Circus macrurus

Circus macrurus, S. G. Gm.

51. :- Circus swainsoni, A. Smith. :- Jerdon's Birds of India, Vol. I, p. 96 ; Butler, Deccan, &c.; Stray Feathers, Vol. IX, p. 374 ; Murray's Vertebrate Zoology of Sind, p. 88; Swinhoe and Barnes, Central India; Ibis, 1885, p. 57 ; Butler, Guzerat; Stray Feathers, Vol. III, p. 447; Hume's Scrap Book, p. 298.


Length, 17.6 to 18.5 ; expanse, 41 to 42.25 ; wing, 13.5 to 14 ; tail, 9 to 10; bill from gape, 1 to 1.2; tarsus, 2.6 to 2.8.

Length, 18.65 to 20.65 ; expanse, 40 to 47.5 ; wing, 13.75 to 15.15 ; tail, 9.5 to 11.25 ; bill from gape, 1.2 to 1.38 ; tarsus, 2.65 to 2.92.

Male, above pale grey ; wings and back darker; beneath greyish-white ; rump white, banded with greyish ; tail-feathers, except the two centre ones, banded grey and white ; 3rd, 4th and 5th quills dusky.

The female is brown above, the feathers of the head and neck edged with rufous ; beneath dark ochraceous with brown streaks continued on to the lower tail-coverts ; upper tail-coverts banded whitish-brown ; tail with the centre feathers greyish, the outer ones pale rufous, all with dark bands.

The above is Dr. Jerdon's description which is very meagre. I therefore add Mr. Hume's description, extracted from Rough Notes which is more voluminous : :-

Description. :- Legs and feet bright orange to lemon-yellow, according to age; claws black; hides bright yellow in adults, dark brown in the young; orbits yellow, dingier in the young; bill, cere greenish or dusky-greenish in the adult, somewhat yellower in the young, specially on the culmen, and hidden at sides by the bristles of the lore; gape and base of lower mandible blue, or sometimes greenish-blue ; upper mandible and tip of lower mandible bluish or horn-black.

Plumage, male. :- Lores closely clothed with tiny white feathers, with elongated, naked, black-brown, hair-like shafts; forehead, and streak above eyes, and feathers of orbits greyish-white, slightly paler than surrounding parts; the whole of the rest of the top of the head and nape to where the ruff joins in, grey, tinged with brown, most strongly so on nape feathers and with dark shafts; cheeks and ear-coverts grey, the feathers broadly edged with greyish-white, so as to produce a striated appearance. Feathers of ruff, which, as regards color, is very conspicuous, greyish-white with narrow, central, grey streaks; back of the neck, below, brownish-grey; patch of nape greyish-white, the feathers slightly darker shafted and some of them with the greyish traces of faint, brownish-grey, transverse, subterminal spots; the whole of the base of the neck behind, upper back and scapulars, a sort of ash-grey, more or less tinged towards the tips with brownish-grey, and the longer scapulars frosted with a purer grey ; the middle and lower back a shade lighter grey, the white bases of the feathers showing through, more or less; upper tail-coverts pure white, with regular, broad, transverse, grey or slightly brownish-grey bars; the whole of the wing-coverts, winglet, tertials, and outer webs of secondaries and last four primaries grey, more silvery on quills, and browner on lesser-coverts ; the median-coverts narrowly pale margined, and most of the other feathers of the corners narrowly, paler tipped; the second and last four primaries have the central halves of the inner webs pure grey, and the marginal halves white ; the first primary is silver-grey on the outer web, dusky-grey on the inner, as far as the notch, and above this chiefly white ; the next four are nearly black, with a good deal of silver-grey, however, on the outer webs of the first two, and of white, more or less mottled with dusky, on the inner webs of all towards the base ; the sixth is dusky-grey on the outer web and tip, and paler and browner-grey on inner web, which has a broad marginal stripe, broadest towards base, where it occupies nearly the whole web of white irregularly mottled with grey; the central tail-feathers are a uniform silver-grey, slightly shaded with dusky on the terminal half; the next feather, on each side, is similar, but there are five or six white patches on the shafts, and traces of corresponding paler bars on the inner webs, which are very narrowly, paler margined; in each succeeding feather, the white patches on the shaft are better marked, and extend further and further across the outer webs, while the corresponding broad pale bars on - the inner webs, at first only mottled with white, become pure white and larger, and at the same time the white margin of the inner webs spreads inwards, so that the two exterior feathers have the inner webs pure white, with only four or five, somewhat narrow bars of grey, or brownish-grey, (which do not extend to the margin), and here and there a little freckling, chiefly towards the base of the same color; chin, throat and front of the neck pearl-grey, whitish on chin; breast, abdomen, vent, sides, wing-lining and thigh-coverts pure white with just the faintest possible grey mottling or freckling in places on sides, and base of thighs ; lower tail-coverts white, with rather brownish-grey, broad, incomplete, rather wavy, transverse, bars, about one or two on each feather; inner surface of the wings, mingled white and very pale grey, only the terminal one-third to one-half of the second to the fifth primaries blackish-brown; the first to the third quills are conspicuously notched on their inner webs, the second to the fourth emarginate on outer webs.

