Encounter – The Indian Eagle owl

The Indian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo bengalensis) is a sub-species of the Eurasian Eagle Owl, formerly known as the Indian Rock Eagle owl. My first run-in with this enigmatic bird was near Mysore’s well-known landmark – Chamundi Hills. My friend saw him sitting on a tree near a quarry, and we had a long tryst trying to photograph him from outside the wire fencing around the hill. The large, orange-yellow eyes, the prominent horns and his large size (not to speak of an impressive wingspan), makes the bird really some viewing.

Can you meet that stare?

After that, there have been multiple incidents when we have had a run-in with this huge bird, mostly in and around abandoned quarries. But it is tough to spot them when they sit on some shadowy ledge in such quarries, as their colors make for a perfect camouflage. They emerge from their hiding places past dusk, when they hunt for rodents, bats and birds at night and return to their cavernous abodes late at night. The bird is known to tear apart its prey with its sharp claws and beak before devouring them. They are known to feed on large-sized birds as well, including some birds of prey.

Showing off that impressive wingspan

There have been instances when we have stopped at quarries to spot these birds and seen them take off from ledges right underneath us, or from nearby trees as we scouted the location to spot one. In most cases, the only way to spot them is to see them take off from their resting places.

In flight

Like the barn owl (Tyto alba), this bird is a victim of poaching and hunting due to superstitions. The hoots of this bird are supposed to bring bad luck and death in many places, and that is one reason why people are known to hunt them. Not to mention increasing fragmentation of their habitats due to urbanization and the resulting lack of food… 

Please spare our lives

Text and photographs: Sandeep Somasekharan

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