No. 42. Haliaetus Leucoryphus, PALLAS.
PALLAS'S SEA EAGLE.
I have taken the eggs of this species during the latter half of November, in December, and January, and once or twice, in the early part of February. The greater number of these birds, however, lay in December, and most of the nests that I have examined later than the 15th of January, have contained young ones.
They build on large trees, on the Peepul (Ficus Religiosa) by preference I think, but also on many other kinds, Sheeshum (Dalbergia Seesoo) Banyan (F. Indicus) &c. The trees that they select, are almost invariably solitary ones, situated either on the banks of some river, or beside som6 considerable Jheel. In Upper India, I do not know a single large jheel, which retains water in it as late as February, where a pair of this species does not breed, and all down the Jumna, Granges, Chambul and Sutledge, wherever I have been, I have invariably met with at least one pair every three or four miles, and in particular localities every half mile !
The nest is a huge platform of sticks, some of which are often as thick as a man's arm, with a superstructure of thinner sticks and twigs, and with only a slight depression towards the interior, which is lined with fine twigs and green leaves, occasionally intermingled with rushes and straw.
The nest is usually placed in a broad fork, near the very top of the tree, on branches that seem scarcely strong enough to support the huge mass, and is sometimes occupied by the same pair for many successive seasons.
I do not think that this species ever takes possession of other birds' nests. It either builds a new one for itself, or repairs one formerly belonging to it, even though this may in the interim have been usurped by Vultur Calvus or Ketupa Ceylonensis, both much addicted to annexing the poor Sea Eagle's laboriously constructed nest. I say laboriously constructed, because I once watched a young pair constantly occupied for a full month, building a new nest, which they were still at work finishing off when I left. Nothing can seem rougher or more rugged than their nest when finished, and yet out of every four sticks and branches that they brought, they rejected and threw down at least three. Both birds brought materials, and side by side, the pair would work away, throwing down almost as many sticks as they had brought; then apparently they would quarrel over the matter, there would be a great squealing, and one would fly away and sit sulky on some cliff point near at hand ; after a time the one left on the nest would go off in quest of materials. Immediately, the other would drop softly on to the nest and be very busy (though what they did except lift a stick and put it down in the same place it was impossible, even with a good glass, to make out) till the absent bird returned, not unfrequently with a fish instead of a stick. It is a curious fact, but I observed it repeatedly, that if the female, which is much the largest, brought the fish to the nest, the male set to work on it at once, without so much as, By your leave ; while if the male brought it, the female used to eye it, sidle gradually up, and only take slow and modest mouthfuls. When, however, the female begins to sit, the male will bring her fish or fowl, and go off for other food for himself, not attempting to share it with her: and when not on the nest, neither seems to presume to interfere with the other's captures without permission (vide infra).
The usual number of eggs laid by this species is three, but I have myself twice found four, and it is not at all uncommon to meet with only two eggs, fully incubated, or two young ones, in a nest.
One curious point about these birds is, that unlike most Eagles, they do not always desert a plundered nest. I have twice taken single eggs out of nests, and ten or twelve days later, on re-examining the same nests, in consequence of observing the birds still hanging about the place, found that a couple more eggs had been laid since my last visit.
Typically the eggs of this species are a rather broad oval, but a good deal of variation both in size and shape occurs. I have one or two very long and one very broad pyriform egg, but these are exceptions. The colour is greyish white, and every specimen that I have yet seen (and some fifty have passed through my hands) has been absolutely unspotted. No doubt, as incubation proceeds, like most other Eagles' eggs, they become much soiled and stained with dingy yellow, but none have exhibited any trace of the markings shewn in Dr. Bree's figures. As far as size goes, his figure pretty correctly represents an average specimen, but fully half are a good deal larger.
The eggs of this species can, I think, generally be separated from those of almost all our other Indian Eagles, except those of P. Ichthyaetus, by the intensely dark green of the shell when held against the fight. If it is possible to separate any of our Eagle's eggs by the texture. I should say, that as a rule, there is generally a certain smoothness in the feel of these eggs, which distinguishes them from those of other species; but this is by no means an invariable test.
The eggs vary from 2.55 to 3 in Length, and from 2.02 to 2.27 in breadth, but the average of 26 eggs measured was 2.77 X 2.18.
