40. Pandion haliaetus

No. 40. Pandion Haliaetus, LINN.


I have no particulars of the nidification of this species in India, but I saw the nest of one on a large tree, in the valley of the Surjoo, in Kumaon.

Mr. R. Thompson says - :

" I insert this bird here, because I believe its nest is to be found on the Ganges above Hurdwar, where I have seen the birds as late in the season as the middle of May. I think I shall be able to lay my hands on the nest at some time or other."

Of its breeding in the British Isles, Mr. Yarrell remarks - : " The Osprey makes a large nest, sometimes on high trees, at others, on rocks or about old ruins near large pieces of water, and lays two or three eggs, which are generally hatched in June. The eggs are about two inches and four lines long, by one inch ten fines in breadth, blotched and spotted over the larger end with reddish brown on a white ground. In some specimens, the secondary colour is of a paler yellowish red."

Mr. Hewitson gives us the following particulars: " Sir William Jardine says, that a pair or two may be found about most of the Highland Lochs, where they build on the ruined towers, so common on the edges, or insulated rocks, of these wild waters. The nest is an immense fabric of rotten sticks, and is generally placed, if such exists, on the top of the chimney, and if this be wanting, on the highest summit of the building. And aged tree may sometimes be chosen, but ruins are always preferred, if near. Mr. Wolley remarks, that there is something in the general appearance of the nest, which reminds one of the nests of the Wood Ants; it is usually in the form of a cone cut off at the top; the sticks project very slightly beyond the sides, and are built up with turf and other compact materials; the summit is of moss, very flat and even, and the cavity occupies a comparatively small part of it. Wilson says that, in America, the nest of the Fish Hawk is usually built on the top of a dead or decaying tree, sometimes not more than fifteen, often upwards of fifty feet from the ground. I ascended to several of these nests that had been built in from year to year, and found them constructed as follows; - : externally large sticks, from half an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, and two or three in Length, piled to the height of four or five feet, and from two to three feet in breadth, these were intermixed with corn-stalks, seaweed, pieces of wet turf in large quantities, and lined with dry sea-grass, the whole forming a mass observable at half a mile's distance, and large enough to fill a cart: and formed no inconsiderable load for a horse. These materials are so well put together, as often to adhere in large fragments after being blown down by the wind. During the time the female is sitting, the male frequently supplies her with fish, though she occasionally takes a short circuit to the sea herself, but quickly returns again."

Mr. Hewitson adds : " The Osprey, in England as in America, lays its eggs in the beginning of May; they are sometimes two, almost always three in number. Wilson says, rarely four.

" They are more oval in form, than those of any of our British Falconidae ; they do not usually differ much."

The egg which Mr. Hewitson figures as typical has a white ground, here and there clouded with pale purple, and very richly blotched and streaked, most densely towards the large end, with deep red, becoming in its intensity almost black. His figures measure 2.52 by 1.89; and 2.43 by 1.93.

Of the nidification of the Australian form of this bird, which, after comparison of several specimens, appears to me identical with our Indian race, Mr. Gould furnishes the following particulars : " The nest being of great size, is a very conspicuous object; it is composed of sticks varying from the thickness of a finger to that of the wrist and lined with the softer kinds of sea-weed. It is usually placed on the summit of a rock, but is sometimes constructed on the top of a large Eucalyptus, always in the vicinity of water. A nest observed by Gilbert in Rottnest Island, measured fifteen feet in circumference.

" The eggs are two in number, of a yellowish white, boldly spotted and blotched, with deep rich reddish brown, which colour, in some specimens, is so dark as to be nearly black, other specimens, again, are clouded with large blotches of purple, which appears as if beneath the surface of the shell. The medium length of the eggs is two inches and five lines, and the breadth one inch and nine lines."

The Osprey is found throughout the lower ranges of the Himalayas, in the rocky gorges of all the larger streams, and along the course of the Ganges and the Jumna, from their mouths almost to their sources. I nave from time to time observed it in the Cawnpoor, Etawah, Agra and Allyghur districts. I met with it also on the Sutledge, at the Sambhur Lake, and the Nujjufgurh jheel, and I recently shot a very fine one close to Saharunpoor, on the Western Jumna Canal. Mr. Brooks says, that this species is " common on the river Tonse, also inland in the Mirzapoor district where there are jheels and tanks. I shot one at night off a post in the middle of a tank."

Though thus widely distributed, this species is nowhere I believe in India numerically abundant.

Out of India, this species (or very closely allied representative races) is found throughout the greater portion of the globe.

