(1760) Spizaetus nipalensis nipalensis.
Nizaetus nipalensis Hodgs., J. A. S, B., v, p. 229 (1836) (Nepal). Spizaetus nepalensis. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 353.
Vernacular names. Kanda-panthiong (Lepcha).
Description. Feathers of the crown and crest almost black, the rufous-white bases showing through everywhere and the tips pale in all but the very oldest birds ; the tips of the long crest-feathers are always pale; upper parts brown, sometimes with a coppery tinge; median and greater coverts paler brown than the lesser and both these and the scapulars nearly always with white edges to the tips; rump and upper tail-coverts barred brown and white; tail dark brown barred with dark grey, these bars showing almost white below, narrow tip white and the terminal dark band almost black; ear-coverts and sides of the neck streaked dark brown and fulvous ; a broad moustachial band to the fore-neck and another down the centre of the chin and throat black or blackish-brown ; lower fore-neck and generally upper breast fulvous-white with broad black streaks ; remainder of lower parts brown, shading from fulvous-brown on the breast to chocolate-brown on the abdomen, posterior flanks and under tail-coverts, barred everywhere with white, normally these bars interrupted by the brown shafts ; in very old birds the black streaks on the upper breast disappear and are replaced by broken white bars; greater under wing-coverts blackish and white : remaining under wing-coverts and axillaries fulvous, spotted with white.
Colours of soft parts. Iris brilliant golden yellow; bill black, the cere blackish-grey; legs and feet pale dull yellow, yellowish-white or livid yellow, claws black.
Measurements. The only sexed in the Museum series has a wing of 502 mm.; other specimens vary from 475 to 491 mm.; tail 283 to 298 mm.; tarsus about 108 mm.; culmen 38 to 39 mm.
Young birds in first plumage have the head and neck white, more or less tinged with fulvous and lightly streaked with blackish-brown; the longest crest-feathers always blackish ; feathers of upper parts more boldly edged with fulvous-white, the median coverts nearly all of this colour; tail with more numerous bars of dark and light than in the adult; the wing-quills are dark brown banded with lighter brown on the inner webs as in the adult; below the whole plumage is white generally faintly suffused with fulvous.
Older birds acquire the upper plumage of the adult but with broader pale margins to the feathers; the fore-neck and breast become more and more spotted and streaked and the abdomen and flanks become faintly barred fulvous and white.
A pair of birds in my possession and kept perfectly free and unfettered took four years to attain the adult plumage and became still darker in their fifth year.
Nestlings are covered with dense pure white down but, if the Nagas are correct, this is sometimes tinged with golden fulvous on the head and neck and along the back.
Distribution. Himalayas from the Hazara to Eastern Assam, North and South of the Brahmapootra. It is not very rare in Cachar and Manipur and occurs, though rarely, in the Khasia Hills. In Winter it straggles into the plains of India and has been recorded as far South as Seoni and Pachmarhi.
Nidification. Hodgson's Hawk-Eagle breeds between 2,000 and 7,000 feet, at which latter height its nest was taken by Jones. Whymper took several nests in the Kuman Terai and Buchanan one in the Murree Hills. The nest is like that of S. cirrhatus but larger and is built high up in forest-trees, often close to streams, in many cases the same pair of birds having two nests. One egg only is laid but this varies greatly in colour. Roughly there are three types : on© a typical S. cirrhatus egg, unmarked greyish-white or faintly marked with pale reddish; secondly, pale clay-white minutely but, densely freckled all over with pale brick-red ; and, thirdly, pure white handsomely and sometimes profusely blotched and spotted with rich red, the markings being more numerous and bolder at the larger end. Fourteen eggs average 69.9 x 53.8 mm.: maxima 72.7 X 57.4 mm.; minima 65.0 x 51.2 mm. In defence of their nests, eggs and young, these birds are as fierce as their cousins of the cirrhatus group are cowardly. Whymper gives a most interesting account of the taking of an egg of this bird. " Spizaetus nepalensis nearly deceived us this year by leaving the old nest and furiously attacking a man who went up to it. As they had done nothing at all to the old nest, after thinking it over I came to the conclusion they must have another nest near by, so we went back another day and found one within 400 yards up the nullah and got a lovely egg out of it. We had a tremendous battle. As I did not want to shoot her we armed ourselves with plenty of throwing sticks and I nearly knocked her over with one but she did not mind and attacked eight times. Once my man up the tree hit her such a whack with his fist that it lifted her up clean into the air, but in spite of this she wheeled round and took his cap off, slightly wounding him on the head. They are the bravest birds I have ever seen and the speed with which they attack must be seen to be believed ; they start from a tree several yards away and come on straight as a dart." They lay from February to April and if the first egg is taken nearly always lay again, sometimes in the same nest, sometimes in the alternative one.
Habits. Very similar to those of the previous species but this species preys more invariably on larger game-birds and on hares and a pair will do a great deal of damage to game in a season.