(1786) Milvus migrans migrans.
THE BLACK KITE.
Falco migrans Bodd., Tahl. Pl. Enl., p. 28 (1783) (France). Milvus migrans. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 87S.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Whole head and neck white or nearly so, with black shaft-streaks, narrow on the face and ear-coverts, broader elsewhere ; upper plumage brown, the white head and brown back grading into one another ; median wing-coverts paler ; primaries and primary coverts black, the inner bases of the former faintly barred with mottled fulvous and white; inner primaries grading into the brown of the secondaries ; tail brown above, sandy-brown below, with indefinite bands of darker brown, obsolete in very old birds; breast brown, with dark shaft-streaks, bordered with whitish; lower breast and abdomen becoming more rufous-chestnut, with black streaks only ; vent, thigh-coverts and under tail-coverts still brighter chestnut with finer shaft-stripes ; axillaries and under wing-coverts rufous-brown with dark shafts and some of the greater coverts with chestnut tips.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brown; bill black; cere, gape and extreme base of lower mandible yellow or greenish-yellow; legs and feet pale yellow, greyish-yellow or, in young birds, greenish-yellow.
Measurements. Wing 433 to 469 mm.; tail 248 to 275 mm.; tarsus 51 to 61 mm.; culmen 34 to 36 mm. Females average larger than males.
Young birds have a white patch under the eye ; the ear-coverts dark brown ; upper plumage brown, darker than in the adult, the feathers of the head with broad pale fulvous streaks and the feathers elsewhere tipped or edged pale and black-shafted, below the plumage is brown with broad whitish or fulvous streaks, older birds having these more narrow and with black shafts; the tail is more strongly barred.
Distribution. Africa, South Europe, North to Finland, North Africa, Asia Minor, Central Asia to Afghanistan and Baluchistan, having been found within our limits in Quetta.
Nidification. This Kite breeds throughout its range, making a large stick-nest lined with all sorts of rubbish and placed generally on a high tree but in Africa sometimes on a cliff. The eggs are exactly like those described in full for the next race and vary in number from two to four, the latter number exceptional. Jourdain gives the average of 100 eggs (63, Rey) as 52.92x 43.33 mm.: maxima 61.0 x 42.3 and 55.7 x 46.1 mm.; minima 47.0 X 39.8 and 53.5 x 39.5 mm. The breeding-season is April and May.
Habits. Similar to those of the next bird. In Europe this Kite seems to be a Summer migrant, only, wintering in North Africa.