(1766) haematornis cheela minor Hume.
THE Lesser CHESTED SERPENT-EAGLE.
Spilornis cheela albidus, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. v. p. 98.
Haematornis cheela minor, ibid. vol. viii, p. 686.
It is very difficult to define the range of this subspecies. Roughly they may be said to inhabit the whole of India South of the Himalayas in the plains. Some systematists will feel inclined to name the Bengal form and give it a separate status. Its small size links it with the plains’ bird, but the more rufous under plumage and the broad terminal dark band on the primaries approach the Himalayan form.
In Travancore this form is very common, but in the plains and foot-hiils only. In Bengal, if we accept the bird there as the same as minor, it is also common but widely scattered.
In its nidification there is little to note different to the typical form, but it is found far more often in quite open country, breeding not only in small groves and orchards but sometimes quite in the open on large solitary trees.
Stewart, writing of “minor," records that “this large form, which I took to he cheela, breeds at lower elevations on the banks of large rivers, sometimes in the plains. The smaller variety is a bird of the hills, keeping entirely to forest and often breeding far from water. Now Mr. Stuart Baker (from material I have sent home) has identified the larger bird as albidus (—minor) and the smaller as spilogaster, and I have no doubt he is right.” of large rivers, sometimes in the plains. The smaller variety is a bird of the hills, keeping entirely to forest and often breeding far from water. Now Mr. Stuart Baker (from material I have sent home) has identified the larger bird as albidus (—minor) and the smaller as spilogaster, and I have no doubt he is right.”
* The breeding range of the various races of the Continental Serpent-Eagle were in a state of confusion until Stewart provided material from. Travancore to elucidate the mystery. The skins of breeding birds, whose eggs he had taken, showed that there were two forms in Travancore : minor [= albidus Temm.), a plains’ bird pure and simple, and spilogaster, the Ceylon mountain bird, occurring throughout the hills of Southern Travancore.
The present race, minor, makes much the same kind of nest as typical cheela, high up, though not always very high up, in a tree, occasionally in forest but, more often, one standing in the open and often near a river or big stream, A nest I found in Rungpore was in a Mango-tree, one of an orchard on the hanks of the Brahma¬pootra, close to a little village and surrounded by a sea of grass. It was small for the size of the bird, well under 2 feet across but about 8 inches deep, with a depression about half as deep for the single egg found in it. Lining and construction were like those of the nests of cheela. Most nests seem to be placed near water. In Travancore, where Stewart obtained a really wonderful series, three out of every four nests were in trees beside the rivers Punalur and Kalkaar and the Shencottah streams. Parker obtained a nest in Nadia on the banks of the Magra lake, taking eggs from it for two or three years, one in 1884 when I was in Nadia myself.
In Travancore the breeding season is from December to March ; in the Konkan Davidson and Vidal obtained eggs in February and March, while in Bengal and the North they breed from February to June. The egg I took in Rungpore was taken on the 29th September, but this must be quite an abnormal date, and I under¬stand that a young one had been previously taken from it that year.
Only one egg is laid. There is nothing to he said of the eggs in addition to what I have recorded of the typical form, from which they differ only in average size.
Thirty-six eggs average 65.7 x 50.9 mm. : maxima 72.4 x 52.4 and 70.3 x 57.0 mm. ; minima 61.1 x 48.7 mm.
From the measurements given it will be seen that the eggs of the various subspecies of Serpent-Eagle overlap in size to a far greater extent than do those of the birds which laid them.
Like the other Serpent-Eagles, the hen of this bird does all the incubation, sitting very close and refusing to leave until almost pushed off the nest. On the other hand she makes no attempt to defend egg or young. She is very loth to desert a nest and will often lay again a second time when a nest has been rifled.
1766. Haematornis cheela minor
(1766) haematornis cheela minor Hume.