(1721) Falco jugger.
THE LAGGAR FALCON.
Falco jugger Gray in Hardw. Ill. Ind. Zool.,ii, pl. 26 (1833-4) (India); Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 419.
Vernacular names, Laggar Jagqar (Hind.); Lagadu (Tel.).
Description. Forehead, lores and broad supercilia to the nape white to pale rufous, with more or less black shaft-streaks; crown and nape rufous with broad central black streaks; hind neck and upper back dark brown, becoming paler and more ashy in tint towards the tail; each feather with pale ashy edges and with black shafts, not noticeable on the darker parts but contrasting strongly on the pale upper tail-coverts ; pale ashy-brown tipped with white or fulvous, the central tail-feathers immaculate or obsoletely barred with paler rufous and the lateral more boldly barred on the inner webs; wing-coverts like the back but paler; primaries dark brown, edged pale and boldly barred on the concealed inner webs, the bars gradually becoming less on the secondaries and almost disappearing on the innermost; a narrow rim of feathers round the eye and a broad streak from behind the eye to the neck black ; a few black streaks on the cheeks and a narrow moustachial streak also black; remainder of sides of head, chin, throat and under plumage white to pale fulvous or rufescent-white; sides of lower breast and abdomen much barred with deep brown, the bars changing to lanceolate drops and then to fine streaks on the centre of the breast and abdomen.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill bluish-slaty, darker at the tip, paler and sometimes yellowish at the base; cere yellow ; legs and feet yellow, claws black.
Measurements. Wing, 305 to 328 mm., 323 to 364 mm.; tail, 167 to 175 mm., 169 to 198 mm.; tarsus about 47 to 50 mm.; culmen 24 to 26 mm.
Young birds are dark brown above, the feathers pale edged, the crown often with very conspicuous pale edges; chin and throat white or fulvous-white and practically the whole of the rest of the lower parts dark brown, the pale bases showing through here and there, especially on the abdomen and lower tail-coverts.
In the young the cere is pale grey-green and the legs and feet are dull slaty or greenish-grey.
Distribution. Practically the whole of India from the extreme South to the Himalayas and from Afghanistan. Baluchistan and Sind on the West to Manipur and Assam in the East. I twice obtained it in Cachar but neither I, Coltart nor Stevens ever met with it in Upper Assam.
Nidification. The Laggar Falcon breeds over the whole of its area in January, February and March, but occasional second layings may be taken in April and Vidal took one such in Sind on the 15th May. Occasionally they build their own nests but, as a rule, use old nests of Vultures, Kites and even Crows, not troubling even to repair them so long as they will hold their eggs in safety. The nest, built or stolen, may be placed on tree, cliff or building and in Sind Scrope Doig took over a dozen nests all placed on tombs in bare plains, the one exception being built in a tree. The eggs number three or four, rarely as many as five or as few as two. They are typical Falcons' eggs but are much paler than those of the Peregrine a great many having a very pink tinge. As a series they are not nearly so densely marked as are those of the true Peregrines, the spots, blotches and smudges being much more definite, and many of the eggs being of great beauty. Fifty eggs average 50.0 x 39.4 mm.: maxima 54.7 x 39.3 and 51.0 x 41.0 mm.; minima 46.5 x 39.4 and 49.0 x 36.2 mm. In shape they are broad ovals and the texture is coarse but close without any gloss. Both birds sit very close once the full complement of eggs is laid and will often attack anyone robbing them.
Habits. This Falcon is a bird of open and cultivated country and, to some extent, of light deciduous woods but never of the damp, humid evergreen forests of the wetter districts. It has no fear of civilization and haunts the surroundings and even the interior of towns and villages, not infrequently preying on chickens and tame pigeons. A curious fact that has often been commented upon, not only in regard to this, but to other Raptores also, is that the very birds on which they prey to the greatest extent build their nests close to those of the Falcons, who never interfere with them. Evidently some natural law is obeyed which grants immunity under such circumstances, for we find that it is almost universal. The Laggar eats more pigeons, doves and rollers than any other species of bird, yet Blue Pigeons often breed in a cliff where there is a nest of the Falcon, doves build in the same tree and rollers have nests in the very building selected by the Falcon for the same purpose. The Laggar is now seldom trained for hawking but in former times was much used for the pursuit of crows and to a less extent for herons of all kinds and for most game-birds. Its flight and boldness are ranked as less admirable than those of the Shahin but it is considered more docile, more patient and easier to teach. Ticehurst speaks of it as "a degenerate Falcon" in Sind and observes that it there preys principally on " lizards, gerbilles, locusts, etc"