1255. Falco peregrinator.
The Shahin Falcon.
Falco peregrinator, Sundev. Physiogr. Sallskapets Tidsk. i, p. 177, pi. 4 (1837); id. A. M. N H. xviii, p. 454 (1846); Blyth, Cat. p. 14; Horsf. & M. Cat A, p. 18; Layard, A. M. N. H. (2) xii, p. 102; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 25; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 55 ; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1871, p. 678; 1875, p. 18; Jerdon, Ibis, 1871, p. 237 ; Delme Radcliffe, ibid. p. 363 : Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 382; Hume, N. 8; F. p. 14 ; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burm. p. 58 ; Walden, Ibis, 1876, p. 342; Hume, S. F. v, p. 500; id. Cat. no. 9 ; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 1; Davidson & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 73; Ball, ibid. p. 196; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 106; Butler, S. F. ix, p. 370; Reid, S. F. x, p. 3; Davison, ibid. p. 333; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 216; id. in Hume's N. & F. 2nd ed. iii, p. 184; Swinh. & Barnes, Ibis, 1885, p. 55 ; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 11; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. iii, p. 209. Falco shaheen, Jerdon, Madr. Jour. L. S. x, p. 81 (1839); id. Ill. Ind. Orn. pls. 12, 28. Falco sultaneus, Hodgs. in Gray's Zool. Misc. p. 81 (1844). Falco atriceps, Hume, Rough Notes, p. 58 (1869); id. Ibis, 1871, p. 24; Jerdon, ibid. p. 237 ; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1871, p. 679; Hume, S. F. vii, p. 326; id. Cat. no. 9 bis ; Gurney, S. F. viii, p. 423; id. Ibis, 1882, p. 291, pl. x; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed, iii, p. 185.
Shdhin Kohi , Kohila , H; Jawolum, Tel.; Wallur, Tam
Coloration. This Falcon is distinguished from the Peregrine at all ages by its darker and almost black head and nape, and by the deeper rufous of the lower surface, especially on the breast, abdomen, and lower wing-coverts. The colour of the lower parts varies, however, greatly; in some birds, especially those from Southern India, it is deep ferruginous or chestnut, whilst in many Himalayan birds it is scarcely darker than in some (exceptional) Peregrines. Except in very old birds there is almost always in the present species some rufous sprinkled over the nape, owing to there being a rufous band on the feathers between the black ends and the white bases. In old birds of F. peregrinator all markings disappear on the breast and abdomen, very narrow bars remaining on the flanks alone; and bars almost disappear on the pale ashy feathers of the back, rump, and scapulars.
In young birds of the year the whole upper surface is almost black, the feathers at first having rufous edges, which soon disappear by wear; there is some rufous on the nape; and the tail is marked with transverse oval rufous spots as in the Peregrine, but they are more numerous ; the chin and throat are pale rufous and unspotted, the breast and abdomen marked with longitudinal drops, but the lower abdomen is sometimes unspotted.
The Himalayan birds have been separated by Hume as F. atriceps, chiefly on account of the cheek-stripe being fused, in the type specimen, into a black cap with the black of the crown and nape. This, however, is merely an individual character. The Himalayan race, as already remarked, is generally paler rufous below and the abdomen is greyer (though by no means so grey as it is represented in Gurney's figure in the ' Ibis '). The markings on the lower parts, too, are more persistent.
Bill slaty blue, dark at the tip; cere, orbits, and legs yellow ; irides intense brown (Jerdon).
Length of a female about 18 inches; tail 6.5; wing 13; tarsus 2; mid-toe without claw 2.1; bill from gape 1.25 : of a male, length 15; wing 11.5.
Distribution. A resident species in forests and well-wooded tracts throughout India, Ceylon, and Burma, but nowhere common and in general very rare. The original type was captured at sea in lat. 6° 20' N. between Ceylon and Sumatra, 70 Swedish miles (460 British) from the Nicobar Islands, but no specimens have as yet been obtained in the Malay countries. "West of India the Shahin is said to be found in Afghanistan, and a rufous Falcon, perhaps the same, is well known by the name Shahin to falconers in Persia. Mr. A. Anderson records the capture of a male midway between Bombay and Aden.
Habits, &c. This beautiful Falcon is chiefly found about rocky hills in or near forest; it preys on partridges, quails, and other birds, but especially on pigeons and parroquets. It is somewhat crepuscular, hunting in the early morning and late in the evening, and it has been observed to kill bats and goatsuckers. This is the Falcon most highly prized by Indian falconers, and the following account of the method of hawking with it is taken from Jerdon:—
" The Shahin is always trained for what, in the language of Falconry, is called a standing gait, that is, is not slipped from the hand at the quarry, but made to hover and circle high in the air over the Falconer and party, and when the game is started, it then makes its swoop, which it does with amazing speed. It is indeed a beautiful sight to see this fine bird stoop on a partridge or florikin, which has been flushed at some considerable distance from it, as it often makes a wide circuit round the party. As soon as the Falcon observes the game which has been flushed, it makes two or three onward plunges in its direction, and then darts down obliquely with half closed wings on the devoted quarry, with more than the velocity of an arrow. The Shahin is usually trained to stoop at partridges and florikin, also occasionally at the stone-plover and the jungle-fowl. It will not hover in the air so long as the Laggar, which, being of a more patient and docile disposition, will stay up above an hour."
In his description of the Laggar, Jerdon writes:—" Laggars, as well as Shahins, are always caught after they have left the nest and have had some instruction by their parents, our native falconers considering them better than when taken from the nest, contrary, I believe, to the opinion of our English Adam Woodcocks "; and again in the account of F. peregrinator :—" The Shahin and other Falcons are usually caught by what is called the Eerwan. This is a thin strip of cane of a length about equal to the expanse of wings of the bird sought for. The ends of the stick are smeared with bird-lime for several inches and a living bird is tied to the centre of it. On observing the hawk, the bird, which has its eyes sewn up to make it soar, is let loose, and the Falcon pounces on it and attempts to carry it off, when the ends of its wings strike the limed twig and it falls to the ground. The birds usually selected for this purpose are doves."
The nest of this Falcon, a mass of sticks, is always placed on a cliff: the eggs are laid about March and April, and resemble those of the Peregrine; they are brownish yellow to brick-red in colour, speckled and blotched with reddish brown, and they measure about 2 by 1.63.