Common Birds of India

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus)

By Ragoo Rao

Most Indians are familiar with the Garuda. The mythological carrier of Vishnu the supreme God of the Hindus. It is a very revered bird. Bronze idols of a human figure with wings and a beak-like nose are worshipped reverently as Garudavahana in Vaishnavite temples.

An eagle sized bird, very distinguished looking with a white head and neck with rusty brown body. The white parts are speckled with black. Both sexes are alike.

These birds inhabit the riversides, lakes and the sea coast. Their distribution is throughout the country except at altitudes above 6000ft.

These birds are resident in habit and they migrate only locally. Fishing ports attract these birds, where you may find them hovering above, waiting for a chance to dive down and take away a fish. Sometimes during the monsoons these birds come inland in search of waterlogged areas to feed on crabs and fish.

In cultivated areas it is a sight to see the Garuda swoop down on a flushed out snake and carry it away. When a bonded pair are circling the skies, one can hear their hoarse wheezy Keeeeyuv.....kreeeeeyoooooo calls. They do this while selecting a nesting site. Tall banyan, peepul or similar trees are their favourite nesting trees. More so, if the trees are on river banks or lake shores. The nesting season is from December to April. The nest is a platform of loosely arranged twigs and lined with green or dried leaves.

Two greyish white speckled eggs with dingy brown blotches are laid. Both sexes share all domestic chores. The hatchlings are very voracious and the parents make very frequent trips to feed them with scraps of meat. In about 5 weeks time the young fledglings take their first flight. They fly around with their parents for another two weeks before going on their own.

It is the reverence the Hindus have for these raptors that has really protected them.

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