11. Falco jugger

No. 11. Falco Jugger, Gray.

The Laggar.

Lays during January, February, and March, but the majority appear to lay in the early part of February. I have never obtained an egg earlier than the 6th January, or later than the 30th March. The situation of the nest varies, it is sometimes on large trees, the Pepul being perhaps the favourite, and sometimes on ledges, or in recesses of rocky or earthy cliffs, and sometimes in the face of ancient ramparts, where one or two stones have disappeared, or on more or less inaccessible cornices of ruined buildings. I found a nest in the exterior walls of Togluck Shah's grand Egyptian-like mausoleum. Another in one of the lateral walls of the high gate of Futtehpoor Sikree. I have taken them times without number on ledges of the clay cliffs of the Jumna and Chumbul in the Etawah district, and I met with one with three full-fledged young ones on the rocks of the Mata Pahar, overlooking the Sambhur lake ; still in those parts of the country with which I am best acquainted, the N. W. Provinces, Oudh, and the Punjaub, I believe the majority breed upon trees. When built on trees, the nest is usually a large and massive one, some 2 feet in diameter, if circular, or if, as is more common, oblong in shape, some 2.5 feet in length by 1.5 feet in breadth, and fully six inches in thickness.* It is composed of twigs and small sticks, at times without any lining, and at times lined with a little grass, or straw, or even leaves. Occasionally the nest is very much larger than I have described, but it will then generally be found that the bird, instead of building a nest of its own, has taken possession of, and repaired, one of some other bird. Near Bhureh on the Chumbul, a pair took possession of a nest that for the two previous years had, to my knowledge, been always occupied by our Indian ring-tail eagle (H. Leucoryphus) and Mr. W. Blewitt who took five nests of this species in January and February, in the neighbourhood of Hansie, remarks, that in every case, the Falcon had taken possession of, and more or less repaired, a deserted nest of the common eagle (A. Fulvescens). The repaired nests were all on Keekur trees (the favourite par excellence, of A. Fulvescens) at heights of from 17 to 24 feet from the ground. Three of these nests contained five eggs, a very unusual number. There was no mistaking either eggs or birds, all of which Mr. Blewitt kindly sent me.

Where the bird selects a recess or ledge in a cliffs face for nesting, a large nest is rarely made, a few handfuls of sticks, just enough to prevent the eggs rolling about, with a few feathers, accidentally or purposely intermingled, is all that is usually met with in such situations, and I have twice taken the eggs laid on the bare earth in a slight depression, without one particle of stick, grass or feather near them.

The normal number of the eggs is four; but, while five are occasionally found, the bird often sits on only three ; and once I took two eggs, ready to hatch off, out of a very old pair's nest, that in former seasons had always contained the full number. In colour, the eggs vary much, as indeed do those of all true Falcons. The usual type is a reddish, brownish, or yellowish brown ground, very thickly speckled and spotted all over, with a darker and richer shade of the ground colour. The spots are often more crowded at one end than the other, producing occasionally the effect of a clouded cap; some in addition to the multitudinous specks exhibit bold red blotches, or dark streaky clouds, and some again are very feebly coloured, a nearly uniform pale dingy buff, with scarcely a trace of blotches or even specks of a darker hue. In shape, the eggs are commonly a broad oval, slightly more pointed at one end, of a dull, gloss-less and slightly chalky, but still compact texture. The egg lining is white or slightly reddish white.

Elsewhere I have thus described the eggs : "A very great variation in shape is observable in the eggs of this species. They are all a somewhat broad, but generally very perfect oval. In texture, they are rather fine, but at the same time (if I may so express it) chalky, and they are perfectly devoid of gloss. The eggs, as a rule, are a longer oval than those of Falco Peregrinas, and are scarcely ever so richly coloured as the latter often are. The coloration is of course of the true Falcon type. Some eggs are of a nearly uniform pale dingy yellowish brown, blanching towards one extremity or the other, indistinctly clouded, blotched or mottled with a somewhat deeper and redder brown. Others are a nearly uniform red brown, with scarcely any traces of distinct markings; others have a nearly pure white, reddish white, pale dingy yellow, brownish yellow or reddish brown ground, more or less boldly, extensively and thickly blotched and clouded or even freckled, mottled, and streaked with more or less bright or deep brick or blood red. As a rule, the markings are not very bold or sharply defined, in but few is there any decided tendency towards capping at either end, and all have a more or less freckled and dotted appearance. These eggs fade much as time passes, but when first found many of them are, to an oologist's eye, perfect pictures."

