(1787) Milvus migrans govinda.
THE COMMON PARIAH KITE.
Milvus govinda Sykes, P. Z. S., 1832, p. 89 (Deccan); Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 374.
Vernacular names. Chil (Hind. & Beng.); Il (Chamba) ; Malla gedda (Tel.); Paria prandu, Kadu prandu (Tam.); Genda (Mhari): Rajaliya (Cing.); Zoon (Burm.); Chilana, Muga-charani (Assam).
Description. Differs from the Black Kite chiefly in having the head and neck fulvous-brown with dark shafts; the upper parts are also a darker brown and the underparts much less rufous; the dark shaft-lines on the latter have pale lines on either side of them ; the bases of the wing-quills are much more boldly-barred with white.
In many specimens there is no chestnut or rufous tinge on the underparts.
Colours of soft parts as in the preceding bird.
Measurements. Wing, 420 to 475 mm., 432 to 499 mm.; tail 250 to 289 mm.; tarsus 49 to 58 mm.; culmen 32 to 36 mm.
Young birds are almost indistinguishable from those of M. m. migrans but have less pale streaking on the head.
Distribution. All India, Burma and Ceylon and, rarely, in the Malay Peninsula.
Nidification. In the plains this Kite commences to breed in the end of December and continues through January and February, but in the Himalayas, where they breed up to 7,000 feet, they lay principally in March and occasionally as late as April. They make an untidy nest, of which the main material is generally sticks but these are always much mixed with rubbish of all sorts and I have seen one nest composed entirely of a puggree, the hollow filled with grass, twigs and wool. The site selected is either one of the larger forks of a five or a mass of branches but at Dacca they occasionally build on a ruined mosque and they have also been known to breed elsewhere on ruins and old forts. The eggs number two or three; one egg, however, is sometimes incubated, whilst four are rarely laid, though one year in Dacca I personally saw six clutches of four eggs each out of some two or three hundred nests inspected. The eggs vary greatly. Many are a dull dirty white, almost spotless, others have scanty markings of light reddish to dark red-brown, whilst some, again, are richly marked with large blotches of deep red-brown and are extremely handsome. Some of the unusual types are equally beautiful. Among these are eggs with a pale pink ground profusely blotched with deep chestnut, others white with pale lavender or pale pinky-red blotches, others with twisted lines and spots of blood-red or purple-brown. One hundred eggs average 52.7 x 42.7 mm.: maxima 56.0 x 44.3 mm.; minium 49.1 x 40.9 and 50.0 x 39.1 mm. The site selected for the nest is generally one near or in villages and towns and within easy reach of the garbage and offal which forms the birds' staple diet; at other times trees, either single or one of a clump, in cultivation are chosen and, less often still, trees in scrub-jungle on the extreme edges of thin deciduous forest.
Habits. The Pariah Kite is essentially a follower of human beings, whom they follow up the mountains and into all new clearances, etc. They are common now at Simla and at other hill-stations up to and beyond 7,000 feet but they only haunt the neighbourhood of habitations at these heights and are never found trespassing in the forest-haunts of their cousin The Black-eared Kite. In addition to offal and town-leavings, the Kite will kill and eat any sickly small bird or mammal or, if very hungry, chickens and other small birds which are not sickly. They also eat frogs, small lizards and grasshoppers, etc., and will follow flights of locusts for many miles, gorging to repletion on these and then sitting silent and motionless on a tree until they can again raise a hunger. Their flight is powerful and graceful and much of their time is spent soaring and wheeling in company in the air. Their call is a loud, shrill yet rather fascinating squeal, a prolonged sound which the Indian name civil is supposed to represent. They are cowardly birds, seldom attempting to protect eggs or young but are very willing to bully and steal from birds weaker than themselves.