34. Spizaetus oaligatus

No. 34. Spizaetus Caligatus Raffles,

The Changeable Hawk-Eagle.

My collection contains no egg of this species, and I have never yet myself succeeded in finding a nest. My friend, Mr. B. Thompson, furnishes me with the following notes - :

" The breeding season commences in March, and lasts until the end of June, but they mostly lay in April and May. The nest is placed at a height of from forty to fifty feet from the ground, on large trees, in dense woods, usually in a good game locality. The nest is a large round structure from 2.5 to 3 feet in diameter, much resembling that of the common Aquila Naevia, a thick clumsy platform, composed of thick dry twigs and roots, with a central depression from four to five inches deep, lined with fine roots, and stems. The eggs are usually two, but I have preserved no record of their appearance, and I have no specimens by me to measure or describe.

" Our Moorhaitah or ' Peacock-killer' as he is always called by the paharees, is a common bird in our province, (Gurhwal) they are known as famous destroyers of game, and many a fine Peacock with a magnificent train, has my mahout rescued from their clutches, only to die by the knife instead of by the Hawk's claws. I once saw a single Spizaetus, stoop at a Peacock which was on the ground, and strike at his head ; the Peacock dodged, rose and flew into a patch of tall grass where he lay concealed. The Eagle betook himself to a tree close by, whence he quietly watched the movements of the other. After a while, the Peacock began to move from his place of concealment, the moment he was well out of the grass, the Eagle darted down and caught him by the neck. "When I got up to the place, having been a witness to the whole proceeding, the Eagle left his quarry and flew up into a tree; the Peacock was quite dead.

" I have often put up black Partridge for these birds, and have had much sport watching them flying after the game. These birds are first rate at jungle Fowl in the wild state. I have caught several, and tried to train them; but all my falconers, either refused to keep them, or destroyed them shortly after they were put in their possession. A small Chicken, or in its place a grown up Hen or Cock, is a capital bait for catching this bird. The net used is a vertical one, about eight feet square with large and stout meshes. The Hawk dashes into this like fury, and is always caught.

" I have taken the young from the nest, one always; but I have frequently seen the wild birds feeding two young ones.

" Both young and adult utter a peculiarly loud cry, which may be thus rendered; whee-whik, whee-whik. This cry is sometimes uttered whilst on the wing, but most commonly, whilst perching on trees.

11 Another and most common cry is something like this and resembles a whistle - :toot, toot, toot, toot twee, uttered at intervals.

" The young are most noisy, though the adults at the pairing time, are particularly so. All the Spizaeti that I know, utter very similar notes, a perfect imitator of their notes is Edolius Paradiseus; Cissa Sinensis and Garrulus Lanceolalus sometimes imitate it finely. Many Drongoes do the same."

With reference to the above, I should remark, that Mr. Thompson furnished me with a fine series of the birds referred to, and they undoubtedly belonged to this species.

In regard to the Spizaeti, Mr. Blyth (Ibis, 1866,) has the following interesting remarks:

" With respect to S. Caligatus and S. Alboniger mentioned under the head of S. Kieneri, see Mr. Gurney's enumeration of the species of this genus, (for which he accepts the name Spizaetus) accompanying Mr. Gould's figure, (Birds of Asia, part XV.) of S. Alboniger (S. Borneonensis, Gray,) I have, to remark that the species common in Lower Bengal (and there the only one) is 8. Limnaetus (Falco Caligatus of Baffles,) identical with the common Malayan race, similarly assuming the black plumage with full maturity, and very rarely exhibiting more than the rudiment of an occipital crest, as distinguished from S. Cirrhatus of other parts of India and Ceylon. The latter never attains the black plumage, and has always a long occipital crest. Horsfield's type specimen of his Falco Limnaetus from Java, is identical with the Bengal bird, but Professor Schlegel (Mus. P. B. Astures, pp. 10, 11) describes a long-crested specimen from Western Java which seems to agree with S. Cirrhatus of India, while his other Javan specimens are clearly S. Limnaetus. Even the large and very conspicuously distinguished S. Nipalensis, Hodgson, is considered by Professor Schlegel to be merely a variety of this S. Cirrhatus. Yet he discriminates Spilornis Cheela from S. Bacha, which most assuredly are less strongly characterized apart, than are Spizaetus Nipalensis and S. Cirrhatus. S. Nipalensis should occur rarely in the mountainous parts of Southern India, as it was obtained by the late Dr. Kelaart, at an altitude of about 4000 feet in Ceylon. Professor Schlegel notes S. Kieneri from the Philippines. It may be remarked, that the black, final plumage of S. Limnaetus is analogous to that of the North American Archibuteo Sanctijohannis, if not also to that of Astur Melanoleucus, A. Smith (Zool. S. Africa, Aves, pl. 18); but see Mr. Gurney's remarks (Ibis, 1864, p. 357)."