In size they vary from 2.15 to 1.85 in Length, and from 1.65 to 1.48 in breadth, but of ninety-eight eggs measured, the average size was 2.01 by 1.57. I once noticed a curious trait in this bird, somewhat similar to that related above of Gyps Bengalensis, On the 2nd of March, 1866 near Soj in the Mynpoorie district, I found a nest of these birds on what had been a large Peepul tree, but which, owing to the continual cutting of its branches for the elephants of the Chohan Rajahs of the neighbourhood, had become a gaunt, white spectre-like thing with two or three huge nearly bare arms, each with a dense cluster of leafy twigs near the extremity, and smaller similar clusters at odd angles of the branches. The tree stood solitary in the midst of a wide tract of land overflowed during the rains, but at the time I speak of, waste and parched, with no other vegetation for a good mile in any direction, but patches of down-trodden, withered rush.

The nest was in one of the highest clusters. The male was sitting on the broad bare bough, about 6 feet below it, tearing a Roller (Coracias Indica) to pieces, and I may mention, that when examined, this bird proved to have had the whole head, neck, and upper part of the body eaten; the wings, tail and lower portion of the body were altogether uninjured. I shot the male, and he fell flat on the bough. A man was sent up, who threw the male down, still there were no signs of the female, and I called to the man to search the nest for eggs. As he placed his hand at the side of the nest, which he could only just reach, the female suddenly appeared from the hollow of the nest, and stood upon its margin. The man drew back rather startled, the female turned towards the inside of the nest, gave a vicious drive at it with her bill and flew off. On taking the eggs, it appeared that she had driven her powerful bill into one of them, making a triangular hole, each side of which, measured about half an inch. The female must have seen her mate shot, and have felt, perhaps from the man still coming to the nest, after securing the male, that he intended to rob it. Did she break the egg herself in anger ? The eggs were nearly ready to hatch off. Had she perchance some glimmering idea that she might let the chick out and thus save it ? It is impossible to say: but a whole party of us witnessed the fact, and it seems worthy of record. What struck me fully as much in this case was, that though the male was in the act of tearing the Roller to pieces, and though the whole ground, for many yards round the tree, was strewed with feathers of Pigeons, Doves and Rollers, a pair of Doves, (T. Risoria) had a nest with young ones, in another leafy cluster of this same tree, and another pair were sitting calmly on two bare sprays, not 15 feet from where the male, whom they could not help seeing, was devouring his prey. Had the Roller always been his prey, one might have understood their fearlessness, but around the tree, lay the feathers of, I should say, at least fifty individuals of their own species. That the Falcons must designedly have spared their fellow-tenants is clear ; the two birds, however wary and watchful, could never have built their nest, hatched their young, and partly reared these latter in safety, within 30 feet of the Falcons' nest, unless these latter had allowed them to do so absolutely without molestation ; for had one of the pair only been once set upon or pursued, they would assuredly have deserted the nest. The natives declared that this pair of Doves, were left by the Falcons as decoys; and that the other pair were strangers, who would probably soon have fallen victims to the confidence engendered by seeing the resident birds rearing their young in security. I can really give no more plausible explanation of what seems to me a very remarkable fact. Mr. R. Thompson furnishes the following interesting remarks, in regard to this species:

"This Falcon breeds on lofty trees; usually on one, with others standing near it, in open cultivated country; even when it is a forest bird, it chooses such parts as are tolerably open, with widely spreading glades ; but habitually it prefers open localities.

" A nest found in open forest country, south of Lall-dang in the Provinces of Kumaon, on the 5th February, 1868, was up to that date unfinished, though both the Falcons were present. The male, I observed carrying small twigs and roots to the female, who seemed the architect. This nest was begun in a large Semel tree (Bombax heptaphyllum) on the forked branch of one of the principal lateral arms, and might have been 40 feet from the ground. The nest was about 2 1/2 feet in diameter, with the egg cavity about ten inches. The inside was lined with small fine roots and bruised dry leaves, evidently such as had been attached to the twigs, which composed the body and foundation of the nest; on the 27th March succeeding, the nest was again visited. The Falcons were out at the time, it being about the middle of the day. On a man ascending the tree, both birds quickly appeared, and the male, which appeared an old adult, made the first swoop at the man climbing, passing within a few inches of his head. The female (which appeared not to have cast her nestling plumage) then followed, making her attacks with more vigour and determination. We found three eggs, one addled and two a good deal incubated.

