When I was a kid, I heard Spotted Owlet hoots from the nearby lamp post almost every day during the nights, and no matter what, never saw him during the daytimes.
It was so interesting to listen to him hoot on a quiet, beautiful night, and sometimes it was so scary that I ran into the house for fear of getting caught by an evil witch. As we all know, most of the films depict him as the wicked witch’s pet.
Owl is one of the attractive species in the avian world to human being. In early 2000’s during the initial phase of bird watching, my negative perception changed about these beautiful avians.
For the first time, during one of my trips to Pulicat sanctuary, perched on a branch of a big tree, that I spotted a parliament of owlets at a closer angle.
Their Yellow marble eyes with a visible black dot, white eyebrows, a funny beak, puffy body, sharp talon and concise figure was a fascinating watch.
Farmers like these birds, cos they prey on the rodents that damage paddy fields and storage spaces. These birds are chemical-free and eco-friendly pest controllers. They are happy to feast on insects, mice, shrew, lizards, and other little birds.
Based on a tip provided by a bird watcher friend of mine about the location of their habitation, armed with the necessary equipment, I set out to spot these Owlets for documentation purpose.
Though, they are nocturnal creatures by nature, my plan was to observe them from dawn to dusk.
My early morning visit to observe the spots and their behaviours was more than fruitful. As these birds mostly prefer to stay in a rent-free cavity nest or occupy the Lesser Golden Flameback abandon homes, I was vigilant enough to concentrate more on such spots and no need to say, It was gratifying!
A small muddy road, one side of the lake bund filled with palm, banyan, native trees bordered with few shrubs & on the other side, busy farming land. One can hear water gushing out from the outlet to the cultivation land.
I got to identify three different spots of Spotted Owlets presence where they popped out of hiding space, the dead palm trees!
A strategising Small Blue Kingfisher perched near the water and planning to strike at a school of fish.
Morning mist, Cool breeze, greenery all around, a few birds call, Lo and behold! Suddenly a couple of spotted owlets pop out from the dead palm tree a few meters away and stare at us. A real captivating moment!!
For a few seconds, everything came to a standstill for me & my teammates! I managed to click a few pictures and moved on to the next spot, where an owlet camouflaged well with the Palm tree looked like guarding the nest inside. It was an exciting sight, and I clicked till I was satisfied.
A walk in the woods led me to a couple of Spotted Owlets who started their day preening each other.
Preening is a part of social behaviour among the Owlets to express the bonding with their partners.
The male moved out of the nest, perched on a tree close by, spread its right wing and looked at me with a questioning glance. What, no picture of mine!
I get to see their sharp talons then, which are more than enough to tear the prey.
A face that looks like a satellite dish is capable of funnelling sound precisely to pinpoint the prey in a 3-dimensional view.
Their large round eyes with a perfect vision and so sharp that they can swoop in to catch their prey accurately even in low light. Their tubular eyes help them can turn their head in a 270-degree rotation.
The young owlets have a fascinating bobbing style and turn their heads to get trained on the sounds. Their long and soft feathers lessen the flying sound as they fly.
These mysteriously beautiful creatures are majorly night hunters and are less active in the daytimes. I was lucky enough to spot these Owlets during the day.
Further studies lead me to learn about various beliefs surrounding Owls.
Some of them are very positive.
In Greek mythology, Owls are considered wisdom.
Scandinavian countries believe spotting Owl is a lucky charm.
In Mongolian culture, they are powerful enough to keep away evil spirits.
One famous belief of Turkey countryside is when an Owl hoots in the premises pregnant woman house two times, it will be baby boy, and if the hoots heard three times, it’s a baby girl!!
And in India, an owl is all sorts of evil omen! Sad, isn’t it??
Once commonly seen in cities, semi-urban and rural areas, these beautiful birds are dwindling in numbers due to rapid urbanisation & and mindless expansions!!
Photo and Story by Siluvai Amalan, edited by Divya