The following are Mr. Gurney's observations, which I transcribe from Mr. Gould's magnificent work.

"Spizaetus Alboniger, Blyth; 8. Borneonensis, Gray. This very distinct species, the smallest of the Asiatic Spizaeti with which we are at present acquainted, was first described by Mr. Blyth (A. D. 1845) in the fourteenth volume of the ' Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal,' p. 173, in the following terms : - :' A smaller species than either of those from India, measuring about 21 1/2 inches in length ; wing, 13 inches, and tail, 9 1/2 inches ; tarsus, 3 inches ; occipital crest, 3 1/4 inches. Adult: black above, with a purple gloss; the large alars embrowned, and distinctly banded with black; tail black, with a broad, light greyish brown bar occupying about its third quarter from the base; the longer upper tail coverts have each two cross-bands of the same, lower parts pure white, with a black mesial line on throat; large intense black drops on the breast. The belly, vent, lower tail coverts, tibial plumes, and short tarsal feathers are throughout closely barred black and white ; beak black, and toes wax yellow. A younger specimen has the drops fewer and smaller on the breast, an admixture of rufous about the head. 'Several unmoulted brown feathers among the wing coverts, and one unmoulted tail feather which has three narrowish dark bars, with two or more at the base, closer and less defined: a remarkably handsome species from Malacca, the Tenasserim provinces, and Borneo.

" The following species are also found on the continent of Asia and in the adjacent islands.

" Spizaetus Lanceolatus, Temminck, and Schlegel, Fauna Japonica, p. 7.

" fasciolatus, Schlegel, Museum des Pays Bas, p. 9.

Professor Schlegel, though citing the above synonym for this species, appears to doubt its being specifically distinct; it is, however, a very well-defined species, differing from S. Alboniger in its larger size, in the absence of a crest, and in the strong rufous colouring of the upper portion of the breast in the adult bird. It inhabits the Celebes, and, according to the authors of the ' Fauna Japonica,' is also found in Borneo. This species, of which the British and Norwich Museums contain fine examples, brought from the Celebes by Mr. Wallace, has not yet been figured.

" Spizaetus Kieneri, De Sparre, Magasin de Zoologie, 1835, pi. 35 (adult).”

" A specimen in immature plumage, said to have been killed on the coast of Scotland, near Aberdeen, in the year 1828, is figured in Jardine and Selby's ' Illustrations of Ornithology,' pl. 66. This species has been observed in Northern and in Central India, and it also occurs in the islands of Java and Borneo; but both there and in India, it appears to be a bird of considerable rarity.

" Spizaetus Philippensis, This specific name I would propose for a species of Spizaetus inhabiting the Philippine Islands, which appears to me to be undoubtedly distinct, though not admitted as such by Professor Schlegel, who is disposed to consider it as referable to S. Kieneri (Vide Museum des Pays Bas, p. 12,) an opinion in which I am unable to agree. As this Spizaetus is at present unfigured, I add the description of a specimen in the Norwich Museum, which I suppose to be an adult female: -

" Total Length, 25 inches; wing, from carpal joint, 14 3/4; tail, 11 1/2; crest, 2 1/2 ; tarsus, 3 1/2; middle toe and claw 3.

