(1756) Spizaetus cirrhatus cirrhatus.
THE INDIAN CRESTED HAWK-EAGLE.
Falco cirrhatus Gmelin. Syst. Nat., i, p. 274 (1788) (India). Spizaetus cirrhatus. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 349 (part.).
Vernacular names. Shah Baz (Hind.); Jutu Bhyri (Tel.).
Description. Feathers of head rufous-brown with broad blackish centres, the long black crest-feathers black with very narrow rufous borders and tips ; upper parts umber-brown with deeper centres and paler edges ; wing-coverts the same but a little paler than the back and scapulars; quills dark brown with broad bars of lighter brown above, whitish below; sides of neck like the head but with narrower black centres ; chin and throat white streaked thickly with black, the streaks sometimes forming definite median and side lines; breast and fore-flanks white with broad chocolate streaks; abdomen, posterior flanks and under tail-coverts buffy-brown, the thigh-coverts and under tail-coverts barred with white; under wing-coverts barred dark brown and white ; axillaries greyish rufous-brown with dark shafts.
Colours of soft parts. Iris golden yellow in adults, grey-brown or yellow-brown in young; bill dark plumbeous, black at the tip; cere plumbeous in adult, yellow in the young ; legs and feet dull yellow, claws black.
Measurements. wing 405 to 430 mm.; tail 280 to 290 mm.; tarsus 102 to 110 mm.; culmen 37 to 40mm. wing 448 to 462 mm.; culmen 37 to 42 mm.
Young birds have the head pale huff with dark centres and pale tips ; the feathers of the upper plumage have more definite pale edges, often becoming broad white fringes on the greater wing-coverts and the innermost secondaries ; below they are pure white to fulvous-white, more or less streaked and spotted with darker fulvous-brown or brown; the thigh-coverts and under tail-coverts are generally darker than elsewhere and more barred with fulvous or brown; the tail has more numerous bands, generally seven bars in the young as against four or five in the adult.
Distribution. Indian Peninsula North to Etawah in the Punjab and to Western Bengal. South Travancore birds are of the next race.
Nidification. This Hawk-Eagle breeds in great numbers in many parts of Western and Central India. The nest is a large untidy structure of sticks and branches, always well lined with green leaves, most often those of the mango, a tree very often selected for nesting-purposes, though any large tree will do. They are always placed high up in stout forks or in masses of branches near the very top of the tree. The egg seems always to be a single one, two never having been found. The colour is grey-white or white, often quite unmarked, less often with a few small reddish blotches at one end. Thirty-five eggs average 67.3 X 51.9 mm. : maxima 71.1 x 52.2 and 71.0 x 52.8 mm., but Vidal records one which measured 76.2 x 53.3 mm. : minima 65.3 X 49.9 mm. The breeding-season lasts from December to the end of April but most eggs are laid in January and early February. The bird has the reputation of being cowardly in defence of nest and young.
Habits. This Eagle is found in forest and the well-wooded, though more open, parts round about cultivation, where it preys on game of all kinds from the size of pigeons to young peafowl, hares, etc It also eats rats, mice and occasionally a snake or lizard. It watches for its food from a perch on a high tree and does not quarter the ground for it like some eagles and, as Jerdon describes it, pounces on its catch rather than " stooping" to the kill. Its note is described as a prolonged shrill scream and young birds in the nest are said to be very noisy, constantly uttering raucous cries and screams.