(1779) Haliaetus leucoryphus.
Aquila leucorypha Pall., Reise Buss. Reich., i, p. 454 (1771) (Lower Ural River). Haliaetus leucoryphus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 866.
Vernacular names. Macharang, Machmanga, Dhenk, Patras (Hind.); Koral, Mach-koral, Bala (Beng.); Kankam (Nepal); Kokna, Ugus (Kol.).
Description. Forehead and lores dull white passing into fulvous on the crown, nape, hind neck and interscapulars and thence into dark brown on the lower back, rump and upper tail-coverts ; tail blackish-brown with a broad band of white across the centre ; wings dark rich brown, faintly glossed with purple-brown when -newly moulted; the first few primaries almost black; chin, throat and fore-neck dirty whitish or fulvous-white, passing into fulvous on the lanceolate feathers of the upper breast and then into brown elsewhere below; the flanks, thigh-coverts and under fail-coverts a still darker brown.
Colours of soft parts. Iris greyish-yellow to yellow ; bill dark slaty-black or plumbeous, the cere and gape paler; legs and feet dull white, yellowish-white or dull yellow, claws black.
Measurements. wing 555 to 578 mm.; tail 271 to 275 mm.; tarsus about 100 to 103 mm.; culmen 50 to 55 mm. wing 558 to 598 mm.; tail 274 to 291 mm.; tarsus 98 to 106 mm. ; culmen 59 to 62 mm.
Young birds are all brown above, almost every feather fringed paler and the secondaries with a good deal of white on the inner webs; tail-feathers dark brown, in many specimens more or less mottled with white at the bases; chin and throat fulvous with darker centres, remaining lower plumage pale brown, the bases darker, the tips of the feathers often paler.
Distribution. The Caspian and Black Seas, Persian Gulf, Northern India and Burma but not South India, South Burma or Ceylon.
Nidification. This Eagle breeds all over India and in the Western Himalayas, up to about 6,000 feet, from November to March, making a huge stick-nest high up in a large tree. Generally the tree is on the bank of one of the larger rivers, swamps or lakes, occasionally some distance away from water in a tree in or near some fishing village. The eggs number two to four and are pure white, the shape normally a broad oval and the texture very coarse but the actual surface fairly smooth. Forty eggs average 69.7 X 55.1 mm.: maxima 76.8 x 57.9 mm.; minima 64.3 x 52.3 mm.
Habits. As the White-bellied Sea-Eagle is mainly a salt-water fisher, so this bird is almost entirely a fresh-water fisher, but when it builds near fishing villages does not disdain offal whether of fish or animals and sometimes also steals chickens and ducks. Reptiles of all sorts are eaten regularly, especially the huge bull-frogs. It is a cowardly bird and never to my knowledge defends young or nest, though Hutton gives a graphic description of a most ferocious defence put up by a pair of these Eagles in defence of two young ones. They are noisy birds, constantly uttering their loud far-resounding call. They are very powerful birds on the wing and can carry great weights, having a grasp that will hold a ten-pound fish. With fish of this weight no attempt to rise to any height is made, the struggling prey being dragged along over the surface of the water to the nearest bank and eaten there. I have seen this Eagle seated on carcasses floating down a river and feeding thereon.