No. 30. Aquila Hastata. Less.
The Long-Legged Eagle.
I know nothing of the nidification of this Eagle, nay more, I am sorry to say, I know nothing of the bird itself. To the best of my belief, this species does not occur in Upper India, and I do not think that I have ever seen an undoubted example of it.
Col. Tytler has a specimen, (male) shot near Jessore, which he calls Hastata, and which he assured me, both Mr. Blyth and Dr. Jerdon had seen, and named, as Hastata. It is vastly like A. Fulvescens, a pretty uniform dingy, slightly rufous brown, throughout. Longer scapulars, secondaries, and tail, a deep purplish chocolate brown; primaries, almost black at the tips ; longer upper tail coverts, and lower tail coverts yellowish white; a few of the tibial plumes with terminal fawn coloured dots. In a very strong light, a faint trace of lighter bars is discernable on some of the lateral tail feathers. None of the feathers of the upper plumage are tipped with white. The upper tail coverts are not barred with white, though the longest are yellowish white. There is scarcely a trace of obsolete barring; no white tip to the tail, though of some feathers, the abraded terminal one-eighth is slightly paler. There is not a trace of pale fawn, or of any bar, on either breast, abdomen, feathers of the leg, under wing coverts, or under tail coverts. There are no spots on the wings, and no pale tippings to the tertiaries. It is therefore not the adult Hastata of Jerdon, and still less, the young. The beak is feebler, the tarsi slenderer, and longer than in Fulvescens, and this seems the only point in which it resembles Hastata. The following are the dimensions taken from the skin. Length, 24. Tail, 10. Wing, 1875. Cere, 0.63. Bill, along curve from margin of cere to tip, 1.5 scant; from gape, 2.25 ; width at gape, 1.81; height at margin of cere, 0.63. Tarsus, 3.63. Mid toe, 2; its claw, 1.06; hind toe, 1.09; its claw, 1.25 full.
Mr. Blyth remarks, (Ibis, 1866) " This species is well figured by Mr. Hodgson, as I pointed out to Mr. G. R. Gray, who does not include it in the second edition of his Catalogue of that gentleman's collection. I have had many fresh specimens of all ages, and could always easily distinguish it from A. Clanga. Though nearly of the same linear dimensions, it is considerably less robust, with smaller bill, and feet; and there is a recognizable difference in the plumage in all its phases; while in its habits, it partakes (in a prominent degree) of the nest-plundering propensities of Neopus Malayensis"
I should like to see a good series of this, to me, somewhat doubtful species. As regards the lesser robustness, and smaller bill, and feet, these can scarcely be relied on, when we have to deal with a species so excessively variable in these respects, as is A. Naevia, I do not for one moment presume to assert, that Hastata is not a good species, but I am sure, that the majority of the specimens that bear the title are Naevias, pur et simple. This was the case with several supposed Hastatas sent me from Lower Bengal. Moreover, the only specimen I could find* in the Asiatic Society's Museum ticketed Hastata was unmistakably Noma.
* It must not be supposed, that this is any reflection on Mr. Blyth. This gentleman made the Calcutta Museum, and tor some twenty years his talents shed a lustre on the Asiatic Society, which its then members did but little to merit. From the day he left Calcutta, the Museum has been disgracefully neglected; numbers of specimens, as far as I could judge, in the confused state in which the whole collection was when I visited it in 1868, have had their tickets changed, or have disappeared altogether; and it in no way follows, that the misnamed specimen that I saw, was one of Mr. Blyth's the Asiatic Society's Museum ticketed Hastata was unmistakably Noma.