The Barbary Falcon.
The Red-headed Lanner, Jerdon; Shahin, Safed Shahin, Lal-sir Shahin H. (Punjab).
Coloration. Forehead and lores buff; a varying portion of the middle of the crown behind the forehead more or less rufous; remainder of the crown ashy brown; all coronal feathers with dark shafts ; feathers round eye and narrow cheek-stripe blackish, the latter mixed or bordered with rufous; sides of neck buff; broad nuchal collar rufous, often mixed with brown (occasionally nearly the whole crown and nape are light chestnut); upper parts ashy grey with dark or blackish cross-bars, the bars broad and predominating on the upper back and wing-coverts, less broad on the scapulars, narrow, and in old birds faint, on the rump and upper tail-coverts; primaries dark brown, closely banded with pale rufous on the inner webs except near the tips; secondaries ashy grey with dark cross-bands ; tail with alternating bars of ashy grey and blackish grey, the former broader near the root, the latter near the end, tip whitish; chin and throat white or rufescent, rest of lower parts pale rufous, depth of tint varying; the breast in some with a few narrow dark shaft-lines, and the abdomen with small spots; the flanks and under wing-coverts with dark bars, but in old birds all markings on the breast and abdomen disappear, and only arrowhead-shaped marks remain on the flanks.
Young birds are dark brown above, the feathers with broad rufous edges which wear off after a time ; scapulars with rufous spots; upper tail-coverts barred with rufous ; forehead, middle of crown, and sometimes superciliary streaks, with the nuchal collar, buff or rufous, the collar mixed with brown; quills brown, barred as in adults; tail brown, with equal rufous bars at regular intervals ; lower parts more or less rufous, pale and whitish on the throat, marked with elongate spots on the breast and abdomen, and broader spots on the flanks.
Bill bluish, black at the tip ; cere, legs, and feet yellow ; irides dark brown.
Length of females about 17 inches; tail 6.5; wing 12.5 ; tarsus 1.9; mid-toe without claw 2 ; bill from gape 1.1: length of males 15; tail 5.75 ; wing 11.
Distribution. Northern and North-eastern Africa, South-western and Central Asia, ranging as a winter visitor into North-western India as far south as the Nerbudda and as far east as Oude. A single specimen was obtained near Raipur, C. P., by Mr. Thompson. The locality Nepal in the British Museum Catalogue is due, as in many other cases, to all specimens presented by Mr. Hodgson having been thus labelled. The birds were probably trained Falcons, brought to Nepal tame.
There is no difference whatever in plumage between F. barbarus and F. babylonicus, as is clearly shown by the series in the British Museum, but some (not all) Indian females are larger than the few N. African specimens of the same sex hitherto measured. Dr. Sharpe tells me he has already come to the same conclusion as to the identity of these birds.
Habits, &c. The Barbary Falcon ranks as one of the Peregrine group and is, for its size, a powerful bird, killing partridges, &c, with ease. According to Jerdon it has been trained to take mallard and other birds. It is found in open dry country and breeds in cliffs. The eggs resemble the Peregrine's, but are rather smaller. None have been found in India, but this Falcon breeds in the ranges west and north-west of the Punjab; two young birds were found in a nest in the Gumal Pass near Dera Ismail Khan on May 13th by Lieut. Philott.