It does not do to dogmatize about the habits of birds. I have examined fully fifty nests of this species, some containing eggs, and some young ones, and were I to trust to my own personal experience alone, I should certainly assert that the old birds never show the least fight in defence of their homes and progeny. Nevertheless one of our most accurate observers certifies to their excessive pugnacity when they have young: Captain Hutton in the J. A. S. remarks : - :
" I notice this species, because Captain Tickell states, that it never makes the slightest attempt at defending its nest, a striking contrast to the marvellous tales we read of, concerning the Golden Eagle in the Highlands of Scotland, &c. This remark is correct only, so long as there are eggs in the nest, for no sooner are these hatched, than the temper of the bird becomes wholly changed, and it will then defend its young with fierceness and determination. The nests I have repeatedly found, and robbed, both on the banks of the Ganges, and of the Sutledge, and in all cases where they contained only eggs, not the least show of resistance was made, the old birds either sailing off with a loud querulous cry, or sullenly remaining on an adjacent tree, watching the robbery that was going on. On one occasion, however, I met with a very different reception, when my servant was attacked with an unexpected ferocity, from which nothing but my gun could have saved him. The circumstance occurred in January 1832, when on my way up the country. The nest was placed near the summit of a tree, growing on one of the Colgong rocks, in the middle of the Ganges, and contained two half-fledged young ones. The old birds offered a most determined resistance, and without the aid of fire arms we should decidedly have been defeated, as they dashed fiercely and fearlessly at the man in the tree, who prayed hard to be allowed to descend, and was only kept at his post by the promise of reward and fear of the cudgel. At first we had to contend with the female only, but after one or two rapid stoops and dashes at the robber's head, which he avoided by bobbing under the nest, finding she could make no impression, she suddenly uttered a shrill cry, which was responded to in the distance, and in an instant after, her mate was seen swiftly gliding to her aid, from the opposite bank of the river. The two then charged together towards the nest with the rage and fierceness of despair, and so terrified the man in the tree, hampered as he was with the young ones, that had I not fired at and wounded the Eagles as they advanced, they would assuredly have hurled him into the river. In this manner, however, after repeated attempts to come to the rescue, we managed at last to drive off the old birds and secure the booty. At the end of five weeks the young ones exhibited as nearly as possible "the plumage of the bird figured by Hardwicke and Gray as "H. Lineatus."
Recently Captain Hutton* has sent me the following further remarks in regard to this species. " In the Dhera Dhoon this bird is extremely common, but it merely skirts the outer hills ; about 5500 feet, without entering them. I have seen six to eight together passing along the side of the hills below Mussoorie for some distance, and then returning again together in like manner; but what the object can be I cannot make out, for there is no fishing-ground along that route. They build in lofty trees, on the banks of the larger Dhoon streams, laying one or two, large, white eggs. The nest, I have described in the J. A. S. of Bengal. The cry of this bird is loud and harsh, and somewhat querulous ; it may be heard at a great distance, and, on more than one occasion, has guided me to its nest. Often have I watched this handsome bird seated high, perched in solitude, upon the dry and leafless branch of some tall tree, that overlooked a river's bank - : or oftener, seated on the bank itself, watching perchance for the appearance of its prey. Uttering its shrill and clamorous cry, half croak, half scream, it would suddenly spread out its wings and sweep across the water, rising gradually in wide gyrations, until nearly lost to Bight, and taking a keen survey of the plain beneath; then gradually descending in circles as before, until with a sudden downward headlong rush, it would dash upon a Partridge or a Hare, and bear it off in triumph. I have seen it hawking on the Ganges after Ducks and Teal, which are sometimes found in the rains breeding with swarms of Paddy birds, on the Colgong rocks, in the middle of the river. The Duck would quietly paddle along about the centre of the stream, and the Eagle would follow the same course far above, but gradually and slily descending along the line, until with a sudden downward dash, it would nearly reach the Duck, and, then slowly and gradually sweep upwards again as the wary little Duck plunged deeply beneath the surface to rise again, before or behind the Eagle, which would pursue it over and over again in like manner, without a chance of success, until weary of the chase, he would wing his way to shore, doubtless to inform his mate thai no ' ducks and green peas' were forthcoming for that day's dinner!"
Where, however, the Duck is a wounded one, and I have but rarely seen these Eagles strike at those that were not so, the result is often different, as my own notes, which I proceed to transcribe, will show.
