The Birds of Prey is a large family is composed of birds which bear so strong a family likeness that it is almost impossible to describe them in such a way as to enable the reader to identify them at sight. As with the owls, birds of prey are easily recognized as such, but to name any species baffles even professed ornithologists.
To try to make out the raptors by their color is, to use the words of Eha, “at the best a short road to despair. Naturalists learn to recognize them as David’s watchman recognized the courier who brought tidings of the victory over Absalom. ‘His running is like the running of Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok.’
Every bird of prey has its own character, some trick of flight, something in its figure and proportions which serves to distinguish it decisively.” What precisely this bird is something not in most cases able to state. Mr. C. H. Donald, or some other Indian falconer, will give us a little handbook on the birds of prey of this country.
The Indian Tawny Eagle (Aquila vindhiana)
In coloring, this bird is very like the common kite but has not so long a tail. Its legs are feathered right down to the toe. This is the sign-manual of all the true eagles. A bird that looks like a kite with feathered legs is probably a tawny eagle the commonest eagle in India, abundant everywhere save on the Malabar coast. The big Tawny Eagle is belonging to family Accipitridae.
It has 25 to 30 in length with the 64 to 75 in wingspan. The eagle mainly relies on carrion as a food source. Although, it is considered as a quiet bird, sometimes Kow-Kow noise which is loud and far traveling. The underparts are mainly black, however, the lower back is pale and range of variation in plumage color.
The white-eyed buzzard (Butastur teesa)
This bird of prey is about the size of the common house crow. Eha writes A Buzzard is idea of life is to sit upon a pole, or on top of a small tree commanding a good expanse of grassland, and to watch for a field mouse, or a lizard, or even a fat grasshopper.
If you see a biggish, untidy hawk, of a sandy brown color, more or less dashed with whitish, spending In the morning in this way, you may put it down as Butastur teesa. The sign-manual of this common bird is its white eye, and if you cannot get near enough to make this out with the aid of field glasses.
You may still identify this species by the conspicuous white patch on the nape of the neck. The White-eyed buzzard is very common in N. India; but rare in the south. This bird has a rufous tail, white iris, and white throat with a distinctive dark mesial stripe bordered, and brown head.
Pallas’s fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus)
This Pallas Fish Eagle is nearly half as big as the kite. A large brown bird with the whitish forehead, chin, and throat, and a broad white band (4 inches wide) across the tail, about three inches from the tip. This is the sign-manual of this species, and on this account, Jerdon calls it “The Ring-tailed Fish Eagle.” Not found in S. India.
All the fish-eagles, writes C. H. Donald in The Indian Field, have loud resonant calls, anything but melodious, and each and all seem to love hearing their own voices. H. leucoryphus in the plains of Punjab may often be heard long before he is seen, particularly when soaring, and though he himself may only appear a wee a speck in the heavens, his call will be distinctly heard.
This Birds of Prey frequents found near rivers and marshes and is inland rather than a seashore bird. This bird is also known as Pallas’s sea eagle or band-tailed fish eagle. The Pallas eagle preferred food is fish. During food-collecting, it often faces predates from graylag geese.
The White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaëtus leucogaster)
White-bellied The sea-eagle bird is a little larger than the kite. Its, head, neck, lower parts, and nearly the whole of the tail white; other parts dark grey or brown. Jerdon calls this species the Grey-backed Sea-Eagle. This species is very seldom seen inland and is easily distinguished from by having the lower parts white instead of brown.
Col. Cunningham describes this species as one of the most splendid of large raptorial birds. Owing to the brilliant contrast of the snowy whiteness of the head and under surface, with the deep ashy tints of the wings and back. There are few more striking objects than one of them as he sits on a bare branch overhanging a tidal channel, glancing around with his bold black eyes.
The eagle with all his beautiful plumage gleaming in the bright sunlight. This is a very noisy species, especially at the breeding season. This beautiful bird normally breeds and hunts near water. It prefers food is fish but also consumes carrion and other variety of animals.
The white-tailed eagle (Haliaëtus albicilla)
The White-tailed Sea-Eagle is half of a big kite. A large brown bird with a white tail, of which the middle feathers are considerably longer than the outer ones. By this character and by its loud cries may this bird be identified. It is only a winter visitor to India to the Punjab, Sind, and the U. P. Sometimes, it is known as gray sea eagle and Eurasian sea eagle.
