1228. Haliastur indus.
The Brahminy Kite.
(Fig. 79, p. 312.) Falco indus, Bodd. Tabl. Pl. Enl. p. 25 (1783). Falco pondicerianus, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 265 (1788). Haliastur indus, Blyth, Cat. p. 31; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 57; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 101; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 316; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 16; xii, pt. 2, p. 230; King, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, pp. 210, 213; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 93; Hume, N. & B. p. 51; id. S. F. i, p. 160 ; Barney, ibid. p. 496; A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1872, p. 79; Hayes Lloyd, Ibis, 1873, p. 405; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 313 ; Butler, S. F. iii, p. 448 ; ix, p. 374; Fair-bank, S. F. v, p. 392; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 22; Davidson & Wend. S. F. vii, p. 75; Ball, ibid. p. 200; Cripps, ibid. p. 251; Gurney, Ibis, 1878, p. 460; Hume, Cat. no. 55 ; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 227; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 76; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 34; Bingham, ibid. p. 145; Reid, S. F. x, p. 12; Davison, ibid. p. 340; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 201; Murray, Vert. Zool. Sind, p. 90; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 54; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 15; Oates, in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 170.
The Maroon-backed Kite, Jerdon; Brahmani Chil, Sankar Chil, Dhobia-Chil, Bu-mubdrik, H.; Khemankari, Sansc.; Garuda, Can; Garud-alawa, Garuda martaru, Tel.; Clem Prandu, Tam (Ceylon); Shemberrid, Yerkli; Pis Genoa, Gond.; Zoon-koun-byoo, Burm.
Coloration. Adult. Whole head, neck, and lower parts down to the middle of the abdomen white, each feather with a dark brown shaft-line; primaries black, except the basal portions of the inner webs, which, like the rest of the plumage above and below, are chestnut, paler and duller on the lower surface of the quills, greater under wing-coverts, and tail-feathers ; the shafts of the body-feathers and upper and lower wing-coverts sometimes, not always, dark brown or black; end of tail whitish. There are sometimes indistinct narrow black cross-bars on the inner webs of some of the tail-feathers and secondary quills.
Young birds are brown above, the crown and hind-neck paler and with pale tawny shaft-stripes near the ends, and pale ends to the back-feathers and wing-coverts; ear-coverts dark brown; primaries black, secondaries and tail-feathers very dark brown; lower parts rufous-brown, throat and abdomen paler; breast-feathers with tawny shaft-stripes, abdomen and lower tail-coverts with black shafts.
In the next plumage, assumed in autumn apparently without any complete moult, the head, neck, and breast are pale brown, tinted rufous and black-shafted; the rest of the upper plumage brown, mixed with some white on the wing-coverts and secondary quills; lower abdomen dull rufous. From this plumage the birds moult into the adult dress in winter.
Bill bluish horn; cere yellowish; iris brown; legs and feet greenish yellow (Legge').
Length of female about 19; tail 8.5 ; wing 15 ; tarsus 2; mid-toe without claw 1.5 ; bill from gape 1.4. Males very little less.
Distribution. Throughout India, Ceylon, and Burma, common on the sea-coast, and near rivers, marshes, and large tanks, rare in the drier parts of the country and in hill forest. This bird does not range further to the westward; eastward it is found in China, Cochin-China, Siam, and the Malay Peninsula; and closely allied forms or subspecies known as H. intermedium and H. gerrenera with the dark stripes very narrow in the first and wanting in the second, are found throughout the Malay Archipelago and Northern Australia.
Habits, &c. The Brahminy Kite shows considerable resemblance to the Common Kite in its flight and habits, especially in seizing its food in its claws during a swoop, but it is rarely seen away from water. It abounds in Calcutta and many other ports, perching on the rigging of ships and feeding on refuse thrown overboard. It also picks small fish off the surface of the water with its claws, and captures frogs or crabs in paddy-fields and marshes. At other times it feeds on insects, or robs Crows or Kites. Small birds are seldom assailed by it unless sickly or weak, but Mr. Rainey saw a Brahminy Kite kill and eat a Kingfisher (Alcedo ispida) that had carried off a small fish on which the Kite was in the act of stooping. The cry is Kite-like, ft peculiar squealing sound, uttered on the wing. The breeding-season is from December to February to the southward, later in Northern India, and two eggs, or occasionally three, are laid in a stick-nest placed on a tree and sometimes lined with leaves or other material. The eggs are greyish white, unspotted or scantily speckled or blotched with reddish brown, and measure about 2.02 by 1.65.
The name of Brahminy Kite is due to the association of this bird with Vishnu.