" This is essentially a water bird, and as far as I know, is never found far from the banks of large rivers, lakes or jheels. Early in the morning, even in the cold weather, it goes down to the water side, and has a good bathe. It is amusing to watch this large bird standing up to its belly in water, sitting down, first on one side, then on the other, so as to wash the wings and back, ducking the head in and out, and splashing, spluttering, and fluttering the wings, for all the world like a Pigeon or a Sparrow. After its bath, it resorts to the top of some tree, or along the banks of large rivers, to some craggy point, where it sits awhile sunning itself, generally with its wings half outspread. Thence it flies heavily off to seek a meal. A large fish near the surface attracts its attention, as it flies pretty low over the river, down it swoops with more activity and rapidity than its habitual demeanour and method of night would lead one to expect, and strikes for a breakfast, dashing its huge feet and long legs into the water right up to its body. Very often (far more often than he succeeds) the Ringtail is baulked by the Roohoo, (Cyprinus Rohita and Mrigala) his favourite fishy food, and has to try again and again before he breaks his fast. If anywhere he spy a wounded Goose, or other water bird, he is down on him or after him in a moment. The bird, even if only slightly wounded, and flying more or less well when the Eagle takes up the chase, drops at once into the water. Down swoops the Eagle, its long legs extended to the utmost, and just as his claws are within a yard of the victim's head, down dives the Goose, only to rise when its pursuer has swept past; round comes the Ringtail again, down dives the Goose; again and again these manoeuvres are repeated, and at last either the Eagle gives up the chase, or the Goose, (and this, I think, is most generally the case,) diving a little too slowly, gets caught by the long legs (which are each time dashed their whole length into the water) before it has got deep enough down, and the Eagle then flies slowly to the shore, bearing its prey in its talons. A grey Goose will weigh on the average 7lbs., (much heavier are recorded,) but I have repeatedly seen good sized grey Geese carried off in the claws of one of these Eagles, the bird flying slowly and low over the surface of the water, but still quite steadily. Once, many years ago, one of these birds procured me a fine fish for breakfast. Standing on the high clay cliff on the Meerut side of the river, at Baghput on the Jumna, a little above the ghat, I saw one of these Eagles capture a fish, so large, that the bird only with great difficulty succeeded in reaching a low sand bank, in the river, with its prey. As it flew to this bank, it flew so low, and with such difficulty, that the writhing fish in its claws, struck the water every few yards, and twice seemed likely to pull its persecutor under water. At last, however, the sand, some 250 yards away from where I stood, was reached. Directly the shore was gained, I fired a heavy rifle at the Eagle, the bullet passing just above it. For a minute it struggled to rise again with the fish, but a second bullet closer still, compelled it to rise without the fish; and though it circled round above, uttering its shrill scream, to be joined in a few minutes by its mate, they neither of them ventured down, and a boatman crossed and brought the spoil over to me. This was a Roohoo (C. Rohita) and weighed 13 lbs. 2oz., and was perfectly uninjured except a gash at the back of the head, four deep claw wounds on the back of the neck, and four more about half way down the back. I have often tried this plan since, but never with success, the captared fish in every other case having proved light enough for the bird to fly away with when shot at."
As soon as one bird has made a capture, it is generally joined by its mate. The latter usually stands a little apart for a moment or two, as if to allow the capturer to satisfy the first cravings of hunger, then sidles slowly up and begins with evident diffidence to feed too. This, however, is only the case if the spoil is large. If the fish or the bird be small, the second comer does not attempt to approach; but after a few minutes flies off.
The scream of the Kingtail is very loud, shrill and thrilling, and its peculiar accents can never be mistaken after being once heard.
To judge from the rough shagreen-like soles of their feet, fish is perhaps their natural food, but wounded or freshly killed Geese, Ducks, and even Snipe, and Sandpipers, are greedily seized, and devoured. It is noticeable, that when eating a Goose, or other large bird, this Eagle usually holds it on the ground, somewhere near the edge of the water, breast downwards and breaking through the back, eats out the entrails, liver, &c, not touching the breast.
Captain Hutton tells me, that they capture all kinds of game, Hares, and even young Foxes; but where I have observed them, water-fowl and fish have been their chief diet. Although in the Dhoon this species does not, Captain Hutton says, enter the Himalayahs, I have found them in Kumaon, far up the valleys of the Kosila, Ramgunga, and Surjoo, at least an hundred miles in a direct line from the southern outskirts of the Hills.
Professor Schlegel identifies our Indian species H. Fulviventer of Vieillot, with Pallas's bird, and I have no doubt correctly so, but one of the dimensions given by him " length 24 inches" is absurd, and must have been taken from a dried skin; the Smallest adult male that I have yet seen measured 29 inches in Length, while females run up to 34. His dimensions of wings and tail will do well enough; but he has both tarsus and mid toe, exceptionally small, and the feet are not yellowish (at any rate in the adult) as he says, but greyish white, sometimes with a faint bluish tinge. I note that both feet and cere are wrongly coloured in Dr. Bree's otherwise very tolerable figure.
