1233. Circus macrurus.
The Pale Harrier.
Accipiter macrourus, S. G. Gmel. N. Comm. Petrop. xv, p. 430 pls. viii, ix (1771). Circus swainsoni, Smith, S. Afr. Quart. Jour, i, p. 384 (1830); Blyth, Cat. p. 20; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 25; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 96; Godw. Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 265; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 298; id. S. F. i, p. 408; Blyth, Birds Burm. p. 61; Butler, S. F. iii, p. 447; v, p. 226; Hume & Bourd. S. F. iv, p. 372 ; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1872, p. 78 ; 1876, p. 314. Circus pallidus, Sykes, P. Z. S. 1832, p. 80; Hume, S. F. i, p. 160. Falco herbaecola, Tickell, J. A. S. B. ii, p. 570 (1833); Walden, Ibis, 1876, p. 342. Circus macrurus, Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 67 ; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 199; Cripps, ibid. p. 249 ; Scully, S. F. viii. p. 220; Hume, Cat. no. 51; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 17; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 33; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 43; Scully, ibid. p. 421; Reid, S.F. x, p. 10; Davison, ibid. p. 338; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 176; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 13; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 45.
Dastmal, Girgit Mor, Pattai, H.; Pandouvi, Beng.; Telia chappa gedda, Pilli gedda, Tel.; Puna prandu, Tam.; Kurrulu-goya, Ukussa, Cing.
Coloration. Adult male. Upper parts pale ashy grey, generally, except in very old birds, more or less tinged with brown on the crown, back, scapulars, and quills; lores whitish; forehead and above and beneath the eye white ; ear-coverts pale grey streaked with white ; the ruff behind the ear-coverts differing in texture, but scarcely in colour; primaries ashy grey, 3rd, 4th, and 5th black or blackish brown on part of the terminal half, some black on the 2nd and 6th, the basal portion of all quills white ; upper tail-coverts banded grey and white, middle tail-feathers grey unbarred, the others white with grey bars; lower parts white, throat and upper breast with a faint grey tinge.
Adult female. Above brown, feathers of head and hind-neck broadly margined with rufous or buff, and the smaller wing-coverts with broad pale rufous borders; forehead whitish, a buffy white supercilium and patch below the eye; moustachial stripe and ear-coverts brown; a well-marked ruff of small white or buff feathers with broad brown shaft-stripes all round the neck, behind the ear-coverts, and across the throat quills brown above, buff or whitish below, with blackish-brown cross-bands on both sides; upper tail-coverts white, with brown shaft-stripes or other markings; middle tail-feathers brown, outer feathers buff or rufous-white, all with dark-brown cross-bands. Lower parts white, with rufous-brown shaft-stripes, broadest on the breast; in old birds these stripes become very narrow, especially on the abdomen and lower tail-coverts.
Young birds resemble the female above, except that the feathers have, at first, rufous edges throughout, there is a white nuchal patch with brown shaft-stripes, and the ruff is unstreaked or almost unstreaked buff and very conspicuous; the upper tail-coverts are white, the lower parts throughout are rufous-buff with faint shaft-stripes. There is a gradual passage from this plumage into that of the adult; nearly adult males are often found with patches of brown on the crown and brown shaft-stripes on the breast.
Bill black; cere greenish; iris yellow in adults, brown in the young; legs yellow.
Length of females about 19.5 inches; tail 10; wing 14.5; tarsus 2.9 : length of males 18; tail 8.75; wing 13.75; tarsus 2.7.
Distribution. A migratory bird, found throughout the greater part of India, Ceylon, and Burma in suitable localities from September till April, and ranging over Eastern Europe, nearly all Asia and Africa. It has not been observed in Tenasserim nor further south, and it is very rarely seen amongst hills or in forests, but is common on stony plains, grassy or bushy undulating tracts, and on cultivated ground ; it is also found near water.
Habits, &c. This and the next three species are usually seen flying slowly over the ground just above the surface, now and then dropping noiselessly on their prey, which consists of lizards and insects, and occasionally of mice and young or sickly birds. Harriers usually sit on the ground, rarely on trees ; and Jerdon notices that they are sometimes surprised and killed at night by foxes and jackals. This Harrier does not breed in India.