Spotted Owlet

Birds of Bangalore with Prasad Natarajan-Week 3
Spotted owlet (Athene brama)
Title: Mid-day Encounter!
Watercolor on paper
8.4 x 11.6 inches
Reference: Own Image
This work is available, check this link for details: https://prasadnatarajan.com/product/mid-day-encounter/

Welcome back one and all to another edition of birds of Bangalore, I have been working late night recently on few commissioned works and get to hear a familiar call.

Greyish brown crown with white spots, spectacle type white lore running around both the eyes, satellite type disc shaped head, eye ring is white, eye is colored yellow with black iris, around the throat area color is brown, bill color is yellow, breast is mixed pattern of white and cream with spots of dark brown, body color is primarily brown with heavy spots. Spots appear on the tail as well, tarsus covered with white hair, and feet color is yellow with orange and brown spots. Talons are black. Both sexes are similar looking and the young ones are surely smaller, dull and lack feathers early on.

With these indications I am sure you would have already guessed our bird of this week, they are none other than our Spotted Owlet (Athene brama). We find them in Asian sub-continent, adapted to city lives, otherwise found in farmlands and rural plantations. They are night dwellers meaning nocturnal, rarely seen during the day. The owlets live in Lalbagh are used to human’s presence and sit out most of the time. They mainly feed on insects and rodents, and I have seen them pluck dragon flies, termites at lampposts outside my home.

They also sit out waiting for a false move from fruit bats who are also nocturnal. Breeding season is from November to April and they lay about 3 eggs. They don’t build their nests, instead use the cavities in soft barked trees and also use abandoned parrot nests, parrots dig out holes in trees and not all dug cavity is used. They breed with multiple partners. Male takes care of the female once the eggs are laid and both male and female take care of the younger ones. Male mainly gets the prey for the female and young ones for about two to three weeks.

Hence we could see the male making many trips to the nest during the breeding season. These owlets don’t have many natural predators, expect for the tiny birds and the Black drongo who constantly harass them since these owlets can hunt down smaller birds.

During my visit to Lalbagh for birdwatching, the owlets never disappoint me. Have been lucky to watch them for several hours in a stretch. During one just encounter, it was almost time for lunch, had packed my binoculars, field books and was about to switch off my camera, suddenly on the owlets, inquisitively flew down to the lower branches, though the light was harsh and owlet at that close range in the open for me was golden sighting. It lasted for a few seconds and could make few reference images. Coat was brownish, usually they have greenish or grayish plumage. So it was exciting to observe this morph.

There are lots of superstitious beliefs about Owls, I see them daily and they are a treat to watch. With education, we can help eradicate the myths about these innocent birds. Main treat to these birds are tree felling with so many trees making way for highways and improved roads, they are losing their habitat in a hurry, these owlets are highly territorial as well, hence they will fight off any new male in their territory.

It is essential we plant many Mango trees or soft bark trees, why soft bark trees? they are ideal for parakeets, barbets, woodpeckers and the cavities dug out by them serve excellent home for these owlets. 

The rodent population and the owlets population are directly related. With increasing unnatural methods of rodent control has also directly affected the owl numbers.  

So until next time, keep watching.

Prasad Natarajan
Prasad Natarajan

Rediscovering Nature: Wildlife Blogger, Artist and photographer.

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