As to the specific identity of the various races of the Fish Hawk, Mr. Gurney, our greatest living authority in such matters, remarked in the Ibis for 1868 :

"The Norwich Museum possesses an extensive series of Ospreys from various parts of the world, and I have no hesitation in expressing my belief that the species is identical not only on the coasts of North America, and of Europe, but also on those of Africa, Asia and Australia."

I subjoin measurements, &c, of a fine female, killed near Saharunpoor on the 7th November. Length, 21.15. Expanse, 0.65. Weight in lbs. 2.69. Wing, 19; the third primary the longest, the first primary falls short of the longest by 2.6 ; the second by 0.2 ; and the fourth by 0.8. Tail, from vent, 9.3; longest tail feather exceed shortest by 0.4. Tarsus (feathered in front for 0.8), 2.4. Foot, greatest Length, 4.6; greatest width, 4.15 ; mid toe, to root of claw, 1.85 ; its claw, along curve, 1.5 ; hind toe, 1.25; its claw, 1.4; inner toe, 1.1; its claw, 1.5 ; outer toe, 1.4; its claw, 1.55. Bill, straight from edge of cere to point, 1.2; along curve from edge of cere, 1.45 : from gape, 1.57 ; width at gape, 1.13 ; height at margin of cere, 0.55; length of cere, 0.3. Closed wings exceed the end of the tail by 0.1. Lower tail coverts fall short of end of tail by 0.3. The legs and feet were a very pale delicate sea-green, the scales very rough and shagreen-like. The claws, black; the irides, bright yellow. Bill, black. Gape and base of lower mandible, pale lavender plumbeous. Cere and skin of lores, (which are very thinly feathered), dark lead colour. Inside of mouth, purplish pink.


No. 3 being a supplement to Nos. 1 and 2, and which will complete PART I. RAPTORES, will, D. V., appear immediately.

No. 3 will contain additions to, and corrections of, the notes that have already appeared, as well as notices of several species not included in numbers 1 and 2.

I have already to thank Mr. J. H. Gurney, M. P., for a most valuable series of notes on No. 1. which will appear in No. 3, and I would earnestly entreat all my coadjutors and Mends to furnish me, with the least possible delay, with any remarks or information that they may desire to appear in No. 3.

No. 3 will contain an index to the three Nos. as well as an errata list, and any assistance in the preparation of this latter, will be thankfully received.

I have now to tender my most sincere thanks to Miss M. B. Cockburn and the following gentlemen, for the valuable information and numerous specimens with which they have furnished me since Part 1 appeared; Mr. F. R. BLEWITT, the Rev. H. BRUCE, Mr. W. E. BROOKS, Mr. E. BUCK, Mr. H. R. P. CARTER, Capt. COCK, Mr. T. Cox, Dr. EDDOWES, the Rev. S. B. FAIRBANK, Major FISHER, Capt. GARSTIN, Capt. HUTTON, Mr. R. D. HIME, Mr. V. IRWIN, Dr. JERDON, Dr. KING, COL. MAISTER, Capt. C. H. T. MARSHALL, Capt. G. F. L. MARSHALL, Capt. MASSON, Capt. MAYNARD, Capt. MITCHELL, Capt. NAIRNE, Dr. NEWMAN, Major DELME RADCLIFE, Mr. C. SHILLINGFORD, Mr. F. B. SIMSON, Dr. SLAUGHTER, Mr. R. THOMPSON, Col. TYTLER, Capt. UNWIN, Mr. WAIT.

Of the 1360 species which it is proposed to notice in these rough notes, 1063 species are represented already in our Museum by over 8000 specimens (obtained within our limits*) while the eggs of 323 species are represented by 5700 specimens. There is still therefore enormous room for improvement, especially where eggs (and nests) are concerned, and I trust, that all my kind coadjutors above enumerated, as well as many others who have promised assistance, will, so far as they conveniently can, aid in perfecting the collection and in completing our information in regard to all this vast array of species.

I may mention that it is most especially in the avi Fauna of BURMAH and CEYLON (in which provinces alone I have as yet no correspondent) that I need assistance.

lists of desiderata, will be furnished on application, and specimens, and information as to food, habits and nidification, will be equally gratefully received and acknowledged by ALLAN HUME, AGRA. N. W. Provinces, India.

* Rather more than 100 other species are represented by specimens from Europe, Africa and Australia,

My Scrap Book
Hume, Allan Octavian, ed. My Scrap Book: Or, Rough Notes on Indian Oology and Ornithology. Vol. 1. 1869.
Title in Book: 
40. Pandion haliaetus
Book Author: 
Allan Octavian Hume
Page No: 
Common name: 
Western Osprey
Pandion haliaetus
Vol. 1
Term name: 

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