" The eggs were dull white, closely blotched with chocolate brown spots, very irregular in detail, coalescing in parts, and then forming stains. One egg appearing a rufous brown with an indistinct ground colour only visible.

" Size. Length, 2 inches; breadth, at greatest diameter, 1 1/2 inches, shaped very like one of our Indian hen's eggs, to which it approximates in size. F. Jugger, within the sub-Himalayan tract, breeds, as has been stated before, on the open dry forest lands, skirting the lowest range of hills, and is particularly found in the vicinity of the larger, dry, sandy beds of torrents which drain them. In the Terai, however, where it is tolerably moist and swampy, I have also occasionally known the birds to breed.

" In Dehra Dhoon, many years ago, a pair always nested in a large single tree of the Ulmus integrifolia (Dhoul papree or Kunjoo of natives). Each year saw the couple at the same tree, and as an instance of intelligence and memory, I may mention that when as a lad I used to take my gun and Dogs out to shoot Quail (Coturnix communis) which abounded there in the grassy plains, and later, in March and April in the wheat fields, the Falcons always joined the party. On seeing the first Quail rise, they would fly towards us, and hover round us, until another was flushed, when they would both come down with one long well directed swoop. If the Quail were taken, both would fly off with it, if they failed they would wait for the next. When, as often happened, the Quail seeing the Falcons above, flew for a short distance only, and then suddenly dropt; they (the Quails) were invariably caught by the Bogs, as they would never rise a second time after having once been stooped at by the Falcons. This kind of sport used to last for several minutes and sometimes for half an hour, the pair of wild Falcons hovering above us all the time in perfect circles at a height considerably out of shot of my gun, though for that matter, had they come ever so close, nothing would have induced me to kill one of them. Every time I went shooting, or even to exercise the Dogs, these birds invariably appeared, and would join the party sometimes long before the first Quail was flushed. This did not happen once or twice or even during one or two seasons, it was regularly the case for the four or five successive years, that I remember the birds returning to their favourite tree."

This curious trait indicates pretty clearly, the manner in which the idea of training Falcons may first have arisen in the earlier and ruder ages of the world.

Tyros are always, in India, labouring under the delusion, that in the Laggar, in its different stages of plumage, they have different species. I have had F. Jugger in one stage or another sent me as Peregrinus, Perigrinator and Babylonicus (the latter repeatedly). I will endeavour to give such a description, as shall prevent these kind of mistakes in future.

In the young birds of the year, the whole of the upper plumage, except the nape and head, is a nearly uniform umber brown, darker on the primaries, margined paler on the wing coverts and back, and with a more or less observable tinge of bluish on the tail feathers. In young birds, the tail feathers and coverts are often much abraded and almost sandy in hue. The forehead is white, the feathers black shafted, and the white is continued more or less distinctly over the eye, for the length of about an inch and a half, as a sort of supercilium. The whole of the top of the head and occiput, have the brown feathers darker centered and faintly edged, with a more rufous brown. The lores are covered with whitish hair, in some, more or less involved in the dark stripe under the eye. Below the orbit, a dark brown streak commences, which, .when most clearly seen, divides at the gape, and being prolonged backwards under and over the ear coverts, re-unites behind the ear covert, and is con¬tinued as a broad dark ill-defined half collar round the base of the neck. This is much more strongly marked in some birds than in others. The ear-coverts are white, many of the feathers dark shafted and spotted with brown or rufous brown. The chin and throat are white or creamy white, most of the feathers dark shafted and with a subterminal brown spot. The whole breast, abdomen, sides, flanks, thigh coverts, uniform unspotted umber brown, some of the feathers very faintly margined paler, and on the breast somewhat darker shafted. The vent and under tail-coverts white or dingy fawn, some of the latter with a subterminal pale brown blotch. The axillaries and lower wing coverts are mostly brown with occasional white spots or mottlings, in some almost wanting. The inner webs of the primaries, except the terminal 2 or 3 inches, conspicuously marked with transverse spots of white or buffy white. Tail feathers, albescent below; all of them except the two centre ones, more or less noticeably barred on the inner webs, towards their bases, with white or buffy white. The thighs behind and interiorly white.

