Birds – The Fishing Eagles

It is probable that the so-called Fishing Eagles (Polioaëtus) should also be referred to this subfamily, but there are very decided differences of opinion among ornithologists on this point. As the Fishing Eagles have a partially reversible outer toe, they have been placed with the Ospreys, but anatomically they agree with the Eagles, and, moreover, the feathers have an after-shaft, which the feathers of the Ospreys do not. It seems safe to say that they are at most only distantly related to the Ospreys, but the exact position they shall occupy is perhaps open to question. They are smaller than most of the Sea Eagles, ranging from twenty-four to some twenty-nine inches in length, and have a shorter bill but similar oval nostrils. The wings are rounded, the fourth and fifth quills longest, and the tail of moderate length and slightly rounded. The feathering of the tarsus is also similar, though the scales on the naked portion are larger, and the claws stronger and much curved. The plumage is mainly brown above, becoming ashy or ashy gray on the head and neck, while the breast is ashy and the abdomen and under tail-coverts white, as is the basal portion of most of the tail-feathers. They are mainly inland birds, preferring wooded rivers and lakes to the sea coast, and have, it is said, a ” peculiar deep resounding call, repeated three or four times.” They live chiefly on fish, which they swoop upon in their flight, not pouncing down upon them like an Osprey, and they may occasionally take a wounded bird. The nest is a very bulky structure of sticks and usually placed in a high tree, while the eggs, two or three in number, are white and unspotted. The Oriental or Gray-headed Fishing Eagle (P. Ichthyaëtus) is widely distributed over the Indian peninsula, Ceylon, and through the Malay Peninsula to the Celebes and Philippines, while Hogdson’s Fishing Eagle (P. humilis) ranges through the Burmese Provinces, Malay Peninsula, Sunda Islands, and Philippines. A. recently described species is found from the Himalayan districts to Assam.