Professor Newton, from the examination of (I believe) a single sternum, was disposed to separate our Indian and the Crimean races, but the sterna of Eagles differ greatly at times in the same species, while other specimens may be obtained belonging to clearly distinct species, which are utterly indistinguishable; and so far as my experience goes, no reliable conclusions as to the specific distinctness, or identity of nearly allied forms can be arrived at, amongst the Eagles at any rate, merely from an examination of sterna.
In the Etawah district, this bird is known as the " Dhenk" and " Putras."
* I am indebted to Captain Hutton for many interesting notes on the nidification of our Indian Birds.
The following are some general remarks by the same well known naturalist in regard to the locality whence the information that he furnishes has been chiefly drawn.
* Mr. Wallace gives the following brief note of a male obtained by him, " Total Length, 26 inches. Wing, 17.5 in. Mid toe, 2 in. Bill black, cere dusky, feet white.'
Length 29 31 32.0 84.25
Expanse. 75 79 82 85
Wing. 21 22 23 24
Tail. 11 12 13 14
Tarsus 3.75 4.0 4.00 4.5
Foot, greatest length. 6.0 6.5 6.75 7.25
Foot, greatest Width. 5.25 5.6 5.95 6.1
Mid Toe to root of Claw. 2.56 2.75 2.87 2.94
Its Claw along Curve. 1.47 1.52 1.59 1.63
Hind Toe to root of Claw. 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6
Its Claw along Curve. 1.8 1.9 2.1 2.2
Inner Toe. 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.75
Its Claw along Curve 1.7 1.8 2.00 2.1
Bill straight. 2.00 2.25 2.25 2.44
Bill along Curve 2.75 2.9 2.8 3.12
Bill from gape. 2.25 2.43 2.65 2.88
Bill width at gape. 1.67 1.75 1.75 1.94
Bill height at margin of Cere. 0.78 0.82 0.85 0.92
Length of Cere on culmen. 0.62 0.73 0.69 0.75
Wings when closed fall short of and of Tailby how much. 1.4 1.6 1.37 1.67
Lower Tail Coverts fall short of end of Tail by how much. 4 5 4 5
Weight in lbs. 6.8 8.12 5.4 5.12
The 3rd, 4th, or 3rd and 4th primaries are the longest. The 5th nearly as long. The 1st from 4.5 to 6 shorter, the 2nd from 0.25 to 1.3 shorter. Exterior tail feathers from 1 to 1.5 shorter than central ones.
DESCRIPTION. Legs and feet, greyish white, sometimes with a faint bluish tinge, usually much stained and discoloured about the toes. The inner toe and claw are very large and thick, very nearly the same size as the hind toe. The pads, especially of these toes, are large, and the whole surface of the sole rough and shagreen-like. The claws black, all very large and sharp ; a few large scales on the front of the tarsus, (which is feathered in front for the upper one-third and sometimes nearly one-half) just below the feathered portion, the rest coarsely reticulate. Nearly the whole ridge of the middle toe is covered with large transverse scales, and there are about seven of these on the exterior, and five or six on the interior and hind toes. The scales just above the claws, especially on the inner and hind toes, large and very thick.
Irides. Pale brownish yellow, in some lights almost silvery.
Bill. Cere, pale bluish green. Nostrils, gape and base of lower mandible bluish. Upper mandible greenish horny, dusky at tip. Tip of lower mandible, brownish as a rule, but in some the whole lower mandible is a sort of bluish or greenish horny.
Tongue. Bather long, thick, fleshy, of nearly uniform width throughout, obtuse ended, with a conspicuous groove down the centre.
