(1753) Hieraetus pennatus.
THE BOOTED EAGLE.
Falco pennatus Gmelin, Syst. Nat., i, p.272 (1788) (Spain). Hieraetus pennatus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 344.
Vernacular names. Baghati, Jumiz, Gilheri Mar (Hind.); Udatal Gedda (Tel.) ; Punja prandu (Tam.) ; Rajaluja (Cing.).
Description. Forehead and lores whitish; head and neck tawny-brown or tawny-rufous streaked with dark brown, the streaks broadest on the crown; generally a narrow black superciliary line ; upper parts dark brown; outer scapulars, innermost secondaries, lesser and median wing-coverts paler with broad whitish or pale buff edges and dark shafts; greater coverts and primary coverts blackish with narrow pale edges to the former; primaries blackish, barred and mottled with white at the bases of the inner webs; longer upper tail-coverts pale fawn or whitey-fawn; tail-feathers brown, barred above with dark grey-brown, below with pale grey ; lower plumage almost pure white to buffy-white, streaked with rich brown, most thickly on chin, upper flanks and breast and almost disappearing on the abdomen, thigh and under tail-coverts, where they are usually replaced by faint rufous bars ; under wing-coverts and longest axillaries white with black patches, shorter axillaries white with rufous-brown streaks.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill bluish-grey or pale blue with black tip, cere and gape yellow ; legs dull yellow.
Measurements. , wing 370 to 412 mm.; tail 188 to 192 mm.; tarsus 61 to 64 mm.; culmen 31 to 33 mm. , wing 385 to 422 mm.; tail 205 to 211 mm.; tarsus 63 to 68 mm.; culmen 32 to 34 mm.
Young birds have the lower parts varying from rufous-brown to dark brown with dark shaft-stripes, fading away on the thigh-coverts and vent; upper parts as in the adult but the head more rufous-brown or dull rufous and the tail-coverts more white.
Many birds seem to moult from the first plumage into an intermediate stage of dark brown and there are specimens in the British Museum showing this well. In this plumage the forehead is practically black and the whole head very dark.
Distribution. South Europe, North Africa, West and Central Asia to India, Ceylon, Burma and Malay Peninsula.
Nidification. The Booted Eagle has been found breeding in India on several occasions : Salem (Theobald), Danga Gali (Rattray) and Khagan Valley (C. H. T. Whitehead). In India, as elsewhere, it builds a very large platform-nest of sticks high up in a tree. The three nests referred to were found in February, March and June respectively but though the female was shot off the last nest the egg had holes in it and the contents were practically dry, so that it may have been laid months before. This last nest was at an altitude of 10,000 feet. In Europe it breeds almost exclusively in May. One hundred and thirty-eight eggs average 55.5 x 44.8 mm.: maxima 62.3 X 50.8 mm.; minima 49.9 x 42.0 and 54.3 x 39.6 mm. In colour they are bluish- or greyish-white, sometimes faintly speckled and blotched with light reddish or yellowish-brown. Two is the normal clutch, less often one or three.
Habits. The Booted Eagle is principally a Winter visitor to India, when it is by no means uncommon. It is a bold powerful bird for its size, preying on all kinds of small mammals and birds and often attacking and carrying off domestic chickens and ducks. It prefers open well-wooded country but is sometimes seen in forests and often round about villages and cultivation.