(1754) Lophotriorchis kieneri kieneri (de Sparre).
THE HIMALAYAN RUFOUS-BELLIED HAWK-EAGLE.
Lophotriorchis kieneri, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v, p. 80.
This grand Eagle is found in suitable places from the lower Himalayas to Ceylon, while West to East they occur from Kuman to Siam, where Gairdner shot a single specimen. They are also sparingly distributed throughout Burma, the Malay States and many of the Malay Islands to the Philippines.
It is not rare on the West coast of India in Malabar and Travancore, especially in the latter country between 1,500 and 3,000 feet. In the Himalayas it ascends as high as 5,000 feet.
Wherever found it is almost certainly resident and breeds, but very little has been recorded about it. It is a bird of forest, preferen¬tially of dense deciduous forest, but often, as in Assam, of humid evergreen forest with thick tangled undergrowth, where even the greater trees are so matted with creepers, orchids and other parasitical plants that passage through them is difficult.
Stewart, Dobson,, and a Mr. Ross, who collected for Stewart, are, I believe, the only collectors who have ever taken the eggs of this bird, though A. M. Kinloch obtained a nest from which he took a young bird in the Anamallai Hills in December 1906 (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist, Soc. vol. xvii, p. 1027, 1907), Stewart, who took many nests and eggs of this Eagle in Travancore, has sent me many notes together with a fine series of the eggs. The notes may be summarized as follows :—The Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle breeds in Travancore at all heights from 1,000 feet to 4,000 feet, but principally between 1,500 and 3,000 feet. Most birds undoubtedly breed in dense deciduous forest of enormous trees, sometimes with hut little undergrowth, but often where it is very dense. At other times the nest may be found in evergreen forest, more especially in the higher ranges above 3,000 feet. Wherever it breeds the tree selected is invariably one of the largest and the nest is often 80 or 100 feet from the ground and very seldom under 50. One would expect such nests to be very conspicuous, and so they are when one is close by, but the forests are so vast and the birds, each pair, control so great an area that it is no easy matter to locate them and, even when found, one’s task is by no means finished. Probably the nest will be seen high up on some forest giant, unclimbable without much time and trouble. If bamboos are growing near by and you have hillmen with you, a strong ladder will soon be made, pegs driven into the tree forming the rungs, while the tree on the one side and long bamboos on the other form the supports. Before, however, the upper parts can be completed the Eagles have to be driven off. Again and again, Stewart writes, “the birds had to be shot at repeatedly before the man could reach the nest,” while, some¬times much against his will, one or even both parents had to be shot. According to Stewart they are the fiercest and beldest of all Eagles, even more obstinate than the Crested Hawk-Eagles, and more relentless in their attacks.
The nests are large platforms of sticks, which are of considerable size, measuring a couple of feet long and anything up to near 2 inches in diameter. The lining is of green leaves or of green twigs with the foliage attached, and Stewart thinks that these are renewed from time to time as incubation advances.
The nests themselves vary a good deal. New ones may hot measure more than 2 feet in diameter by a few inches deep, but the birds use the same nests for many years, adding to them constantly, so that they get bigger and bigger until occasionally they may be nearly 4 feet across and 2 feet deep.
As with some of the other Raptores, these Eagles often have two nests which they use either in alternate years or, as the spirit may seize them, for the time being. If the nest is robbed they nearly always leave it the following year, hut may again resort to it a year or two later. As already mentioned, these Eagles hold sway over very great “territories,” and the two nests are sometimes as much as 2 miles apart. Once the eggs are laid one bird seems to be always present close to them, and the male does definitely take a share in the incubation and is as brave and determined as his wife in protecting his belongings.
Dobson obtained his two nests about 25 feet up in smallish trees in a patch of jungle in Dikoya, a tea district in Ceylon, at an elevation of about 3,000 feet.
The breeding season lasts from December to March, and eggs have been taken by Stewart from the 27th November to the end of March, while Dobson took the eggs on the 13th and 31st March.
Only one egg is laid and I have no record of two. They range from white with the faintest suggestion of red freckling to white quite densely blotched with pale reddish-brown primary and lavender grey secondary markings. Very few eggs could, however, be called handsomely marked and most are very poor specimens of Eagles’ eggs.
The texture is coarse, the surface rather rough and the shape generally a broad oval, sometimes very spheroid, rarely rather longer, but always blunt, not pointed, at the smaller end.
Nineteen eggs average 61.2 x 48.1 mm. : maxima 66.1 x 49.2 and 65.1 x 50.9 mm. ; minima 58.8 x 44.9 mm.
1754. Lophotriorchis kieneri kieneri
(1754) Lophotriorchis kieneri kieneri (de Sparre).