(1790) Circus macrourus.
THE PALE HARRIER,
Accipiter macrourus S. G. Gmel., N. Comm. Acad. Petro., xv, p. 439 (1771) (Veronitz, Volga). Circus macrurus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 381.
Vernacular names. Dastmal, Girgit Mor, Pattai (Hind.); Pandawa (Beng.); Tella chappa gedda, Pilli gedda (Tel.); Puna prandu (Tam.); Kurrulu-goya, Ukassa (Cing.) ; Dao-ling wah-lai (Cachari).
Description.— Adult Male. Lores, forehead above the eye and sides of face white, the bristles black ; upper surface ashy-grey, tinged with brown (except in very old birds) on the crown, back and wing-coverts; upper tail-coverts barred grey and white ;. central tail-feathers grey with faint indications of bars, the next two pairs edged grey and barred grey and mottled white, the others barred grey and white; ear-coverts ashy-grey; first primary silvery-grey; second grey on the outer, black on the inner web; thence gradually blacker up to the sixth, when they again gradually become more and more grey ; all have more or less mottled white on the bases of: the inner webs and all, when quite fresh, have white tips ; chin, throat and upper breast pearl-grey, remainder of lower parts white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris yellow, brown in the young; bill black; cere greenish-yellow; legs and feet deep yellow, claws black.
Measurements, wing 332 to 360 mm. tail 201 to 221 mm.; tarsus 66 to 70 mm.; culmen 22 to 25 mm. wing 363 to 386 mm.; tail 229 to 247 mm.; tarsus about 70 to 75 mm.; culmen 26 to 28 mm.
The notch on the first primary is almost concealed by the coverts.
Female. Above rather dark brown; the feathers of the crown, nape and hind-neck conspicuously edged with bright pale rufous ; forehead and supercilium buffy-white or rufous; upper tail-coverts white spotted with rufous or rufous-brown; central tail-feathers banded dark brown and dark grey, outermost pair barred rufous-brown and rufescent white, intermediate feathers grading from the one to the other; wing-coverts generally edged with pale rufous; wing-quills brown with narrow dark bars, creamy-white at the bases of the inner webs with dark bars; feathers round and behind the eye dark brown; ruff of pale rufous feathers with dark centres ; posterior ear-coverts dark rufous-brown; lower parts white to pale rufous, nearly always darker and more rufous on the breast, with broad streaks everywhere of rufous-brown; axillaries and under wing-coverts white, creamy-white or pale rufous with rufous markings.
Young birds have the feathers of the upper parts margined everywhere with pale rufous ; the upper tail-coverts are pure white; the ruff is unstreaked and very distinct; the lower parts-are rufous-buff or buff with faintly showing darker rufous shafts on breast and flanks.
Distribution. Breeding East Europe, Northern Africa and West and Central Asia to the Altai. In Winter it is found over the greater part of India and Burma. It occurs in Ceylon but in Burma has not occurred as far South as Tenasserim.
Nidification. This Harrier breeds in South-East Europe and Western Asia, making a nest on the ground consisting oil a bed of leaves and grass in a natural hollow. The site selected is usually one on a dry open plain but Kuschel found them breeding at the edge of a swamp in South Russia. The eggs number four or five and in shape are broad obtuse ovals. Most eggs are white or very faintly marked but a few are marked with pale reddish, or with pale pinkish-grey or with both, the blotches fairly large and scattered over the whole surface of the egg. Seventy-eight eggs (Jourdain & Rey, 69) average 44.6 x 34.7 mm.: maxima 50.0 X 37.0 mm.; minima 40.1 X 35.0 and 43.2 x 336 mm. The breeding-season is April and May.
Habits. The Pale Harrier is a bird of the drier steppes and plains and even in India, where it is it Winter visitor only, is more partial to dry wastes than to wet cultivation, though I have seen it hawking over rice-fields and swamps.