Due to human activities this bird is often scarce and very spottily distributed as a nesting species. This eagle usually lives near open water, including both coastal saltwater areas and inland freshwater. It requires plentiful food supply and old-growth trees or ample sea cliffs for nesting.
The Brahminy Kite. (Haliastur indus)
Of all the birds of prey, this is perhaps the easiest to identify in its adult state. The head, neck, breast, and upper abdomen are white, the shaft of each white feather being black. The remainder of the plumage is a rich chestnut, almost maroon.
The young Birds of Prey are alike to the common kite in appearance. But maybe distinguished when on the wing by the fact that the tail of the Brahminy is always rounded, while that of the kite is more or less forked. This species is rare in the Punjab, common everywhere else. In Madras it sometimes swoops down and carries off a snipe that has been shot by a sportsman. Its cry is a peculiar squeaking wail.
The Black Kite (Milvus govinda)
This is a Common Pariah Kite. His long tail slightly forked at the tip, suffices to distinguish him at a glance from all other raptorial birds. It is believed to be the most abundant species in the world approximately more than 6 million population.
The pale or pallid harrier (Circus macrourus)
This is a migratory bird belongs to the harrier family. This medium sized raptor rarely seen in India. It breeds on open plains, bogs, of eastern Asia and southern Europe. The bird normally hunts small mammals, lizards, and birds, and drift low over fields and moors.
Surprisingly the nest is found on the ground, containing six to eight eggs. The other harrier species are, Montagu’s Harrier (Circus cineraceus), The Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), The Pied Harrier (Circus melanoleucus), and The Marsh Harrier (Circus æruginosus).
The hens are so alike that to distinguish them is no easy matter. The ordinary man will doubtless be satisfied to call them all harriers. Harriers are cold-weather visitors to India. They are striking-looking birds with long wings.
Also, they fly low, only a few inches above the level of the ground, ever on the lookout for a lizard, a mouse, an insect, or even a small bird. They are larger than crows and smaller than kites. Moreover, they hunt over fields and marshes and are not seen in towns, but those who shoot must be familiar with them.
The Shikra (Astur badius)
This is one of the most familiar birds of prey. It is considerably smaller than the common house crow. Its upper plumage is ashy grey. The tail is of the same hue, but with broad black crossbars. The breast is pale rust color, with a number of thin wavy white crossbars.
The eye is bright yellow, as is the cere or base of the beak. It is very like the Brain-fever Bird in appearance. It often hunts for its quarry in the neighborhood of trees. Its method is to make a short quick dash. Natives of India very frequently train this bird to hawk quail and mynas. Its note is a sharp double whistle.
The Sparrow-Hawk (Accipiter nisus)
This species, which is a cold-weather visitor to India, is very like No. 158 in habits and appearance. It is, however, characterized by having long legs. It is bolder and swifter in its movements.
The Laggar Falcon (Falco jugger)
Several species of falcon occur in India. This one is, the commonest. It is a brownish bird barred and spotted all over with white. It looks like a large sparrow-hawk with long pointed wings.
But it does not make one dash at its prey after the manner of the sparrow-hawk; it is a strong flier and settles down to a long chase in the open country. Its eyes are dark. Natives call falcons dark-eyed hawks and sparrow-hawks light-eyed hawks.
The Turumti, or Red-headed Merlin (Æsalon chicquera)
The Head and a stripe on the cheek chestnut. Back and tail grey barred with dark brown; underparts whitish with black streaks and bars. This species lives largely on small birds and often hunts in couples.
Tinnunculus alaudaris: The Kestrel; the English “Windhover.”
Normally the head, neck, and tail grey, back, and wings brick-red. The lower parts are cream-colored spotted with brown. The redback makes the bird easy to identify, as does its method of hunting its quarry.
It flies over the open country, and every now and then hovers on rapidly vibrating wings over some spot where it thinks it espies some lizard or other animals. If there is an animal there it drops quietly on it, otherwise, it passes on and hovers elsewhere. It is a winter visitor to the plains of India.