Circus aeruginosus, Lin.
54. :- Jerdon's Birds of India, Vol. I, p. 99; Butler, Guzerat; Stray Feathers, Vol. III, p. 447 ; Deccan, Stray Feathers, Vol. IX, p. 374; Murray's Vertebrate Zoology of Sind, p. 89 ; Swinhoe and Barnes, Central India; Ibis, 1885, p. 58 ; Hume's Scrap Book, p. 314.
THE MARSH HARRIER.
Length, 19 to 21.7; expanse, 47 to 50; wing, 15.6 to 16.75 ; tail, 9.4 to 10.2 ; tarsus, 3.4 to 3.86 ; bill from gape, 1.4 to 1.5.
Length, 21 to 24 ; expanse, 50 to 54 ; wing, 16.2 to 17.1 ; tail, 9.75 to 10.22 ; tarsus, 3.55 to 3.9 ; bill from gape, 1.5 to 1.68.
Legs and feet rich yellow, dingy or pale greenish-yellow in the young; the claws brownish-black; the irides are orange-yellow, sometimes with a pink tinge, deep brown, or brownish-yellow in the young ; the bill is blackish or brownish-black, yellowish at the base, and bluish there in the young; the cere is greenish-yellow, or sometimes pale-greenish, in the young.
The young bird is uniform dark reddish umber-brown; in a further stage the head and throat are yellowish, or rufous-white, with dark stipes on the crown; in some the head is pure white, and the upper tail-coverts and base of the outer tail-feathers are pale reddish.
In the fully adult the head, neck, and breast are pale rufous, with dark brown stripes, deepening to dark red-brown on the belly and thigh-coverts; upper tail-coverts marked with red, white, and brown ; the shoulders, secondaries, and tail pure silvery-grey; back, scapulars and tertiaries deep brown; primaries black.
To this Mr. Hume adds that, as the young bird advances towards maturity, there first appears a large rufous-fawn, or rufous-white patch upon the breast; then the rufous, or yellowish-white of the head and nape begins to run down the back of the neck, and margins of a similar color begin to make their appearanee on the feathers of the upper back and the smaller wing-coverts; the color of the upper parts slightly fades, and a greyish tinge begins to overspread the outer webs of the primaries.
It is probable that the adult plumage, in which the shoulders: secondaries, and tail are silver grey, is only assumed by the male.
The Marsh Harrier is generally spread throughout the district, and (although a few may possibly remain to breed) is a cold weather visitant only. It frequents marshes, rivers, and lakes,; and feeds chiefly on frogs, rats, and water insects.
It often carries off wounded duck and teal.
It seems instinctively to know sportsmen, and not infrequently follows them round a tank or jheel, with a view to dinner. I have often, by their help, retrieved wounded birds that would otherwise have been lost to me.