In the adult, the white of the forehead is more conspicuous, The supercilium less so; the whole top of the head has a rufous cast, the feathers being brown, darker shafted and broadly margined, rufous. There is a blackish brown line under the eye, but this is no longer quite continuous with the dark brown stripe, which proceeds from the gape under the ear coverts, and this latter again no longer (as in the young bird it often appears to do) encircles the back of the ear coverts and joins into the dark collar. The dark brown stripe above the ear coverts which, in the young bird, is connected with the brown at the lower angle of the eye, in the adult no longer meets it, but commences at the hinder angle of the eye, and then produced backwards, widens into a broad ill-defined half collar, covering the whole back of the neck. The whole of the upper parts are a sort of slaty brown colour, browner on the upper back and scapulars, the feathers dark shafted and paler margined; the smallest coverts on the shoulder of the wings being often conspicuously, though very narrowly, margined with white. The dark colour of the nape which, in some specimens, is almost blackish brown, shades gradually into the slaty brown of the upper back. The chin, throat, cheeks and ear coverts, are almost perfectly pure white. The whole breast is pure white, but many of the feathers are darker shafted. The abdomen and sides are white, dark shafted, with a few linear drops of dark brown. The flanks nearly unmottled brown, the thigh coverts slaty-brown, the feathers darker shafted, vent and lower tail coverts yellowish white, some of the exterior of the latter only sparsely blotched with pale brown. The lower wing coverts and axillaries are mingled brown and white, but whereas in the young, the brown greatly predominated, in the adult the white is in excess. The tail feathers are now all distinctly tipped with white, except perhaps the two centre ones, and all the feathers, but the centre ones, are distinctly marked on the inner webs to the very points, by ill-defined bars of a paler hue, in most specimens, greyish white tinged with rufous near the shaft. On the outer webs, of, at least, the three outer tail feathers on each side, there are usually paler spots corresponding to the bars on the inner webs. The legs and feet as well as the cere, have changed from a greenish hue to bright yellow. The iris, which in the young is often pale brown or brownish yellow, assumes in the adult its perfect rich brown tint.

Between these two states of plumage every possible gradation is observable. Gradually as the bird grows older, the white of the forehead becomes more conspicuous and the head more rufous. The spots on the ear coverts and throat gradually disappear, the cheek stripe grows shorter, the breast, then the abdomen become successively mottled with white, then white with conspicuous drops of brown, and lastly as in the adult, almost pure white. The upper plumage passes from a rich or umber (?) brown to almost a slaty grey, the under wing coverts and axillaries become more and more barred and mottled with white, while even the thigh coverts, participating in the general change of hue, pass from a deep rich burnt umber to a pale greyish brown. The intensity of the colours varies much in different individuals, some are in all stages less rufous on the head and less slaty on the upper plumage than others, and in some the dark colour of the base of, and back of neck is very much darker than others of apparently the same age. With an enormous series before me, I cannot discover any sexual difference of plumage : just as many of the females as of the males have very rufous heads; just as many are very grey; just as many have very dark patches in the hind neck, and just as many of each seem to be less rufous, less grey, and less dark on the neck. In the young, the colour of the legs and feet vary, from pale plumbeous to dull greenish grey, in the adult from full wax yellow to a bright almost orange yellow. The claws are a horny black.

The legs and feet do not appear to assume their bright yellow hue, until almost all the brown has disappeared from the throat and breast. The cere and gape are dingy greenish grey, or at times pale plumbeous in the young, bright yellow in the adult, the orbit greenish yellow in the former, bright yellow in the latter. In one stage, legs, feet, cere, orbits, are all pale primrose yellow. The corneous portion of the bill varies at base from greenish horny to greyish blue and even blue, and at tip from dark horny blue to bluish black.

