1236. Circus melanoleucus.
The Pied Harrier.
Falco melanoleucus, Forster, Ind. Zool. p. 12, pl. ii (1781). Circus melanoleucus, Blyth, Cat. p. 21 ; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 26 ; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 98 ; iii, p. 870; Blyth, Ibis, 1866, p. 246; King, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 213; Blanf. J. A. S. B. xxxviii, p. 167; Hume, J. A. S. B. xxxix, p. 114; id. Rough Notes, p. 307 ; Godw. Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, p. 266; xiv, p. 67; Jerdon, Ibis, 1871, p. 341 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 61; Hume, 8. F. iii, p. 33; v, p. 11 ; vii, p. 34; xi, p. 13 ; id. Cat. no. 53; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 61; Gurney, Ibis, 1875, p. 225; 1876, p. 130; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1876, p. 315; Armstrong, S. F. iv, p. 299; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, pp. 21, 497; Anderson, Yunnan Exped., Aves, p. 672, pls. xiv, xlvi; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 199; Cripps, S. F. vii, p. 250; x, p. 327; xi, p. 13; Bingham, S. F. viii, p. 191; ix, p. 145 ; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 226 ; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 9; Reid, S. F. x, p. 11; Davison, S. F. x, p. 339 ; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 172; Salvadori, Ann. Mus. Civ. Gen. (2) vii, pp. 375, 428.
Pahatai, H.; Ablak Petaha, Nepal; Thane-Kya, Burmese.
Coloration. Adult male. Head and neck all round, breast, back, median upper wing-coverts, and a band from them to the bend of the wing, with the first six primaries, glossy black; a nuchal patch where the white bases of the feathers show; scapulars partly black, partly grey ; smaller wing-coverts white, larger coverts, later primaries, and secondaries silver-grey, the latter tipped and bordered inside with white, tertiaries black ; rump white ; upper tail-coverts white, with broad lunate grey bands ; tail grey, white at the tips and inner edges of the outer feathers; lower parts from the breast pure white.
Adult female. Above dark brown, the feathers of the crown and neck with rufous edges, those of the nape broadly bordered with white; a well-marked ruff of small white or buffy-white feathers with brown shaft-stripes; around eyes whitish ; cheeks and ear-coverts dirty white or pale rufous with brown streaks; smaller coverts along the forearm white (in younger birds rufous) with blackish-brown shaft-stripes, median coverts brown with grey or white spots and bars, larger coverts dusky grey with a broad subterminal blackish band and another near the base; primaries- outside blackish brown; secondaries grey, with blackish cross-bands, beneath all are greyish or whitish with dark bands ; upper tail-coverts white, sometimes with rufous-brown drops or bands; tail grey, with dark brown cross-bands; lower parts white, with dark brown shaft-stripes, broad on the throat and breast, narrower and sometimes disappearing on the abdomen.
Young birds are more uniformly brown above than the adult female, and have no grey on the wings or tail, which are brown with darker bands ; the ruff is ill-marked at the sides, but there is a large white brown-streaked nuchal patch and another patch of buff-edged brown feathers on the throat; the lower parts generally are rufous-brown, faintly streaked darker. The change from this plumage to that of the adult male appears to take place by moult.
For a long time it was supposed that both sexes in this bird were pied and similar, but the true facts were gradually traced out by Mr. Hume. Still one undoubted case is recorded by Mr. Cripps in which a female assumed the pied livery of the adult male, and other probable cases are indicated by the measurements of pied specimens.
Base of bill bluish, remainder black; cere dusky yellow; iris bright yellow; legs orange-yellow (Oates). Legs in female pale yellow (Cripps).
Length of male 17; tail 8.5; wing 13.75; tarsus 3: length of female 18.5 ; tail 9 ; wing 14.5 ; tarsus 3.2 ; bill from gape 1.2.
Distribution. A winter visitor to the Eastern half of the Indian Peninsula and to Burma. Common in Bengal, Cachar, Assam, and Pegu, and along the base of the Himalayas as far west as Oude, also along the eastern coast of the Peninsula and for a considerable distance inland, and in Malabar; but rare in Ceylon, and in the N. W. Provinces of India, and, I believe, unknown in the Bombay Presidency *, the Central Provinces west of Jubbul-poor and Nagpur, and in North-western India generally. Beyond Indian limits this species is found throughout a large part of Eastern Asia, China, Japan, Amurland and Mongolia, Philippines, Siam, Cochin China, Malacca, &c.
Habits, &c. This is essentially a bird of the plains, and especially of swampy grass and of rice-fields, over which the conspicuous black and white plumage of the male bird makes it a familiar feature of the landscape. Its food consists chiefly of snakes, lizards, frogs, and insects, with birds and mice. Some Pied Harriers breed in Northern India; Jerdon noticed several in Purneah in July, and Cripps twice in April found an egg laid on an apology for a nest amongst " Ulu" grass (Saccharum cylindricum) close to the Brahmaputra in the Dibrugarh district of Upper Assam.
* It is included in Barnes's ' Birds of Bombay,' but in this, as in several other cases, the author has been misled by Jerdon's statement that the species is found in Central India, by which Jerdon understood South-western Bengal or Chutia Nagpur. Jerdon also says that C. melanoleucus is rare in the Deccan, by which he may mean some part of the Hyderabad territory.