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The Falconidæ or Family of Birds of Prey

The raptores are not very strongly represented on the Nilgiris. The only two eagles likely to be seen are Bonelli's eagle (Hieraëtus fasciatus) and the black eagle (Ictinaëtus malayensis). The plumage of the latter is of much darker hue than that of the former.

Bonelli's eagle is a bold bird that works great havoc among tame pigeons. It sometimes carries off a barnyard fowl.

The black eagle is content with smaller quarry: young birds, rats, and snakes, seem to constitute the chief articles of its diet.

Needless to state, the common pariah kite (Milvus govinda) is found on the Nilgiris. This useful bird usually sails in graceful circles high overhead, looking for food. Its cry is not heard so frequently on those hills as in the Himalayas, the reason being the different configuration of the two ranges. The Nilgiris are undulating and downlike, hence the kites are able, while hovering higher than the summits of the hills, to see what is happening in the valleys. In the Himalayas they cannot do this, because the valleys are usually deep. The kites, therefore, sail there at a lower level than the hill-tops, and their plaintive chee-hee-hee-hee-hee is heard throughout the day. It is not a very cheerful sound, so that in this respect the Nilgiris have an advantage over the Himalayas.

The majority of the kites appear to migrate from the Nilgiris during the south-west monsoon.

The Brahmany kite (Haliastur indus)--the handsome kite with white head and breast and rich chestnut-red wings--is sometimes seen on the Nilgiris, but scarcely sufficiently often to merit a place among the common birds.

The three remaining raptores that are of frequent occurrence on the hills of South India are the shikra (Astur badius), the crested goshawk (Lophospizias trivirgatus), and the kestrel (Tinnunculus alaudarius). The shikra is very like the brain-fever bird in appearance. It is a little smaller than the common house-crow. The upper plumage is ashy grey. The tail is of the same hue, but with broad dark brown cross-bars. In young birds the breast is white with dark drops; in older birds the drops become replaced by wavy rust-coloured cross-bars. The eye is bright yellow, as is the cere or base of the beak. The crested goshawk may be described in brief as a large shikra with a crest.

The kestrel is the bird known in England as the windhover, on account of its habit of hovering in mid-air on rapidly-vibrating wings before pouncing on the lizard or other small fry, for which it is ever on the watch. This species is about the same size as the shikra. The head, neck, and tail are grey; the back and wings are dull red. The lower parts are cream-coloured, spotted with brown.