1203. Aquila vindhiana.
The Indian Tawny Eagle.
Aquila vindhiana, Franklin, P. Z. S. 1831, p. 114 ; Jerdon, Madr. Jour. L. S. x, p. 67; Hume, N. & E. p. 29; Brooks, P. A. S. B. 1873, p. 174; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 243; Anderson, P. Z. S. 1875, p. 22; Butler, S. F. iii, p. 446; ix, p. 372; Gurney, Ibis, 1877, pp. 225, 234; Davidson & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 74; Ball, ibid. p. 197; Hume, Cat. no. 29 ; Doig, S. F. viii, p. 370; Reid, S. F. x, p. 7; Davidson, ibid. p. 287; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 29; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 40; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 132. Aquilla punctata, J. E. Gray in Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool. i, pl. 16 (1830-32). Aquila fusca, J. E. Gray, op. cit. ii, pl. 27 (1833-34). Aquila naevioides, apud Blyth, Cat. p. 27; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 44; nec Cuv. Aquila fulvescens, apud Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 60; Blyth, Ibis, 1860,, p. 241; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 173; Blanford, J. A. S. B. xxxviii, pt. 2, p. 166; Jerdon, Ibis, 1871, p. 245 ; Hume, S. F. i, p. 158; nec Gray.
The Tawny Eagle, Jerdon; Wokhab, Ragar, H.; Dholwa, Wagri; Bursawul, Yerkli; Alawa or Salwa, Tel.; Ali, Tam.
Coloration very variable. Adults are almost uniform brown, varying from dark umber to pale brown, sometimes whity brown or whitish on the head and body. Very pale birds are generally in worn plumage, and the light tint is probably caused by bleaching. The quills are dark brown or nearly black at the end, mottled and barred towards the base; the tail is dark grey, with more or less distinct cross-bars. Occasionally the head is greyer or paler than the back, and in some birds (not, I think, fully adult) the head is almost black and the nape pale.
A nestling, obtained by Mr. Brooks from the nest, has the feathers brown, without shaft-stripes, but with broad rufous-buff edges, and pale tips to the quills and tail-feathers ; but, according -to Hume, in the nestling (N. & E. p. 30) " the whole plumage is rufous-brown, purer on the head, more earthy on the mantle, and paler below, each feather with a narrow black central stripe or line." Hume (Rough Notes, p. 176) says that the paler-coloured birds are young, and the plumage grows darker with age ; but Brooks (P. A. S. B. 1873, p. 174) declares that the pale plumage is that of adult birds, and is due to fading from exposure. I am disposed to think Brooks right. Apparently there are two young plumages— one tawny, with dark shaft-stripes below and on the upper tail-coverts; the other darker brown, without shaft-stripes: but whether these plumages are successive or alternative it is difficult to say.
Many specimens have the breast dark brown, and the abdomen paler greyish brown with dark shaft-stripes. In the dark plumage many of the feathers have pale tips; in some cases, even in freshly-moulted adult birds, there are pale buffy terminal spots to the nape and breast-feathers (as in Gray's figure of A. punctata). In the nestling plumage the tail appears to be unbarred, but in the next plumage, probably after the first moult, it becomes closely barred, the barring becoming less marked again in the adult.
There are other variations still. Some birds have a brownish-rufous head, some a pale whitish one, some a black one with a whitish nape; some have particoloured feathers on the lower -breast and abdomen. In this, as in other Eagles, the changes are probably irregular and vary in different individuals.
Cere deep yellow; irides hazel-brown; feet yellow (Jerdon). Bill pale bluish grey near the cere, tip black; cere dirty cream-colour; legs and feet dirty greenish white (Hume). Nostrils elliptical or ear-shaped; plumage harsh.
Length of male about 25.5; tail 10; wing 20; tarsus 2.75; mid-toe 2; bill from gape 2.25: in females—length 28; tail 11; wing 21.5.
Distribution. Throughout the greater part of India, chiefly in the drier districts, where this is by far the commonest Eagle; wanting on the Malabar coast and in Ceylon, and apparently in Lower Bengal and Assam, but occurring in Upper Burma near Thayet Myo, as there are specimens collected by Oates in the British Museum. This species is not known to occur outside of India and Upper Burma, but is represented by a nearly allied form, A. albicans, in N. & E. Africa.
Habits, &c. This common Eagle is usually seen either seated on a tree or beating over fields and woods. It is, like most Eagles, not particular about its food, and will pounce on a small mammal, bird, lizard, snake, or frog, or share the carcase of a dead bullock with vultures; but it also subsists to a great extent by robbing smaller Accipitrine birds, such as kites and falcons, of their captures ; and Elliot long since called attention to its troublesome habit of pursuing tame falcons, owing to its mistaking the jesses for prey. It breeds from November to June, chiefly in January in Northern India, rather earlier in the Central Provinces; it builds a nest of sticks, usually lined with green leaves, generally on the top of a high tree, but often, where no high trees are at hand, on a low babul (Acacia arabica), and lays usually two eggs, greyish white, more or less spotted or blotched with yellowish brown, and measuring about 2.63 by 2.11.