Posts Tagged ‘bird of prey’

The Rock Eagle Owls of NICE Road, Bangalore, Karnataka, 260414

April 27, 2014

I’ve always been drawn to owls, and the


also called the Indian Eagle Owl, has been one of my favourites; I’ve sighted it at Bannerghatta, Turahalli, and at various other locations.


For the past few years, we’ve been watching some of these majestic birds making their home on the rocky outcrops of the highway built by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), around Bangalore.


As we were returning from our trip to Sakleshpur, where we did a bird census for a coffee estate (a very satisfying assignment, more about it later!) we decided we would detour on to this toll road and try our luck with the owls. And we were rewarded for our efforts!


The Rock Eagle Owls were earlier treated as a subspecies of the Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo) but are now considered as separate.


The wiki says, “They are seen in scrub and light to medium forests but are especially seen near rocky places within the mainland of the Indian Subcontinent south of the Himalayas and below 5000 feet elevation.


“Humid evergreen forest and extremely arid areas are avoided. Bush-covered rocky hillocks and ravines, and steep banks of rivers and streams are favourite haunts.


Here’s a view of the habitat…can you see one of the Owls here?


I zoomed in further:


and some more, to show the excellent camouflage when the bird’s head is turned away, and those amazing eyes are not visible:


Here, one eye is visible:


“The nesting season is November to April. The eggs number three to four and are creamy white, broad roundish ovals with a smooth texture. They are laid on bare soil in a natural recess in an earth bank, on the ledge of a cliff, or under the shelter of a bush on level ground. The nest site is reused each year. The eggs hatch after about 33 days and the chicks are dependent on their parents for nearly six months.”

They were quite enjoying the breeze, closing their eyes and letting their feathers ruffle:


Nowhere is the usefulness of a good zoom illustrated more in the ability to “approach” these birds while keeping one’s distance. Here are the lesser and higher zoom images:



“It spends the day under the shelter of a bush or rocky projection, or in a large mango or similar thickly foliaged tree near villages.”


Their diet seems to be very varied: “Their diet through much of the year consists of rodents, but birds seem to be mainly taken towards winter. Prey species of birds include partridges, doves, Indian Roller,the Shikra and the Spotted Owlet. Birds the size of a peacock are sometimes attacked; Bats were also preyed on, and mammals the size of a Black-naped hare may be taken.” As if to bear this out, we saw several Peafowl on the fence nearby, and squirrels scampering around the area.

Alas, all is not well in the world of the Owls. The Wiki notes:” Like many other large owls, these are considered birds of ill omen. Their deep haunting calls if delivered from atop a house are considered to forebode the death of an occupant. A number of rituals involving the capture and killing of these birds have been recorded. Salim Ali notes a wide range of superstitions related to them but notes two as being particularly widespread. One is that if the bird is starved for a few days and beaten, it would speak like a human, predicting the future of the tormentor or bringing them wealth while the other involves the killing of the bird to find a lucky bone that moved against the current like a snake when dropped into a stream. Belief in these superstitions has led to the persecution of the species in many areas by tribal hunters. The capture of these birds is illegal under Indian law but an underground market continues to drive poaching.”

It is sad that superstition seems to rule the life prospects of these beautiful birds…and another matter of concern with the owls shown here is the rampant construction going on in the area where the Owls are.

But as of now, the birds seem to be holding their own. I do hope the Rock Eagle Owls of the NICE Road remain, sentinels of our urban wildlife, for a long time to come!

Here’s a video of two of the birds, and the rocky habitat:

Should you go to the NICE Road to sight these birds, please keep your distance from them, and use a good pair of binoculars or good zoom lenses to observe and document them. They are under enough threat from urban development, let us not add to the difficulties of their survival! Also, remember that you are on a highway, so keep the car moving slowly. If you stop the car and get out…be quick, and be careful..remember that on the highway, you yourself are at risk!

A wonderful sight at Ramngara, 040113

January 5, 2014

Abhinandan, Amith, Mani and I went to Ramnagara yesterday…and though we could see only one Long-billed Vulture, the sight filled us with happiness, because it was a female…sitting on a nest!


Since we have generally been seeing fewer and fewer of these birds at this place (the only nesting site in south India),…the prospect of soon seeing babies hatching was a very welcome one!

Here’s the video I took, and from the zoom, you can see what a distance we maintained,in order not to disturb the bird!

