Category Archives: Accipitridae

An hour at Kanjli

An hour at Kanjli

Kanjli is a 1200 acre man-made wetland near Kapurthala in Punjab. It was created to facilitate irrigation in the surrounding areas.

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Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Kite

(Haliastur indus)

Size(45-50cm): Brahminy Kite is a medium sized raptor.

Area: It is found throughout the Indian landmass except for drier parts of Rajasthan and high altitude regions of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

Habitat: It is a Fish Eagle (Red-backed Fish Eagle) that is found near lakes, rivers, marshes, estuaries, lagoons and flood plains.

My two words: Adult Brahminy Kites have reddish-brown body contrasting to their white head, throat and breast. They are more reddish-brown on belly and tail. The bill is grey-white. There is a big black patch on the base of the wing.

Juvenile birds are rustier than adults. They are generally rusty-brown with wings fringed with rusty-buff. Their head is streaked and tail rusty-grey.

These birds are a familiar sight in the skies of Peninsular India where they are literally found in abundance. In places like Goa, the number of these birds is super high. During a trip to Goa in 2012, I was amazed to see these guys fill up the sky in just a few moments. But, on a school trip there, in 2018, I noted that their number had declined way too much. But still, there were many of them.

The breeding season is from December to March/April. The nest is generally made on mangroves. They nest in the same area every year. Eggs are two in number which take 20-25 days of incubation. Both parents take part in nesting and feeding but incubation is done primarily by the mother bird.

Young birds tend to indulge themselves in playful activities. When fishing they may drop into the r but coming out is no issue for them as they do it without much effort.

It is a scavenger. Diet chiefly includes dead fish and small water animals. When you hear its call, you will think that a baby is crying. It is a strange kyainh but is worth listening.

~Arjun Basandrai

Black Shouldered Kite

Black Shouldered Kite

(Elanus axillaris)

Size(30-33cm):This species of Kite is just a bit bigger than the Shikra.

Area: All India till 1600m in outer Himalayas.

Habitat: Usually grassy countryside, mild forests, cultivated farmlands and open scrubs.

My two words:Black Shouldered Kite has a grey-white plumage. It has blood-red eyes with black markings over them. As the name tells, it has a black markings on shoulders which can be seen clearly both during flight and at rest.

They have yellow nostrils, ceres, legs and talons and a black hooked bill.

Solitary or in pairs. Except for small birds, its diet is same as that of the Shikra-squirrels, rodents, and small reptiles. Mostly hunts on wing. Usually hovering over cultivated fields and scrub with ready legs in search of food. Its iconic dive is worth watching.

Pairs breed between August and January. They lay 3-4 eggs which take a month of incubation. Chicks become fully-grown 30-35 days after leaving the nest and can even hunt for themselves within a week after leaving their nest.

Overall this bird is pretty smart.

~Arjun Basandrai

Black Kite (Pariah kite)

Black Kite

(Milvus migrans)

Size(60-65cm): Medium sized raptor. Just a little small than the Greater-Spotted Eagle.

Area: All India till about 2000m in Himalayas. Above that subspecies M. m. lineautus exists.

Habitat: Forests, human inhabitation and cultivation.

My two words: The birds has a dark brown plumage with paler head and neck. Underparts have streak. The tail is forked.  The outer flight feathers are black and the feathers have dark brown bars and with some mottling at the base. The legs and bill are black. The ceres and the interior of the mouth are yellow.

Black kite is often called Eagle by children and even grown-ups in towns and cities which is slightly bigger in size than the Black Kite and the Kite has a forked tail which is not seen in the Eagle (Greater-spotted/ Indian-spotted/ Steppe/ Tawny Eagle). Black Kite can be differentiated from the Red Kite by its less forked tail.

The Indian subspecies (M. m. govinda and M. m. lineautus) breed during January and March. Eggs are usually 2 in number. Both the male and the female contribute towards making a nest which is a rough base of twigs etc. The nest is often reused.

The diet is the same as that of the Shikra-small animals, rodents, small reptiles and smaller birds.

The call is musical whistling which they utter frequently during breeding season.

 ~Arjun Basandrai

Kites (Elaninae, Milvinae)

Kites (Elaninae and Milvinae) 

Kites are medium to large sized birds of prey in the family Accipitridae. They have sharp and strong talons with sharp and hooked beaks which help them tear the meat from their prey.

There are two types of Kites found in India – Elanus Kites and Milvine Kites. The Elanus Kites are much smaller than the Milvine Kites. Also, The Elanus Kites are the ‘Hovering Kites’ and Milvine Kites are ‘Soaring Kites’.

There are several species of Kites found across the country. Out of the four species found in India, here, I will talk about 3 of them:-

1. Black Kite

2. Black-Shouldered Kite

3. Brahminy Kite

The Black Kite is the most common among them and is found everywhere in cities, towns, forests, gardens etc. People in towns and cities call it the Eagle which is totally wrong. The Eagles are much bigger than Kites, also, the Black Kite has a forked tail which is not seen in an Eagle. 

The Black-Shouldered Kite is a medium-sized Kite which prefers more open and silent suburbs of a city. They are rarely spotted in cities and overcrowded neighborhoods and mostly seen sitting at the overhead wires at the edge of open fields. 

The Brahminy Kite is quite common in S India, especially Goa, but is a rare sighting in N India. 

Shikra

Shikra

(Accipiter badius)

(adult)

Size(26-30cm):It is a small raptor bird which has short and rounded wings with a narrow tail.

Area:Almost all India except higher areas of Jammu and Kashmir (above Jammu).

Habitat:Prefers to live in mild forests and open country. Nowadays it’s becoming more common near human inhabitation.

My two words:Shikra might sometimes be confused with the Chinese Sparrowhawk but has yellow legs and black wingtips.

Adults are ashy-grey above and have a white underside which is barred with close rufous bars. The mesial stripe is dark and narrow. The immature has thick, dark brown streaks on the breast. Female is somewhat larger than the male.

IMG_0935

(immature)

This bird is usually solitary or in pairs. Its diet consists of squirrels, rodents, small reptiles and even smaller birds (like the Common Blue Kingfisher, Jungle Babbler etc.). Usually hunts for itself but sometimes might descend to feed on carrion and carcasses.

IMG_7747

(immature with thick and dark brown streaks on the breast)

Generally gives 3-5 pale blue-grey eggs. The eggs take roughly 18-24 days to hatch.

Its method of hunting is very interesting. It would hide in leafy branches of the tree and pounce on the prey with surprise and have sumptuous meal. It can be normally seen soaring above the trees of forests.

(Adult Shikra hiding in tree waiting for its prey)

It gets its name from the Arabic word ‘Shikari‘(شِکاری) which means ‘hunter’.

 ~Arjun Basandrai