Birds – The Hawk-eagles

Also members of this subfamily are the so-called Hawk-Eagles (Eutolmaetus) of the Old World. They are smaller and rather more slender than the true Eagle, and have relatively longer and more slender tarsi, as well as longer tails, and most of them are partly or wholly white beneath, at least in some phase of the plumage. They have moderately long but strong and much hooked bills, long wings, and nearly square tails, while the toes are long and furnished with large, sharp, well-curved talons. Of the four species, perhaps the best known is Bonelli’s Eagle (E. fasciatus), which ranges from the Mediterranean countries east to the Indian peninsula. The male is twenty-seven and the female twenty-nine inches long, and when mature they have the upper parts dark umber-brown with the bases of the feathers white, while the sides of the head and upper tail-coverts are whitish and the lower parts white with black shaft stripes, the young being paler above and more or less rufous or buff below. This fine Eagle is quite abundant in British India and is often seen sailing at a considerable height or sitting on a high tree or rock. Unlike some of those first described, Bonelli’s Eagle captures its own prey and is never known to feed on carrion. It subsists on mammals and birds and is described as being very destructive to domestic fowls and especially to Pigeons, rarely failing to secure one from every flock it strikes at. In India it is known as the “Mohrangi,” or Peacock-killer, on account of its propensity for killing the Peafowl. The nest by preference is placed on a ledge of a precipitous cliff, but occasionally in trees, and is usually a very bulky affair, sometimes including as much as half a ton of material. It is generally rather flat on top and on a bed of green leaves rest the one to three large eggs. On the plains of India the nesting season, according to Hume, is December and January, while in the Himalayas it is sometimes as late as April or May. Very similar to this and sometimes confounded with it is the African Hawk-Eagle (E. Spilogaster), which ranges throughout tropical Africa. It is slightly smaller, with considerably shorter wing, and differs in plumage in the absence of bands on the under side of the primaries, and in white instead of blackish under wing-coverts. Its flight is described as heavy, though when once it has risen to a certain height it soars powerfully. Its food is similar to that of its relative, consisting of small mammals, birds, and poultry. Much smaller is the Dwarf or Booted Hawk-Eagle (E. Pennatus), the male being only about nineteen inches long and the female about twenty-four. It is subject to considerable variation in the color of the plumage, especially of the under parts, there being a light and dark phase, but may be distinguished by the whitish patch on the shoulder. The Booted Eagle is widely distributed, ranging from southern Russia and the Mediterranean countries over Africa, and central Asia to the Indian peninsula and Ceylon. It frequents woods and cultivated fields, and is often found about towns and villages, and is said to commit serious depredations on the poultry yard and dove-cote, but otherwise feeding on squirrels, rats, and other small mammals and birds. This bird breeds in southern Europe as well as in Africa and India, though mainly a winter visitor in the latter country. The nest is similar to that of its near relatives and the eggs, usually two, are greenish white, sparingly marked. The fourth species is the Little Eagle (E. Morphnoides) of Australia, a form closely allied to the last.