Raptor Friday: Brahminy Kite

Though dirt-common, the Brahminy Kite is both gorgeous and majestic if you care to give it a second glance
An adult Brahminy Kite surveys the landscape beneath overcast skies
To quote my good friend Nikhil: “The only mistake the Brahminy Kite ever committed that made him a non-celebrity among birders is that he became a little too common.” That sums up the Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) for you. Elegant, breathtakingly colorful, and boasting of a close-to-divine place in Hindu mythology and religion, it happens to be only a little too common for people to take a second glance… 

Back in my childhood, my mother used to say that sighting the bird (called Krishnaparunthu in Malayalam) brought luck as it was a harbinger of god’s blessings.
A couple shares an intimate moment

The bird, which occurs widely across Asia, has many names. In India it is the Brahminy Kite and Garuda (the steed of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Hindu divine trinity). Elsewhere, it is known as the Red-backed Sea Eagle.
An adult Brahminy Kite keeps watch from a high vantage point

Adults have a white head, neck, breast and nape and chestnut-brown wings darkening to black wingtips. The beak is pale yellow, almost ivory-coloured, and the eyes are black. Juveniles have duller, brownish plumage and can be distinguished from the similar-coloured Black Kite by the rounded tail. The call, a shrill “keeew”, sounds a little meek for so majestic a bird.
Two juveniles soar – the rounded tail is diagnostic in differentiating it from Black Kites

The Brahminy Kite is found mainly around water bodies, fishing on the wing. They also feed on crustaceans, amphibians, insects, reptiles, birds (including poultry), small mammals and occasionally carcasses.
A good catch to start the morning

The bird has managed to thrive amid rapid urbanization, finding its food in garbage dumps and large open drains.

Text and photos by Sandeep Somasekharan
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