(1797) Buteo hemilasius.
THE UPLAND BUZZARD.
Buteo hemilasius Temm. & Schleg. in Siebold's Faun. Jap., Aves, p. 16 (1844), pi. vii. (1845) (Japan). Buteo leucocephalus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 392. Archibuteo hemitolophus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 395.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Whole head white, the feathers of the crown and nape streaked with dark brown, the streaks coalescing on the sinciput to form a brown patch; broad moustachial streak brown; upper parts and wings brown, the feathers with inconspicuous dark shafts ; central tail-feathers brown, mottled along the centre with white and with two or three terminal darker bars ; outermost primaries black with inner webs white below the inner notch; remaining primaries more and more white on the inner webs, the outer webs greyish at the base and both webs barred with dark brown near the tips; the upper tail-coverts usually have a few white spots ; chin white, throat and fore-neck brown with white bases showing strongly; remaining underparts brown, the paler bases showing up more or less and the feathers also lightly fringed with rufous.
One or two specimens are even darker than the above and are dark chocolate-brown everywhere; the primaries show a little white on the inner webs whilst the tail is barred with a few grey bars on the bases of the central feathers, the grey mixed with white increasing on the outer feathers.
Outside India the most common form is much paler; the head is light brown, each feather being edged with whitish, the white forming a conspicuous nuchal patch ; the upper parts are light brown more or less marked with fulvous or pale rufous ; the lower parts are fulvous-white, the upper breast, flanks and centre of the abdomen with broad splashes of brown ; the thigh-coverts brown with pale bars.
The under plumage varies from this, as above described, to fulvous profusely marked everywhere with brown. In these birds the tails of the younger specimens are marked with about seven bars of dark brown on a mottled ground of pale brown and white.
Yet other Indian specimens have the upper back and scapulars marked with rich rufous, whilst on the underparts a rich rufous or rufous-buff takes the place of the usual white or pale buff. In one of these specimens there are eleven bars on the central tail-feathers.
Colours of soft parts. Iris buff to golden-yellow or white; bill bluish-horny or dusky horny, paler and more yellow at gape and on base of lower mandible; cere greenish-yellow; legs and feet wax-yellow, livid yellow or yellowish-grey, claws black.
Measurements. Wing 480 to 501 mm.; tail 255 to 282 mm.; tarsus 81 to 90 mm.; culmen 34 to 36 mm.
The feathering on the tarsus varies greatly; in the majority the feathering covers half, or rather more than half, the front of the tarsus ; in a few it only covers the upper third, whilst in many birds it extends well on to the base of the toes. The Indian birds, on account of their very dark colour, would seem to form a separate race but there is one specimen from N.E. Chihli which is almost as dark as any Indian bird.
Distribution. Breeding Japan, South-East Siberia and Mongolia to Tibet, Nepal and the Himalayas to Murree, Kashmir and Kuman. Probably, if not certainly, also breeding throughout the mountains of North Central China. In Winter it is found in North China, Burma and North-West India.
Nidification. The Upland Buzzard certainly breeds in Tibet, whence I have received skins and eggs, and probably in Ladak and Northern Kashmir. In Tibet it makes its nest on ledges of cliffs, nest and eggs only differing from those of the preceding bird in being larger. Thirty-two eggs average 59.0 x 47.6 mm. but six Indian eggs average 60.4 x 46.8 mm: maxima 64.0 x 46.0 and 61.9 x 47.9 mm.; minima 53.5 x 43.5 and 58.6 x 42.6 mm. Seminoff took a large series of these eggs in the Amur in May and June whilst in Tibet a clutch of three eggs was taken on the 29th April and a second clutch of two from the same nest on the 24th June.
Habits. Typical of the genus. It is found up to some 15,000 feet in Tibet and breeds between 12,000 and 14,000 feet, so far as is known at present. It is a powerful bird and perhaps more energetic and bold than most Buzzards, feeding largely on hares, gerbills, etc., and is even said to tackle the Tibetan Sand-Grouse.