No. 54 Circus Aeruginosus.* LIN.
THE MARSH HARRIER.
It seems probable, that this species breeds in the plains of India, in suitable localities. In the jheel-studded tract of coun try lying partly in the Mynpooree and partly in the Etawah district, I, many years ago, shot a large adult and saw several others quite at the close of May. An unusually heavy rainfall had filled all the lakes, or, as we should call them in Norfolk, broads, to overflowing, and the unsettled state of the country had, in a great measure prevented the customary agricultural drain on them, and many of them, commonly dry at this season, were still extensive sheets of water. I can scarcely doubt that these birds bred there that year.
In Oudh, native fowlers informed me, that they bred in swampy grounds, trans-Gogra. Mr. F. R. Blewitt writing from Jhansie, in the neighbourhood of which there are several considerable lakes, says that he has procured the Marsh Harrier there throughout the hot weather and rains.
I cannot find any record of its eggs having as yet been found in India: of its nidification in the British Isles, Mr. Yarrell says, " The nest is placed on the ground, among long coarse grass, in a bunch of rushes, fern or furze, or at the base of a bush. The nest is formed of small sticks, rushes, or long grass: the eggs are three or four in number, of an oval shape, rather pointed at one end, white, two inches one line (2.08) in Length, and one inch six lines (1.5) in breadth."
Mr. Hewitson says, "The eggs of the Marsh Harrier, although for the most part white, or slightly tinted with blue, are sometimes also spotted and smeared with brown, in the same manner as those of the Hen Harrier."
This species " almost always breeds on the ground, but will sometimes, assuming the habits of the Common Buzzard, breed in the fork of a large tree, in which place, Montague says, he has himself found it; in such a situation, the nest would, as he describes it, be formed of sticks and such like material. In the fen countries, its usual resort, the nest is composed of so large a quantity of flags, reeds and sedges, as to raise it a foot or a foot and a half above the ground. The eggs are usually four, sometimes, though not often, five in number." Mr. Hewitt considers the dimensions above quoted, from Mr. Yarrell, as too large. His own figure represents a very round, oval egg measuring 1.93 X 1.59.
This species, occurs in every country in Europe, from north to south; in all the Islands of the Mediterranean ; throughout northern Africa, including Egypt; in Palestine and Asia Minor; Mesopotamia and Afghanistan: eastwards, it has been procured in China, at least as far south as Amoy, and in Japan. Northwards, Radde met with a single example in Tareinor, and Pallas gives it as a visitant to all parts of Siberia, but this seems doubtful. In India, it is to be found in suitable localities, such as its trivial name indicates, throughout the length and breadth of the land; Layard notices its occurrence in Ceylon, and it is not uncommon in British Burmah, but it does not appear to extend to the Malay Peninsular or the Archipelego, in which latter C. Jardini seems to replace it.
Length 20.70 21.70 21.00 24.00
Expanse. 47.00 50.00 50.00 54.00
Wing. 15.60 16.75 16.20 17.10
Tail from vent 9.4 10.2 9.75 10.22
Tarsus 3.40 3.86 3.55 3.90
Mid Toe to root of Claw. 1.55 1.59 1.65 1.90
Its Claw straight. 0.80 0.87 0.80 1.00
Hind toe to root of claw. 0.66 0.73 0.82 0.98
Its claw, straight 0.96 1.05 0.90 1.15
Inner toe to root of claw 0.81 0.88 0.90 0.96
Its claw, straight 0.97 1.03 0.82 1.13
Bill straight, from edge of cere. 0.84 0.88 0.90 1.05
Bill a long Curve, do. do. 0.92 0.99 1.15 1.19
Bill from gape. 1.40 1.50 1.50 1.68
Bill width at gape. 1.10 1.20 0.93 1.28
Bill height at margin of Cere. 0.41 0.44 0.45 0.52
Distance by which closed wings fall short of end of Tail. 0.70 1.80 0.50 2.30
Distance by which lower Tail Coverts fall short of end of Tail. 4.00 5.00 3.70 4.40
Weight 15 oz. Lb.oz 13 Lb. oz 17 Lb.oz. 21
Length of cere on culmen 0.35 0.39 0.42 0.49
(Six males and eight females measured and weighed.)
The fourth or third and fourth primaries the longest. The first is 3.20 to 4.00 shorter, the second 0.70 to 0.90, and the third equal to or not more than 020 shorter than the fourth. Exterior tail feathers 0.60 to 0.98 shorter than interior feathers.
DESCRIPTION. The legs and feet are 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.
PLUMAGE. I have little to add to Dr. Jerdon's description, except 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 colour begin to make their appearance on the feathers of the upper back and the smaller wing coverts. The colour of the upper parts slightly fades, and a greyish tinge begins to overspread the outer webs of the primaries.
Further I should note, that the adult plumage described by Dr. Jerdon, in which the shoulders, secondaries and tail are silver grey, is according to European writers, never assumed except by the male, and though I cannot speak positively to this point myself, it is a fact that my large collection con tains no single specimen of a female in this stage of Plumage. I note that in some old males, the chin and breast are almost pale fawn colour, with darker streaks, while in others the ground colour of these parts is a rich and very red brown.