The Rufous Bellied Eagle

Most mornings in mukki zone of the Kanha national park is just beautiful, watching the sunrise over the vast expanse of grasslands in sonder or bishenpura is just mesmerizing. Most of my guests love to stop and enjoy the view of this landscape, many try and capture it on camera and take them back as memories, personally I feel there can be no justice be made to this daily event.

The various shades of pink to orange in the sky and slowly turning into blue is just magical.

What makes it even more magical is the mist/fog that hangs low on these grasslands or meadows while we are entering the park at the crack of dawn.  

A few days ago, as we were driving through one of these beautiful meadows, spotting animals along, I saw something black in flight, on my right diving fast between the trees, it was so fast that I couldn’t track it with my eyes and before I could realize what it was a flush of birds flew scattered from a tree top from my left, there were yellow footed green pigeons, grey hornbills, rose ringed parakeets, plum headed parakeets and a few others feeding in a Ficus tree. I was left in awe as I knew what happened in those few seconds.

I stopped the car so I could stop and find the black object which had suddenly created such panic, among the peacefully feeding birds. A raptor, a bird of prey which was the size of a hawk or bigger, flew from the Ficus tree and landed on a branch of the dead tree not very far from our jeep.

I picked up my binoculars to confirm, the species, I could clearly see the bright white on its chest, rufous underbelly and the black cap and back, with a tiny crest. The rufous on the belly leading all the way to its legs like socks and its yellow feet and razor-sharp talons.

it was a beautiful “Rufous Bellied Eagle”. 

These birds of prey are 53-61 cm in size, they are not very common in Kanha National park, we get to see them here in winters.

My guests and I were so amazed to see this eagle perched, it gave us some time to watch it peacefully. I had seen them before in the western ghats where they are residents and also nest. They are amazing in hunting in thick forests, this is where their size come into play, as the they can twist and turn with ease while hunting in dense jungles. They are capable of bringing down prey birds as big as hornbills. Their diet is mostly made up of birds like pigeons, hornbills etc., but are equally capable of bringing down reptiles and even small mammals too.

We finally moved on leaving the eagle on its perch. Till date every time I pass the dead tree, the encounter with the eagle and the flush of birds which took off from the Ficus tree, come alive in me. I can never forget this encounter.

Ashwin HP , Naturalist Singinawa Jungle Lodge

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