No. 15. Lithofalco Oesalon Gmel.
Of the breeding of this species, in India, we have as yet no detailed accounts. Dr. Jerdon, in a recent note to me, remarks that "the Merlin is by no means rare in the plains of the Punjab, during the cold weather, and I have had trained ones in my possession. It is chiefly flown at the Hoopoe.
" One of my falconers caught one near Delhi. It is called Regi and Retul turunti in the Punjab, and Dooreli by Hindustanees, which name I have, in my work, applied to the Hobby."
About Umritsur it is commonly captured and sold, by native huntsmen, for a very small price. It comes down, I am informed, in numbers into the Peshawur Valley, and is always to be met with, early in the year, in the Salt Range, it is therefore highly probable, that it breeds in Cashmere, and the neighbouring regions of the Himalayahs.
Mr. Yarrell says, " The Merlin makes its scanty nest on the ground, laying four or five eggs, measuring one inch, seven lines, in Length, by one inch, three lines in breadth, mottled all over with two shades of reddish brown."
Mr. Hewitson tell us, that in England, the eggs have usual¬ly been found, deposited on the ground, chiefly upon those extensive heathy moors, which abound towards the north. On the continent of Europe, however, they are known to breed on trees; and Mr. Hewitson himself found a nest in Norway " near the top of a spruce fir," which appeared to have been newly made by the birds themselves, and not to be a repaired nest, originally the tenement (as is so common in the case of the Hobbies) of some other species. The nest was outwardly composed of sticks, thickly lined with wool. "The Merlin," he adds,"can scarcely be said to make a nest, when it deposits its eggs upon the ground, laying them either upon the bare heather, or on a small quantity of dry grass. They are four or five in number," they seem to be usually of a deep dingy red, " smaller, browner, and less bright in colour" than those of the Kestrel," very closely freckled, not spotted, and thickly sprinkled over with small black dots." Varieties remarkable for their deep red brown vinous colouring, and others with pure white grounds, thickly blotched with crimson red, also, as he notices, occur, and I remember to have seen many intermediate types of colouration, in European cabinets.
The eggs are of the usual Falcon type, broad, oval, slightly compressed towards one end, and one I have from Europe measures 1.6 by 1.25.
Of a male, shot near Hoshiarpoor; I have the following note:
" Comparatively short wings; notch as in Severus, but on both, the two first quills, as in Chiquera. The 2nd and 3rd quills sub-equal ; wing, 8; tail 5. The bird is a rich deep brown above, deepest towards the head; the feathers of the head, having still deeper central brown stripes; the scapulars, many of the wing coverts, and the quills, nave rich rufous brown, irregular, and imperfect, transverse bars, extending as spots, on to the outer webs of the primaries. The tail, with five broad, transverse, rufous bars; (one hidden by the upper tail coverts) tip rufous white. An indistinct yellowish, imperfect collar round the base of the neck. Bill, very small, and feeble, as compared with Severus, Subbuteo, and Chiquera, which are all about equally strong.
The Merlin seems to be found all over Europe, in Malta, Egypt, (Lower,) Palestine, Kandehar, and, according to Mr. Swinhoe, in Pekin, Amoy, and Foochow.