By Ragoo Rao, Ethologist
Go Fly a Kite” is a phrase in English, which we use sometimes to tell a child or a teenager, to do, when we find them too interfering into our adult matters. Flying a Kite is considered a juvenile fancy (No it is not, I think a lot of old people also would agree, but a skill developed over hours of practice). Flying a Kite, may be arguable, but when one watches the bird Kite (Milvus migrans in Taxonomy and Black Kite or Pariah Kite in Common English) flying, it is a matter of fascination. When you watch one of the most common urban birds, the Eagle, called in Kannada as Haddu, which is frequently sighted soaring the skies, without flapping their wings, ably using the Thermal Currents, taking them to high altitudes, constantly twitching their V-shaped tails to manoeuvre their directions and movement, you are not just watching a bird, but you are watching “The Most Highly Skilled Raptor” nature ever designed.
The Black Kite is a bold Raptor (birds of prey) that has long associated itself with humans, living fearlessly in human settlements, nesting in tall coconut trees, high Church steeple ledges, or in the cornice of tall old heritage buildings. These raptors prey on rodents, snakes and are very fond of domestic poultry chicks.
The very reason these raptors soar to such high altitudes, more than a mile high, is to have a good view of the surroundings to locate potential prey. One may wonder, how these birds, by flying so high, can locate small rodents or chicks on the ground. Eye-Sight, their superb eyesight is their main arsenal. It is observed and proven over time by fool-proof and scientific methods, that an Eagle can locate a small mouse, scuttling in the grass on the ground, from 2 miles above, and swoop down on the mouse within seconds from that altitude, and take-home, lunch. This is the ability of its nature-endowed sight. (The sight of the Eagles is so famous that a German Camera maker named their cameras in German meaning “Eagle-eyes.” Right here in Kannada, we always refer to sharp eyesight that does not miss any minute happening also around, as “Haddina-Kannu.”
This kind of eyesight, matched with high flight maneuverability (Eagles have been photographed by highly skilled photographers with precise equipment and documented, to dive in between two high speeding cars on a freeway, to snatch a dead rodent on the tarmac), matched with powerful muscular legs with sharp talons, makes the Black Kite, a versatile raptor.
Though they are not threatened with any dangers of dwindling numbers, the major threat to them are the irresponsible discarding of poison-baited rodents, which they pick up to feed their young.
Let us respect the great birds. Once a species is lost, there is no way to bring them back.
[Pic. by SOM reader H.S. Sreeranjini]