamnobia^ 45, 48, 58, 

S9, 66, 171 
Thatnnobia camhaiensisy 

56, 56-66, 68 
„ fulicata, 58 
Thrush, l -round, Dusky, 

219 



Thrush Orange -headed 
Ground, see Dama 
„ White-throated, Grou- 
nd 175, 179, 182 
„ Himalayan Streaked 
Laughing, 312 
„ Himalayan Striated 
Laughing, 312 
„ Himalayan Whist- 
ling, 187, 208,211, see 
Kastura 
„ Malabar Whistling, 

189 
„ Western Variegated 
Laughing, 312 
Ticehurst, Mr. Claude 

B., 243 
Tickell, 308 
Tit, 97, ii5 
Trochalopterum linea- 

tutn, 312 
„ simile^ 312 
Tutif 265-83 J breeding 
in captivity 279; cap- 
tivity 280-82 ; colo- 
ration 282-83 ; food 

274-75 ; ^00^ i"* ^^p- 



366 



PET BIRDS OF BENGAL 



tivity 281-82 ; gre- 
gariousness 270-/ 1 ; 
habitat 268-70 ; loss 
of colour in captivity 
280-81 ; mass-favou- 
rite 266 ; migratory 
movements 268 70 ; 
nidification 278-80 ; 
no protective colora- 
tion 272 ; pugnacity 
274 ; resorts 274 ; 
song 275-76, 277 ; 
song and beauty 
united in it 277-785 
timidity and alert- 
ness as protective 
characters 272-73 



\VagtaiI,68, 70, 71, I4J^ 

169 
„ Grey, 257 
„ Large Pied, see 
Khanjan 
Warbler, 123 

„ Brown Hill 312 
White- eye, 115 
Wood-pecker, 226 

„ Malabar Blacky. 
231 

Zoological Gardens, 

Calcutta, II, 107^ 
234 



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