Limnaetus cirrhatus

Limnaetus cirrhatus, Gm.

35. :- Limnaetus cristatellus, Tem. :- Jerdon's Birds of India, Vol. I, p. 71; Butler, Deccan, &c.; Stray Feathers, Vol. IX, p. 373 ; Guzerat, Stray Feathers, Vol. III, p. 446 ; Hume's Scrap Book p. 206.


Length, 24 ; wing, 16 ; tail, 11 ; tarsus, 4.

Length, 29 ; wing, 17.5 ; tail, 12.5.

Irides yellow, dun-brown in the young birds; cere and feet pale yellow.

Young : pale brown above; head and neck fulvous ; long occipital crest black, with white tip; feathers of the head and neck white-edged ; beneath, white, with some small light fulvous or brown spots on the breast and lower parts.

There is less white on the wing-coverts than in the young of the last, and the bars on the tail are wider.

The adult bird has the occipital crest sometimes five inches long, and of as many as twelve feathers of different lengths, deep black, tipped with white ; the head and neck fulvescent-brown, with dark mesial streaks ; upper plumage glossy hair-brown ; the scapulars, interscapulars, and tertiaries, more or less black; the wing-feathers banded more or less distinctly ; tail light greyish-brown, with three or four dark bands, the last one broader ; beneath, the foreneck and breast pure white, with a broad dark mesial streak to each feather, and three dark lines on the white throat, not so distinct, however, as in the last, from all the feathers being more or less streaked ; belly, flanks, vent, and under tail-coverts dark brown ; thighs the same, only a little freckled with whitish; tarsal feathers mottled white and fulvous-brown.

The above is Jerdon's description, to which I will add an extract from Stray Feathers, Vol. IV, p. 356, by Mr. Hume : :-

" The youngest birds of cirrhatus, when they first issue from the nest, have the entire head, neck all round, chin, throat and entire under parts white ; only on the crown and sides of the neck is there a slight fulvous tinge, and a few of these feathers have linear brown shaft stripes, and the flanks and the upper portion of the tibia have a pinkish fawn-colored tinge ; the entire chin, throat, breast, and abdomen, absolutely pure spotless white ; the crest black, with usually very little white tipping ; the tertiaries and secondary greater-coverts, conspicuously margined with white; the tail with six or seven transverse darker brown bars, besides the subterminal one which is not wider than the others. A little later a buffy fawn-colored tinge spreads over the whole head and sides of the neck, a few of the feathers of the breast get a faint tinge of the same color, and these exhibit a linear shaft stripe ; on the abdomen many of the feathers get a fawn-cole red spot towards their tip, and a tint of the same color pervades portions of the vent-feathers and lower tail-coverts.

" Later, again, the whole head, nape, and sides of neck become a warm fawn brown, all the feathers now showing narrow, blackish shaft stripes. The lower parts are still chiefly white, but almost all the feathers of the breast and abdomen have a more or less triangular brownish, fawn-colored spot at the tip, and show a tendency to a dark shaft stripe ; and in some birds at this time several of the feathers of the lower throat have conspicuous narrow black shaft-stripes.

" The sides become fawn-brown, though the feathers still are mottled white at the bases and the shafts are darker ; the thighs, vent-feathers, and lower tail-coverts are now a warm, but brownish fawn color, somewhat irregularly barred with white ; the tail has now only four bands besides the subterminal one, which has become conspicuously broader. (Sometimes the young bird, before exhibiting any black streaks on the side of the neck or on the throat, become nearly uniform warm fawn color on the entire lower surface, and even retains this plumage until it has acquired the adult tail.)

" Then (to return to the normal stage of progression) the black striping of the head, back, and sides of the neck, becomes more conspicuous; a black central throat stripe begins to be indicated, the warm fawny tint of thighs and vent becomes replaced by a wood-brown, the black shaft stripes of the breast become more oval, and the tail begins to approach the normal type with only three transverse bars besides the subterminal one.

" Gradually the brown of the vent and flanks creeps up to the lower breast; the breast spots grow larger and larger, and ultimately the white margins of the feathers almost wholly assume the brown tint of the abdomen. The entire white chin and throat have the feathers so broadly striped, centrally, with black, that only just enough white peeps through to give indications of separation between a black throat stripe, and two broad black moustachial stripes.

" The brown of the head and sides of the neck, though still warm, has lost the fawny tinge of the younger stages, and the black centres of the feathers have greatly increased in size.

" The tail has a very broad terminal band, of say 1.8 and inter space of 2, and three other bands each about an inch broad. The crest, quite black and untipped, grows to a great length. While these changes have been going on the whole upper plumage has been growing darker.

" As to the white tipping to the crest this is very irregular, the youngest birds and the oldest generally want it; birds of intermediate stages generally have it."

The- Crested Hawk Eagle is confined to the hilly tracts of the Deccan, where it is not uncommon; it is more plentiful at Ratnagiri. It is a permanent resident, but nothing certain is known in regard to its nidification. It has been observed at and near Aboo, but has not yet been recorded from Sind.

Handbook to the Birds of the Bombay Presidency
Barnes, Henry Edwin. Handbook to the birds of the Bombay Presidency, 1885.
Title in Book: 
Limnaetus cirrhatus
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Barnes, H. Edwin
Page No: 
Common name: 
Crested Hawk Eagle
Changeable Hawk-Eagle
Nisaetus cirrhatus
Term name: 

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