Female. :- The lores dusky, covered with black bristle-like hairs, as is also the point of the chin; a patch (scarcely noticeable in some specimens) over the eye, and in front of it, white, tipped with brownish; below the eye, and front of the ear-coverts, somewhat purer, while a band, inside the ruff, from the base of the lower mandible over the ear-coverts to the sides of the. nape, dark umber-brown, usually darkest towards the nape, the feathers narrowly edged with rufous, and centred darker ; a dark streak from the posterior corner of the eye, meeting the top of this band ; forehead, and a line from the forehead over the eye, and the last mentioned dark streak, nearly unstriated rufous-brown ; the rest of the forehead, and top and back of the head, and nape, where the ruff joins in, and back and sides of the neck, rufous, the feathers all more or less broadly centred with umber-brown; the centres being larger, proportionably, at the base of the neck; upper back and smaller scapulars umber-brown, most of the feathers usually tipped with rufous; the longest scapulars somewhat lighter colored, with scarcely a trace of the rufous tipping; middle back often of a somewhat lighter brown than the upper back, and the feathers with conspicuous rufous tips or margins; rump feathers slightly darker, and with somewhat less conspicuous rufous tips ; upper tail-coverts pure white, with only a spot or. incomplete bar of dark or pale brown, or rufous, towards the tips; centre tail-feathers dark umber-brown, inconspicuously tipped with grey, scarcely perceptible in some and with four or five transverse grey bars, the broadest bars towards the tip ; the next feather darker brown, conspicuously tipped with white or rufous-white, and with one broad, and two or three narrow, pale rufous, and greyish transverse bars, the rufous being chiefly next the shaft; the next feather much the same, but the white or rufous (some are whiter, some more rufous) of the bar, and tipping, purer, and a considerable patch at the base, on the outer, web, mingled white and rufous, with only a tinge of brown; the second, exterior feather, nearly pure white, or a pale rufous, as the case may be, with subterminal, central, and basal bands of brown, which are more or less rufous in the two latter on the outer web; the exterior feather has almost the whole outer web rufous-white, and the interior more or less rufous-white, with traces of a subterminal and two other bands of mingled darkish rufous and brown; the whole of the lesser wing-coverts umber-brown, broadly margined with rufous or rufous-white,; the median-coverts the same color, in some conspicuously, in some faintly tipped with the same rufous-white tint; the greater-coverts of the secondaries, and the tertials themselves, still the same umber-brown, but only very narrowly (in some not at all) tipped with- rufous-white; the winglet, primaries and their greater-coverts and secondaries, slightly darker brown, all but the first four primaries, and most of the secondaries, with a very narrow, whitish tipping, and the outer webs of the first primary, and the next three, which are conspicuously marginate, below the margination more or less silvered with grey; the inner webs of all the primaries above the tips, more or less white or rufous-white, with conspicuous, broad, dark brown bars. In some specimens the brown bars are so broad that the ground of the web appears brown, and the rufous interspaces appear like pale bars; there are traces of similar markings on the secondaries, most conspicuous in those nearest the primaries, and less so in those adjoining the tertials; chin white or rufous-white ; the ruff in front, and on either side towards the nape, white or rufous-white; the feathers centred darkish brown ; the whole of the front of the throat, breast and abdomen white or fulvous or pale rufous-white, the feathers all broadly or conspicuously centred with brown and rufous; the feathers of the vent, lower tail-coverts, and external thigh-coverts, pure white or pale rufous-brown, shafted, and with two or more irregular spots of pale rufous along the shafts; the axillaries mostly rufous-brown, with indistinct incomplete fulvous-white bars; the lesser under wing-coverts fulvous, or pale rufous-white, the feathers mostly darker centred; the greater lower wing-coverts mostly a brown or rufous-brown, and for the most part edged and tipped with fulvous-white or pale rufous; the longest of the lower tail-coverts are rather conspicuously tipped with pale rufous.

