1229. Milvus govinda.
The Common Pariah Kite.
Milvus govinda, Sykes, P. Z. S. 1832, p. 81; Layard, A. M. N. H. (2) xii, p. 103; Horsf. & M. Cat. i, p. 30; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 104; Blyth, Ibis, 1866, p. 248; Stoliczka, J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 16;. xii, pt. 2, p. 231; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 320; Godw.-Aust.
J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 93; Blanf. J. A. S. B. xii, pt. 2, p. 43;. A. Anderson, P. Z. S. 1872, p. 79; Hume, S. F. i, p. 160; ii, p. 150; iv, pp. 282,462 ; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 325; Blyth, Birds Burm. p. 64; Brooks, S. F. iii, p. 275; iv, p. 272; id. Ibis, 1885, p. 385; Butler, S. F. iii, p. 448; ix, p. 374; Wardl. Rams. Ibis, 1877, p. 454; Oates, S. F. vii, p. 44; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 200; Hume,. Cat. no. 66; Gurney, Ibis, 1879, p. 76; Bingham, S. F. viii, p. 191; Scully, ibid. p. 227; id. Ibis, 1881, p. 422; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 80; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 34; Davison, S. F. x, p. 340; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 54; id. Jour. Bom. N. H. Soc. i, p. 41;. St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 153; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii,. p. 173. Milvus cheela, apud Jerdon, Madr. Jour. L. S. x, p. 71 (1839); nec-Falco cheela, Lath.Milvus ater, apud Blyth, Cat. p. 31; nec Falco ater, Gm. Milvus affinis, Gould, P. Z. S. 1837, p. 140; Jerdon, Ibis, 1871, p. 343; Hume, S. F. i, p. 161; iii, pp. 35, 229; vii, p. 200; xi, p. 15; id. Cat. no. 56 ter; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. i, p. 323; Armstrong, S. F. iv, p. 299; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 23; Brooks, S. F. viii, p. 466; Bingham, S. F. ix, p. 145; Oates, S. F. x, p. 181; id. B. B. ii, p. 202 ; id. in Hum's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 176. Milvus palustris, Anderson, P. A. S. B. 1873, p. 143 ; id. P. Z. S. 1875, p. 25.
Chil, H.; Il, at Chamba; Malla gedda, Tel.; Paria prandu, Kalu prandu, Tam.; Genda, Mhari; Rajaliya, Cing.; Zoon, Burm.
Coloration. Adult. Above brown, median wing-coverts lighter and dark-shafted, the crown and hind-neck paler, tawny or rufous, not whitish, with blackish shaft-stripes ; a patch behind the eye, including the ear-coverts, uniform dark brown; first five primaries and larger primary-coverts blackish, later primaries and secondaries coloured like back; all the quills more or less mottled with whitish on the inner webs towards the base, and banded with blackish-brown cross-bars ; tail brown above, whity brown below, with numerous darker cross-bands, faint and obsolete in some (probably old) birds ; lower parts rather paler than upper, whitish at the chin, and generally, but not always, becoming tinged with rufous on the abdomen and lower tail-coverts, and always dark-shafted throughout, with pale or rufous stripes on each side of the dark shaft-lines; lower wing-coverts like breast, except the larger coverts, which are ashy brown with pale bands.
Young birds have broad buff or white shaft-stripes to the feathers of the head (except the ear-coverts), neck, and lower surface, and buff or whitish tips to the feathers of the back, wing-coverts, scapulars, secondaries, and tail-feathers.
Bill black ; cere and gape yellow in old birds, greenish grey in the young; irides brown; legs and feet yellow, pale greenish grey in young birds; claws black (Hume).
Length of females about 24; tail 12; wing 18.5; tarsus 2.1; mid-toe without claw 1.6; bill from gape 1.7: males are smaller— length about 12.5; wing 17.5. But birds from Southern India, Ceylon, and Burma run smaller (wing in females about 16.5 to 17.5), and those from Australia are smaller still.
