(1749) Aquila rapax vindhiana Frank.
THE INDIAN TAWNY EAGLE.
Aquila rapax vindhiana, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 72.
This common Eagle is found over the greater part of the plains of India, but is confined to the drier portions and does not occur in the heavy rainfall countries such as Travancore, the Malabar coast, Eastern Bengal and Assam. It occurs, though not so commonly, in the drier area of Burma in the North Central districts.
So well was the bird and its breeding known in Hume’s time that it is impossible to add anything of value to his summary:—
“The Indian Tawny Eagle breeds throughout the drier portions of Continental India. Here this species and the Spotted Eagle may be found breeding in close proximity ; but this is only on the borders of their respective territories, and as a rule it is just in these well-drained, open, dry districts, where A. clanga never breeds, that the Tawny Eagle most delights to rear its young.
“The nest is always, so far as my experience goes, placed on trees. I have never met with one placed on rocky ledges, although I have found them on trees at the foot of, or near to, precipices, which contained apparently most ‘ eligible sites.’
“They build a large flat nest of sticks, between 2 and 3.1/2 feet in diameter, and from 4 inches to 1 foot in thickness, according to situation. The neats are generally lined with green leaves, sometimes with straw or grass intermingled with a few feathers, and sometimes have no hning at all. They are generally placed on the very top of the tree, and though I have occasionally found them on peepul or tamarind-trees, the great majority were on moderate-sized, but dense babool-trees, standing apart or in the midst of fields or low jungles.”
The tree selected for the nest varies according to locality. A. Anderson wrote :—“The Wokab is partial to certain trees for the site of its nest ; but I have found its predilection in this respect to be regulated by the abundance or scarcity of the trees in question. In the Cawnpore district they almost invariably build on solitary peepul-trees (Fieus religiosa). In the Futtehgurh and Mynpoory districts, where the seesoo (Dalbergia seesoo) grows to so gigantic a size, the preference is apparently given to them, Higher up the Doab, where the country assumes somewhat of a desert character, I found them building on thorny acacias. On one occasion I found a nest on a babool which was certainly not more than 15 fect, high.”
In Jhelam, Jhang and Hissar, in the Punjab, Whistler found them breeding almost invariably on keekur-trees, generally on the extreme top, b\it once on a side branch well inside the foliage of the tree.
Jones also found them breeding in keekur-trees in the Punjab, but Osmaston took one nest near Rawalpindi 40 feet up in a Mulberry- tree and Lindsey-Harvey obtained one on a solitary Mango-tree.
Whatever the tree selected may be it is nearly always solitary or one of a small group of trees standing in open ground, cultivated or waste, where often the nest is very conspicuous. Anderson writes of one taken by him in January : “I was not long in finding their nest, an enormous structure, on the topmost branches of a seesoo, which was visible nearly a mile off, as at this season of the year the tree was devoid of every green leaf.” Occasionally also they may select a tree in a garden, as recorded by Aitken.
The breeding season is a very long one. Hume says “it lays from the middle of November to the middle of June ; but the great majority lay in January. Out of 159 eggs, 83 were taken in January, 38 in December, 28 in February, the rest in November, March, April and June.” In the United Provinces and Bihar most birds breed in November and December, and Thompson says that in the Central Provinces also these two are the favourite months. On the other hand Davidson and Wenden in the Deccan took eggs from the 28th October onwards, and had an egg, almost certainly of this species, brought to them on the 30tb September.
The normal full clutch of eggs is two, but often one only is laid and rarely three.
In shape they are fairly broad ovals but typically not so broad as those of any of the other Eagles, and rather long ovals are often to be seen, while Hume says that “some are very long and pointed.” The texture is coarse but the surface less rough than in that of the eggs of most Eagles, while in a few eggs it is quite smooth and close- grained.
The eggs are white, in all those I have seen pure white, or very occasionally with the faintest possible tinge of pink or yellow, barely discernible. Hume speaks of a greenish tinge, but this I have never seen. A few eggs are entirely unmarked, though this is excep¬tional. On the other hand, well-marked eggs are even more rare. Most are faintly blotched indefinitely and sparsely over the whole surface with small blotches of pale reddish-brown. Now and then one comes across a single egg or a pair with darker bolder blotches and spots, yet in my whole series I have only one pair which could be called handsomely marked.
Eighty eggs measured by myself average 66.0 x 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.
The hen bird alone carries on incubation, but both sexes assist in building the nest, the male bringing the material with which the female does the actual construction. She is said to sit very close when once incubation has begun, refusing to move until the last moment or when stones or sticks are thrown at her. She, however, makes no demonstration on her eggs being taken.
1749. Aquila rapax vindhiana
(1749) Aquila rapax vindhiana Frank.