Plumage (Adults). Forehead and a streak continued nearly the whole way over the eyes, somewhat dingy white. The whole of the rest of the front and top of the head and occiput, palish whitey brown. The feathers somewhat abraded and slightly darker shafted. Feathers of the nape, and upper part of the back of the neck, paler and slightly more rufous; the feathers much elongated and pointed. The feathers of the base of the back of the neck rather browner again : broad, sharp pointed, and somewhat paler edged. Upper back a somewhat darker brown again, feathers sometimes narrowly paler edged. Middle and lower back, rump and upper tail coverts, dark, sometimes very dark, brown. Feathers of the tail darker brown, almost black, with a 4 1/2 (in males) to 5 1/2 (in females) inch broad, transverse, pure white bar on both webs. The scapulars, and the whole of the wings, very dark rich brown. The second to sixth primary conspicuously emarginate on the outer webs, and sometimes slightly greyish just above the emargination. Lores, chin, cheeks, ear coverts, and throat pure white, the feathers of the throat very narrow, greatly lengthened, and with the webs much disunited. Feathers of the side of the neck, beyond the white, of the same fulvous brown, and lengthened in the same way as the feathers of the back of the neck. The lower neck, breast, and abdomen, dull, somewhat rufous brown, darker on each side, just above the thighs. Feathers below the vent, and lower tail feathers dark brown, the longest obscurely tipped, or mottled with fulvous white. The axillaries, and lesser under coverts of the wing, very dark, almost blackish brown. Under surface of the quills, and their greater lower coverts, with a bluish or slaty tinge in some lights. Upper portion of the thigh coverts, dark brown. Lower portion, paler and more rufous brown.
The inner webs of the first 4 or 5 primaries, conspicuously notched, and generally greyish above the notches, and the tips of the secondaries mucronate.
Sometimes a feather will be found in the tail with only half the inner web, of the white bar portion, white, the rest almost black.
Somewhat younger birds have the crown and occiput rather darker, and the forehead, chin, throat, &c. whity brown, instead of pure white, indicating a less mature Plumage.
A very fine young female, shot near Suman, on the 27th February, 1867, was throughout, a dull brown of different shades. The head, neck and under parts, light fulvous brown, the chin and throat much paler, with a dark patch behind the eye, and over the ear coverts. The hackles of the hind head and neck paling towards the tip, and mostly inconspicuously pale, centred. The back of the neck, upper back, lesser scapulars, and median and lesser wing coverts, a rather darker brown, all the feathers, but specially the coverts, faintly and narrowly margined paler. The middle back very dark umber; rump and upper tail coverts, about the same brown as the upper back, the whole, much mingled with dirty white, some of the feathers being almost entirely of this colour, some having only the outer webs so, and some only the bases, which are but partially seen, white. The inner lesser scapulars are similarly varied. The longer scapulars, tail feathers, and most of the quills, the winglet, and primary greater coverts, are a very deep (almost black) umber brown. A few of the quills, old ones not yet moulted, are a pale, somewhat rufous, umber. The centre tail feather has the broad white bar, but still imperfect on one web, and three of the other feathers have a few small inconspicuous whitish spots where the bar would be in the adult. Below, the axillaries and some of the side feathers are white, tinged with fulvous or pale brown, and there is a good deal of mottling with white, or fulvous, on some of the under wing coverts, and the inner webs of some of the primaries. There are traces of white on many of the feathers of the mid breast. The lower tail coverts are a pale brown, mottled more or less with fulvous white. The upper portion of the thigh coverts are a darker brown than the rest of the under surface of the body.
A nestling female nearly able to fly, taken out of a nest at Rahun on the 21st February, 1867, weighed 5lbs. 14oz. was a nearly uniform dark brown above, and rather lighter below. The legs and feet were a clear pale lemon yellow.
" The tract of country in which the following observations have been made, comprises the Dhoon, and the greater portion of the mountain district of Ghurwal, being enclosed between the Ganges and the Jumna, on the east and west, and the snowy ranges and the Siwaliks, on the north and south.
In proceeding from the Plains proper, south of the last mentioned range, up to the snows, it is usual for convenience sake, to divide the tract into three distinct regions, termed the Southern or Terai region, the Central or Forest region, and the Northern or Snowy region. As might naturally be expected the Southern forests are the richest and most varied, both in respect to vegetation, and in animal life, and from the warmth and moisture of the climate, are more particularly the resort of the soft-billed or insectivorous birds, those numerically far outweighing the granivorous species. This remark, however, more particularly applies to the summer months, for in the cold season, many of the former travel farther south, and give place to numerous species of Finches, Thrushes, Pigeons, &c, from the central and northern regions. Among the feathered tribes, in fact, there is a constant change, and succession of genera and species, throughout the year, many appearing to visit us from the south for three or four months in summer, for the sole purpose of breeding : retiring again as soon as the periodical rains are at an end, and their progeny is old enough to travel. So great is the influx of northern species into the Terai, during the winter months, that we should almost be justified in saying that, at that season, our fauna, as regards the feathered tribes, is exchanged for those of the central and northern regions.
