(1751) Aquila pomarina hastata (Less.).
THE INDIAN SMALL SPOTTED EAGLE.
Aquila pomarina hastata. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v. p. 75.
This little Eagle is a resident breeding species over the greater part of India and much of Burma. It does not occur either in Sind or in Ceylon, is rare in Travancore and Madras, and is most common in Bihar and Bengal, more especially in the Eastern districts. In Assam it is uncommon, but is found both North and South of the Brahmapootra, while in Burma it occurs sparingly as far South as Pegu.
It is a bird of well-wooded country, generally breeding in trees standing in cultivated country either singly or in small clumps,
Occasionally they breed in forest while, on the other hand, both Inglis and Coltart obtained, nests built in trees in gardens. They seem to have no special predilection for any special kind of tree. Inglis, who, I fancy, has seen more neats of this Eagle than any two other naturalists, has found the nests in Simul (Bombax mala¬barica), Sissoo, Sal (Shorea robusta), Mango, Pipal (Ficus religiosa), Banyan and others ; Bingham found a nest on an immense Babool ; Cripps took one from a Tamarind, while Parker found one in the Botanical Gardens on a huge tree the name of which is not given.
The neat, as a rule, is built very high up, seldom as low as 30 feet and occasionally as high as 80 feet, but it is not placed in the extreme top of the tree like that of the Indian Tawny Eagle. In size it varies greatly ; I have myself seen one not more than a foot across and only 3 or 4 inches deep, while Unwin records a nest taken by him not far from Abbotabad, “placed on a cheer or fir-tree” which measured “about 18 or 20 inches thick and 2.1/2 feet broad, with a depression of about 3 inches deep in the centre.” Most nests I think would average about 2 feet in diameter, or less, by about 6 inches deep, but the birds sometimes occupy the same nest for several breeding seasons, adding to it yearly until it becomes very large.
It rarely ascends the hills to any height, but Rattray once found a nest near Danga Gali in the Murree Hills. In epistola he writes :— “I only saw this bird once near Danga Gali. My men came and told me that they had found the nest of a new Eagle and that there was one egg in it. I went with them and saw the nest, which was built in a fir-tree growing out of a ledge in a very nasty place. I stopped on the top of the precipice and sent the man down, and when the old bird flew off and circled overhead I shot it. The single egg was taken on the 7th June and was much incubated.”
The birds breed from about the middle of April to the middle of July, the great majority laying in May.
As a rule one egg only is laid, sometimes two, while once Inglis took three eggs from a nest he found in Darhbonga on the 16th May.
Individually I do not think the eggs could be distinguished from those of the Tawny Eagle but, as a series, they are much smaller and decidedly better marked, while many eggs have definite primary markings of light reddish and secondary ones of lilac or lavender-grey. Two single eggs from the Jesse collection are very pretty ; one is a pure white faintly blotched and freckled with reddish and profusely blotched with clear lilac. The second is freely freckled all over, but more so at the larger end, with reddish-brown. Some eggs are spotless or nearly so.
Twenty-two eggs average 63.8 x 49.8 mm. : maxima 66.6 x 52.6 and 64.7 x 54.4 mm. ; minima 58.5 x 47.6 and 61.1 x 47.3 mm.
Davidson records a curious incident in connection with the breeding of this Eagle. He writes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xviii, p, 582, 1908) :—"An Eagle’s nest was reported to me. When I went to visit it, I found it empty, but an Eagle flew from a very small tattered-looking nest, some 15 yards from the other. I shot the bird (now in the South Kensington Museum) and she contained a shelled egg which was broken by the shot. The nest contained a single fresh egg. I found beneath the original nest the remains of a broken Eagle’s egg. At the time I considered that owing to wind or owing to some disturbance the egg had fallen from the nest, and that she had consequently deserted and taken possession of a previous old nest to lay again. The circumstances., however, might quite be that, being disturbed by the man who had told mo of the nest, she had tried to move her eggs, and dropped one in so doing.”
1751. Aquila pomarina hastata
(1751) Aquila pomarina hastata (Less.).