Females differ considerably in the amount of rufous on the top and back of the head, back and sides of neck, etc. in some, the prevailing line is rufous, there being only very narrow brown centres to the feathers, but in others, the brown much predominates, the feathers having only somewhat narrow rufous margins; the extent and amount of the rufous tippings to the feathers of the back and rump varies much, as also the extent and depth of rufous in the tail, and on the lower parts.

Young. :- Lores, forehead, a patch under the eyes, a streak over the eyes, to upper corner of the ruff, and a broad patch on the nape, (which latter has several of the central feathers brown tipped) white; bristles of the lores black; a patch in the interior corner of the eye] under the white line, and beyond the posterior angle of the eye, backwards, till it joins the top of the ear-coverts, dark umber-brown; the whole top of the head warm umber-brown, faintly margined with rufous, where it infringes on the white supercilium and white nape-patch; the whole of the nape, upper back, scapulars, and wings (except in some specimens some of the median-coverts) nearly uniform umber-brown, but the quills with a trace of darker banding, most of the median wing-coverts in some specimens so broadly edged with pale ferruginous or buff as to show but little of the brown, these edgings entirely wanting in others; the winglet, greater-coverts, secondaries, and most of the primaries very narrowly paler tipped; feathers of the lower back and rump the same brown as the rest of the upper parts, but each feather distinctly tipped with buff; the upper tail-coverts often pure white, one or two of them only with an ill-defined brown patch; in other cases marked as in adult female; two centre tail-feathers dark umber-brown, with four bars of lighter greyish-brown; the next four feathers the same dark-brown, but tipped and barred with ferruginous or buff, which is brighter and more extensive, as the feathers recede from the centre; exterior tail-feather almost entirely rufous-buff with two irregular, dark-brown bars, and a trace of a third; patch from the lower mandible, over the cheeks, and embracing the car-coverts rich dark umber-brown; round this posteriorly, the ruff uniform pale rufous-buff, except just where it separates the white eye-streak from the white nape-patch, where the feathers are mingled with dark brown ; sides of the neck, below the ruff, which is thus clearly defined, dark umber-brown ; chin whitish, with black bristles at the tip ; whole lower parts of the body, including lower tail-coverts, uniform rufous fawn or pale ferruginous; the lining of the wing the same, but paler, and the largest of the lower wing-coverts mottled with brown ; the lower surface of the quills greyish-brown; the primaries very distinctly-barred and with more or less white replacing the brown; the first three primaries conspicuously emarginate on the inner webs, and the third and fourth on their outer webs ; lower surface of the tail exterior feathers nearly uniform pale fawn, with only an indistinct trace of three ill-defined bars; the four next feathers umber-brown, with fulvous-white tips, and two well marked, fulvous-white, broad bars ; the two centre feathers with scarcely a trace of paler tipping, and with three narrower greyish bars.

The Pale Harrier is a very common cold weather visitant to all parts of the district; it arrives in October, and leaves about the end of March, and does not therefore breed anywhere within our limits.

Handbook to the Birds of the Bombay Presidency
Barnes, Henry Edwin. Handbook to the birds of the Bombay Presidency, 1885.
Title in Book: 
Circus macrurus
Spp Author: 
S. g. gm.
Book Author: 
Barnes, H. Edwin
Page No: 
Common name: 
Pale Harrier
Pallid Harrier
Circus macrourus
Term name: 

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