It will be seen from the synonymy that I do not separate M. affinis, the Australian bird, found also in India, and distinguished by smaller size and by the absence of any white mottling at the base of the inner webs of the primaries. Every gradation may be found in India between birds with a large white patch beneath the wing (M. palustris, Anderson) and those without any white, and the latter, if of small size, are identical with Australian specimens. Burmese birds are, as a rule, darker than Indian, both above and below, but the character is not constant, and Australian birds resemble those of India, not those of Burma, in colour.
Distribution. Throughout India, Ceylon, and Burma, chiefly near human habitations, and throughout the Oriental region to Australia. On the Himalayas this Kite may be found to an elevation of about 12,000 feet, but is uncommon above about 8000.
Habits, &c. In this case, as with the other familiar birds of India, it is very difficult to improve upon Jerdon's admirable description of the habits. He writes : " It is one of the most abundant and common birds in India, found at all elevations up to 8000 feet at least, especially near large towns and cantonments, and its vast numbers and fearlessness are among the first objects that strike the stranger from England, where birds of prey are so rare. Every large town, cantonment, and even village has its colony of Kites, which ply their busy vocation from before sunrise to some time after sunset. Every large camp, too, is followed by these useful scavengers, and the tent even of the single traveller is daily visited by one or more, according to the numbers in the neighbourhood. As is well known, Kites pick up garbage of all kinds, fragments of meat and fish, and generally the refuse of man's food. "When a basket of refuse or offal is thrown out in the streets to be carted away, the Kites of the immediate neighbourhood, who appear to be quite cognizant of the usual time at which this is done, are all On the look-out, and dash down on it impetuously, some of them seizing the most tempting morsels by a rapid swoop, others deliberately sitting down on the heaps along with crows and dogs, and selecting their scraps. On such an occasion, too, there is many a struggle to retain a larger fragment than usual, for the possessor no sooner emerges from its swoop than several empty-clawed spectators instantly pursue it eagerly, till the owner finds the chase too hot, and drops the bone of contention, which is generally picked up long before it reaches the ground, again and again to change owners, and perhaps finally revert to its original proprietor. On such occasions there is a considerable amount of squealing going on.
" The vast numbers of these Kites in large towns can hardly be realized by strangers. They are excessively bold and fearless, often snatching morsels off a dish en route from kitchen to hall. At our seaports many Kites find their daily sustenance among the shipping, perching freely on the rigging, and in company with the Brahminy Kite, which rarely enters towns, snatching scraps of refuse from the surface of the waters. The food of the Kite is usually devoured on the wing, or, if too large, carried to the nearest house or tree.
" The flight of the Indian Kite is bold, easy, and graceful when once mounted aloft, though somewhat heavy on first taking wing, and it soars slowly about, in greater or less numbers, in large circles.
" Mr. Blyth notices their collecting in numbers without any apparent object, especially towards evening. This I have frequently observed at all large stations, where the whole Kites of the neighbourhood, before retiring to roost, appear to hold conclave. They are said to leave Calcutta almost entirely for three or four months during the rains " [this is perfectly correct]. "I have not noticed this at other places. As remarked by Buchanan Hamilton, they may often be seen seated on. the entablatures of buildings, with their breast to the wall and wings spread out, exactly as represented in Egyptian monuments."
In various parts of India Kites have been found breeding by Mr. B. Aitken and others at all times of the year, but the principal breeding-season is from January to March or April. The pairing is accompanied by much squealing, and the common Indian name, " Chil" or " Cheel," is derived from the bird's cry. The nest, a clumsy mass of sticks and twigs, mixed or lined with rags, grass, &c, is generally on a tree, more rarely on a building. The eggs are generally 2, sometimes 3 or 4, in number, pale greenish white, variously spotted or blotched with brown or red and measure about 2.19 by 1.77.