(1731) Falco columbarius insignis.
THE NORTH ASIAN MERLIN,
Aesalon regulus insignis Clarke, Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. xvi, p, 470 (1907) (Corea). Aesalon regulus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 426.
Vernacular names. Daurai, Daurela (Hin.); Retal Turumti, Regi (Panjab).
Description. Forehead, lores, small supercilium and sides of the head whitish with black shaft-streaks, the supercilium becoming rufescent posteriorly ; upper parts bluish-slaty, each feather with a black shaft-stripe; feathers of the hind-neck rufous with black stripes, forming a broad distinct collar; tail tipped white and with a broad black sub-terminal band; quills brownish-black, the first edged white, the others sub-edged grey and all barred with white, becoming grey on the inner primaries and secondaries ; innermost secondaries like the back; chin and throat immaculate white; sides of throat, neck and all underparts white, more or less strongly tinged with rufous and streaked with black; in many specimens the thigh-coverts and under tail-coverts are a darker rufous than elsewhere.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown ; bill slaty-blue, tipped black and yellowish at the base of the lower mandible; cere, legs and feet yellow, claws black.
Measurements. Wing, 196 to 204 mm., 220 to 224mm.; tail 121 to 138 mm.; tarsus about 34 to 39 mm. ; culmen, 14 to 15 mm., 15 to 16 mm.
Female. In very old females like males but these are exceptional. As a rule, the head is rufous-brown with dark shafts ; hind-neck as in the male but whiter and with broader shafts; upper parts brown with a tinge of slate-grey, e:ich feather margined with rufous and dark-shafted; scapulars and wing-coverts with broader edges and stripes; tail barred dark brown and rufous-grey throughout, tip whitish and apical dark brown bar broader than the rest; underparts paler than in the male and more broadly streaked with brown, especially on the breast and flanks.
Young birds are browner than the adult female without the grey or slate tinge ; the margins to the feathers are more pro¬nounced and the head is rather more rufous. The bars on the wing-quills extend across both webs.
Distribution. Breeding Northern Asia from Turkestan to Ussuri and Japan and migrating in Winter to Cyprus, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, India and South China.
In India it has been obtained in Kandahar, the Peshin Yalley, Gilgit and in various places in the Punjab and in Sind.
Nidification. A clutch of eggs in my collection was taken on the 2nd June at Fort Naryn, Turkestan, from a nest on the ground. They are very handsome eggs of the same type as those of the Turumti but are darker, deeper red and more handsomely blotched. They measure 39.7 x 31.0, 40.5 x 30.3 and 41.2 x 32.0 mm.
Habits. Nothing on record but probably differing in no way from those of the European bird.
* Many systematists still retain the Merlins in a separate genus, Aesalon.