No. 3 (Ms). Gyps Fulvescens, (Sp. Nov.)
The Bay Vulture.
This bird, of which a description and measurements will be found below, breeds, as far as I yet know, in February, and the first half of March. Its nest, a huge platform of sticks, was placed, in the only 3 instances which I know of, near the top of very large Peepul (Ficus Religiosa) trees. Both nests, that I found, were solitary, as was that found by Mr. C. H. T. Marshall. The nests are between 2*5, and 3 feet in diameter, some 6 to 10 inches in depth, constructed of sticks and twigs, and without any lining. The nests, that I found on the 12th and 21st of March, contained a single young bird each. It is to Mr. C. Marshall that I owe the only egg I possess. He says " the nest was found on the 14th of March on the top of a large Peepul tree, (some 40 feet from the ground), in the Shah-baloul gardens near Lahore. It contained a single egg nearly ready to hatch off, the bill of the young one being actually protruding."
The egg is a very perfect oval, a good deal larger than that of Calvus or Bengalensis, and the texture appears to be finer than that of the eggs of any of our other Indian Vultures. No positive conclusion, however, can be arrived at from the examination of a single egg.
The egg is of the usual Vulturine type, pale bluish white, but with a faint gloss; it is altogether unspotted, but was extensively soiled and discoloured from the droppings of the parent bird. It measures 3.5 X 2.8. I have found this bird very common throughout the Punjaub, northern Rajpootana and the North-Western Provinces, north and west of Etawah, and Colonel Tytler has a young bird from Oraiee. I will now give exact measurements, and descriptions, taken from freshly killed specimens.
Length, 41 to 47 inches. Expanse, 94 to 106 inches. Wing, 27 to 29.5; the 3rd is the longest primary; the 1st is from 2 to 4 inches shorter, and the 2nd from 0.3 to 0.85. Tail, of 14 feathers, 12 to 13.5 inches. Tarsus, 3.88 to 4.2. Foot, mid toe, 3.75 to 4.5, its claw along curve, 1.3 to 1.8 ; inner toe, 1.8 to 2, its claw, 1.6 to 1.9 ; hind toe, 1.4 to 1.65, its claw, 1.55 to 1.8. Bill from gape, 3 to 3.2; length of cere, 1.03 to 1.13; straight, from edge of cere to point, 1.9 to 2; along curve, from edge of cere to point, 2.15 to 2.4; height at edge of cere, 1. to 1.1; length of gonys, 1.13. Weight; 12 to 18 lbs.
The top of the head, cheeks, chin and throat, are covered with dingy, yellowish white, hair-like feathers, so closely set upon the top of the head, chin and throat, and with such an admixture of down, that the dark skin, which in the hill bird (G. Himlayensis) shows so plainly through the scant covering, is, in this speoies, completely hidden. The nape and the whole of the neck, (except the back and side of the basal one fifth or less, which are bare or nearly bare,) are closely covered with dense, short, fur-like white, or dingy yellowish white, down. The crop patch is about the same colour as in the hill bird, (vide supra) but somewhat more rufous, and the whole of the rest of the plumage is a far more rufous, and deeper fawn or buffy brown than in G. Himalayensis. The lower plumage is in the adult of a rich rufous brown, bay, or even dull chesnut, conspicuously white shafted, whilst the mantle is a warm sandy brown, unlike the colouring of any of our other Indian Vultures. The feathers of the ruff are almost linear, (the web not so much separated as in the hill bird,) usually of a warm wood brown or rufous fawn, the feathers conspicuously paler centered. In one specimen, the old female shot by Mr. Marshall on the nest from which he took the egg, the ruff feathers differ in being of a uniform dingy white, faintly tinged with rufous. The upper back, the whole of the upper wing coverts, and all but the longest scapulars are a warm, wood brown, or brownish rufous fawn, yellower and sandier in some, deeper and more of a bay colour in others. The secondaries, tertials and longer scapulars umber- (but not dark umber-) brown, the latter (viz. the longer scapulars) more or less tipped with the rufous or sandy colour of the upper back, which colour, in some specimens, more or less extends to the tips and outer webs of the tertiaries. Lower back, rump and upper tail coverts, the same colour as the upper back, but of a considerably lighter tint, in some mingled with brown, and in some altogether of a pure pale bay. The primaries and tail feathers are very dark brown, in some not so dark as the corresponding feathers in G. Himalayensis, but in others of an intense chocolate brown. Lower parts a rich sandy or rufous fawn or even a deep bay, (the tint varies in different stages of plu¬mage) each feather conspicuously paler shafted, and most of them (in the younger birds) conspicuously, though narrowly paler centred. The lineated appearance of the lower parts alone, at once distinguishes this species from the preceding one.
The feathering of the tarsus is similar to that of G. Himalayensis. This species, and not his Fulvus, (our Himalayensis,) as Dr. Jerdon surmises, is doubtless the one to which Adams refers, under the name of G. Indicus, and though his dimensions slightly exceed those of any specimens I have measured, the differences are too small to be of much consequence.
From the true G. Indicus, this species differs (amongst other things) 1st in its much greater size, often weighing fully half as much again; 2nd, in the bright rufous tinge of the lower parts, and the conspicuous narrow pale centerings of the feathers there; 3rd, in the far more rufous tint of the mantle; 4th, in the thick whitish down covering of the nape and whole upper part of the neck, back and front, and the comparatively greater abundance of down on the rest of neck. Altogether, the bird is infinitely more massive than Indicus, but the feet and claws are most conspicuously so, the latter being like those of some giant, G. Bengalensis, immeasurably blunter and stumpier, (if I may use such a word,) than those of Indicus. In several particulars, the distribution of down on the neck, the lineation . of the lower plumage, and the greater stoutness and lesser elongation of bill, our G. Fulvescens approximates to G. Bengalensis, while, as already noticed, the hill bird and the true Indicus are in similar matters more nearly allied.
The younger birds are sandier and paler than above described, but the older they grow, the more richly rufous they become. With noble series' of each of our four species of Gyps before me, the marked distinctness of this, in India at any rate, hitherto undescribed species, is very striking, the general colour of some of the older birds being precisely that of the back and train of Buphus Coromandus in breeding Plumage.
In its habits and mode of feeding, it differs in no way from Gyps Indicus and Bengalensis, with both of which, as well as with V. Monachus, it closely associates. As far as I can yet judge, it is essentially the Vulture of the desert. In richly cultivated tracts, far from any sandy wastes it is rare, but in the barer portions of the North Western Provinces and the Punjaub, it is common, and in and on the borders of Bhawulpoor, Bikaneer, Jodhpoor and Northern Jaipoor, it abounds.