The Doves, the Cuckoos and smaller insectivorous species of the summer, giving place to more northern types, reminding us poor exiles, of our boyhood's days, when the leafless trees and hedge-rows of our dear old fatherland were enlivened by the sharp quick chirp of the Fieldfare, the quivering tail of the Redstart, or the creeping Hedge Sparrow, threading its way through, and seeking concealment in each snow-covered bush and thicket.
And yet, notwithstanding the multitude of species resorting to these hills, it is by no means an uncommon thing, to hear collectors, and even naturalists remark, that they have searched in vain through the forests and brushwood, without finding a single nest to reward them for their toil, and it becomes a perfect mystery to them where the several species actually breed, or whether they breed at all in these localities. The fault here lies entirely with the collector, who, if he be not a practical naturalist, seldom gives himself the trouble to consider which are the most likely resorts of the particular species he may desire to procure. To seek for Nucifraga, Cocothraustes, the Siskin, and various others among forests composed of oaks, rhododendrons, andromeda, and the like, would be as absurd as to hunt for them among the copse-wood tracts of the outer southern mountains; each species has its own peculiar resort, whether it be for food, for shelter, or for a breeding-place, and it will probably, at particular seasons, be found no where else, except when it performs its periodical migration from one region to another. Thus the Pine forests will furnish species that are to be met with nowhere else; the mixed forest of oaks, rhododendrons, laurels, and andromeda, &c, will harbour other kinds, while the dense southern brushwood tracts are especially devoted to the insectivorous tribes. Climate, soil, and elevation, will always be found to exercise a very material influence in the productions of the vegetable world, and according to the nature of those productions, so will be the nature of the food, and of the species which depend upon it. Warmth and moisture, are indispensible to the production of insect life, and the higher we ascend, the more attenuated and dry becomes the atmosphere, the consequence being the decrease or cessation of insect life, and in such situations therefore, it would be absurd to seek for insectivorous birds, their place being occupied by granivorous, frugivorous and root-eating species. It is in the damp warm brushwood jungles, of the southern tracts, that the soft-billed birds are to be sought for, and there my own experience tells me they are to be found abundantly, so abundantly in fact, that this tract might almost be termed par excellence, ' the region of birds nests,' so numerous are these during the breeding season of the summer mouths.
With respect to Hawks and Eagles, although the nests of many species are not difficult to discover, yet, being found, it is often entirely impossible to gain access to them. Some of these are built in lofty trees, overhanging the sides of precipices, which make one shudder to look into the yawning depth below; such is generally the spot selected by that beautiful Hawk, the Spizaetus Nipalensis, while the Vulture Eagle, selects a ledge of rock, to which one can only descend by a rope, and with a strong chance of being hurled into eternity, should the old birds be any where near at hand ; nevertheless I have succeeded in robbing both these nests. In the Dehra Dhoon the nests of Haliaetus Leucoryphus and of various Vultures are far from uncommon.
Another important point is likewise to be considered in the selection of breeding localities, ana, one I imagine which rarely enters into the head of the collector, for as with molluscous animals, limestone tracts are ever more productive than others, so precisely is it with the feathered tribes; the Snail must have an abundant supply of lime, or it cannot properly secrete its calcareous shell, and without calcareous matter, the bird would be equally unable to secrete the shell, which encloses and protects the egg, a fact which may often be seen in the farm-yard, where Hens that have been unable to procure a sufficient supply of lime, with their food, will lay their eggs without a shell and surrounded only by a strong transparent membrane. It is likewise this craving for lime, and salt, that prompts domestic Pigeons to pick the mortar out of walls.
A limestone formation will consequently always be found to be more densely populated by the feathered tribes, than regions of siliceous rocks. The Falcon tribe are rendered somewhat more independent in this respect, because the smaller bones of animals which constitute their prey, furnish abundant material for the construction of the egg shell.
Now it so happens that the lower Terai region, of the southern range between the Jumma and the Ganges, is just such a district as birds of the soft-billed kind especially delight in, for the rock formation consists chiefly of large beds and shattered blocks of limestone, from the crevices and hollows of which, springs up a dense jungle of brushwood, sometimes interspersed with forest trees, at other times without them; the locality is moreover well watered by numerous rills and streams of pure fresh water, along the mossy margins of which, are found the nests of many species that delight to build in such situations, while as the streams increase in size, as they debouche from the dark glens and ravines, to enter upon and fertilize the Dhoon, the deepening banks of silt will often furnish nests of the various species of King-fishers, which deposit their eggs in holes, bored in the crumbling banks above the water line."
(Three males, four females, measured and weighed). Mr. Brooks has found eggs as early as the 11th of November.