Until recently the Indian Eagle Owl was identified as a subspecies of the Eurasian Eagle Owl. She’s a femme fatale; as fierce as she is beautiful. She can be found in rocky regions and open scrub forests that are close to riverbanks or running streams.
Her shapely and scowling face looks carved out of the finest cobblestones. She has mephistophelian horns and darkly-piercing eyes. And a warm pin-cushion for a plumage, coalescing in colours of brown and white, with blackened feathers that jostle with the wind.
The call of an Indian Eagle Owl sounds like it was birthed in the mind of Edgar Allen Poe; eerie, enchanting and frightening in no particular order. Unfortunately, they don’t ward off poachers who still look to hunt them down (and other owls too) to satiate people’s stupid and nefarious superstitions.
She is the largest owl I have spotted so far. I have seen her twice in the Western Ghats. It was love at second sight.
There’s always a special thrill in being around owls. I can’t put my finger on why I am so entranced by them. When I started birding, a photographer told me how difficult it will be for an amateur to spot them in broad daylight. I didn’t know any better and so, I had believed him.
Over the next few years, I learnt to appreciate just how tremendously wrong he was.
So far, I have seen the Spotted Owl, the Barn Owl, the Brown Hawk Owl, Peninsular Bay Owl, the Brown Fish Owl, the Jungle Owlet (two sub-species) and the Indian Eagle Owl.
She has comets for eyes
and a wise witch’s nail
of a beak; her belly –
a parliament of warm
and her talons so vicious
that they make my knees go weak
(Photographs – Kumily / Thekkady / Ooty)