I hope the Long-billed Vultures of Ramnagara at least continue to hold their numbers…

The Marsh Harrier, 28 and 301213, Karnataka

December 30, 2013

Oh…apparently it is now called the


Its scientific name is Cirrus spilonotus….and they do remind me of the cloud that bears the same first name.


It’s a winter visitor to our country, amongst others…it breeds in the grasslands and wetlands of southern Siberia, northern Mongolia, north-east China, Manchuria and Japan, and migrates for the northern winter to South-east Asia, the Philippines and northern Borneo.

It’s a magnficient bird, as it soars on the wind-currents.


It’s lovely to see the “headlights” on its wings.


You can see two of them here:



We watched them for quite a while, on both days.


The Wiki entry says:
Like all marsh harriers, it favours open, wet environments.


It is frequently seen drifting low over ricefields, (and lakes!)…interspersing long, watchful circling glides with two or three slow, powerful wingbeats.


We watched the waterbirds keeping a wary eye on the predator gliding above them at Hosakote kere (lake), when we visited on 281213:


I got one gliding to a landing at Hennagara Lake:

I enjoyed my observation of these beautiful raptors….and I hope you do, too.

Black wings…and ruby eyes, 271213, Hosakote

December 29, 2013




used to be known as the Black-shouldered Kite, which I think is a better description…but the ornithologists have their own litte ways..Oh well, more about that later, I just want to talk about ruby eyes!


Here’s what the wiki says about bird’s eyes, and red eyes, specifically.


Some bird groups have specific modifications to their visual system linked to their way of life


Birds of prey have a very high density of receptors and other adaptations that maximise visual acuity.


The placement of their eyes gives them good binocular vision enabling accurate judgement of distances. Nocturnal species have tubular eyes, low numbers of colour detectors, but a high density of rod cells which function well in poor light.Some birds have red or yellow oil drops in the colour receptors to improve distance vision especially in hazy conditions.


So…now that I know the facts…I can give myself up to just the wonder of those sharp gem-like eyes of birds such as these!

Peregrine Falcons at Wash U School of Medicine, 310813

September 1, 2013

The crescent moon and the attendant star were still bright when I took the Metrolink train to Central West End Station:


Here’s the Central West End station, where I alighted:


Thanks to my birding friend Devin Peipert’s instructions, I left the station, and looked right up at the tops of the buildings near by. And there, in the pre-dawn light, was one of them!



are possibly the fastest birds on earth….reaching over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its characteristic hunting stoop (high speed dive), This makes it the fastest member of the animal kingdom.

This pose, sitting and surveying the territory for prey, is so still and deceptive!


Just like the other fast land animal, the Cheetah, this bird has “tear marks
on its cheeks, leading from its eyes in some specimens.


In America, they are also called Duck Hawks, giving an indication of their favourite prey. However, in urban areas, their favourite meal seems to consist of Pigeons. Both the English and scientific names of this species mean “wandering falcon”, referring to the migratory habits of many northern populations.

Trying to get a better image of the bird, so high up, I tried increasing the zoom, even though, in the early-morning dawn light, I knew the graininess would increase:


The other one flew to the top of another building, far above my head:





Here are two very fast birds of the skies:



Very soon, they both flew off, and I went off, too.



Hope to go back and see them again, soon….

Science of the Circus Symphony birding!

June 9, 2013

That subject title needs a lot of explanation 🙂

I had gone to see the Science of the Circus, organized by Academy of Science, St.Louis, at the Centene Hall. I went up to the 4th floor, and went out to the terrace to look at the view. My attention was caught by an obvious raptor shape in the sky.


It was a Red-tailed Hawk (if I see a bird often enough, even I can recognize it!)…and I watched as it flew in widening circles.


As it passed high overhead, I kept clicking.


The next time it passed overhead, it went into dive mode…and swooped like a screaming bomber. However, it seemed to miss whatever prey it was going for.


The bird braked, and flew up to land on this pole.


From the pole, it looked down.


As I looked on, it flew off. I saw it again in the sky, being mobbbed by Robins and Starlings.


The other birds feared for themselves, and mobbed the Red-tailed Hawk.


The Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by other birds.


I finished attending the event, and came to the bus stop to take the bus home. I looked at the majesty of the Powell Hall ( home of St.Louis Symphony Orchestra)…and lo and behold, the bird came to land there!


The Red-tailed Hawk landed on the side of Powell Hall, and looked around…there was going to be no lunch symphony.


