To believe is to see: The Indian Eagle Owl

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
brown pin-cushions,
and her talons so vicious
that they make my knees go weak

Why “To believe is to see”?

Love at second sight: An encounter with an Eagle Owl

(Photographs – Kumily / Thekkady / Ooty)

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35 comments

  1. The poem reminded me of my 3rd grade Moral science teacher. I was terrified by her presence, so much so that till I was 13, I had this weird dream of her crawling up our patio, where she would remould into a fierce brown owl 😐 (Beautiful post as always)

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    1. Awww danke Anu. Believe me when I tell you that humility isn’t my forte. Besides repurposing content and updating sentiments, the main reason why I repost is because I can’t stand them. The way I have written, the tone and such. When I glance at my previous blog, I throw up a little. Sathyama!

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      1. That’s very encouraging to hear. I was thinking of kickstarting it this summer when it’d be too hot to travel regularly. But not like how I used to review before ugh so many pop culture references, Anu. Groan. Thanks again! (Smile)

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    1. I think it’s our nature to treat with caution and paranoia whatever we don’t fully understand. Given the spooky association between literature / pop culture and owls (in most cases), the traditional tendency has been to fear them.

      Thank you for the kind words and encouragement, Sumana.

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  2. The German word for ‘owl’ is female too; and in Germanic fables, they’re associated with wisdom. A pity that you don’t speak the language—otherwise I’d make you read my ‘Philanthropic Swine’ who meets an eagle owl …

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    1. Awww you should send it to me anyway. My sister is fluent in German. I’ll ask her to translate. Plus, everything sounds coy and fun in Deutsch. I learnt the language for 6 months; all I took away was I was a silly boy who giggled when someone said “Vater”.

      Can’t wait to read it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I adore owls and have seen a tawny owl close up (one perched in a tree directly outside a room in the house I grew up in, it was literally just a couple of feet away fom me, peering in through the window!) but I think being so close to your eagle owl would worry me, wonderful though it looks – and it is quite a spectacular-looking bird.

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