" The general colour of the upper surface in this species is a dark umber brown; but the base of the feathers of the crest is white, and the margins of the other occipital feathers are of a light yellowish brown. Some of the scapulars and upper alar feathers (especially the latter) are slightly tipped with, the same; the tail, which is of a somewhat lighter brown than the back, is tipped with a very narrow edging of white, and is also crossed by seven blackish brown bars, the upper one being, however, somewhat indistinct, and the two lower being separated by an interval which is twice the breadth of the spaces between the other bars. The throat has a broad blackish band running down its centre, with two similar and nearly parallel bands proceeding from the corners of the mouth, the three bands all merging in a cluster of dark brown lanceolate marks upon the upper portion of the breast, the intervals between these markings and also the whole plumage of the lower sternal and abdominal regions being tinged with a yellowish rufous; the under tail coverts are barred with brown and white, the former bars being much broader than the latter ; and the thighs and tarsi are marked throughout their length with narrow equidistant transverse bars of the same colours.

" A second and apparently less adult specimen in the Norwich Museum resembles the one above described, except in the crest being less developed and in the colours generally being somewhat lighter, particularly on the head, and the markings, especially on the lower part of the tarsi, being paler and less distinct.

" Spizaetus Nipalensis, Hodgson. (Here Dr. Jerdon'}s description &c., is quoted from the Birds of India.)

" Spizaetus Cirrhatus, Gmel. This species (the common Crested Eagle of India and Ceylon) differs from S. Nipalensis in its somewhat smaller and much more variable size, in the paler character of the transverse markings on the abdomen and thighs, in the entire absence of the white abdominal ovate spots, and especially in the less powerful development of its talons generally, and of the inner and hinder claws in particular, these being very decidedly smaller and feebler in this species than in S. Nipalensis.

" S. Cirrhatus is figured in the Pl. Col. pl. 282, under the name of Falco Cristatellus.

"Spizaetus Caligatus, Raffles. This species is very nearly allied to the preceding (with which many Ornithologists consider it to be identical,) but appears to differ from it in the following particulars, viz., first by the non-development of the crest, which is a marked feature in most specimens of S. Cirrhatus, but which is entirely absent in the great majority of specimens of S. Caligatus and when it does appear, is much less elongated than it usually is in S. Cirrhatus ; second, by the bill being somewhat deeper and more powerful, and the tarsi somewhat shorter, in S. Caligatus than in S. Cirrhatus, the comparison being, of course, made between individuals of equal general size ; third, by the wider geographical range of S. Caligatus, which is found not only in India and Ceylon, but also in Burmah, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java; fourth, by the tendency to melanism, which is of constant occurrence in 8. Caligatus, while in S. Cirrhatus such a variety is very rare. This black variety of S. Caligatus has been observed in Java, to be permanent and hereditary, and to be commoner in that island than the paler race. Some naturalists have indeed, considered it as specifically distinct; and such is the opinion expressed by Dr. Bernstein (a resident in Java) in a very interesting paper published in Cabanisi Journal of Ornithology, Vol. VIII. p. 417. The adult of the paler race is figured by Temminck in the Pl. Col. pl. 127, under the title of Falco Niveus;' and the same work contains a figure, in pl. 134, of the dark variety, under the name of ' Falco Limnaetus;' the latter is also figured in Horsfield's Zoological Researches in Java, Aves, pl. 3.

" In conclusion I may recapitulate the species of Asiatic Spizaetus which I have above enumerated, and which, in my opinion, may be considered as distinct - :

" Spizaetus Alboniger, Blyth; S. Lanceolatus, Temminck; S. Kieneri, De Sparre; S. Philippensis, nobis; S. Nipalensis, Hodgson ; S. Cirrhatus, Gmelin; S. Caligatus, Raffles."

Dr. Jerdon remarks that he is not aware that that S. Caligatus (described by him under the name of Limnaetus Niveus) occurs in Upper India. I have already put on record Mr. Thompson's remarks as to its occurrence in the Gurhwal and Babur forests, and I may note, that I have killed it myself in various portions of the Sub-Himalayan ranges, as far west as the Jumna

My Scrap Book
Hume, Allan Octavian, ed. My Scrap Book: Or, Rough Notes on Indian Oology and Ornithology. Vol. 1. 1869.
Title in Book: 
34. Spizaetus oaligatus
Book Author: 
Allan Octavian Hume
Page No: 
Common name: 
Changeable Hawk
Vol. 1

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