No. 46. ? Buteo Asiaticus, LATHAM.
Buteo Aquilinus. Hodgson
Butaquila Leucocephala. Hodgson
? Buteo Hemilasius, SCHLEGEL (Fauna Japonica, Ares, Tab. 7.)
THE UPLAND BUZZARD.
This species is so excessively rare, that no specimen of it exists, I believe, in India, and only one has, as far as I can ascertain, ever been sent from this country. Not only is it a rare, but also to my mind a very doubtful species.
Dr. Jerdon, in his description, follows Blyth, J. A. S. XIV. 176, almost verbatim, he only omits to note the length of the bill from gape, which Blyth gives as 2.12, and to state that the dark bars on the tail " alternate on the two. webs" (misprinted shafts) " of each feather."
The following were Mr. Blyth's remarks on the single specimen above referred to. Dr. Jerdon of course never saw the bird.
" This bird might be mistaken, on a cursory view, for a variety of B. Canescens, J. A. S. XII. 308, were it not for its half-feathered tarsi ; and the beak also, is larger, and more aquiline, so that the name is felicitously bestowed. It is by no means a common species in Nepal, as I learned from Mr. Hodgson's people, and as might be inferred from the circumstance of Mr. Hodgson's requiring the only specimen he had sent, to take with him to England. Not improbably, it may prove identical with the Falco asiaticus of Latham, described as nearly similar to the European Buzzard, in the colour of its body and wings ; the under parts white, with stripes on the breast, tail silver grey, the outer feather marked by obscure bars; bill bluish black, and legs yellow and half feathered. Length twenty-two inches. Inhabits China. From the circumstance of its partially feathered tarsi, it might be presumed, that the present species would fall under the division Archibuteo of Brehm, but the general character of the bird is not that of the ' Rough-legged Buzzard' of Northern regions."
I have obtained specimens of B. Ferox, pertaining to the dark form, answering very closely to Blyth's description, especially where the tail is concerned. The differences dwelt on by Blyth are, it will be observed, the pluming anteriorly of half the tarsus and the larger and more aquiline bill. As regards the former, I find more than one B. Ferox, with the tarsus plumed in front, for 1.75 inches; and as regards the latter, I may remark, that the bills of this species vary a good deal in size and strength.
That further researches are necessary, before we conclusively admit either the existence of such a species as Buteo Aquilinus, Hodgson, or its identity with B. asiaticus, Latham, and B. Hemelasius, Schlegel, is pretty clear.
Mr. Blyth (Ibis for 1866) tells us, that in his first catalogue of Mr. Hodgson's specimens, presented to the British Museum, (pub. 1846) Mr. G. R. Gray assented to these identifications, but Mr. Blyth goes on to say, that " in his second edition of that catalogue, (1863) Mr. Gray writes B. Leucocephala with B. Ferox, and B. Aquilinus with Archibuteo Stropheatus, Hodgson, the latter being decidedly identical with Hieraetus Pennatus! The specimen which I described as Aquilinus, was sent by Mr. Hodgson, as his Butaquila Leucocephala ; but as it had not a sign of white about the head, I suggested to that gentleman, the better name Aquilinus, from its robust form. Either this, or B. plumipes can hardly be other than Falco asiaticus of Latham. His description on the whole, applies better to the former, while the ' half-feathered legs (pedibus semilanatis') preclude its identification with B. Ferox. Both this species and the next, B. Plumipes, have the tarsi feathered half-way down; while in Archibuteo hemiptilopus (No. 49) the tarsi are plumed to the toes, in front and externally, and are bare and scutellated behind. I suspect that both B. asiaticus and A. hemiptilopus inhabit chiefly the Mongolian region, and should be considered stragglers any where away from it."
It seems to me very doubtful, whether both Butaquila Leucocephala and B. Aquilinus, are not forms of B. Ferox ; as for the expression "pedibus semilanatis" not being applicable to B. Ferox, I must demur. The tarsi, in this species, are often feathered for half their length; one now before me, with the tarsus 3.3, is feathered for 1.8; another, a small male, with the tarsus barely 3.2, is feathered for 1.75. Doubtless, in the majority of specimens, tarsi of these lengths would only be feathered for from 1.3 to 1.5, but the amount of feathering varies in different specimens. The fact of the tarsus in Mr. Hodgson's specimen, being feathered in front for 1.75, constitutes no good ground for separating it from B. Ferox.
It may very likely be distinct, but I have, as yet, seen no sufficient reasons for making sure that it is so. I ought, however, to note that Mr. Hodgson in a letter to Blyth (J. A. S. XV. p. 2, note) remarks of this supposed species, " this is not a typical Buteo or Archibuteo, witness its reticulate tarsi," if by this is meant that the tarsi have no transverse scuta, we have here a difference, enabling us to separate Aquilinus at onoe, from Ferox. It is to be hoped, that naturalists at home will carefully re-ex¬amine Mr. Hodgson's specimen.