A rare occurrence

The nesting and breeding of the nocturnal owl, Forest Eagle Owl (Bubo nipalensis) in the dense forest in the Neyyar Wildlife sanctuary has come as good news for bird lovers since the current status of this bird in Kerala is alarmingly low.

The chick, lying on a forest path, was found by a group of `Kaanikkars' (tribals) who informed the city-based group of bird watchers, `Warblers and Waders'. The group led by its coordinator, C. Sushanth and K. Jayakumar, later conducted a study and recorded its nesting and breeding at the Neyyar Wildlife sanctuary in April.

The nesting and breeding of this bird in Kerala is rather rare as per the details given in the book, `Compact handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan' by Salim Ali. Dr. Ali in his book, `Birds of Kerala' has stated that the breeding season of this bird in the State is from December to January. However, the Neyyar sanctuary has not been denoted a breeding or nesting place of this bird by him.

The bird, which was sighted lying on the ground near its nest, might have probably fallen down during its flight, says Mr. Sushanth. The bird, which has low vision during daytime, did not have the energy to fly back to its nest. Once the bird attains full growth, it would be able to fly freely, he said.

This bird has two outwardly slanting erect black and white ear tufts or horns above its head. Its lower portion is white and black and legs are feathered up to the toes. It is also known as the `Devil bird' due to its deep, far-sounding which sounds like the shriek of a woman in distress. The younger ones are usually pale and are white-coloured on its head, barred above and below with dark brown.

Though the identification of the nesting and breeding of the Forest Eagle Owl in the Neyyar sanctuary is a welcome sign, the birdwatchers of the Warblers and Waders say the felling of large trees in dense forests is sure to create hurdles for this nocturnal bird, which usually lays an egg in the cavities in huge trees inside the forests.

The bird is usually seen in the dense forests and spends the daytime dozing in the forest. Sometimes they move for hunting. However, in the evening the birds move towards the streams in quest of its prey and usually capture jungle fowl or peafowl.

The catching or hunting of this bird whose population is alarmingly low has been banned as per the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.

The Warblers and Waders is planning to come out with its findings and a short book on the different varieties of rare and endangered birds in the State so as to make the people aware of the importance of protecting birds as well as wildlife.

By Hari Sundar G

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