(1749) Aquila rapax vindhiana.
THE INDIAN TAWNY EAGLE.
Aquila vindhiana Frank., P. Z. S., 1831, p. 114 (Vindhya Hills) Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 337.
Vernacular names. Wokhab, Ragar (Hind.); Dholwa(Wagri); Bursawul (Yerkli); Alawa, Salwa (Tel.); Alt (Tam.).
Description.— Adult. General plumage brown, in most cases more or less tinged with fulvous but never with rusty-reddish as in A. r. rapax. Many adults have the head and shoulders very fulvous, this colour spreading and deepening on the back and wing-coverts; the rump and upper tail-coverts paler again than the back; tail light grey-brown tipped paler; in very old birds only a little mottling on the inner webs near the tips is to be seen on the outer tail-feathers but in young adult birds a certain amount of cross-barring is nearly always visible on the central tail-feathers ; median wing-coverts dark brown, with pale tips and much white on the inner webs; greater coverts dark brown ; primaries blackish-brown, pale-tipped and increasingly paler brown on the bases towards the secondaries, which are dark brown with white tips and grey bars on the inner webs; the lower plumage varies from dull fulvous to fulvous- or golden-brown ; the chin and throat are nearly always paler and many birds have the breast or upper breast much darker, the feathers sometimes with pale tips ; in the majority of adult or semi-adult specimens the feathers below have dark shaft-lines.
Colours of soft parts. Iris bright hazel; bill slaty or bluish-grey on the basal half, black on the terminal half; the extreme base of the lower mandible tinged horny-yellow ; cere dull yellow-cream to bright deep yellow in the breeding-season ; legs and feet dull greenish-yellow, horny-yellow to yellow, rarely greenish-white, claws black.
Measurements. Wing, 525 to 535 mm., 536 to 560 mm.; tail, 242 to 254 mm., 260 to 285 mm.; tarsus about 63 to 71 mm.; culmen 48 to 54 mm.
Young birds are darker than adults as a rule and have more conspicuous streaking below and more barring on the tail; some young birds are practically entirely dull brown, earthy-brown or rufous-brown. Many birds have the feathers of the nape tipped pale, this extending on to the feathers at the side of the neck and breast much like a ruff:. A few birds, especially those in a fulvous plumage, have odd narrow bars of black on the feathers of the mantle.
Nestling. " Brown,' without shaft-stripes but with broad rufous-bun: edges and pale tips to the quills and tail-feathers " (Brooks).
" Whole plumage 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).
Distribution. The greater part of India, excluding the wetter parts such as Travancore and the Malabar coast; Eastern Bengal and Assam. It also occurs in the drier region of North Central Burma near Thayetmyo.
Nidification. Hume gives the breeding-season as November to the middle of June but it is very rare to find any eggs after February, whilst December and January are the two principal months. The nest is built on the tops of trees, generally on trees of moderate size, often on very low ones, rarely on high trees. Whatever the height, however, it is nearly always a tree standing quite in the open. The nest varies greatly in size ; sometimes it is a neat compact affair barely two feet in diameter by less than one in depth, neatly finished off and lined with green leaves ; at other times it is double this size in breadth and depth and very untidv, with a lining of grass or rubbish. The normal clutch of eggs is two, often one and exceptionally three. They are generally white or nearly so, just faintly speckled or smeared with pale yellowish- or reddish-brown, but here and there one meets with a well-marked almost handsome egg. Sixty eggs average 66.0x 52.8 mm.: maxima 75.1 x 55.4 and 70.3 x 57.6 mm.; minima 58.0 x 47.3 and 60.0 x 46.4 mm.
Aquila rapax rapax is said to make its nest on the ground.
Habits. This Tawny Eagle is much the most common and most widely-distributed Eagle in India but it is confined to the drier areas and is practically never found in forest or heavily-wooded country, nor does it ascend the hills to any height. It hunts over fields and plains in a very methodical and rather Buzzard-like manner and does not seem to care much what it eats. All small mammals, birds, reptiles, etc., are captured and eaten and it freely devours dead animals even when putrid. It is a great bully though a poor sportsman and is well known as a robber of other and smaller birds of prey and is a nuisance when hawking both because it steals the quarry when killed and because it pursues the falcons, mistaking the jesses for small birds. When forced by hunger it is quite capable of killing game for itself of considerable size ; Jerdon saw it kill a Lesser Florikin and it has been known to strike down the larger duck, hares, etc., whilst a dead cat was once found in a nest of this Eagle. Its cry is a very loud raucous cackle and it also utters shrill screams.