(1769) Spilornis cheela spilogaster.
THE CEYLON SERPENT-EAGLE.
Haematornis spilogaster Blyth, J. A. S. B., xxi, p. 351 (1852) (Ceylon). Spilornis cheela. Blanf. & Oates, iii, p. 357 (part.).
Vernacular names. Rajaliya (Cing.); Kalumbien (Tam., Ceylon).
Description. Smaller than any of the preceding forms; upper parts brown but with a stronger purple-grey tinge than in any of the Northern forms; throat very grey; breast browner than in the other races and immaculate ; remainder of lower parts browner and less rufescent than in S. c. cheela, darker than in ricketti or burmanicus.
Colours of soft parts as in the other races.
Measurements. Wing 355 to 402 mm.; culmen 38 to 45 mm.
Distribution. Ceylon and South Travancore. According to Stewart this small form is resident in the wetter evergreen forests at the lowest elevations and sea-level, whereas albidus is confined to the higher and dryer ranges where the forest is almost deciduous. A very small specimen from Khandesh, with a wing of 394 mm., seems to be nearest this race and is probably only a non-breeding wanderer so far north.
Nidification. Stewart took many of the nests of this bird in South Travancore, though he at first attributed them to S. c. albidus and the larger eggs which he took in the plains to S. c. cheela. The mistake was rectified by Kirke-Swann, who examined the skins. Nests and eggs are like those of the other forms but three eggs taken by Phillips in Ceylon are of a beautiful type very uncommon in the other races. The ground is white and the eggs are well-marked with small blotches of purple-red with secondary markings of lavender-grey. Twenty-two eggs average 62.8 x 49.4 mm.: maxima 65.5 x 47.2 and 64.7 X 51.0 mm.; minima 59.3 x 49.0 and 65.5 x 47.2 mm. Stewart remarks that this bird breeds in far denser forest than does S. c. albidus and whilst that bird nearly always makes its nest on a tree near water, the Ceylon Serpent-Eagle builds on trees far away from it.
Habits. Similar to those of the other races. In Travancore this bird keeps invariably to the hills, never breeding below 500 feet and generally at about 2,000 feet. It is found in Ceylon over the greater part of the island and is common in many parts. It feeds on snakes but also very often on bull-frogs, gliding on to these from a perch in a deeply-shaded tree and, though its nest may be far from water, its daily hunting look-out is of necessity over some pool, lake or river.