I was riveted by it, and glad of the high zoom on my camera! The Red-tailed Hawk ruffled its feathers.


The bird seemed in keeping with the majesty of both the building and the music created inside it!


It was by sheer coincidence that I spotted the prey, too, lying dead on the sidewalk…this dead Robin.


The Hawk then flew off, and my bus arrived… so ….now you know why I call it the Science of the Circus Symphony birding!



Child Stroller Birding: The Red-tailed Hawk with its prey

April 12, 2013

It really is worth taking along the camera, no matter where and when I go….I got ample proof of this when I decided to take KTB for a walk in Forest Park. I put her in her stroller, and entered the park at the History Museum, as usual, and was walking along the edge of the golf course towards the Grand Basin…when I suddenly saw a


which was standing over its prey:

2 rd tld hawk with prey  fp 070413 photo DSC03772.jpg

That look, directed at me, was to warn me to keep away from what he’d captured

rd tld hawk with prey fp 070413 photo DSC03771.jpg

But there were many walkers along that path (I’d stopped where I was, to take more photographs), so he flew into a nearby tree:

3 rd tld hwk in tree photo DSC03785.jpg

I took the opportunity to take a few close-up shots of the beautiful raptor:

5 r t hawk eyeball  fp 070413 photo DSC03794.jpg

He certainly was giving everyone annoyed looks as they prevented him from tucking into his meal:

4 the look  fp 070413 photo DSC03793.jpg

I also photographed the prey, which was a baby


6 dd rabbit hawk  fp 070413 photo DSC03799.jpg

Poor little rabbit, having two rabbit’s feet wasn’t lucky for him!

So..even when taking a toddler in a stroller, one can have an exciting birding session :))))

For more photos,

click for my FB album

Some videos from Nannaj, Maharashtra, 10 and 110212

February 28, 2012

Off to Ganeshgudi today, but after <LJ user=”prashanthchengi”> got my laptop working properly again (on Debian now, my windows are now closed!) I am slowly uploading videos of my Nannaj trip to YouTube.

Here’s the magnificent raptor, the

…this one’s a female…sitting on the grassland in the Nannaj Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary…

And this pretty bird was a lifer for

<a href=””> Sumeet Moghe </a>

and me…the


as it strolled around in the waters of the lake…

We managed to get a lot out of the Nannaj trip, though it was very poorly organized. :))



November 28, 2011

This time, the theme on the

Weekly Wildlife, Nature and Conservation Photography Challenge

…a fun forum to post wildlife-related photographs on!

was “spirituality”, and this is what I posted:

Is there anything more spiritual
Than the soaring of a bird?
Most of us only know too well
The meaning of the word
The heart soars like the bird, as we behold…
We feel it…we do not need to be told
What “spiritual” is.
It’s happiness…joy…bliss.

L mhe dhnti 291011 30D

It was a difficult choice, as almost everything in Nature makes me feel spiritual….I call a visit to Bannerghatta a visit to a temple!

Eagle Owl, Turahalli, 250911

September 26, 2011

A round dozen of us decided to go to Turahalli, yesterday morning (we’d also had a great time at the Zoo area on Saturday morning…. more about that later!)

gp trhalli 250911

For the first hour or two, though the outing was really enjoyable and we sighted quite a variety of butterflies, the bird sightings were countable without using the fingers on the second hand! But of course, we had a treat in store. As we went on after climbing to the top of the hill, a vision sailed past us and landed on a rock to our left:

3 e owl trhli 250911

It was beautifully backlit by the morning light of the eastern sky:

6 e owl trhli 250911

Now, my friend Amith Kumar has raised a valid question. I’ve always known this bird as the


(Bubo bubo)

but lo and behold, the Wiki does not list India as a territory for this bird at all!

Amith said that this was the


4 e owl trhli 250911

the scientific name of which is Bubo bengalensis

….I had not known that there was such a classfication, and so I looked up the wiki entry.

So…what should this bird be called, I wonder?The surprising thing is that the bird books do not list anything called the Indian Eagle Owl, only the Eurasian Eagle Owl. I’ve asked the experts, and hope for a reply!

Here’s a short video of the magnificient bird (this must be a female)

Well, an owl by any other name is just as magnificient to behold, and we feasted our eyes on the sight of the huge bird, sitting comfortably, far enough away not to be bothered by us…right out in the open on a sunny morning, which is a rare thing to happen!