(1766) Spilornis cheela albidus.
THE LESSER SERPENT-EAGLE.
Falco albidus Temm., Pl. Col., iv, pl. 19 (1824) (Pondicherry). Spilornis cheela. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 357.
Vernacular names. Walla pamula gedda (Tel.); Botta Genda (Gond.)* Goom (Can.); Murayala (Mahr.).
Description. Similar to S. c. cheela but rather smaller; the upper breast is generally uniform, the white spots not reaching so high and the barring being obsolete; the chin and throat never appear to become black but are grey or grey-brown in very old birds; the tail in adults nearly always has two pale bands, though that at the base is sometimes indistinct; the underparts are normally less rufescent.
Colours of soft parts as in the other races.
Measurements, Wing 421 to 461 mm.; tail 275 to 310 mm.; tarsus 94 to 101 mm.; culmen 42 to 46 mm.
Distribution. Practically all India South of the Himalayas. Specimens from Bengal can be distinguished by their rufous under plumage, similar to that of the Himalayan birds. On the other hand, their small size seems to link them with the Southern form. They are very close to S. c. burmanicus but have the long terminal black band to the primaries, as in S. cheela cheela.
Nidification. Stewart found this Eagle breeding in some numbers in the Plains of Travancore from December to March, and Vidal took nests in the latter month in the Konkan. Further North it breeds later. Irvine took eggs in Chota Nagpore in April and May, whilst in Rungpur I took one egg in September, perhaps an abnormal time. The nest is like that of the preceding bird and the eggs only differ in being smaller and, as a series, less richly coloured. Thirty eggs average 65.7 x 50.9 mm.: maxima 72.4 x 52.4 and 68.1 x 54.3 mm.; minima 61.1 X 48.7 mm.
Habits. Those of the species. Stewart found both this form and S. c. spilogaster in Travancore but the present race kept entirely to the plains whereas the Ceylon form kept entirely to the hills. He at first thought the two forms were S. c. cheela and S. c. albidus but an examination of the skins proved them to be the latter form and S. c. spilogaster, the latter race being very common in the hills of South Travancore.