Dimensions of adults. Length M, 15 to 16.5, F, 17.5 to 19. Expanse M, 37 to 41, F, 42 to 45. Weight M, 14 to 18 oz., F, 24 to 26 oz. Wing M, 12 to 13, F, 13 to 15 ; 2nd primary longest. Primaries fall short of longest, M, 1st, 0.62; 3rd, 0.44, F, 1st, 0.75 ; 3rd 0.37 {about, these dimensions vary). Tail from vent M, 7 to 8, F, 8 to 9; longest tail feathers exceed shortest by M, 0.7 to 0.85, F, 0.75 to 0.95. Tarsus M, 1.7 to 1.9, F, 1.75 to 2; (feathered in front for from 0.85 to 1) Foot, greatest Length, M, 3.5 to 4, F, 4.25 to 4.5 ; greatest width, M, 3.25 to 3.7, F, 3.75 to 4; mid toe M, 1.6 to 1.75, F, 1.9 to 2; its claw, along curve M, 0.69 to 0.78 F, 0.8 to 1.05; hind toe M, 0.69 to 0.72, F, 0.8 to 0.9; its claw, along curve M, 0.75 to 0.9, F, 0.9 to 1.1. Bill straight, from edge of cere, M, 0.85 to 0.98 F, 1 to 1.1; along curve M, 1.1 to 1.19, F, 1.1 to 1.25; from gape M, 1 to 1.12, F, 1.15 to 1.37; width at gape, M, 1 to 1.12, F, 1.15 to 1.22; height at margin of cere M, 0.4 to 0.5, F, 0.47 to 0.53; Length of cere M, 0.18 to 0.22, F, 0.2 to 0.25. Distance by which the closed wings fall short of end of tail M, 1.1 to 1.2, F, 1.2 to 1.3; Distance by which lower tail coverts fall short of tail M, 3 to 3.4, F, 3.2 to 3.6.

There ought to be no confounding the Peregrine and the Laggar after they have once been seen together. The Peregrine is a much heavier and stouter bird, the bill is much stronger and stouter; the cheek stripe of the Peregrine is a huge broad patch, in the Laggar, at most, a line a quarter of an inch wide. Then the sides, flanks, thigh coverts, and lower tail coverts of the Peregrine exhibit in all, except in very old birds, regular transverse bars, and even in the oldest birds show traces of these. There is no barring in any age on any of these parts in the Laggar. The groundwork of the lining of the wing of the Peregrine is white, barred with brown, whereas the ground-work of the wing lining of the Laggar is dark wood brown, a good deal mottled or barred with white in the old bird. The Peregrine, as a rule, has no white frontal band, no white superciliary stripe and no rufous crown, as in the Laggar. Moreover the Peregrine has the centre tail feathers barred, whereas the Laggar has no trace of this barring; again the whole of the upper back, scapulars and upper surface of the wing in the Peregrine are at times somewhat obscurely, but yet manifestly, barred, but there is no trace of such barring at any age in the Laggar. Lastly, however old the Laggar, the general tint of the upper surface is brown or greyish brown, no doubt shaded with slaty in very old birds, but still a brownish slaty, whereas the whole upper surface of the old Peregrine is a pure slaty blue of different shades, not a trace of brown about it.

Generally* it may be said, that if any beginner meets in India with a true Falcon of large size, without any markings on the upper surface of the centre tail feathers, it is F. Jugger. If there are markings, and these are large, round or oval spots, the bird is F. Sacer (or a nearly allied and as yet undiscriminated species). If the markings are bars, and the head and nape are nearly black, the latter, with a few rufous or buffy feathers, it is Perigrinator, or Atriceps, the distinctions between which have already been pointed out; while, if the head is brown, or in adults, deep blackish slaty (Peregrinus), or rufous, (Babylonicus) ; it is Peregrinus if the cheek stripe is broad and massive, Babylonicus if long and narrow.

* It appears to be a general rule, with birds that build sometimes on trees, and sometimes on rocky ledges, that their nests in the former situation are always deeper, more cup-like and more massive, than when in the latter.

My Scrap Book
Hume, Allan Octavian, ed. My Scrap Book: Or, Rough Notes on Indian Oology and Ornithology. Vol. 1. 1869.
Title in Book: 
11. Falco jugger
Book Author: 
Allan Octavian Hume
Page No: 
Common name: 
Laggar Falcon
Falco jugger
Vol. 1
Term name: 

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