(1784) Hailastur Indus indus (Bodd.).
THE INDIAN BRAHMINY KITE.
Hailastur indue indus. Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed, vol. v, p. 118.
This handsome Kite is found all over India, Ceylon and Burma, though in the extreme South of Tenasserim the birds seem referable to the next race. Outside our limits it occurs over most of the Indo-Chinese countries and South China. It is essentially, however, a bird of the plains, and even of the plains only where there is ample, water to supply the frogs and mud-fish on which the young are principally fed. Nowhere, so far as is recorded, do they venture into the hills, while rapidly running clear water is of no use to them. They like the sea-coasts, banks of big rivers, large and small ponds, lakes, swamps and ditches. They are most common in Bengal and North-East India and almost equally common on the Malabar coast and parts of Mysore.
For breeding purposes they select trees, growing either singly, in clumps or avenues, or in orchards and, so long as they are not in actual forest, do not seem to mind where they are provided water is close by. In the Sunderbands they seem to prefer above all other sites the little hillocks which rise out of the vast swamps and rice-fields, affording sufficient space for one or a few fishermen’s dwellings and two or three to a couple of dozen trees. On every such hummock there may be one or two nests, and I remember one instance in which about two dozen of these birds were breeding on an extra large island bolding a small fishing village, the birds here living almost entirely by scavenging.
Any kind of tree serves as a site for the neat. I have seen them in Fici of all sorts, Tamarind, Casuarina, Mango, Jack-fruit, Bombax, many trees of which I do not know the name, and also on Coconut, Date and other palms.
I have never seen one on a bush, but Davidson and Wenden record one built on “a small bush growing out of a rocky bank on the Bhinia River,”
Most of the nests seen by myself have been high up in trees, say between 25 and 40 feet, hut Davidson says that in Mysore most birds build on low trees in the rice-fields. Jerdon thought that in the Carnatic most birds built in palms, while Blewitt records that in the Sambalpore district the Kites select the tallest tree of a group standing near water. No one appears to have found their neats on buildings, and even Hume says they always build on high trees ; yet in Barrackpore a pair made their nest on the cornice of my father’s house, which overlooked a tank surrounded by Mango-trees, and twice in Dacca I saw nests with eggs on ruined mausoleums on the sides of tanks on the race-course, while a third was on the flat roof of a bouse in the Dacca bazaar. In Ceylon they breed in Coconut-palms and all sorts of trees, and Phillips once obtained a nest in a “strip of jungle between paddy-fields and the estate.”
The nest is a very rough untidy structure of twigs and sticks, vary¬ing in size between 1 and 2 feet across and from 3 to 8 inches deep. Some nests have a lining and some have none while, if there is a lining, it may be composed of almost anything. A few orthodox birds make a decent lining of fine twigs and green leaves, but the majority, especially of those breeding in villages, take almost any¬thing soft which may come to band. Wool, rags, bits of skins of all kinds, dried fishes’ heads, feathers, string, jute etc. are all made use of as and when handy, while occasionally the lining may be tufts of grass and dry weeds pulled up by the roots.
Occasionally a bird may repair an old nest but, normally, they make a new one each season, though they may make use of the material from the previous season’s abode.
The nesting season over most of the breeding area is March and April but, in Eastern Bengal, many birds bred in the latter half of December and in January and February. In Siam Herbert found most birds laid in the two latter months, and Bourdillon notes the same of Travancore. In Ceylon, however, Phillips took eggs in March, and in this month also Marshall took eggs in Sabaranpoor, Thompson in Mirzapore, Vidal in the Konkan (also in January and February) and, even in Cachar, J. Inglis obtained them in March and April.
The full clutch of eggs is undoubtedly two only, three are often found ; while a few clutches have been recorded of four, a number I found not very rare in Dacca in Eastern Bengal. Roughly in that district out of every hundred nests inspected about 3 per cent, contained four eggs, about 10 to 15 per cent, three eggs, and the rest two.
The eggs are merely rather small, poorly-marked replicas of the eggs of the common Indian Kite. Here and there one meets with handsomely blotched eggs, but most are scantily freckled, blotched, or spotted with washed-out pale brown, yellow-brown or reddish- brown, rather less scanty at the larger end than elsewhere. Pitman obtained a pair which are really very fine, both eggs being heavily blotched with dark blood-red and reddish-brown all over the larger end. A set of three taken by myself in Dacca and another of two taken by Phillips in Ceylon are quite well-marked, with small blotches of darkish red-brown either at the big or small ends of the eggs, while an egg, one of three taken by Tunnard in Ceylon, has a wide lilac-brown smear at the larger end such as often occurs on Buzzards’ eggs. Occasionally one finds a complete, clutch of pure white eggs, but most show a few faint markings if examined carefully.
One hundred eggs average 50.7 x 40.2 mm. : maxima 55.6 x 44.0 and 49.0 x 45.0 mm.; minima 46.9 x 42.3 and 53.0 x 37.6 mm.
Both sexes perform the duties of incubation and nest-building, though I think the male’s share is to do what he is told by his mate, who bosses the proceedings and is not always very sweet-tempered over them. I have seen a male retire to a tree in sulky despair after the female has rejected stick after stick he has brought for the nest.
The period of incubation is about twenty-six or twenty-seven days, but I have never exactly timed it.
1784. Haliastur Indus
(1784) Hailastur Indus indus (Bodd.).