(1802) Astur badius badius.
THE CEYLON SHIKRA.
Falco badius Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p. 280 (1788) (Ceylon). Astur badius. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 398 (part.).
Vernacular names. Jali Dega (Tel.); Chinnur wallur (Tam.); Ukussa, Karula goya (Cing.).
Description. Upper plumage grey, very lightly tinged with ashy; a well-defined rufescent-brownish collar on the hind-neck and sides of the neck; primaries darker grey, blackish at the tips, white on the inner webs below the notch and barred with dark brown or blackish ; inner quills more grey and edged with white; tail ashy-grey, the median and outermost feathers obsoletely, the others broadly barred with five bands of dark brown or black ; lores white; sides of the head vinous-grey, chin and throat white with a well-defined mesial streak pale to dark grey ; lower parts white, the breast, flanks and anterior abdomen with numerous narrow bars of rufous, varying much in depth of colour ; in some specimens a few bars extend to the thigh-coverts but in this race most birds are pure white on these parts, the vent, lower abdomen and under tail-coverts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris golden-yellow : bill slaty-blue, black at the tip, paler at the base, yellowish on the gape ; cere bright yellow to deep orange; legs and feet yellow, claws black.
Measurements. Wing, 169 to 180mm., 3 95 to 207 mm.; tail 129 to 159 mm.; tarsus 44 to 53 mm.; culmen, 16 to 17 mm., 18 to 20 mm.
Fully adult females are like the male but take longer to assume this plumage, whilst younger birds have the upper parts more tinged with ashy.
Young birds are dark brown above, the feathers edged with rufous, more broadly so on the head and neck; the white bases of the neck-feathers often show through strongly; scapulars and innermost secondaries with broad white bases; outermost tail-feathers with seven narrow dark bars, other feathers with five broader bars ; underparts white, with broad streaks of dark brown, becoming spots on the thigh-coverts and abdomen.
Distribution. Ceylon and Travancore.
Nidification. I can find nothing on record about the nidification of this form of the Shikra beyond Legge's statement that it breeds in May and Jnne in the interior of forests. Phillips obtained three eggs from a nest built in a rubber-tree on the 2nd April, whilst Bourdillon and Stewart took eggs in February, March and May. The nest, self-built, is made of twigs and small sticks, high up in a big tree, measuring a foot or less in diameter and only three or four inches deep. The eggs, two to four in number, are a pale skim-milk blue, fading to white in time. Sixteen average 39.0 x 31.2 mm.; maxima 43.6 x 32.0 and 42.3 x 35.0 mm.; minima 37.4 x 29.3 mm. The parent birds are sometimes very resolute in defence of their young, whilst at other times they display no interest in them.
Habits. According to Legge this is a bird of the forest, retiring to their depths for breeding-purposes. Bourdillon, however, says it is a bird of the open or of the lightest forest only and Phillips and Stewart both found it breeding in the rubber-lands and open country. It feeds principally on frogs and lizards, but also eats mice, rats, locusts, termites and any kind of large insect swooping down on these from an elevated perch, sometimes following up its prey and hunting it down but never falling headlong on to it like the Falcons. Its note is a shrill double whistle.